OAKLEAF – The Davis family of Oakleaf; Mike and Kim Davis, and children Jason and Mikayla, have quite the trophy room with Jason Davis winning a state wrestling championship last year for Fleming Island and Mikayla earning an NCAA Division I scholarship with softball at Bolles (state runnerups).
Add Maximus Aurelis Davis, or Max, for short, to that list of medalists.
“He was named after the Gladiator movie character,” said Davis.
Max, a 90 pound, one year old Black Labrador that Mike Davis got in June as a pup, just earned the first of what may be more titles as a retriever dog in back-to-back hunt tests in Hilliard and in Twin City, Ga.
“I tell you what, I watched a lot of championship stuff between the two kids, but getting a title with Max today (Sun., April 22) was pretty stinking exciting,” said Mike Davis. “I was a follower and supporter of my kids, but, with Max, I was the coach. I now know what coaches feel when their athletes win titles.”
Davis took Max, just a year old April 19, to two separate Hunt Retriever Club testing sites to have him tested as a Started Hunting Retriever (SHR).
“There are three levels to start with; started, seasoned and finished,” said Davis. “Each one progresses in testing the dogs for specific tasks as they relate to hunting. It’s very intense, but Max, me and Jason go dove hunting quite a bit.”
For the title, Max had to earn five points of perfect execution in four separate tests in two different sites for his 20 point total before being dubbed a Started Hunting Retriever title dog.
“The test is somewhat stringent; they have a duck-thrower that throws the duck overhead and a shooter that simulates the gunshot of a hunt, the dog has to sit until released, then the dog is released and he has to retrieve and return to within one foot of the handler,” said Davis. “Any deviation is a fail. There are no points, just a pass or fail.”
The testing consists of two releases on land; in opposite directions among a field of brush, trees and swamp-like tundra then two releases; again in opposite directions, this time over water that the dog has to enter, swim, retrieve and return in the general area of the handler; with a one-step rule after the dog drops the duck.
“Max had his first two tests on land in Hilliard and they were flawless,” said Davis. “On the second duck throw, he retrieved and was returning and veered just a bit toward the shooter blind on the other field. I was able to correct him with voice commands and my whistle and he quickly diverted and came to me. I was sweating a bit on that one.”
On Sunday, in Georgia, with 10 points toward his title, Max was into the water test with full aplumb.
“They do judge on dog enthusiasm for the chase and he was amped up to go,” said Davis. “Sometimes, they get too amped and leave early and that’s a fail. As long as they don’t leave before the release, they are good.”
After his second perfect retrieve in the water test, judges apprised Davis that a tradition would ensue knowing that Max had achieved his first Title; the Title Swim.
“After getting the first title, the owner and the dog both have to jump in the lake and retrieve,” said Davis. “And the water was quite cold, but it was well worth it.”
Davis said further competitions will put Max to more stringent testing, but he is willing to train him up.
“I had a dog named Jake a few years ago when the kids were young that could take hand and voice commands from 100 yards away, but I was busy going to softball games and wrestling matches,” said Davis. “Max becomes the next Davis champion.”