Stories, Writings and Portrayals
An Irish Red & White Setter Sampler
By Jean L. Plummer
Most of you have now heard of the Irish Red & White Setter. But did you know after World War 1 there was only 7 left?
Early hunting pictures show the IR&W in front of horseman, with foot handlers on hard terrain and on the water retrieving ducks. There is even one very well known 1855 painting called The Scottish Game Keeper by Richard Ansdell, it shows a handler a Gordon an Irish and an IR&W. They are pictured with their take for the day, which includes grouse, woodcock and rabbits.
There are less then 300 IR&W’s in America today. They are registered with Field Dog Stud Book and can compete in all American Field events. Other American registries include IR&WSCA, UKC, SKC, FSS and FCI. Most of the IR&W’s in America are highly respected personal gun dogs. They have the stamina for all day hunts. They are natural retrievers. In addition, most honor naturally.
This was proven on a hunting trip taken by a first time R&W owner and two of his friends with their Labradors. After the first day Leia a 9 month old IR&W had out hunted and retrieved the very experienced Labs, and had delivered a limit of pheasant to her owner. 6 out of 8 birds were shot over Leia. On her last retrieve, a stick went through her front leg and ruptured a vein. After seeing a vet, Leia had her whole front leg bandaged. The next day Leia was to be left at the truck, but she protested so bad they decided to let her hunt anyway. Each night returning to the vet for a new bandage. And after two more days of hunting the IR&W was the dog of choice.
Leia 23 - Labs 9
This story and photo was printed in the Ohio Irish Setter newsletter spring 1999
JEAN PLUMMER… TRADITION WITH A WILD WEST FLAVOUR
You don’t have to turn wings of time to fly again on yesterday’s stories, they are alive and well in Jean’s Redwing’s kennels. For Europeans she adds a flavour of Wild West stories, riding her white horse Senator on Kentucky grounds while her racing reds are heading for horizons.
“I am very excited to finally go myself”, writes Jean just before the National Red Setters-trials in Berea start. She attaches a picture of herself judging at a Maryland trial last year on a white horse she calls her ‘good friend Senator’. “He will be attending The Red Setter Nationals with me. He is very nice I trained myself from a colt. I was on him last year near dark judging Gordons, Senator kept leaving the trail heading for a far edge, I thought the dog may be on point but could not see a black dog so far away. He did see the dog, I let him have his head and he took me straight to the dog. You can not train that into a horse.” >
Is it coincidence meeting Jean Plummer by the Internet after reading one of Jim Kjelgaard’s books of the Big Red Trilogy during a dark Dutch autumn-evening? A rubber stamp in ‘Outlaw Red’ (New York, 1953) , once property of the Union Free School District in the town of Cheektowaga, says ‘discard’. But 38 years old Jean sharing stories on Senator makes adventures of nearly half a century ago into 1999 excitement. There’s nothing to discard of what can be read in the first chapter of Outlaw Red (Sean): “Hundreds of years ago Irish Setters had been bred by discerning huntsmen of the Irish bogs. Born in them was the instinct to use their intelligence, and to react instantly to anything that might arise. Sean had inherited all that wisdom from his father, Big Red, who knew everything there was to know about the wilderness.’’
THE LUCKY FIVE
For Plummer it was love at first sight in Irish setters. Her first Red arrived in 1989 and her first Red and Whites two years later. For the patched breed, Jean’s interest started in a pet store magazine where she saw a picture. “I fell in love, stating it was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen”, she remembers. “I had to have one, I was told they were extinct, but I do not give up easy. I waited for a pup for a very long time until a call came in about five two year olds needing a home fast. I took them all.’’
The story of the ‘Lucky Five’ is like a fairy tale for real. “I started working them in the field only after owning them for five days. They have strong instincts and natural abilities. The first day out with these two year olds that have never been taken from a kennel was truly exciting. They all pointed the first bird they all had great hunting patterns and very trainable. Their first trip to the river for a swim was with the same great results. All loved to swim and they all retrieved even though they’d never had that kind of play.”
Jean’s Irish red setters are AKC and FDSB-registered, the Red and Whites are registered with the FDSB and the Irish Red & White Setter Club of America.
