by Jeff Miller
Solar was born, in Scotland, on August 7, 1997. On his second birthday, August 7, 1999 he won The South West Scotland Gundog Association’s Novice trial for AV Spaniels. This qualified him to run in Open stakes in Great Britain. A dog may not run in Open stakes in Britain until they have won a Novice stake. Three months later, on November 23, 1999 he won his first Open stake at The Eastern Counties Spaniel Society. On November 9, 2000 he won his second Open stake held by The Highland Gundog Club, thereby being awarded the title of Field Trial Champion in Great Britain.
In May of 2001 I imported Solar to the U.S. His owner wrote of him, “Solar is an excellent young dog. Very, very fast and stylish, a complete extrovert in the shooting field, you do not disconcert him the slightest by asking big questions; a great hunting dog, good game finder and retriever. His is a cool character, not concerned with a lot of petting, work is his goal; he does not know what an “off day” is!”
I found all of these statements to be true. To this day Solar sits in his kennel, looking at the back door of our house, waiting for me to take him out for some work. He is extremely intense, and driven. He is one of the most fearless dogs that I have ever seen attack cover of any sort.
Solar had to be “converted” to our way of hunting once he arrived in the U.S. His biggest problem was popping on retrieves and on moving birds. In Britain dogs are not allowed to take runners as there is so much game in front of them that to take a runner could involve going by many other birds. When I encouraged Solar to take moving pheasants he would trail it ten yards and then “hup” and look at me as if to say, “Sorry, I know I am not supposed to do that.” On retrieves he would go out about 25 yards and then “hup” as if to say, “Okay, I am ready to be handled to the fall.” These problems had to be sorted out, and it took me about 6 months to get him presentable enough for our trials, and another 6 months to totally eliminate these habits. Once he got the idea that it was alright to do things that he hadn’t been allowed to do in Great Britain, he exploded into a great dog, full of confidence.
He started to do spectacular things in training. Once, while training on our property, I wing-tipped a pheasant that flew over 100 yards into our very dense wetland. Typically, my dogs can only penetrate this wetland 40-50 yards as it is very difficult going with water, deadfall, thick brambles, dense willows, and cottonwood, alder, and ash trees. I sent Solar for this retrieve expecting him to get some “conditioning exercise”. As I listened I could hear him breaking cover farther, and farther, into the wetland. The noise became faint and then I saw a pheasant come blasting out of the wetland, in the direction Solar had gone, some 100 yards deep into the cover. I whistled him back and listened for his movement. He was breaking cover going farther away from me and I began to get scared that he would get disoriented, and lost, in the cover. I waited. About 5 minutes later Solar emerged with a wing-tipped pheasant in his mouth. I couldn’t believe it!
Solar won the first Amateur stake that I ran him in, in the fall of 2001. I immediately began to have very high hopes for him. In June of 2002 he won an Open stake in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In the fall of 2002 he won two Open stakes within 3 weeks and became a Field Champion. Now I knew he had the talent, and ability, to become a National Champion. I just had to get it out of him. In December of that same year he won the U.S. National Amateur Championship.