Tuesday, August 26, 2008
GREAT DOGS AND GOOD MEN PART THREE
Missy and Wayne Fruchey The most important line in my lease of the townhouse at 1906 Graefield, Birmingham Michigan was the one that allowed pets. Finally I could have my first bird dog. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted an Elhew pointer. I wrote to Robert Wehle of Elhew Kennels in Scottsville New York and inquired about upcoming litters and being very naïve, inquired as to how an Elhew pointer would adjust to being a house dog. I received a very kind but somewhat dismissive reply from Eleanor Schaeffer, Mr. Wehle’s long time secretary informing me that they would indeed make fine house dogs if I brought it up that way but that all puppies were reserved. Further, if I sent a $100 deposit my name would go on a long waiting list. And, by the way a puppy is $400, plus crate and FOB Rochester, New York. That last line hit me like a punch in the stomach as that was almost a month’s salary! (By the way, I still have that letter folded neatly in my copy of Wehle’s book, Wing & Shot) Meanwhile, I had subscribed to a magazine titled “Hunting Dog” and noticed an ad from a guy named Wayne Fruchey in Beaverton, Michigan. His setter “Ghost Train” had just won the Grand National Grouse Championship and he had puppies on the way. I really didn’t know where Beaverton was but found on a map that it was no more than 2 ½ hours north of Detroit between Midland and Gladwin. Besides that, puppies were only $125. I called Wayne and the following Saturday drove up to Beaverton. He showed me Ghost Train, called Rusty, and a very pregnant Jet Stream’s Judy who was by Ch. Commanders Jet Stream. I didn’t have the foggiest idea about what those bloodlines were but Wayne assured me they'd be outstanding birddogs and I’d love a pup to hunt with. I left a $50 dollar deposit and requested a female. Wayne said I’d have first choice of the females. It wasn’t an Elhew pointer but I convinced myself that a setter’s disposition would probably be better in the house and besides she was only 2 hours away. I visited Wayne’s kennel every Saturday after the pups were born and at 3 weeks old I chose my companion for the next 12 years. She was white with an evenly marked black head and light ticking. She was on the smaller side compared to the others, again to make it easier in the house. I took her home at 7 weeks (I laugh at myself now) and worked her on a grouse wing both morning and night. When she was big enough we started walking nearby fields and at 4 months she pointed her first pheasant. Missy slept by my side of the bed for rest of her life and was honestly far more important to me than my first wife. I ran Missy in one field trial, a puppy stake the following spring. Tom Novak, the owner and handler of CH. Jetrain judged and at the end of the stake I thought she had done pretty well. She didn’t place and after the announcement I went up to the Tom and asked what he thought of my dog. He said “Dale, she a nice stylish little dog but she just hunted too much.” I thought how on earth could a hunting dog hunt too much and that he didn’t know a damn thing about hunting dogs! Of course I knew later that he was saying she didn’t run enough for field trials but at the time I was surprised and disgusted with his opinion. My meeting Wayne Fruchey, I figure, has cost me at least a half million dollars. Not only did he sell me my first bird dog but he took me to my first field trial and introduced me to my first professional trainer, Don Olson. If you don’t know Wayne you should. He and his family are the nicest, kindest people I know. Both his grandfather George and his father Art were professional grouse dog trainers and they and Wayne are responsible for bringing in hundreds of new cover dog field trailers. Wayne’s line of Ghost Train setters dominated the grouse woods for decades. He’s devoted 50 years of his life, at least, to the Beaverton Grouse Dog Club and the management of the Gladwin Field Trial Area. His son Tom is now a recognized judge, club official and fierce competitor and his grandson Matt is an excellent handler, field trial reporter and competitor. That’s five generations of Fruchey’s from Beaverton Michigan. If anyone in the world deserves to be recognized in the Field Trial Hall of Fame its Wayne Fruchey.