INSTINCTS FOR ANIMALS
Who’s Jean Plummer? “According to my parents I was a natural empath from the earliest part of my childhood”, she tells. “This seems to have not only allowed me to feel how an animal is going to react, it seems to cause animals to want to please me. My maternal grandfather was a dairy farmer and also a valued trainer of mules and other farm animals. Getting calls from all around to help get the mules to pull logs up the logging trails. It seems when a mule decides they are finished working for the day they are finished and will not move another inch. He was able to get them to continue working by the sound of his voice. He was also called in to work the local bulls. I am told I have his instincts for animals.”
“My son Donovan is also an accomplished horse and dog trainer starting at age 8 now at age 15. My interest in dogs came from family pets we had in very early years. But my first real training of animals were horses aged eleven. I trained and showed Quarter Horses and Morgan Horses, I did a bit of rodeo racing with the Quarter Horses but fell in love with buggy, parade and trail work with the Morgans. At age thirteen I won first at the biggest show in the state of Maryland with a Morgan stallion I bred. My first husband made me sell all my horses, so I eventually saw the light and got rid of him! You will never take the animal out of me. My second and forever husband Kevin is just as crazy about animals as I am, so the next part of my life with animals is easy.”
YOUNG FACE, OLD CULTURE
Jean sends me pedigrees by the Net. Aha, this means meeting her first and foundation bitch in Field Irish setters AFC FC Damika Wild Wisk Kay CD JH VC CGC (called ‘April’). And who’s on top of the print? It’s FC Sulhamstead Norse d’Or, present as sire of Schnet’s Little Red and FTCH Valli Hi Country. This provides the late Florence Nagle’s work in most part of the twentieth century a young face with a lot of chances for continuing a rich inheritance into the new Millennium!
April’s titles show Jean Plummer’s natural talents for training. Before going into field-trials she trained German Shepherds, Rottweilers and hybrid wolves for protection and military. The VC is a Versatility Certificate with three passing scores in field, obedience, and beauty and is offered through the Irish Setter Club of America. “When April earned this it had only been awarded to about seventy other Irish reds in America’’, the Redwing’s breeder proudly notes. The CGC means Canine Good Citizen, a title required to do therapy work. April has done some hospital work.”
WILD WEST HERO
“April was the first Irish Setter in Maryland to earn both her AKC Field Championship and Amateur Field Champion titles”, the Redwing’s breeder follows. “To date her brother is the second and only to have both titles. April produced three litters, two to Redwing Celtic Knight and one to FCH Karrycourt Wild West Hero. From these litters I have kept two from Wild West Hero and two from Celtic Knight. I have made sure several from each litter went to hunting or trial homes in which they have done very well.”
The next pedigree she sends is Redwing Hitch-Hiker CGC FTW, called May so yes a daughter of April. She and her sister ‘June’, Redwing Truck Stop Queen both have six FCH & AFC points. June’s pup Redwing Kentucky Gentleman called ‘Tuck’ won at six months at his first field trial. And yes, Redwing is true to tradition as portrayed in Kjelgaard’s books or Nagle’s work. “Many of my dogs are in hunting homes”, Jean notes. “They are valued pets until hunting season then a valuable aid in finding game. They are natural retrievers and love the water. I find them easy to train and stay trained.”
FIELD WINS FIRST
Last but not least Red and White pedigrees are send in. Surprise again: Sulhamstead Natty d’Or is on the pedigree of field trial winner Redwing Half Pence, called ‘Penny’. As grandmother of Glenkeen Sandy, sire of key dog Harlequin of Knockalla, Natty was one of the Reds founding the resurrection of the Red and Whites breed. “Penny along with Redwing Celtic Cross, Redwing Dancing Meg, Redwing King Ralph and Redwing Lord Thornton was a rescued litter and our first Red and Whites”, Jean tells. “Half Pence and Meg produced three litters each, Ralph two and Thornton was sent to Lafe Nichols DVM and produced one litter, Celtic Cross produced one pup. We were able to proove each one in the field.”
The Redwing’s breeder imported from the UK a dog Taxus Scarlet Oak (called ‘Ash’), exported by Pat Brigden. “My request to her was a bird dog but a perfect body and health for breeding. He now holds four international championships, a national field championship and American championship and an obedience title. He was America’s first dual champion and now has three generations of duals under him. Since his competition retirement we hunt him regularly now on quail, pheasant and waterfowl.”
