It was the call I’d been wishing for for a couple years, and it came sooner than I could have ever anticipated. My dear friend, who is a teacher and great observer, Jamie Daniels, shot me a text reply back. I was checking in to confirm that we were still on for the following morning to run young pups.
To my surprise, Jamie had a CH. Miller’s Blindsider pup for sale from a recent breeding to Hadley’s Honky Tonk Song and he always told me that one day I would have one of his dogs. It seems like when those calls come, cash seems to conjure itself up and there’s always an extra spot in the kennel. To make life even sweeter, my wife didn’t even push back on the idea of adding another animal to our family because she knew the importance of the acquisition. I wish life was always that accommodating.
Walking into Daniel’s Kennels feels more “small batch bird dog” than it does a kennel. It’s quiet and stock is minimal. The dogs that are there are the dogs that are supposed to be there. It feels deliberate and intentional and generations of dogs tend to look the same. It’s an assured, studied, and unapologetic operation.
Jamie has rendered multiple generations of Fred Arant’s grand vision, the Rebel strain of All Age Pointer here in America and his work spoke for itself this year as he handled Sam, to a championship win and saw Just Irresistible elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame. His desire and life’s work is that he would better the Rebel strain of Pointer and it’s been that way since he recognized that he wanted something a bit different from the White Dogs that have dominated the field trial scene in years past, and even ‘til this day.
For me, coming to pick up the young dog consumed me with an air of braggadocio, that which will more than likely be humbled a little later. But it's how these things go. If you own Pointers, you brag just a little bit. And as discussed before, Jamie wanted to wait to get me the right dog.
I arrived that morning as Jamie was going through the daily routine of morning kennel chores. He pointed diagonally, across the kennel and indicated that my dog was there. As I walked to the pup’s stall, I knew which dog was mine from text message images. My pup and his stall-mate poked their heads out. I loved even more that my dog was the first to greet me at the door. Immediately, I realized he was a dog for “all the ages.” He has all the makings and potential of what I hope to have in this game that we call bird doggin’.
There was a light fog on the ground on that particular South, Georgia morning that would lift to reveal a hurried mess of puppies. Jamie had opened their kennel doors and it wasn't long before they took to the front. He swung the mule around and I hopped in. My other young female, La Vaquerita, was gathering her wheels and catching up to the rest of the pack.
“That’s the horse I rode at the National,” Jamie pointed out.
Dollar, his horse, stood square and uninterested in the excited barking my young dog was doing as the pack moved past the pasture. His tail dusted away the last of the fog and our ride picked up a bit. Jamie’s tone was even as his eyes pierced through his glasses. They were fixed on every minute motion of each pup’s gait and pattern. I could tell he was looking for something specific, something distinct, something he’s seen even…but maybe hadn’t quite had before, more something that’s been improved. He was steady, discerning, and had an absolutely textbook description of what he was looking for out of these pups.
He pointed out two male puppies, Bo and my dog who he called “Gauge” at the time. Both dogs were the biggest males in their litters. He was analyzing anatomical characteristics in real time.
“Yeah, look at the size, straight legs…good gaited even though he’s much bigger. Even for his size, he’s still light on his feet…”
Jamie abruptly went back to singing and the pups, who at the time were heading off course, turned with a swift cast and charged back to the front. It truly is a sight to behold young bird dogs that are natural in spirit and in performance.
“Yeauh! Yeauh! Yeauh! Uhp…Got him a bird!”
Jamie continued on. “Mule talk” is the vocal art of sitting your whole rear end down for a day with an accomplished, professional bird dog trainer and field trialer and having a simple conversation about what’s going on in front of you turns the casual into an observational artform. It’s more mule talkin’ that's needed to carry on the hands-on lessons that most folks forget to note in the most thorough of bird dog training books. It’s the feeling that you hear the cracking whip of a bird dog’s tail, and what your eyes see feel twice as good as it looks. The sight of young Rebel-bred pointers is what does it for me.
“The Rebel dogs, I mean…they’re more of a foundation line.”
Our ride’s engine continued to hum as I responded, “Right, that was, uh…Fred Arant. Yep, the Home Again dogs and all of that.”
“Well, yeah, the uh..A Rambling Rebel…Nell’s Rambling On..”
Jamie chopped and sang again getting the dogs back on course.
“I want to be known for Dominators Kennels, Rebel dogs…Daniel’s Kennels, Dominators [prefix]...that’s what I want to be known for is the Rebel dogs…I’ve been fortunate, lucky…but I also worked my ass off.”
Jamie continued on and answered one of the questions I hadn't gotten to yet, but was sure on my mind.
“The White Dogs were king…I just like the Rebel dogs more. White Dogs had flooded the market, everywhere you went you had to breed to a White Dog. I had to find a Rebel dog.”
And so did I. It was years ago during my first interview with Jamie after meeting him at a Dixie Trace Youth Field Trial Association seminar, I’d been curious about the nature of Rebel dogs, and Jamie was all the more kind to make an introduction, humble, and his handshake was assuring. They say make a bird dog with your hands, and you might just be able to tell if a man does it through his handshake. He was immediately a friend, but more importantly, I wanted to learn from him. That was a couple years ago.
I thought about that statement. Maybe that was the hook. Maybe part of that had to do with why I wanted something different…something that went against the grain, unlike the others. There was that sense of otherness that I wanted to introduce to my own kennel. A dog with a timeless, classic look on a frame made to run and handle like a Porsche. A dog that the judges would like to see in the Georgia Florida Shooting Dog Handlers Club annual field trial. I know if my friend and fellow dogman, Terry Chastain Jr. gets back in the saddle to judge again, Hotboy would be the dog to give a show. I know Terry, and he’s mighty particular about a bird dog.
My goal is for a dog that would keep my guided hunt clients on their toes with finds on a limb. I like folks to stay shaken up a little bit til they bend a corner around the brush and find a dog locked up on a covey. Most importantly though, my practice in bird dogs has led me to a perpetual hunt for wonder, stretching the bounds of my own capabilities as a handler. But like my grandmomma’s cooking, some things don’t get written down and you just have to be in the kitchen to see it come together. And, it’s always in the mule that real recipes get discussed.