Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mo (not moe.)

One of life's flavors is the steady stream of people who come (and go) unexpectedly.  Most are less than remarkable, some leave you wishing they'd been less remarkable, and still others seem innocent enough at first only to grow like a white oak, slowly yet undeniably, into something of prominence in your world.

Retrospection comes more frequently with age (higher number of years in the rear view than out the windshield, statistically speaking), and often only with the benefit of time do you realize how consequential some of these people were.  A parent who gave you no choice but to be responsible for yourself, an employer who allowed you to make mistakes and keep your job, a college professor who set the books aside and taught you what the real world was like.  None of them were sought for these reasons, fate simply planted them in the right place.

photo courtesy of Vic Williams
About 18 years ago I was looking for a stud dog to breed with a friend's Brittany, got to asking around and after a few false starts was given the name of a trainer in Moonville, SC.  Fate and fortune had landed me squarely in the lap of a guy named Maurice Lindley.  Most people call him Mo.  Looking back, he's been a treasure to know.  He operates in a part of my world that borders on sacred, and he's shown me how to make it even more so. 

Mo ended up training a pup I got from that litter and I did an article on him for the The Pointing Dog Journal back in 2002 that focused on the mechanics of training and on some of the obstacles he's faced.  Over time I realized that the story is less about mechanics and obstacles and more about the person.  He's humble, honest and patient, three qualities I like most in anyone, but of these patience has been the gift.

I say this because it's such a critical element to owning and training a bird dog.  Literature on the subject can't seem to resist spotlighting a star student, a pup who was scent pointing at two weeks of age or had a handful of championships by his first birthday.  While there's a place in the world for overachievers, using them as examples in training manuals does such a disservice to the guy who wants to learn more about training.  It plants a seed that somehow there is a schedule to be adhered to.  It creates an unnecessary sense of expectation, a goal with no practical virtues. Want to teach someone how to train?  Don't tell him how long it should take to teach a skill, tell him how to know when it's time to move on to the next stage.

photo courtesy of Vic Williams
Mo gets this and when you spend time with him it's evident in every aspect of his work.  He doesn't think twice about backing up if he feels a dog is being rushed.  He understands that a race is something run on a track, not part of an education.  And he's helped me to understand how much there is to enjoy in the process, in the small victories along the way.

I'm finally past the point of wanting to hurry through things in life that bring me pleasure.  There were years, too many of them, where I was more interested in the end product and getting to it as quickly as possible.  Oh, if I had the patience in my twenties that I enjoy today...

If you're curious...

There's a book available on his methods (and a review of it over at Living with Birddogs) or if you'd like just a taste, I highly recommend going to Steady With Style and downloading the field manual, no charge other than your email address and they won't inundate your inbox.  Look for this image on the right side of the main page:
The field manual gives a really good perspective on how Mo goes about teaching dogs.  You may want to drop by his website as well.

photo courtesy of Vic Williams


  1. Mark: Nice tribute to Mo -- a guy I've only e-mailed with, but am grateful for the interaction. I actually reviewed his and Martha Greenlee's book, 'Training with Mo,' over on the Living with Birddogs blog back on March 3rd, 2010. (For some reason, it won't let me add the URL.) But I know exactly what you mean. I was lucky to spend last July in Arizona with another of Bill West's students, Bill Gibbons, and feel truly blessed to be leaving this coming weekend to go back out there again. I suspect that Mo, like Bill, is also one of those rare gifted trainers who is as gifted with people as he is with dogs.

    all best

  2. Andrew, I plugged your review into the post. I remembered reading it but couldn't for the life of me remember where it was. He gives a lot of credit to both West and Gibbons. I hope the methods trickle down to the next generation of trainers.

  3. Mark, a nice salute to MO. I find him thoroughly likeable and honest. I expect that I will send Cody to him within the year for breaking out.

    And, Andrew, here is the url: http://wenaha.blogspot.com/2010/03/another-book-review.html - but I see Mark has linked in his discussion of Mo and Martha;s book.

  4. Mike, I recall seeing Tommy over at Mo's a few times last year. Real pretty dog, good temperament too. Hope he's working out well. I'll have Wyatt back over this fall for a month or so of fine tuning before the season opens. Lemme know if you're headed this way..

  5. Mark - Tommy is doing fine. I hunted him some this past season and he has turned into a bird dog. he will be with me in Montana for summer camp in August/September.