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Purina Top Open Shooting Dog of the Year Award

By Johnny Taylor | May 10, 2012 - Article From The American Field

Our Big Bully - Purina Top Open Shooting Dog of the Year AwardOur Big Bully, owned by Erwin and Karen Saniga of Nottingham, Pa., and handled by Mike Tracy of Summerhill Kennel fame, has won the coveted 2011-2012 Purina Top Open Shooting Dog of The Year Award. Not only did this bold white and liver pointer male, whose callname is Big, win, but he won with a spectacular closing finish.

Big was within striking distance going into the final trials of the season but had to be at the top of his game to close the gap between himself and the points leader Perkins Happy Tobe Here. He proved he was equal to the task, winning the Bama Quail Classic and taking the runner-up title in the Michigan Shooting Dog Championship, then going to Ontario for the Canadian Open Shooting Dog Championship, the last points trial of the season, and still trailing by 32 points. Here he showed mettle by winning the Canadian and clinching top honors as the 2011-2012 Purina Top Open Shooting Dog Award winner.

Roger Dvorak of Elkton, Md., bred the litter that produced Big, and the dog came to Ernie and Karen as a stud fee puppy. They owned his sire, three-time champion Bulltown, a previous runner-up in the Purina Top Amateur Shooting Dog Award points standings. Roger bred his nice pointer female Impressive Lady Sue to Bulltown and gave Ernie and Karen the pick of the litter. Ernie credits Karen’s keen eye in picking the youngster.

When Big came to them they liked him so much that they raised him in their home. With all the affection and attention he received in the year he lived with them it is no wonder that Ernie can foot hunt him for grouse and pheasant and that he will stay in and handle for him.

Big was slowed by a puppy illness as a young dog and Ernie says that he was the “most expensive” puppy he’s ever owned. But Karen and Ernie recognized early that Big was special because of his intelligence and more importantly he had great bird-finding skills at an early age. Ernie gave him a solid early foundation with yard work and exposure to game. Recognizing he had the potential to excel at the next level he contacted Mike Tracy and placed the dog with him for further development.

The Sanigas have had a three-generation working relationship with the Tracys. Ernie had previous associations with Gerald and George Tracy, and Mike’s record of success made it an easy choice for them to send Big to Mike.

Mike got Big in May before his Derby year and immediately started him in the Tracy development program, always under the watchful eye of his father George. The dog exhibited early that he had worlds of potential. Mike Tracy was solely responsible for the breaking and development of Big, whose early years were uneventful and frustrating because he could not finish with enough to win a stake. Mike knew something was not right. Even after several trips to different veterinarians there was no true diagnosis of the problem. When Mike picked Big up at the end of his heat in the National Open Shooting Dog Championship in February, 2011 he knew something was amiss. He rode straight to Dr. Joe Maddox who was judging the trial and asked him “What’s wrong?” Dr. Maddox told Mike to come to his trailer at the end of the day and he would prescribe treatment.

Mike followed his advice and treatment to the letter and from that time to present he has won two championships, five runners-up and placed in five classics for a total of 13 wins all in a period of 14 months! Add to that the prestigious Purina Top Open Shooting Dog Award and he’s had quite a season, thanks to Dr. Joe Maddox and his effective advice.

What sets Big apart from other great dogs? Mike is quick to say “intelligence and bird-finding skills.” Big always seems to find birds and in the running of the 2012 United States Shooting Dog Invitational Championship he set an Invitational record with nine finds in an hour!

He also has shown great adaptability by winning in eight different states over multiple venues.

The Tracy family is a team and Mike is quick to point out that George and Mary, his father and mother, have played key roles in his ability to develop and campaign Big. Their involvement and support has been critical to his success. Mike Tracy has been Handler of the Year seven times, but Big is the first dog he has successfully handled to win the Purina Top Open Shooting Dog Award.

Every winning field trial dog must have an exceptional scout and Mike is blessed to have young Mark McClain to help him with his string. Mark has played a key role in the successful

campaigning of this award winning team. Congratulations to Ernie and Karen Saniga, Mike Tracy, Mark McClain and the entire team that played a role in helping Our Big Bully win the Purina Top Open Shooting Dog Award. Congratulations indeed!

Dog/Handler/Owner Points

Our Big Bully, Pointer male, Mike Tracy/Ernie & Karen Saniga 2718
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