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By: Emily Easton

For the Eastons of Dallas, PA, dogs are a true family affair. Starting with their first Vizsla, Dallas, in 1996, the Easton family — Ralph, Diana and daughters Laura, now 20, and Emily — has participated in conformation, field trials and hunting tests.

Emily is a 6th grader with academic goals to continue getting straight As and to do well in math and science so she can get into veterinary school. Her outside activities, besides her dogs, include USA Swimming.

Introduced to field trials at a young age, both Laura and Emily loved watching the braces on horseback and sitting around a campsite in the evenings listing to stories and talk of the day’s accomplishments and setbacks. They brushed the wrangler’s horses during the day. Emily remembers the first time she went into the field with pointing dogs: “I was riding on the back of a horse with my Mom at a field trial.”

When the family started to train in a different direction, Emily was introduced to Hunting Tests. She trains in the field with her parents and even purchased her own Vizsla, Miley from Carol Phelps (who had also sold the Eastons their first Vizsla, Dallas). According to Diane, Carol has been there from the beginning and encourages Emily in everything she does.

Emily now shows Miley in Junior Showmanship (with instruction from Melissa Foehrkolb) and has trained and handled Miley to her Junior Hunter title. According to Emily, Senior Hunter is her next goal for her beloved Vizsla.

Along the way, Emily also finished a Junior Hunter title on another of her dogs, June. “Training is not hard but you need to be persistent in all that you do with your dogs,” says Emily.

However, training and handling her dogs is not all Emily does with them. She handles her share of letting out, feeding, exercising and grooming. “I clean the pen when we have a litter of puppies. Having a clean pen means more space for me to play with the puppies!”

According to Emily’s mother, Diana, 2010 was a milestone year for Emily who turned 12 and was finally able to take her hunter’s safety course. Now, says Diana, “Emily is an active hunter, in the fields with her dogs and entire family.”

Emily’s first hunting trip was going out with her best friend, Alexis Biggus. Both families hunted all day in the snow.

But, says Diana, her daughter is also “an advocate of the breed and has helped influence others to show and participate in Hunting Tests. She helped in the planning of the breeding of Miley and brought her best friend, Alexis, right along.”

Diana continues, “Alexis and Emily helped to whelp the litter and to care for it. Alexis took a puppy from this litter and is now a Junior Handler herself.” Alexis trained and handled her puppy, Timber, to his Junior Hunter title; finishing him in six months.

Right now, Emily’s goals for herself and her dogs are to put Senior Hunter titles Miley and June and to take a puppy from the Eastons’ next litter and train her to show and hunt as well. “I cannot wait to help whelp that litter. I love puppies!”

Asked what she liked most about her favorite dog, Emily answered: “I love that she cuddles with me and then has the energy to keep up with me in whatever we decide to do. She is happy to be with me no matter what.”

To sum up her experience with dogs and the dog world, Emily says: “I like to meet new friends at all of the events I enter. I hope more kids become involved in the field events so I can share my stories of success and frustration with more friends.”

Diana adds that Emily will be entering a few field trials to learn to handle in walking events with Alexis. “I know it won’t be long before they are asking to ride as well. Our family is looking forward to seeing many old-time friends, who I am sure will say ‘Boy, has Emily grown.’ We may not win but one thing is certain, our families will be out with our girls and dogs having a great time!”