Sunday, November 16, 2008

Willie's Story

About the time "Willie" (FC Duk Dawg of Nikajack x Troublesome High Seas Zoe, bred by John Broucek & Bob Jones) was turning two years old, Dave Rorem got a phone call from trainer Andy Attar. This promising youngster, owned by Lindy Dewert, was for sale. (Early puppy work was done by Lindy, Jody Ware did advanced basics, and Andy had him in training about ten months by this time.) Dave listened and then phoned Brady to impart what he'd learned...they decided to take a look.

Pre-National (Amateur) training was just commencing that summer and Willie became test dog for the group; he excelled in the week's setups. Brady flew in and immediately liked what he saw--including some very special aspects of the big bruiser's personality--and bought him. Dave went to work on him, and soon placed him two or three times as a two-year old. At three he won an Open and finished his FC title. He qualified for and ran last year's National Open, going out after the eighth series.

Then, this year, luck and misfortune struck nearly in tandem. Willie qualified early for the National, but suffered a shoulder injury in March/April. It was a nagging problem; Willie was laid up, then brought back out, laid up again, and so it went. The aggravations would seem to improve and then get worse. In August, Willie went into rehabilitation therapy with Wayne Whitney at Gulf Coast Veterinary Clinic in Houston. Techniques included hobbles and underwater treadmill activity. Steroids worked for a bit but as they wore off some inflammation came back. Willie spent all of September and the first of October up in Minnesota in rehab and then went back to the Gulf Coast staff for the last two weeks of October and the first week in November. Additional exercises included physical therapy in stepping over objects to build up his shoulder muscles.

Dave picked up Willie the Monday before the National. Hesitant to work the big Labrador on land for fear he would aggravate the injury, Dave concentrated on water. Above all, he avoided stopping him or handling him at all on land marks during training and did no land blinds.

It was Willie's prowess in the water that solidified his standing in the National week's progression, according to Rorem. "He hunted some on land. And the land blinds we saw in this National weren't as challenging as some we've seen in the past...that was just luck as far as he was concerned. His strength continued to build, and he was pretty sharp in the water. He just got better and better, and momentum shifted his way right through the tenth series. When he hit it hard like he did, I knew then we had a chance to win it."

Says owner Brady Oman, "From the beginning, there has been something magical between Willie and Dave, and I think it shines through with this effort. They are quite a team and that is what makes winning special. And, I think Willie's shown us all he has heart and big as the state of Texas."