A Girl and Her Hunting Dog Sully

About a year ago, right around this time I was trying to find people to work our NAHRA booth at Pheasant Fest. Jim Reeves, a member of Skunk River Hunting Retriever Association, said “I have a couple of girls, Aleah German and Sarah Hodges that are new to the club that will work and they will probably bring a boyfriend or a dog.” I thought “OK great, they will work for 20 minutes and take off with their boyfriends” but you never turn down workers, right!?  I could not have been more wrong- not only did they do their share of the work but I know for sure one boyfriend was in tow and was made to do his share also.  They worked the crow;, Sully, Aleah’s dog was a big hit and I heard glowing comments from many people about them. They were no girls, they were Superwomen.supergirlclipart (1)

This was especially true at Skunk River’s Regional in August where I think that Aleah chaired the event along with working in a winger station and running her dog. Sarah was out in a blind the entire day with breaks to take care of her new puppy. You will hear more about Sarah’s story in a different post.

10568814_10152338336064163_8797375846319716235_n   Aleah German

 

Some little girls dream of being a princess. Aleah’s dream was becoming a dog trainer, she even knew what kind of dogs she wanted to train- sheepdogs. Some little girls liked frilly dresses, having tea parties and playing house. Aleah was rarely indoors, instead spending countless hours exploring and learning about nature with her dad and playing with her animals. I am pretty sure that camo outranked frilly dresses.

The youngest of five girls, Aleah is the only hunter in the bunch. Her dad is the one responsible for her passion of the outdoors. He did not have a normal 9-5 job that most of our dad’s had. Aleah’s dad, Guy German is a world famous lumberjack who has broken numerous world records. He is referred to as “The Godfather” of the sport of speed climbing. How cool would that be to have a dad that is a lumberjack?

Aleah was born in Sitka, Alaska and lived there until she was six.  Her family then pulled up stakes and moved to Columbus, Nebraska which is where she grew up and lived until she moved away to attend college. During high school she helped teach dog obedience and agility classes as well as puppy obedience classes in college. Aleah attended University of Nebraska, Lincoln and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science in 2011. Currently she lives in Oskaloosa, Iowa where she works at MidWestOne Bank. She has three dogs, a 22 month old Vizsla, Sully, a 10 year old Rat Terrier, Napoleon, and Chiweenie puppy, Gimli, a cat, a quarter horse and a handful of quail. Of course this can change at any time. Being that Aleah doesn’t like to just sit around the house, relaxing for her is sitting in a tree stand, taking her dogs for a run or riding her horse. Her dream of being a dog trainer lives on but her focus changed when her hunting obsession took over from sheepdogs to hunting dogs.

An ex-boyfriend actually was the one that sparked Aleah’s interest in hunting when she was 18. She learned a lot about hunting from him and his family but since she mostly hunts alone, she also self taught herself on a lot of things.  She predominantly deer hunts and upland hunts but loves any kind of hunting. If she had to pick her favorite hunting it would be deer hunting with her bow. She would love to see more women get involved with the outdoors. Aleah feels as though it is becoming more popular with women these days, many women just don’t know how to get started or they are discouraged from doing so since hunting has always been a “man’s sport”. She has been discouraged and told she was crazy many times, but she stuck with it, and now it is the most important part of her life. She REALLY needs more female hunting buddies!

Aleah started researching gun dog breeds for months and finally narrowed it down to a handful that she thought would fit her best. She wanted to be different and was tired of everyone telling her to get a Lab. A friend of her’s happened to have a litter around that time and told her to “just come and look”. Well you know how that ends… Sully picked Aleah that day at 3 and a half weeks old and the rest is history!

When Aleah moved to Oskaloosa in the summer of 2014, Jim Reeves of Skunk River Hunting Retriever Association convinced her to join the club. She had always wanted to do hunt tests, but she really didn’t know where to start and she had a Vizsla puppy which is not the typical retriever. Jim supported her 110% and Aleah will be forever grateful for his encouragement. Now days not only is Aleah a NAHRA member but the Vice President of Skunk River HRA.

When asked to tell me the story of the Amazing Sully these were Aleah’s words:”Sully, Oh Sully. She was the first puppy that I’ve ever owned that ‘picked me’. She went everywhere with me (and still does). We truly have an indescribable bond. She doesn’t come from stellar/champion parents and honestly doesn’t have that high of a bird drive, but she will do ANYTHING I ask her to-simply because we adore each other. She naturally likes to carry things around so she took to retrieving quite well. I decided to ignore the numerous skeptics in running a Vizsla at a retriever test and entered my first hunt test in the spring of 2015. She passed 4 for 4 and became the first Vizsla to ever earn a title in NAHRA history. We entered an AKC Junior hunt test in the fall of 2015 and earned two passes there as well. I really wanted to prove the true versatility of  the Vizsla so I made the decision to change focus and train for our first pointer test. With the guidance of Sheena Collins (Hardwood Kennels) and a lot of hard work, Sully earned her AKC Junior Hunter title in pointing in October of 2015. We have been working really hard ever since and have huge goals set for 2016. We are excited to move up to the NAHRA Hunter level and beyond.”

Sully has earned a NAHRA Started title, AKC Junior Hunter (pointing), and a AKC CGC title. Aleah says that Sully loves to shed hunt in the off season and enjoys playing find the remote, fetch the dog bowls and chasing field mice. Aleah’s greatest challenge with Sully has been that Sully lines herself up with the winger station. She is way too smart and figures out that when in doubt, just go to the winger station first and make the appropriate angle from there. She also like to say hi to the helpers. Since Aleah’s family doesn’t really understand much about hunt tests or hunting in general they really don’t get what she is doing but she is surrounded by the best support ever- her fellow Skunk dogs. Aleah’s training mentors have been Jim Reeves and Sheena Collins; she said without these two incredible people she doesn’t know where she would be.  They are so humble, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do.

When asked how she felt for the first time going to the line at a hunt test, Aleah said: “You know that feeling when you’ve eaten really bad Chinese food? Or… ran a 400M race in track? Combine the two: I thought I was going to throw up, pass out, and/or have a heart attack.”  Aleah’s proudest moment was when Sully got her first ribbon, she cried (in front of dozens of people) because so many people told her she could never do it. Aleah was so proud, she will never forget that feeling or that day ever. Best of all Jim was there that day to give her a big hug.

Aleah’s goals for the future are lofty for 2016. She wants to achieve Sully’s NAHRA Hunter title, AKC Senior (retrieving) and AKC Senior (pointing). In five years her goals are to achieve Master titles in both pointing and retrieving. From her research she doesn’t believe that this has ever been accomplished. She would also like to start training other people and their dogs to reach their goals.

When asked if she had any encouraging words for new handlers, Aleah said “Surround yourself with knowledgeable supportive people. You can do anything you set your mind to! Don’t get discouraged. Every dog has a bad day. Don’t expect results in just a day. Stay positive and keep  after it!”

One thing no one would ever guess about Aleah is that her socks are rarely matching and she has been exposed to rabies twice!

I can’t wait to see Aleah and Sully running this summer.  I’ll be there to cheer them on!

Photo credit-Aleah German