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Clary von Moosbach

F.Ch. Clary von Moosbach

by John Jeanneney

F.Ch. Clary von Moosbach was a dog for all seasons. Dachshund people who had heard of Clary during the fourteen years of her life (1974-1985)thought of her as a field trial dog, and her field trial record was more than respectable. Others, without knowing her name, may have seen her as the hunting Dachshund on the opening slide of the old DCA slide sequence on conformation. From 1973 to 1980 Clary dominated field trials in the East, before the field trial fever had spread very far into the West and Midwest. With her dam, F. Ch. Carla vom Rode and her half sister, Dual Ch. Uta von Moosbach, Clary was on the leading edge of a wave of European Wires that began to win trials in the late ‘60s. She won at least eleven field champion stakes, but had passed her field trialing prime too soon to follow the field trial boom west. In 1984 she was honored in Philadelphia at the AKC Centennial Celebration as the hunting and field trial representative of the Dachshund breed.

Clary was the product of an outcross of two German-bred dogs, Bobo von der Schofielden and F. Ch. Garla vom Rode, whom I imported as a puppy in 1965. The genetic component behind Clary’s aptitudes was the product of pure luck, rather than any breeding skill on my part. She was a good producer when bred to compatible studs, but she never replicated herself. As is often the case with outcrosses, her best offspring resembled the sire as much as they did Clary. Her puppies were all of the same general psychological type, however. In field trialing, the fun of these European Wires was in their abundant voice, their desire to trail and their enthusiastic, slambang style, which we had to condemn as judges, but could enjoy in private company. The development of the Dachshund in Europe never involved selection for the slow, close-trailing style, off lead, which is the standard for American Dachshund field trials. Our trials here are modeled upon American Beagle brace trials, rather than the German tests. Still, Clary and her best daughters, Field Champions Eda, Gerte and Giesele (Goose) von Moosbach, did very well in their own decade, even beating, on occasion, Glary’s own distinguished cousin, F. Ch. Adelheid von Spurlaut.

To put it all in perspective, not everyone was delighted by these working class European Dachshunds, who usually lacked the aristocratic good looks of American show stock. Field trial competition from these Wires, many of whom were Clary’s relatives and descendants, irked some breeders and inspired others. For certain, the stir and controversy raised the level of competition and helped to end a certain complacent approach to performance.

However, Clary was more than a field trial dog, and those who knew her well realized that rabbit brace trials were not even her best event. The selection process behind her German breeding probably prepared Clary better for natural hunting than for the precision tracking work of field trials. What really distinguished Clary was an uncanny intuition of knowing what I wanted and what was needed in any season or situation. Even for Dachshund lovers who have no interest in hunting whatever, her history can broaden our awareness of Dachshund psychology. Dachshunds, particularly the Wires, were developed by German foresters as solo companion/hunters. Never used as pack hounds, they were bred to relate and respond to the needs of their masters rather than to pack members. They were used as flushing dogs, trackers of wounded big game and for underground work, usually on foxes rather than on badgers. At twenty pounds, Clary was too big to work the underground game of the Northeast, but she exemplified the other character traits bred for in Germany. It was something that came naturally to her with a minimum of discipline. Quickly she learned that hunting was more fun and more productive if she worked with me as a team. She hunted pheasants in the fashion of a slow spaniel, quartering back and forth ahead of me to flush within shotgun range. Yet she had a hound’s nose for a track. If she crossed the feeding trail of a pheasant she would give voice and I would follow. We might go 200 yards, through cover, but it was almost a sure thing that the bird would burst into flight at the end. Pheasants and rabbits usually like a similar habitat. If rabbits were the game, after the pheasant season, Clary would quickly sense what we were up to and extend her searching range accordingly.

Clary loved to hunt grouse, and she was invaluable in locating downed birds which had burrowed under the loose, dry leaves of autumn. She was a little small to retrieve in heavy cover and she had never been trained to do so. One morning I shot at a grouse as it cleared the treetops, and apparently missed. The grouse showed no reaction to the shot that I could recognize, and I watched it fly high and strongly out of sight. Clary disappeared in the same direction and was gone for a long time. I was mildly irritated; this was hardly teamwork. Finally, the brush parted and Clary struggled out, stumbling on the wing of the dead grouse, which she held in her jaws. She had known, somehow, that the bird was hit and that it would certainly be lost if she did not make a difficult retrieve, for which she had never been trained.

On another occasion, we were invited to go pheasant hunting in a neighboring county. The designated canine star of the hunt was a huge Weimaraner, but Clary ended up finding more pheasants. She could work the cover, which was too high and dense to see the big, gray dog on point. Clary’s barks let us know that she was trailing one pheasant up the long length of a swale. When the pheasant ran to the limits of cover, he took to the air; my companion shot – not well – and wounded the big cock The pheasant flew heavily across a wide field, staying about ten feet high, and landed in a dense brush lot 200 yards away. Almost certainly, it seemed, this was a lost bird. Clary followed out of the swale; she had been too far back to see the bird take wing, but she had heard the shot. Apparently, the low-flying pheasant had thrown off scent, which settled to the ground as he flew. In “S” curves, following the diffused band of scent, Clary tracked her way across the field to where the bird had landed to run once more. This pheasant was too big to retrieve, but Clary had him anchored when we arrived. Few Dachshund owners have the joy of seeing their dog carry off a stunt like this.

