As you read this article please refer to the beautiful Epagneul Breton version of a triple play that greets you on the clubs new home page. We have all heard the phrase a “picture is worth a thousand words” and this picture is proof of that claim. These three Bretons strike a beautiful pose but for this author and owner/handler of one of the dogs in this photo it represents a great deal more. At the National Conclave this year in Iowa Mr. Tony Bua expressed his desire to start creating archives on the history of not only the French Brittany Gun Dog Association of America, Inc. (FBGDAA) but also of its affiliate clubs. So this seemed like a good time to do just that and this photograph is the perfect backdrop upon which to begin our story. So if you will indulge me I would like to try and share with you a little history about how the Epagneul Breton Gun Dog Club of Georgia came to be, where we are today, and where we are going.
I was in fact one of the charter members of the club in Georgia. My wife Amy and I adopted our first Epagneul Breton in March 2000 from John and Bruce Mooney of L’Escarbot Kennels in Minnesota. Her name is Peche and when we got her she was 7 months old. After we brought her into our home I wanted to meet others who might have this breed in my area so I began posting on different breed and hunting forums over the internet. I soon spoke with Bill and Kathy Dillon and I became a member of the French Brittany Gun Dog Association and was listed on their web site as the contact person for the future Georgia Chapter. It really wasn’t much of a chapter or even a club of course since Peche and I were the only members at that time.
From time to time I would receive a call and chat with folks that either had the breed or were interested in learning more about it. In time I found out about another gentleman from Georgia and I managed to get in touch with, Mr. Fred Overby. I probably caught Fred off guard when I called him the very first time. We talked for a while about the breed in this country and the French Brittany Gun Dog Association. He told me to keep in touch and if a club developed in Georgia to let him know. The seed was planted.
A few years went by then two other gentlemen contacted me. They became the catalyst for the formation of the club. The three of us talked through correspondence and on the phone for some time and eventually we agreed that we should meet and do a little dog work at the same time. Looking back, that day was really our first club event.
At the time I was a member of another club that was involved in Shoot to Retrieve Field trials. They leased a nice piece of land located in Milner, Georgia where they trained and ran their trials. We agreed to meet there since as a member of the club I had access to the quail pen. So with the blessing of that club we met in late September of 2003. We put out a few birds for each dog to find. At the time all three of our dogs were pretty young and inexperienced. We had a great time. The dogs did well and all found and pointed birds even if they were a far cry from being very steady. That day we also seriously discussed moving forward together in forming the club. From the outset the three of us agreed our goals should be to become a fully sanctioned club with both the FBGDAA and the United Kennel Club (UKC).
At this point in time I had been keeping Mr. Overby informed of our progress and had discussed with him the possibility of this new club becoming an active and fully sanctioned club with the French Brittany Gun Dog Association of America, Inc. He graciously had offered his full support and also expressed his interest in being a member himself. Fred, true to his word was instrumental in helping us get the club up and running. In addition to a lot of general guidance and encouragement he provided us with a copy of the club charter he had developed for the Montana Chapter which we easily adapted as our own club bylaws. However, of even greater importance he provided us with a list of several contacts of other breed enthusiasts which when combined with my own list of 14 contacts I had made over the years we had a substantial list of potential members to form our new club. If I recall correctly 25 members were needed to become a fully sanctioned club with the UKC. Many of those names Fred provided would not only become charter members but are still active members today. Another great friend to us since our beginning is Mr. Todd Kellam of the UKC. He received numerous calls and questions from me, provided information on how to form and run a successful club and helped guide us through the entire process of forming and becoming a sanctioned club with the UKC.
In the spring of 2004 we sent out applications for membership to everyone we had on our contacts list at the time. From that initial mailing 29 members joined the French Brittany Gun Dog Club of Georgia. With our bylaws accepted and provisional officers elected we completed the initial process of becoming a sanctioned club with both the the FBGDAA and UKC. These provisional officers were Wallace Huey as President, myself as Vice President/Secretary, Ted Kolczak as Treasurer, and Fred Overby was appointed to the Board of Directors. However, as our club started to take off and our membership roster grew it was decided to hold another general election so that all current members would be eligible to hold an office and take part in the vote. After that election Wallace remained President and Ted continued as Treasurer. The new Vice President was Billy Cannon; the new secretary was Terry Bennett. These officers have continued to lead the club over the last four years. As for me, I stepped aside due to demands in my career at that point in time which largely kept me on the side lines. I did, of course, remain a member and I stayed in touch and from time to time and when my schedule allowed I would participate in a field trial, fun hunts, one national conclave, and did my best to just stay in touch with what was happening.
