Guard Rail was already dead, when I started going to field trials about 25 years ago. He had died tragically on December 26, 1984 in an accident on Interstate 95 in Woodbridge, Virginia as his owner Gene Casale and Truman Cowles were headed down the road to spend the winter working dogs and attending trials in the South. Jack, as Guard Rail was called, was buried 50 miles away at the home of Ed Emerson, a bird dog friend who lived in Mineral, Virginia. The dog was nine and had already mowed a large swathe through the field trial world. In his career, Jack accumulated 42 field trial wins including six championship and 3 runner-up championship placements.
During his life Jack was bred 150 times and from the beginning started producing field trial winners. When Everett Skehan wrote an article for the March/April 1993 issue of PDJ Guard Rail had already sired 30 champions and an untold number of other winners. As of today, according to the records of the Field Dog Stud Book, in addition to his 42 wins, Guard Rail has sired 289 winners of American Field and Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America sanctioned stakes that have amassed a total of 2,708 placements. In addition, the grandsons and granddaughters of Guard Rail have produced over 90 more field trial champions and the total number of winners and wins by that next generation are collectively almost impossible to tabulate as they are still being added to on a regular basis. At the peak of Jack’s success, Gene remembers one trip to the South where he showed up at a field trial to find four breeders standing in line waiting to breed bitches to Jack.
Guard Rail’s career might have turned out a lot differently if Gene had not taken a chance on a young dog Rich Guiliano had gotten from Bob Nolan of Atlanta, Georgia. Nolan had offered the pup from the breeding of Smart and the blue hen bitch Nel’s Rambling On (both have been elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame as has Guard Rail) when he learned that Guiliano was trialing and breeding pointers in Rhode Island where he had once lived. Right from the start Rich was impressed with his puppy that was soon winning puppy stakes. His puppy wins were followed by an impressive derby year that included winning the New England Futurity under the tutelage of Connecticut professional handler Bruce Jacobs. But as fate would have it, Rich was also involved in a new business venture and had less and less time and resources to devote to working and campaigning Guard Rail. He made the decision to sell the dog.
Jack was already out of shape and overweight when Rich brought him out and offered him to Gene Casale at a trial in Woburn, Massachusetts. Gene was skeptical as three or four people had already passed on the dog, but negotiated a two week trial so he could have a better sense of what he was buying. Once Gene got Jack home and was able to let him start running in the large meadows along the Connecticut River near his home in Glastonbury, Connecticut he began to see a transformation as the dog quickly regained his winning form. He and Rich negotiated a price of $2,500 with a $1,000 bonus if Jack won a championship.
Gene bought Guard Rail in August of 1979 and worked him at home for a while then took him to Pennsylvania where he could work him on the then plentiful wild pheasants prior to taking him to the National Amateur Pheasant Championship in October. There were 67 dogs in the field that year and Jack ran early the first day. He laid down a performance that had the gallery buzzing and Gene on pins and needles as the rest of the field tried to top Jack’s performance. Three days later Jack was named National Amateur Pheasant Champion and Gene gladly paid the bonus to Guiliano.
A storybook career followed with George Tracy winning three open championships with the dog while Gene added the amateur wins. Although glad to see Gene succeed with the dog, George claims that if he had had Guard Rail full time his record would have been even more impressive.
Fortunately for the bird dog and field trial world, Gene Casale was an early adopter of semen collection and storage. Gene found a vet in Georgia who was equipped to collect and freeze semen, and before the accident they had collected between 50 and 60 straws from Jack. Over the next 28 years, Gene has selectively used the straws to perpetuate the Guard Rail bloodline. Unfortunately, when the vet moved his practice north to Maryland some of the Guard Rail straws were lost one way or another. At this point there is only one straw of Guard Rail semen still in storage. When they first started using the stored straws to artificially inseminate bitches, they would use two per breeding. With advances in technology, they are now able to split a straw. The last straw that was used resulted in one pup in the first breeding and eight in the second.