Clary’s abilities extended to raccoon hunting. She understood that this was what nights were for, and she paid no attention whatever to rabbits, which she loved to chase in daylight. Deer were also of no interest. Once, on a moonlit night, I saw her come to the tree where the coon had gone up. She made one short bark and then cast a broad circle around the tree. Then, sure that the coon had not “marked the tree” and continued on, she settled down to steady tree-barking. When I hunted with friends who had specialized coon hounds, Clary treed her share.

Clary did have her failings; she would leave almost any game for certain small, black and white creatures of the night. She seemed to relish being drenched with skunk spray. After munching on the skunk, she would get back to work and, somehow, her nose would still function. For her, at least, this was no inconvenience.

Clary was four years old before we discovered together the challenges and intricacies of tracking wounded deer. Deer Search, the New York State-based organization, began as an experimental program to see if the European method of using leashed tracking dogs to find wounded deer was feasible there. Since Dachshunds are one of the major breeds used in Europe for this work, it was natural for me to begin the research with Clary, and it was my sheer good fortune that she turned out to be one of the most talented dogs to ever work in the program. Clary was a natural, but I did not fully appreciate how exceptional she was until years later, when the Deer Search had grown to involve many dogs and handlers. Training and experience are important but, in addition, the best dogs must have an exceptional nose and the intelligence to use it well. Since we humans are “challenged” with very poor noses and little awareness of scent, it helps if we imagine scent as microscopic particles which are cast off by the animal being tracked. Each deer, like each human, has a distinctive scent signature. On an old track, dried by sun and swept by wind, the only scent remaining may be the particles, which have filtered down among the dead leaves of the forest floor. Clary would work her nose down under the leaves and painstakingly inch along the difficult sections of the trail. I remember tracking with her one bitter cold night in a howling wind. There was no visible sign that the wounded deer had passed, and Clary had to work a broad zone for scent, zigzagging back and forth from hollows at the bases of trees to piles of leaves swept up against rocks and stumps. It involved something more than having a good nose; Clary had learned from experience where scent might linger under such conditions, and where traces of it could be discovered through active and aggressive search. It was her desire that kept her focused and permitted her to use her experience so effectively.

The desire showed in other ways. Many of the deer, which we tracked, were not seriously wounded and, after a mile or so on the trail, a decision would be made to back off and let the deer recover on its own. When I picked up Clary on such a scent line, after she had tried so hard, she would struggle and cry like a puppy. On the other hand, if she were allowed to overtake or find a deer, Clary clearly expressed her feelings. After an hour’s drive home from a deer call, Clary would still be “up” and would perform her “happy dance” on the kitchen floor. She would end, four feet in the air, wriggling contentedly and thumping her tail in self satisfaction. This came from an ordinarily laid-back house dog with a plain vanilla personality.

In a tracking dog, the desire to find the quarry must be balanced with discriminating intelligence. The outstanding dog also has the powers of concentration to keep focused on a day-old track, even when a healthy deer crosses the scent line just ahead. For Clary, the quarry was the designated deer that she had been asked to track by her handler. Other deer were of no more interest than a cow. One early November morning we tracked a deer shot the day before. Looking ahead, I could see a field, white with frost, upon which more than a dozen deer were grazing. White tails flaring, they bounded out of the field as we approached. Even I could smell their musky scent, but Clary remained strictly focused on the old, cold scent of the day before. There were very occasional blood droplets, just visible through the frost, to show that we were on the right track. If I had not seen and smelled the herd myself, I never would have known from “reading” Clary that fresh deer scent was everywhere present. For Clary, on the track, it must have been like following the thin thread of a flute solo through the whomp-whomping roar of a live rock concert.

Clary was a blood-tracking dog from when she began at age four until a series of mini-strokes incapacitated her at fourteen. She probably reached her peak at ten years of age. By this time she was slowing down physically to some degree, but she more than made up for this through her experience gained in taking over 200 calls and finding more than 70 deer. It is impossible to state the exact figure, because she was used often in her last years as a back-up in the field for young dogs who were learning the game. If an inexperienced dog faltered on a difficult check or dead-ended when the deer backtracked, as sometimes happened, it was Clary who would be brought forward. Almost always, she solved the riddle in her patient, conservative style. Then, without complaint, she would give up the lead to the younger dog once more. Clary was a professional.

Clary was so professional, so focused on her work of finding wounded deer, that she would tolerate almost anyone at the other end of the 30-foot tracking lead. She simply required that the stand-in handler respect her greater wisdom and not interfere with what she wanted to do. Lightheartedly, I lent her out to other Deer Search members, never thinking of all the things that might have gone wrong. If skunks were not involved, she had an uncanny sense of doing the right thing and staying out of trouble. There were no mishaps.

Dachshund people tend to communicate primarily with one another; our Dachshund world is rather inaccessible to those not already in the loop. Generally, outsiders who do not know the breed well, have no sense that Dachshunds today are useful hunting dogs. Perhaps the name “Dachshund” leads them to suspect that , back in the mists of distant time, ancestors of our breed did somehow hunt badgers, but certainly there is no link in their minds between past and present. Clary made hunters and scent hound people aware that the right Dachshund can be a serious and versatile hunting dog today. Actually, no other breed carries so many possibilities in a twenty-pound package. It is fortunate that the first Deer Search dog was one of the very best. For her owner, she was a partner for all seasons and the dog of a lifetime. For the Dear Search members who knew her, she was the right dog at the right time.

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