Dexter’s obituary

 

The Obituary of Dexter a remarkable gun and golf dog

 

dexter gun and golf dog

Grandchild Isabella in Dexter’s bed

Dexter, whose Kennel Club name was ‘Boris of the Lodge’, had an amazing life as a gun and golf dog, having been acquired as a pet by the Smith family.  He became the beloved working companion of Lorne when within months it soon became clear that he was so obviously biddable and wanting to please.

Consequently, Lorne joined a group for gundog classes run by Debbie Smith-Haines. They spent every Sunday morning and two weekday evenings for eighteen months training in the countryside, and the distraction did not do a lot for Lorne’s business(!) but this, another totally different sporting experience from golf and cricket, was not to be missed.

Dexter was born to Ellie Flanders out of a litter of ten on February 29th 2004, sired by Field Trial Champion Nortoft Simi, whose father was the famous Field Trial Champion Lafayette Tolley. Dexter’s blood line as a working gundog was immaculate with 43% of the previous five generations being Field Trial Champions.

Dexter in the middle of his training group

Dexter in the middle of his training group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success in competitive gundog tests

Debbie Smith-Haines

Debbie Smith-Haines

Debbie and (later) Dave Probert took Dexter, handled by Lorne, from novice to intermediate to open level for competitive gundog tests and won six awards in different gundog society tests across the country. At the same time Dexter accompanied Lorne on the many golf courses he reviewed for FineGolf and is a golf world record holder – more of that later.

Ian Openshaw

Ian Openshaw

Debbie was herself trained by the world’s leading spaniel gundog trainer Ian Openshaw, based in Shropshire, who with his wife Wendy has brought ninety dogs to Field Trial Champion status, of which eleven are Labradors.

Dexter’s best competitive performance was in an Open Cold Game Test, run on Trial lines, on the Lincolnshire Wolds in 2007. He led the field of twenty five Labradors handled by gamekeepers and experienced competitors from across England and achieved an almost never heard of Four-Dog-Eyewipe. After four other dogs, in the judges line ahead of him, had all failed, one after another, to pick and retrieve a partridge, Dexter managed the seemingly impossible. The partridge was likely to have been lying on its back and so giving off less scent and was in dense cover and reeds across a stream from where the handlers sent the dogs. Dexter handled beautifully across the stream and then to the area where the partridge was supposed to be. When told to hunt he amazingly and almost immediately found and retrieved. Lorne was on such a high, he floated home that day!

 

Success at course shooting

Dexter retrieving from across the Upper River Swift

Dexter retrieving from across the Upper River Swift

Being so intelligent Dexter loved course shooting, both flushing game and if shot, retrieving, quite often from across the Upper River Swift at Churchover, if that was where the bird had happened to fall. Normally, on organised shoots spaniels are used as beaters dogs for flushing game and labradors only retrieve. Course shooting requires the dog to do both, as the two roles are trained differently it can easily create confusion for the dog  and therefore an ‘out of control’ situation!  It is a reflection on the close relationship between Lorne and Dexter that they were able to work together in close harmony, respecting each other’s role and abilities. Lorne would choose which area and which approach depending on wind direction, to hopefully come upon game in cover. Dexter’s quite outstanding ability to wind game, point and then flush while keeping within distance of the gun was remarkable. One short whistle would stop him trotting-on and wait to let Lorne catch-up!  Quite often he would look over his shoulder before flushing game, as if to say “have you got the safety catch off?”

His last cock pheasant

His January 2017 cock pheasant

Dexter loved the sport so much he was out working (slowly) with Lorne for 45 minutes only two and a half weeks before he passed on, and they flushed, shot and retrieved a cock pheasant that day. Dexter lost power in his back legs towards the end, which is a weakness in the breed, and he had developed other internal complications.

 

His patience on the golf course

A lack of interest at The Rennaissance!

A lack of interest at The Renaissance!

In early days, taking him on the golf course formed part of his training to be patient and not ‘run-in’ on squirrels etc. He learnt to wait by the green while the golfers putted out and then moving on to the tee would be seated in the right place to the front off-side.  He was seldom interested in the golf game itself but when he saw Lorne coming down the stairs in the morning wearing his golfing plus twos Dexter would not leave his side until he was in the car and on their way in case he was left behind.

Hares are the most difficult game to stop a dog from chasing and when out at Royal West Norfolk GC, Dexter put one up near the second tee and belted across the seventeenth fairway, losing it in the salt-marsh. When it is almost de rigueur to have a dog with you at Brancaster and many dogs can be less well-behaved than Dexter, Lorne was not too worried as the players disturbed on the seventeenth fairway were not angry but enjoyed the spectacle of his embarrassment and were at least impressed by Dexter’s obedience to return on the whistle.