The story of Red and Whites is lead in the US by Redwing’s kennels, Jean being a vice-president of the national club. She strongly believes this variety will not be sacrificed as a victim of vanity for dogshows only, like the fate many Reds suffered in American showrings. For that reason she has to add ‘Field’ for her Irish Red setters, marking the difference between tradition and showy exaggeration. “Redwing kennels owns or produced the 1997 Best of Opposite sex , 1998 and 1999 Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex National Show Champions”, Jean tells. “But all with field wins first. I did not want a dumb Irish setter. Well I did not get a dumb one.”
Owning both Reds and Red and Whites, Jean makes the ideal expert to compare them. “My Reds retrieve as well and as soon , but some in America do not like to retrieve. They point first and run bigger . But my Red and Whites are natural backers. My Reds think that because they are Irish that every bird is theirs. So backing has to be worked on with them. Both breeds mature slower then the English setter. And I would say the Red and Whites mature slower than my reds.”
“There is not much difference in conformation at my kennel”, Jean adds. “They have the same size, coat and deep red color. The first Red and White I saw, Hawklawn Crystal Sunset, looked exactly like a red & white April. When I describe the difference to someone who has only seen a picture of the R&W I tell them that when you tell the red pup no they do not do it again. The Red and White will not do it that way again but may try to find another way around it. I find the Red and White deviously clever.”
Plummer is a pioneer for the Red and White in the US. “I have trained many for the walking trials on the east coast until our move to Kentucky this year. We have plenty of game and room so I guess they will hunt more then trial. In Maryland there were no birds to speak of. If you wanted to run your dog it had to be a trial. When I first got them they were only registered by a few show groups and The Irish Red & White Setter Club of America . I have been 1st Vice President since 1998 and on the board since 1996.”
“I was not satisfied with that and wanted a field venue for the dogs”, Plummer follows. “So I got to work I got Ann Bailey from the UK to send me 900 pedigree's and Pat Brigdens book as well as a few other magazines stories and submitted them to American Field as proof of our breed. Those few magazine stories and letters came from William Jenning's, John Nash and Mrs. Cuddy. They accepted our breed right away and we had full FDSB registration by October 1994. So now I could compete with a registered Red and White.”
“In 1994 I became the field trial chairman to my gun club Three Rivers Sportsman Club and at the 1995 IR&WSCA National show I presented a proposal for us to have a field trial. It was accepted and our first trial was a big success. In 1996 I became FT Chairman for both clubs and was running four trials per year. Every trial had full entries. These clubs were also part of The Maryland Association of Field Trial Clubs (an organization to ensure trial dates, rules, regulations and dog of the year awards) In 1997 I became 1st Vice President of the Association and in 1998 became the first woman president. In 1999 we have moved to Kentucky and I am bringing the IR&WSCA to The Kentucky Association and starting another bird dogclub.”
PUSH FOR TRADITION
“I have many concerns for the future”, Jean reveals. “I do not want to see the Red and White take the same turn as the show setters in America. If that happens I will then be breeding and training field bred Red and Whites. I am planning next to push for dual wins in field and show before we can claim championships. Now I will not show my dogs to a breed judge unless they have field wins or have proven themselves in the field first. I have many supporters in this push but money and politics can over take our passion for the best bird dog then companion show dog.”
For Jean the next millennium “does have it's bright side”. “The breed is becoming better known and some very nice homes are coming forward wanting to own this beautiful breed. Our club is very strong and willing to work together. I sold a pup from my first litter to Dr. Mary Whiteley, Ph.D. a molecular biologist, who after wanting the best for her new breed did a little then a lot of research and now owns and runs Gene Search DNA for dogs. We have been able to get a large number of dogs PRA cleared and DNA banked for our future. Mitzi Fisher, DVM and I just donated the money required to send Lafe Nichols, DVM (her husband) to an extended hip certification class. So our health issue look very promising.”
© 1999 HENK TEN KLOOSTER for Irish Times/ photography Sandy Peter’ka now translated in German and French
AN IRISH RED & WHITE SAMPLER
By Jean L. Plummer
Hero 1 is Molly. Molly lives in a large 3 story farm house with her family. One night about 3 am Molly came to dad and tried to get him up. She was barking and carrying on, dad suggested she go back to sleep. Molly would not stop. Dad decided to find out what she wanted. He followed her down stairs to the basement, the cord on the washing machine was bright orange and ready to catch fire. With the size of the home the family would have been consumed by smoke before they could have gotten out safe.