With its new leadership in place the club did not waste any time. In February of 2005 the club held its first sanctioned field trial in accordance with the newly written UKC pointing breed field trial rules. This trial was dubbed The Southwest Georgia French Brittany Classic and it has continued as an annual event to this day and draws members from all across the United States. In 2006 the French Brittany Gun Dog Club of Georgia had the honor of hosting the French Brittany Gun Dog Association of America, Inc. annual membership meeting and national conclave. This event was officiated by the Honorable Judge Henri-Xavier Guelou from France. In 2007, we held our first UKC sanctioned field trial to be open to other UKC breeds. Sadly, only one non member would enter the trial. She entered her American Brittany who received a pass from Judge Fred Overby who officiated the event. This was the first trial over which Fred would act as Judge and in my opinion it marks not only an important milestone in the history of our club but also for the development of the UKC pointing breed field trials. 2009 marked another first for the club when the Southwest Georgia French Brittany Classic was officiated by Mr. Jacque Bordet who traveled all the way from France to officiate at the trials and confirmation show. In addition, he graciously worked with all of us to better understand proper confirmation and shared a great deal of history of the breed with us. I can think of no better testament to the caliber of the membership of this fine organization then the fact that such a respected judge in France as Mr. Bordet will travel so far to share their and time and knowledge with us here in Georgia. In addition, over the years we have hosted a number of club fun hunts, training days, confirmation shows, and members have joined together with friends old and new to hunt in a number of states for a variety of upland game birds.
More recently the membership has elected to change our name to the Epagneul Breton Gun Dog Club of Georgia in order to stay in step with our parent organization the FBGDAA who have elected to change the name of the national body to Club de l’ Epagneul Breton, USA (CEB-US). In addition, our hard working and dedicated President Mr. Wallace Huey has been elected as the new President of CEB-US and we wish him well in this new role. With his departure it was necessary to once again hold a general election which brought some additional changes in our leadership ranks with Mr. Ted Kolczak, Mr. Terry Bennett, and Mr. Billy Cannon stepping down as Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice President respectively and a new slate of officers is now in place. I have taken over from Wallace as the club President; Mr. Bill Cannon is now Vice President; Mr. Jackie Hunt Wagner is Secretary, and Mr. Billy Cannon will remain to help shepherd us newbie’s along as the club Treasurer.
As I now reflect upon how far this club has come over the past five years I am truly humbled by the task before me as its current President. It took a lot of hard work from the officers and members who have always pitched in to do whatever is needed to make our field trials and other events such a great success. I hope all the members will join me in thanking our past officers Wallace, Ted, Terry, and Billy, as they take on new challenges for all that they have done for us. While we are at it let us also say thank you to Mr. Fred Overby and Mr. Todd Kellam, and of course I also want to tip my hat to all of you for everything you have done to make this club a success because without you its members we would be nothing. From the original charter members are ranks have grown to 32 members in 5 States and it is exciting to ponder where we will be in another five years.
Oh, and just in case you have not yet guessed who those two other gentlemen were that I met with on that September day in 2004 to discuss the forming of a French Brittany breed club in Georgia they were of course Mr. Wallace Huey and Mr. Ted Kolczak, and the three young inexperienced dogs I spoke of were Wallace’s dog Tessie Ted’s dog Sam, and my Peche. The very same three dogs featured in our Epagneul Breton Triple Play. This particular photograph was taken at the clubs last fun hunt at Big Red Oak plantation last fall. It was exciting to see Sam lock up on point to be followed by two beautiful backs, first from Peche and then Tessie. I was holding my breath as they all continued to hold steady while Ted maneuvered to take this great photograph. These three dogs show us they are no longer inexperienced pups but veteran gun dogs that hold steady on point and honor their brace mates point. To me they represent the Epagneul Breton Gun Dog Club of Georgia perfectly. Spending time in the field with friends and the pleasure of seeing a great dog quartering naturally, hitting objectives, searching with passion, to be followed by the thrill of him suddenly freezing in mid stride upon scenting his prey is at the heart of who we are and what this club is really all about. For this author this photograph is an especially poignant shot because it brings our story full circle. It illustrates far better then my simple words can express where we started, where we are, and where we are going. So with Blackjack Sam pointing the way I am certain the club has an exciting future ahead, and I look forward to serving as your new club president and sharing many enjoyable hours in the field with all of you.