Fenton chasing deer in Richmond Park

Fenton chasing deer in Richmond Park

Dog handlers should remember not to act as in the famous YouTube video of “Jesus Christ and Fenton” (click to watch and be one of over 15 million people), chasing the deer in Richmond Park , when the owner ran after him, wailing his name repeatedly. It is best to wait until there is a chance that the dog will obey you before giving it instructions in public!

 

A visit to Sussex county cricket ground

Dexter in the Sussex County Cricket Club Pavilion

Dexter in the Sussex County Cricket Club Pavilion

Dexter has accompanied Lorne wherever he has gone. Lorne being born and bred in Sussex, he had Dexter with him when visiting the Hove county cricket ground where Lord Ted is rightly admired.  The restaurant in the pavilion there is called The Dexter Room and when Lorne wanted some lunch he took him in with him. It is a measure of the relaxed and family type atmosphere at Hove that when the Maitre D was told his name was Dexter, named after the famous Sussex and England player, who was always Lorne’s sporting hero, Dexter was welcomed to sit under Lorne’s table while he had his lunch.

 

Gaining a golf world record

Dexter on Askernish's 14th tee

Dexter on Askernish’s 14th tee

Checking in Lorne’s golf diary, one can record that Dexter accompanied him over a period of eleven years on 242 rounds of golf. It is almost certain that Dexter will hold the world record for the number of different golf courses that have welcomed him. They include: Sunningdale, Aldeburgh, Moray, Perranporth, Royal Dornoch and the Struie, Turnberry,  Swinley Forest, Royal St David’s, Royal St George’s, Tain, Worplesdon, Royal Ashdown Forest, Hunstanton, The Berkshire, Elie, Royal West Norfolk, New Zealand, Woking, Ladybank, West Sussex, The Addington, Dundonald Links, Formby, Tandridge, Wilderness, The Renaissance, Royal Worlington and Newmarket, Ashridge, Hayling, Crowborough Beacon, Hopeman, Temple, Knowle Park, Thorpeness, Denham, Cruden Bay, Penn, Luffenham Heath, Felixstowe Ferry, St George’s Hill, Skibo, Stoke Park, Askernish, Clyne, Littlestone, Wick, Rye, Princes, Brora, Royal Cinque Ports, Montrose, Radley, Huntercombe, Littlehampton, Walton Heath, West Hill, Delamere Forest, Reay, Northamptonshire County, Liphook, Kingsbarns, Hankley Common, Dunbar, Enville, Prestwick, Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Gailes Links, Piltdown, Yelvertoft, Spey Valley, Seascale, Prestatyn, Aberdovey, Trevose, St Enodoc and Royal North Devon; a remarkable total of 77,  66 of which are in FineGolf’s finest 200 running-golf courses in GB&I.

It has to be said that it is such a pity that other fine clubs like Hoylake, Ganton, Notts(Hollinwell), Royal Porthcawl, to mention only a few of the finest, have banned all dogs, when well-behaved dogs can add so much to the ‘joy-to-be-alive‘ feeling by adding to the relaxation and sociability of the game.

The Labrador breed

Dogs and cows do not mix

Dogs and cows do not mix

Moving away from a direct obituary for a moment, let us explore the history of the Labrador breed.  They are descended from dogs taken to Newfoundland by explorers, fishermen and settlers and evolved by natural selection. The breed was known by several names, among them the Black Water Dog, the lesser Newfoundland and the St. John’s Dog. Excellent retrievers of fish and game, they often sailed with the fishermen and in the early 1800s English sportsmen acquired a few hardy dogs off the fishing boats coming in to British ports. The British further developed the breed by crossing it with other sporting dogs, notably the Flat-coated Retriever, the Curly-coated Retriever and the Tweed Water Spaniel.  It was not long before the Labrador took over as Britain’s most popular gun dog. The breed was first recognised by the Kennel Club (England) in 1903. In addition to its prowess as a gun dog, the labrador has distinguished itself as a police and military dog as well as a guide dog for the blind.

Easy going and sociable

mutual affection!

Mutual affection!

Dexter was strongly dominant, carrying a high tail when around other dogs, while his temperament was typical of the breed, where their gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability have done much to account for the Labrador’s popularity as a pet.  Though Dexter has once retrieved a Canadian goose that fell into and then floated in the River Avon, he made friends with the family’s domestic geese. When often staying with Lorne and Angelika in other people’s houses overnight, Dexter always respected the house dog’s territory and was happy to play second fiddle. Outdoors a cat was at risk but not so inside.

dexter, Dexter was lucky to live in-doors, as many working dogs are kept in an outside kennel and run, and through-out his life was walked each day by Angelika. He was a tall Labrador and sometimes mistakenly thought to be of Scottish ancestry, as Labradors coming from the north often have longer legs with which to navigate the high heather on the grouse moors.

Although entire until nine years old, when he had prostate gland trouble, Dexter did not sire any puppies. He simply leaves behind a family very much the richer for having had his company over almost thirteen years and a beautiful painting by Felicity Rudge with which to remember him.

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