My time with Bodo Winterhelt

By Bob Farris Boise, Idaho

As I began writing this passage, I realized many of the current membership never had the opportunity to meet one of NAVHDA’s founders, Bodo Winterhelt. Somewhere in the early 1970s I heard of the organization NAVHDA from a friend who was planning to travel to Iowa to meet with a new group of versatile dog enthusiasts. I was field trailing retrievers in AKC field trials throughout the North West at this time. I had also just taken on a gun dog training adventure where I began taking in retrievers, pointers, and spaniels from other hunters in the Boise area. One of the first dogs to come into my training camp was a pudelpointer that had been import-ed from Germany and successfully trained and NAVHDA tested by another trainer named Bodo Winterhelt. I had been hired by the pudelpointer’s owner to hunt his dog on wild birds for a three-month period during the Fall bird season. This exposure saw me hunting with the most reliable hunting dog I had ever experienced, and a personal crusade to acquire a pudelpointer for myself led me to the man who had helped create the dog organization NAVHDA and also who was responsible for bringing this breed to North America. Bodo introduced me to John Kagel from Toronto, Canada where I acquired my first pudelpointer, and my passion for the breed has taken me on a journey that I am still pursuing today. I am still thankful to Bodo and John for their help and inspiration. About 1975, Bodo moved his training facility to Washington just south of Spokane, and I took a week of vacation to train with him and to experience the new versatile dog movement that was buzzing about North America. I stayed with my sister in Spokane and spent long days for a week learning Bodo’s training techniques, most being very new to me. My sister was a single parent of two children, and I learned later that after I returned home, Bodo began a short courtship with her. That was very typical of Bodo as I later learned. He loved his dogs and admired the ladies. As years followed, Bodo helped me acquire top breeding stock for my Cedarwood breeding program. He also assisted in helping me select stud dogs for my breedings. I then took on the NAVHDA apprentice judging pro-gram to become a NAVHDA judge as my interest in versatile dogs began to grow. During this time, I apprenticed under Bodo’s guidance many times while he was the Senior Judge. He continually demonstrated his ability to read a dog, which was far superior to anyone I had previously come across, regardless of AKC, American field, or NAVHDA judging. Bodo came to Idaho and hunted chukar with me on several occasions, and when he moved to Grangeville, Idaho, I would travel several times each Fall to hunt with him. I would find him spending more time admiring the habitat these birds lived in and the abundance of wildflowers growing on the north slopes than he actually spent hunting. He had shot many chukar in training and tests, but never wild ones. He marveled at this difference. In 1997, on our way to New Zealand, LaFaye and I attended the NAVHDA annual meeting in Los Angeles. Fol-lowing this meeting, my friendship with Bodo softened. He was requesting NAVHDA discontinue both their registry and also their Invitational. His argument had merit as he felt that the registry would open the door to many rogue breeders not demonstrating concern to testing their breeding stock be-fore breeding their dogs. He also felt the breed clubs were the grass roots for NAVHDA and they would soon be out-numbered by these rogue breeders and eventually disappear. His argument to discontinue the Invitational was that the organization’s membership would begin focusing on Versatile Champions for their breeding selections rather than Natural Ability and Utility testing where NAVHDA’s best footprint for this purpose should be used. Bodo was so adamant of these two requests, which were so paramount to him, that he left the organization following the Los Angeles meeting, requesting his name and membership be withdrawn completely. This was the organization that he, John Kegal, and Ed Bailey had orchestrated some 30 years previously. Being a man of strict conviction, he followed his word and left the organization to only focus on his own dogs and the breed club he had chosen. I stayed aligned to NAVHDA and didn’t follow Bodo’s lead as I had just become a NAVHDA judge and wasn’t willing to walk away from this venue. Also, traveling to Southern California just wasn’t feasible for my future testing plans. I was personally testing 5 to 10 dogs annually, and with chapters in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah, my testing needs would be accomplished much closer to home. NAVHDA’s pudelpointer membership residing in California (including several NAVHDA judges) dropped out also to follow Bodo’s lead. The rest of the pudelpointer enthusiasts stayed with NAVHDA, and most of the serious breeders joined forces and created North American Pudelpointer Alliance (NAPPA) to support the breed. Years later, LaFaye and I visited Bodo when he was still active with his dogs and lived in Bandon, Oregon. He complemented me on taking my Cedarwood breeding program to such a favorable level, but followed the compliment with “but I’ll never forgive you Bob for staying with NAVHDA and not coming with me following that meeting in Los Angeles.” These are the dog politics none of us wish to see or be involved in, but the man I knew had a strong constitution for what he believed, and this was what separated him from so many others.