From a very early age, Piper’s parents noticed that she had some “dog whisperer” in her.
“When Piper was born, we had a 3 year old German Wirehaired Pointer named Top Shelf’s DeLong GeeBee Racer (GeeBee). GeeBee followed Piper’s every movement and was quick to join in on any games she suggested. We had fun playing “Where’s the Kong Ball?” and “Where’s Piper?” – games we suggested to provide GeeBee opportunities to hunt for items around the house while practicing his whoa/release commands. Piper and GeeBee loved playing those games together.” shared Piper’s mom.
Piper lost her best friend a few years ago, when her parents had to make the difficult decision to put GeeBee down.
“The loss of GeeBee was really difficult for me. I lost my best friend the day he died. I remember how hard it was seeing GeeBee struggle with pain and wanting to help him, but he would only let my mom comfort him. I so badly wanted to be the one who could help him.” explained Piper.
In 2017, Piper’s parents surprised her during Christmas with news that the family would be getting a German Wirehaired Pointer puppy in the spring of 2018. Top Shelf’s Q DeLong D.B. Cooper was born on National Puppy Day-March 23rd 2018.
“I was so excited! I immediately asked if the puppy could be MY dog! My parents agreed. I thought it was really cool that Cooper was born on National Puppy Day, but not as cool as when we discovered Cooper is actually related to GeeBee. His Great-Great Grandparents were GeeBee’s parents” said Piper.
“From the first day they met, Piper & Cooper established a special bond. The two developed their bond through hours of play on land and in the water, along with attending puppy and beginning obedience classes that summer/fall. One night, my spouse and I mentioned to Piper how we would like to take her and Cooper hunting for pheasants someday. We explained how he would need to be trained for hunting and asked her if she would like to handle Cooper in his spring 2019 NAVHDA Natural Ability test. Piper enthusiastically said “Yes! He listens to me. I should be the one who runs him!” explained Piper’s mom.
In early 2018, the Minnesota Chapter founded a youth scholarship program in honor of longtime chapter member Joe Dolejsi. Joe was a Senior Judge and Clinic Leader, and influential member at the local and International level of NAVHDA. The purpose of this scholarship is to assist a youth dog enthusiast and handler with training and testing assistance and give them a foundation to build on for their future training, testing and hunting endeavors.
Piper submitted an application. Cooper’s breeder Jeff Jalbert, a NAVHDA Judge and owner of Top Shelf Kennels, wrote a letter of recommendation for Piper to receive the scholarship. Piper and Cooper were subsequently awarded the scholarship in January 2019.
The two started off their training year by attending the Minnesota Chapter’s 10 week Winter Obedience Classes from January to March.
“The first night of class was a little scary. I was the only kid in the class and the only female handler that night.” exclaimed Piper.
Once the snow finally melted, the two started attending the weekly field training nights at Kelley Farms. In early May, they participated in the Chapter’s MOCK Natural Ability test to get a better idea of the different segments of the test and to gauge their progress as a team.
On June 1st, 2019, Piper and Cooper ran their Natural Ability test.
“I was feeling a little nervous going into the natural ability test and felt like I passed my doubts onto Cooper. I thought I was ready for the test, but was nervous not knowing how Cooper would do. I felt a little frustrated and mad throughout the day that he didn’t do the events perfectly like I had seen him do other times.” explained Piper.
“The test started with the water, then field and ended with tracking. Cooper had a lot of energy that morning and was harder to handle than usual. We had practiced water retrieves many times with straight retrieves, but that morning he ran the shoreline a bit before finally jumping in to get the bumper. My doubts settled a bit going into the field because he’s really good at that. I believed he would do great. Then as we walked along, he missed a couple “hups” and my doubts returned until I saw him point out some birds. The pheasant track was the event I really felt we didn’t do well on because his pattern was wide and then he went down into a tree line where I couldn’t see him. A judge walked over to where he went into the trees, stood for a bit, and then told me to call my dog. Cooper came back without a pheasant.” shared Piper
“At the end of the day when everyone’s test scores are read, I was blown away when they shared Cooper received a 104, Prize 1. I was expecting him to get a Prize 3 or something because he wasn’t the Cooper I was used to, the one who I’ve seen as a Prize 1, Prize 2 during training nights. My doubting Cooper and myself brought the bar down for me encouraging him. I really did not know what to expect at the end of our test.” said Piper.
Piper and Cooper did not stop there, though. They continued attending the weekly training nights to try to become better prepared for the upcoming pheasant hunting season. They both learned a lot and performed well as a team, and just as training season was wrapping up, Piper had Cooper steadied up to wing, shot and fall. A lot of progress for this young team!
Piper, Cooper and their parents look forward to hunting this season and getting Cooper on some wild birds. In 2020, they plan to be back training with the Minnesota Chapter and working toward the Utility Preparatory and Utility Test.
The Minnesota Chapter will be taking applications for the 2020 Joe Dolejsi Memorial Youth Scholarship until December 1st, 2019. More information can be found at MNNAVHDA.ORG