Now, before I get into all of Uma's special qualities, quirks and things she does to drive us crazy, I should probably answer the most obvious question: "What the heck is an Épagneul de Pont Audemer?"
The 'Ponto' as it is affectionately called, is one of several Épagneul breeds from France. Of course, everyone has heard of the Épagneul Breton, known in the US and UK as the Brittany, but very few people know that the Breton has cousins from other parts of France. And like the Breton, they are named after where they come from. The Épagneul Picard for example is from Picardy, an area north of Paris and the epicentre of much of World War 1. The Épagneul de Pont Audemer is from Normandy and named after a small city there named, you guessed it, Pont Audemer.
The breed was once relatively common in Normandy and Picardy. Then time, fashion and two world wars took their toll. The breed has just managed to hang on for the last 50 years or so with an average of only 30 to 50 pups born per year in the world! The estimate for the entire world wide population of Pontos is about 350. There are 3 in Canada. Uma and two of her cousins, Vinnie and Bécasse.
Now, on to the quirks and qualities of our Uma.
First, the quirks:
1. She's French. Very French. That means that she a. loves stinky cheese b. would probably smoke Gitanne cigarettes if she were human and c. is about as agressive as Mr. Rogers.
2. She's a barker. Boy o boy does she love to bark. But it's a French sort of bark...more of an existential rant about how zee stupeed peeples keep passing in front of zee house!! Nom de dieu!! It is nothing like our Weims' bark which is basically a final warning before the gates of hell open up. Here is how I describe the typical Ponto protection instinct in my book: As far as protection, predator sharpness or man-sharpness go, the Ponto is probably the least likely of all versatile breeds to ever stop an intruder or kill a fox. My wife has always said that while our Weimaraners would put their lives on the line to protect our house and home, the Ponto would probably just watch it all from the couch while enjoying a glass of red wine and a cigarette.
3. For Uma, every day is a bad hair day. The Ponto coat is best described as "80's hair-band" with a twist. On some Pontos the coat can be fairly curly, uniform in texture and not too hard on the eyes. And I must admit that over the last couple of years, Uma's coat has improved a lot. She's actually kinda pretty now. But for much of her youth, especially in the late adolescent stage, she had a hair do that was a cross between a rocker mullet and hungover dreadlocks.
And now the qualities:
1. She hunts. Boy o boy does she love to hunt. Unlike our weims who go about their work as if God himself assigned them to a glorious suicide mission for the team, Uma is the quintessential "happy hunter" that covers a field in the same way a kid zooms through a candy stores after drinking a 6 pack of Red Bull.
2. She is lowest maintenance dog on the face of the earth (well, except for the barking). If she is not in the field zooming around in pursuit of birds, Uma is content to lay comatose for 23 1/2 hours a day. She and her cousin Vinnie are the only gundogs I have ever known that could actually live in a library at an old folks home...and not be noticed.
3. She smiles. Yup, full on, wall of teeth smiles. I've yet to catch the grin with a camera...but one day I will. And when I do by golly, I will win every cute pet photo contest this side of the Atlantic.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY UMA!!!
Here's to many more days afield!