Over the years, as I gained experience in field trials by running dogs in various stakes, watching as many braces as I could, and eventually judging, it seemed like every time I saw a pointer I liked, it was by Guard Rail or one of his progeny. When it was time to breed my bitch, Elhew Liebotschaner, I looked for a dog that showed the same drive, class, style, and bird finding ability that I had seen in those dogs from the Guard Rail line and those who had seen Guard Rail in his career reported he had in spades. In the fall of 2003 a young phenom burst on the scene in the New England woods that seemed to embody the Guard Rail traits I admired. The dog proceeded to capture both the National Amateur Grouse Championship and the International Amateur Woodcock Championship while still a derby. When I inquired about Wynot Ace’s pedigree, I learned that his father was Elhew No Trump and his dam was a line bred Guard Rail dog. That clinched the deal and we bred the two of them later that fall. That breeding produced my dog 6X Champion Wild Apple Jack and Jack Harang’s 7X champion Autumn Moon. As my Jack became successful, I was faced with the dilemma of who to breed him to in hopes of producing more winning dogs.
Lying under the desk as I type this is a four year old daughter of Guard Rail bred by New Jersey professional handler Gary Malzone. We bought her specifically to breed to our Jack and have produced a nice litter of puppies that are just 13 months old now that already showing promise. Wild Apple LJ placed this spring in the 44 dog Grand National Puppy Classic and seems to be cut from the Guard Rail cloth.
There has always been a little confusion about something called the Guard Rail spot. Some felt it was the dot on the top of his head between the evenly marked halves of Guard Rail’s liver mask. Others considered the small liver patch at the base of his tail with an otherwise all white body the Guard Rail spot. The jury is still out on whether LJ will shine like his illustrious father and grandfathers, but at least he has both of the Guard Rail spots.
The place where you can find the most Guard Rail blood is Caladen Kennels in South Carolina. Ross Calloway reports that there are currently 17 direct sons and daughters in the kennel from frozen semen-bred Guard Rail litters. He was the breeder of the dog Gene won runner-up laurels with at the 2011 Region 13 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship – Caladen’s Railway Max, as well as other Guard Rail bred dogs that are winning on both the Shooting Dog and All-Age circuits.
Ross’s interest in Guard Rail started serendipitously. In 1987, after he’d moved to South Carolina, the only place he could find to run his accomplished North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) and National Shoot to Retrieve Association (NSTRA) German shorthair pointers was in local National Bird Hunters Association trials. At the time the NBHA required a retrieve and he was amazed that the English pointers in the trial appeared to be enthusiastic retrievers. He had believed the common wisdom among AKC and NAVHDA folks that pointers don’t retrieve. Despite that epiphany, he wasn’t really interested in anything but his GSPs. All that changed when one of the judges at the NBHA event invited him to his farm to train dogs and then wouldn’t let him leave without taking one of his pointer puppies. Ross gave in and took a little black and white female home that he called Pepper. She proved to be one heck of a dog that placed in a number of NSTRA trials and even passed the NAVHDA UPT (there second level test) with ease on her first try in a NAVHDA event. She was a Guard Rail daughter and when we fast forward to 2007 and Ross’s decision to switch to English pointers almost exclusively he went out and bought a direct daughter of Guard Rail. When bred to Rock Acre Blackhawk she produced Ross’s current All-Age winning dog Caladen’s Rail Hawk. And Ross has gone on from there.
He attributes the success of his Guard Rail breeding to the traits Jack has passed on. Jack was a tough-minded and driven dog that at the same time had an innate willingness to please. But even more important for Ross and the rest of the Guard Rail followers is the intelligence that the dog had which has been passed down through the line. If you are at a trial today and see a pointer that is “out on the edge” as Gene characterizes Jack’s usual performances but has the intelligence to stay connected by that invisible thread, you probably won’t have to dig too deep to find Guard Rail in the dog’s pedigree. Gene is going to save that last straw for a very special bitch or two, but considering the number of Guard Rail dogs competing and winning today you can bet Jack’s impact will continue well into the future. People like Ross Calloway, and to a much lesser extent me, will continue to mix Guard Rail blood into our breeding programs. Gene’s also got about 10 straws of one of Guard Rail’s most productive sons, Rail Dancer, to use and at 91 is still making plans for his dogs in the future.