Hero 2 is Millee. One day when Millee was 9 months old her mom was going into Anaphylactic Shock. Mom called her husband at work, the Colonel was not in. Another officer suggested she sit on the floor and he would call 911. (don’t know why she did not call them first) As she sat on the floor Millee started licking her neck and face, and not the little kisses usual for her. This was enough to keep mom conscious. When the paramedics arrived mom told Millee kennel, she went to her kennel. Had mom been unconscious when they arrived they would not have entered the house with a dog present. Millee stayed in her kennel until mom got her shot, then Millee returned to moms side, and did not leave until mom was able to get up. Millee at 9 months would not normally go to her kennel willingly much less stay there with the door open plus with all the strangers in the house at that time.
Millee now is an American Rare Breed Champion, Canine Good Citizen, Field Trial Winner and 1998 National Best Opposite Sex winner.
Hero 3 is Summer. This may not be as honorable as the other 2 but her owners think she is very special. Summer is Millee’s younger sister, and when I suggested they enter her in a field trial they excepted. The thought of seeing her do what she was bred to do excited them. Just before, dad had visited his doctor and gotten an excellent physical including his heart. On the day of the trial dad handled her, and after the stake he sat for a long time trying to catch his breath. Summer did win a 3rd that day. The next day dad rushed himself to the hospital having chest pains, a heart attach with triple bypass to follow. The doctor had said to him had he not gotten so worked up the day before the blood clot that worked loose would have gotten larger and could have killed him. Summer’s owners believe she saved her dad, they would have never done anything like this if it were not for Summer and how much they love her.
Summer now is an American Rare Breed Champion, Canine Good Citizen, Field Trial Winner, 1997 Great Britain Best of Breed Puppy. Multiple Group 1st winner four at 9 months old. 1998 Field & Show Best of Breed. 1999 National Champion.
This story was printed in the Ohio Irish Setter Newsletter Spring 1999
The Morning Hunt!
By: Donovan M Burson
It was a cold November morning, the frost was still on the ground. As I finish my morning coffee I’m interrupted by my dogs impatient cry. He is sitting by the back door anticipating the day ahead. He knows, as on so many other mornings the same routine, first the shotgun comes from its case, I put on my worn leather boots, the faded orange vest, and whistle means that quail season has arrived.
As we head down the old gravel road the sun barely over the horizon we can now hear the beautiful call of the bobwhite quail. I look down at my dog, he is trembling waiting for the command to go. At the end of the gravel road there are open fields as far as the eye can see. Two sharp blast from the whistle sends my dog on his way, seeing the excitement and enthusiasm in my Irish Setter as he crashes through the brush and thicket in search of the scent is like watching a rocket charging through the sky.
Today promises to be a successful day for hunting. The fields provide a perfect habitat for the game we seek the lovely but elusive bobwhite quail. There is a beautiful clear stream that borders the entire area. Sorghum and milo grows wild, the fields are edged with wild berry’s that gives the birds plenty of food and shelter.
As the dog is cutting back and forth quartering in to the wind, he stops like a rock frozen. His head and tail are high. The wind is in his face, he has the scent. As I load my gun I look in to his eyes for direction. I walk in front of him with open eyes and a ready gun. The covey explodes in my face. Three shots ring off and two birds are down. A quick blast of my whistle sends my dog for the retrieve.
Through out the next hour we managed to bring in a couple of singles. As I planned to call it a day we turned and started heading back. He bolts to the right and about twenty-five feet out he locks on point again. I could tell this one was different, his whole body was shaking. I load my gun and look for direction he continually looks ahead and then at me. I follow his eyes in walking slowly ahead. Amazed at what I’m seeing dozens of quail fly up in every direction. I felt like I was in a wind tunnel, but with the hunt in hand I shot three times with three birds down. After these retrieves our limit has been met, and it is time to head home. As we walk home together I feel a smile come over my face. I look at my friend and once again realize that there are few relationships as pure as a teenage boy and his dog.
This story was part of Donovan's requirements for high school graduation.
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