By Ray Cooper
From time to time an opportunity arises when the collective strength of all those who appreciate a particular breed can have a major impact on that breed's duly earned recognition as a premier hunting dog. Now is such a time. Recently the Vizsla National Gun Dog Championship was held at the Circle B Farms in Somerville, TN. These grounds are steeped in bird dog history as is the surrounding area. On Saturday night a group of Vizsla Field Trialers and enthusiast were hosted to a dinner at the nearby National Bird Dog Museum and Hall of Fame in Grand Junction, TN. The Bird Dog Museum and Hall of Fame is owned and operated by the Bird Dog Foundation, Inc. which is a not-for-profit-corporation established solely for the purpose of showcasing the rich history of Bird Dogs in America. In this case the term "Bird Dog" includes both the pointing breeds and the retrieving breeds which have been the valued companions of bird hunters in the United States from our earliest times. The Bird Dog Foundation first opened its doors in 1991 and has been expanded multiple times since. In 1992 the Retriever enthusiasts officially joined the efforts of the Bird Dog Foundation and due to their donations a 6,400 square foot annex was dedicated on their behalf in 2004.
Within the Pointing Breed portion of the Bird Dog Museum each of the various breeds is allowed space to present portraits and information identifying significant dogs and owners from their breed. There is currently a fundraising effort underway to expand the facilities once again to accommodate the continued growing interest from all the various breeds of pointing dogs. To date both the German Shorthaired Pointer and Brittany enthusiasts have led the way with contributions from owners of what most refer to as the "Continental Breeds." While some contributions have been received from Vizsla owners they are small by comparison. However, at the Saturday night dinner mentioned above, what could be considered a rally cry for more support from Vizsla owners was made. As a result more than $2,000.00 was raised on the spot from those Vizsla enthusiasts in attendance. While this is certainly not insignificant, much more is needed to achieve the overall goal of $600,000.00 which will be needed to build the next addition to the Museum and to fund the Endowment necessary to pay maintenance and operating cost for the next twenty years. The current estimate for the 4,860 square foot expansion to the building is $317,000.00, with the balance of the Fundraiser Goal to be deposited into the Endowment Fund to cover future costs. To the extent possible the various breeds will be granted space to showcase their respective breeds based on their contributions.
This brings us to the point of this article. Currently there is a small portion of the Bird Dog Museum dedicated to Vizslas and a few significant dogs and owners are on display. With the Vizsla being one of the oldest known pointing breeds this hardly seems fitting for such a noble breed with a rich history of being the chosen hunting dog of its Hungarian homeland. Most of us who have selected Vizslas as our preferred breed did so because we not only wanted a loyal companion with an excellent temperament but also because we appreciated the heritage of the breed as a premier versatile hunting dog. Since the Vizsla was first introduced into the United States back in the early 1950s it has traveled many roads but it has always remained a valued hunting companion for many owners during these past sixty years. Even those Vizsla owners who never hunt or participate in field trials appreciate the breed's abilities as a loyal hunting dog. The first sentence in the Breed's standard identifies the Vizsla as "That of a medium-sized, short-coated, hunting dog of distinguished appearance and bearing." Many Vizsla owners around the country who do not hunt or participate in field trials have trained and entered their dogs in Hunt Tests to continue to prove their dog's abilities as intended by the original Breed Masters in Hungary centuries ago. Several Vizsla owners have chosen to compete in field trials and test their Vizslas against all breeds with considerable success. As I mentioned in the introduction to this article now is a time when we can collectively do more to help showcase our chosen breed in a setting dedicated to the heritage of Bird Dogs of all breeds and talents.
Here are some numbers to consider. There are currently two national organizations dedicated to the Vizsla breed. One conducts field trials under the American Field banner while the other promotes a variety of activities for the breed including field trials under the authority of the American Kennel Club. Between these two organizations there are well over 1,000 members who appreciate the heritage of the Vizsla as a premier hunting dog. In addition to the people who are members of these two organizations there are additional thousands of Vizsla owners who, while not members of an organization, realize and appreciate this heritage. If each Vizsla owner who is a member of one of these organizations donated $50.00 to $100.00 to the Bird Dog Foundation we could collectively raise between $50,000.00 and $100,000.00 almost overnight. If those who can afford it donated even more the total would be overwhelming. Then if these same members were to contact people who have purchased a puppy or owners they know who are not members of one of these organizations and solicited even $20.00 to $25.00 donations an additional $25,000.00 to $50,000.00 could be raised over time. This type of effort would have a significant impact on the space and opportunity to showcase our breed in the most recognized setting for Bird Dogs in the world. These donations are tax deductible and even in these tough economic times most of us will spend more than this on something related to our breed over the next year.
If you would like to participate in this effort and learn more about the Bird Dog Foundation and the Bird Dog Museum and Hall of Fame go to their website (www.birddogfoundation.com) and click on Fundraiser/Bldg Plans. While you're there surf through the entire website and you will see what a dedicated organization this is and how much has already been achieved. In my opinion it would not only be a shame, but also a gross neglect of our breed if we do not do more to support a showcase for the Vizsla in a setting it so richly deserves. If you do not wish to go to the website but would like to contribute, contributions are welcome and donations are IRS tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Send to: Bird Dog Foundation, P.O. Box 774, Grand Junction, TN 38039 – footnote checks "Building Fund" and also be sure to mark VIZSLA in the memo section for proper documentation. For credit card donations, call 731-764-2058.
If you mail your check today it won't be forgotten and go the way of so many good intentions that never seem to materialize.