Happy 2014!

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Happy New Year from the Northwoods.

I’ve looked at thousands of photos over the past few days trying to decide which to use for this post.

Because we are Laurel Mt. Llewellin Setters, of course you’d think I would use a photo of the dogs or Ruffed Grouse, or hunting.

But, as I looked through all those photos and reflected on the past year, the message I wanted to convey began to change.

First, I am reminded of the wonderful people we’ve met through the dogs and the sport of Upland Hunting.

I look at the smiling faces of the families whose life was changed by a new Llewellin Setter puppy and am reminded, as if I needed reminded, of the incredibly huge responsibility it is to be a breeder of Llewellin Setters. A breed that has been the best kept secret and has retained the hunting instinct, health, and beauty by the careful, breeders that dedicated their lives to the Llewellin Setter before me. And the chilling realization that the future of the breed is in grave danger of becoming yet another hunting breed that is ruined.

I read the letters from families sharing milestones in their pup’s life, hunting adventures, stories, photos, and sometimes sad or tragic events.

I reflect on all the ways my life has changed since a Llewellin Setter came bounding into it.

I realize how much I have changed. How these beautiful, natural upland hunting dogs have turned my life upside down.

And how different I am because of them.

The photo I decided to use for this post isn’t of our Llews or a dead ‘Ruff; it is of the Northern Lights dancing behind our barn where many of our Llewellins were sleeping in the beautiful Northwoods that I would have never got to experience if it not for those Setterdogs. And is just one of the amazing things I’ve seen and experienced through my adventures with them.

The Aurora is a rare and coveted sight that I was privileged to witness and photograph in this rare and very special wild place. Just like the Ruffed Grouse and other species of upland birds are becoming a rare and coveted sight. Just like public land and habitat that holds the birds dwindles every year. Just like the hunting dog breeds that retain the hunting instincts of their ancestors. All rare and precious.

And, my wish for all of you this year is that your life be touched in the same ways and that you live a life that is rare and precious.

I hope you find joy in a Llewellin Setter puppy licking  your face.

I hope your nights are filled with the love of your life and a Llewellin Setter sleeping next to you.

I hope your days are filled with all the time you can spare from your busy schedule exploring the fields and forests for Upland game with your Llewellin Setter—and finding it.

And your breath taken away as you stare in awe of him slammed on point.

I hope your heart softens and that all become “Setter men” (and women) that give in to being control-freaks with the “perfect” dog and just relax, let go, take in, enjoy, and learn from their Setters, their best friends and loyal companions.

My wish is that all of you live this year to the fullest—plan hunting trips, take more time off and enjoy family, friends, and lots of hunting adventures with your Llews.

My wish is when you are hunting, that you enjoy every moment with your friends and your loyal, trusty, companion. Relax. Take it all in. Don’t be a control freak. Learn from your dog. Appreciate every speck of precious habitat, and every inch of public land. Respect it. Care for it. Clean up after yourself. Leave it better than you found it. Treasure those spaces. Be rare and different.

Leave the bird counter in the bag or throw it away. Just enjoy the land, the dog-work, and the hunt. Be rare and make it about the memories, not numbers or kills.

Treat every harvested bird as a treasure. Because it is. Eat it savoring every morsel. It is real food of which we don’t have much of any more.

Take time to take kids hunting.

Support and get involved in good hunting and habitat organizations.

Do everything you can to care for the land and to support and preserve our coveted hunting traditions.

The Llewellin Setter has changed my life in countless ways and made me a better person. I hope one finds their way into your life, heart, and bed, too.

My wish is that this year brings you more meaningful, memorable, rare, and treasured moments.

So I challenge you to make this the year that you:

Change your life.
Change someone else’s life.

Make a difference.

Live a life that matters
not a life for things that don’t.

Be Rare.
Be exceptional.
Be bold and awe-inspiring…
like the Northern Lights.

And dare to make 2014 the best year, yet!