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Women and dogs bond in field, and home: Women's Gun Club at Pine Shadows grows

Katie Shrove (left), Jody Martin, Gwen Lappin, Stephanie Jussila, Carol Whirley and Sue Corthell are some of the women in the Diamonds and Dogs women's gun club at Pine Shadows in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 5
Gwen Lappin of Chaska, who spends her summers in Longville, walks with her English cocker spaniel named Quinn during training this past summer at Pine Shadows. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 5
Joan Peterson (left), a trainer at Pine Shadows in Brainerd, works with Katie Shrove and her dog this past summer. Shrove is a member of a Diamonds and Dogs women's gun club. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 5
Gwen Lappin blows a whistle to call her dog Quinn during training last summer at Pine Shadows, as Morgan Haglin, the lead trainer at Pine Shadows, watches. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch4 / 5
Quinn, an English cocker spaniel, pants in the field during training this past summer at Pine Shadows. Quinn's handler is Gwen Lappin. The two are in a women’s club called Diamonds and Dogs. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch5 / 5

"Diamonds and Dogs" has nothing to do with being glamorous.

It has everything to do with a special bond developed between a dog and its handler. "Diamonds and Dogs" is what a group of women call their gun club. Women from the Brainerd lakes area and surrounding areas joined the club. They traveled every Tuesday this past summer to Pine Shadows in Brainerd to train their dogs. Summer was the time when the women worked with their dogs—training them to flush birds, get used to the sound of a gunshot, as well as teaching obedience skills and knowing commands.

Now with fall and winter here, the women put their dogs to the test in a hunting environment to see if the skills they learned this past summer worked.

Joan Peterson is one of the trainers at Pine Shadows who helps run the women's club. Pine Shadows, northeast of Brainerd in Oak Lawn Township, is known for its English springer spaniels and has provided gun dog training, field trial handlings, Dakota pheasant hunts and pet care since 1976.

Peterson said the Diamonds and Dogs club began two years ago when a few women wanted to learn how to handle their dogs, but were not big hunters. The women wanted to be able to control their dogs more and have a better relationship with them. The group started its first summer with a core of six women and grew to a dozen in the group in its second summer with women coming from Brainerd, Elk River, Onamia, Crosslake, Bemidji and Chanhassen, to name a few. The women's backgrounds vary from beginners to masters who have trained their dogs for field trials.

On Tuesdays during the summer, the women worked with their dogs—training in the mornings, taking a break for lunch and then working in the fields in the shooting range in the afternoon.

Peterson said the women stayed in contact since their summer season training ended in August. She said several women took their dogs hunting and it was a success. They are hoping to meet before Christmas to talk about how the hunts went and how the training worked.

Carol Whirley of Brainerd, a member of the group, went on a couple of hunts in South Dakota this past fall with her springer spaniel named Piper.

During a sunny August day—one of the last trainings of the summer—Whirley said she is the oldest woman in the club and she joined because Piper was much more hyper than her other dogs and she needed some help training him.

"Piper was the most bull-headed dog we have ever came in contact with," Whirley said. "He was rather green when we started coming out here and in two months I saw a transformation from puppy to dog. I have a dog who will come, sit and go back and forth in the field and bring a bird to us. It has been amazing.

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"Piper was the most bull-headed dog we have ever came in contact with. He was rather green when we started coming out here and in two months I saw a transformation from puppy to dog." - Carol Whirley of Brainerd

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Whirley said her bond with Piper has grown and her husband bought her a gun and said she was going hunting with him, since the dog listened to her better than him.

"When I first joined I would have never thought I would go hunting," Whirley said. "I didn't think I could kill anything, but I think I can kill a pheasant."

Since being part of the club, Whirley said it is amazing how well her dog listens and behaves. And a bonus for her was becoming friends with the other women in the club.

Julie Winslow of Elk River said being a part of the group is about the handler building a relationship with her dog, not just their husband's hunting dog.

"They listen to us more as they know we know what they should be doing," Winslow said of the dogs. "This is my second year and I brought two dogs—Dixie and Darby—both English springer spaniels.

"My husband is a big hunter and he paid so much money for these wonderfully trained dogs. I don't necessarily go in the field with him so thought I could come up here and learn what he does and be able to relate more when he comes home. It also helps bonding with the dog. They are great out in the field but when they come home they are our pets, our family. So when they are in our houses, they are trained enough to not be so wild, and they can behave."

Gwen Lappin of Chaska, who spends her summers in Longville, has an English cocker spaniel named Quinn. This is her second year in the women's club, but her fourth year coming to Pine Shadows. Quinn is her first field trial dog and he qualified for nationals this year. Morgan Haglin, the lead dog trainer at Pine Shadows, took Quinn to the national field trials last month in New York.

"I've done trials for three years now and I love it," Lappin said. "It is addicting. This dog got me into this. I did not know this sport existed."

Retired, Lappin said she had to do something with 3-year-old Quinn who driving them crazy at home. Lappin said she the breeder she got Quinn from is big into the trials and after seeing one in North Dakota and she thought, "I will have to try this."

Lappin said she joined the women's club to be more involved with her dog.

Steph Jussila of St. Cloud and her English springer spaniel named Louie, have been in the group for a year and a half. Jussila brought Louie to Pine Shadows when he was 6 months old and trained with Peterson.

"Joannie wanted me to continue so we decided to start this women's group and it has gone over beautifully," Jussila said. "My dog has learned so much be being here. They are so good here and treat the dogs and us so graciously. We would like to invite other women here. It's a great experience. Women who enjoy working with their dogs should join. It can be any type of dogs, all breeds are welcome."

Jussila said she doesn't hunt, she just loves working with Louie.

"My dog loves it out here and it's so fun to watch him leap in the air," she said. "It's picturesque."

Women who want go join the club may do so by calling Pine Shadows at 218-829-4736. The regular season runs June through August, but the group will start training again in January on Saturdays—for those interested.

Haglin said he enjoys instructing the women on how they should handle their dogs.

"Tuesdays are a great day for this," Haglin said. "It gets women away from their guys or husbands. Husbands instruct their wives differently with the guns and out here it is a different atmosphere. It's slower pace and different learning. The women find things interesting when it comes to the birds or the dogs. It's nice to have this group of ladies who can learn at their own pace.

"We've had many women's groups here over the years. The women's clubs allow women to feel comfortable with their dogs and the guns. ... We are here to help them anytime."