When David Logan was 14, his mother announced he was entered in a retrieving dog trial the next day. This surprised the young Scottish lad, because he had never before appeared in such an event, and in fact barely knew the commands required to send a Labrador for a bird.
“But with my mum’s dog, I did pick [retrieve] all of the birds in that trial, which was limited to children and was intended to encourage young people in the field sports,” Logan said. “I came in second, and from that point on, I went to a retriever test every weekend.”
Hailing from the town of Kinross in Kinross-shire, Scotland, Logan is appearing Friday through Sunday at Game Fair in Ramsey. The event, which each year attracts thousands of hunting-dog owners and their leashed companions, is hosted by Chuck and Loral I Delaney at Armstrong Ranch and is patterned after a British outdoors extravaganza by the same name.
Now 25, Logan became one of the youngest retriever handlers to place in the British National Retriever Championship when he took second in that event in 2016 with his then 7-year-old Labrador, Devonvale Shadow.
The same year, he and Shadow were winners of the Gun’s Choice award at a shoot-and-field trial hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Great Park. The event was held in honor of the queen’s 90th birthday.
A qualified retriever field-trial judge herself, Queen Elizabeth keeps a kennel of Labradors and spaniels at her country retreat, Sandringham Estate. By tradition, she regularly hosts the retriever championship at Sandringham or Windsor, during which she often walks among the handlers, judges and guns.
Logan picked Shadow from a litter of eight pups when he was just 8 weeks old.
“I brought Shadow home about a year and a half after that first youth trial,” he said. “My friend Tom Smith, who won the retriever championship in 2001, had found a good litter, and I picked the puppy that came running to me.”
Commonly for a kid’s dog, but uncommonly for a dog destined for competition, Shadow slept every night on Logan’s bed. Inseparable, the two trained together daily after school, often not returning home until after dark.
Initially, Logan and Shadow were also-rans in field trials. But they were nonetheless competitive, regularly accomplishing difficult retrieves and occasionally scoring “eye wipes,” in which Shadow found wounded and running birds other retrievers didn’t.
Then in 2016, Logan and Shadow won a two-day Open Stake, a feat rarely accomplished by a handler so young — especially considering Logan had trained Shadow himself. The victory qualified him to be among the 58 or so handlers who would compete in December that year for the national championship.
But first came the queen’s shoot-and-field trial at Windsor.
“The queen had a number of events that year to celebrate her 90th birthday,” Logan said. “But this one she organized herself, and invited her game keepers and other workers from her estates throughout Britain to join with some members of the royal family and others to be the guns for the day.”
The royal family’s shooting parties usually are held at Sandringham, a 20,000-acre estate that was bought in 1862 as a country home for Edward VII, who at the time was Prince of Wales, and his fiancée, Alexandra of Denmark.
Edward was so fond of shooting that when he became king he ordered Sandringham’s clocks to be set a half-hour earlier than clocks in the rest of Britain to increase the time available for shooting. “Sandringham time,” prevailed from 1901 to 1936, when it was voided by King Edward VIII.
“The queen’s retriever trial at Windsor in celebration of her 90th birthday differed from a traditional British retriever field trial in that it was a competition among teams from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland,” Logan said. “Each team had four handlers and their dogs.”
On her estates, the queen typically drives her own Range Rover, usually accompanied by a lady friend. She did so also at her birthday shoot-and-trial, and also walked some with the handlers and their dogs, watching as pheasants, wood pigeons, partridge, rabbits and hares were flushed, shot and retrieved.
At day’s end, the queen hosted everyone at Windsor’s Royal Household Bowling Club, where coffee, tea and egg sandwiches were served in advance of the award ceremony.
“Our Scottish team prevailed, happily for us,” Logan said, and each handler was given an award by the queen.
Then the men and women who had done the shooting announced the name of the dog they believed had performed most superbly that day:
“The queen gave me an award for that, also, and when she did she asked me, ‘Have you been to any other big competitions lately?’ I had to say I hadn’t. To that point, that was the biggest trial of my life.”
But more honors were to come. A week later, Logan and Shadow placed second in the British National Retriever Championship.
Not bad for a dog that sleeps on his master’s bed.