Posted on: October 16, 2022 Posted by: Petsynse Comments: 0

KNOX — Camie Barrow was just an urban dog owner strolling through Boston Common when she saw her new puppy tormenting and chasing pigeons. Clancy, an English springer spaniel from a bird-hunting lineage, was simply doing what his DNA called him to do: flush birds. 

So Barrow, who also came from a bird-hunting lineage as the daughter of a man who hunted with bird dogs, brought Clancy to a professional bird dog trainer who could teach Clancy to bring the birds back unharmed, as bird dogs do on hunts. 

Thus began a journey that led Barrow to move to Maine, meet the man who would become her husband, and achieve national success as a bird dog handler. All because of her love of dogs.

Last November at the U.S. National Amateur English Spaniel Field Trial Championships in Watkins Glen, New York, Barrow and her springer, Bailey, won the national title as well as the gunner’s award, given to the dog the competition’s gunners would most want to hunt over. Barrow became one of only five female handlers to claim a national title in the nearly 60-year history of the event. She is the only handler – male or female – to win both honors in the same year.

“It’s interesting, she doesn’t talk it up. But at nationals there were women who came up to her to say thank you,” said David Huntress, Barrow’s husband. “In a sport that’s predominantly a male sport, I don’t think it’s sunk in. But she showed everyone last year she is a quality handler.”

The vast majority of competitive bird dog handlers are men, as well as hunters. Barrow is not a hunter, but she learned a lot about hunting dogs during childhood while watching her father work with bird dogs. And Barrow’s deep concern for her dogs’ well-being is undoubtedly a key to her success, said Huntress, a lifelong bird hunter who owns four dogs with Barrow.


“She really enjoys watching them progress. She’s incredible,” said Huntress, who met Barrow at a field trial in Dresden in 2016.

Barrow’s father, Kit Barrow, grew up bird hunting in Wisconsin and Kentucky and later started training his English springer spaniels to run in field trials with a professional handler. By the time Kit Barrow started to breed his field-trial dogs, Camie was working and living in Boston and wanted a dog of her own.

Camie Barrow prepares to train Finn, one of her springer spaniels, at Wildwind Kennels in Knox. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“I was looking for a sidekick,” said Camie Barrow, 47, who now lives in Brunswick. “My dad was very interested in seeing his dogs’ genes continue. So Clancy became his first grandchild. In Boston Common he chased those pigeons with everything he had. So knowing what my dad had done with his dogs, I sent Clancy for some training. Then I sort of got sucked in.”

In 2010, when she dropped off Clancy at the kennel in New York where her father’s dog, Louie, was being trained, there was a field trial taking place nearby. On a whim, she got a few tips from the trainer and competed with Louie in her first trial. And won. 

“I was totally smitten to see a dog do unbelievable things in the field that he clearly was designed to do,” Barrow said. “Then I saw this community who cared so much about the dogs. After that I was hooked.”

But taking Clancy back-and-forth from Boston to New York for training made it impractical for Barrow to work with her dog. So she moved to Maine and found a new trainer to better pursue her new sport. 


Then in 2016, Clancy was bred and Barrow got Bailey from her dog’s litter – and doubled down on learning to compete with her new dog. 

In 2019, Barrow and Bailey competed for the first time and won two field trials. Two years later, they collected the national amateur title.

“That Camie won the first trial she ever entered is extraordinary,’” said Kit Barrow, who now lives in Florida. “The trainer then told me, ‘You’re learning a lot, but Camie has got a talent for it.’ She seems to have an innate sense of what the dog might do, and how to handle it correctly.”

Professional trainer Jim Keller at Wildwind Kennels in Knox, who Barrow now works with, said Barrow and Bailey moved as one through the field finding pheasants at the national amateur in New York last fall, while other experienced handlers came unglued.

“At the national championship, both Camie and Bailey were in the zone. You could just tell,” Keller said. 

Keller taught Barrow much about dog psychology, and how to look for signs her dog is failing, either physically or mentally. Barrow embraced all of it.


“The thing about Jim’s program, he focuses a lot on the fundamentals. He doesn’t overload the dogs with competitions until they’ve really understood the concepts,” Barrow said. “You can really mess a dog up. Dogs respond to pressure and praise differently.”

Jim Keller and Camie Barrow talk before taking Bailey, a 6-year-old springer spaniel, on a training run. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Barrow’s keen awareness of her dog was evident in the fourth of five land drills at nationals when Bailey was antsy, looking left and right, everywhere but at Barrow, who stood in front of her dog. Barrow calmly walked him off the start, which was an unconventional way to refocus her dog. 

“I literally walked him around the judge, and it looked like we were leaving,” Barrow said. “I could see Jim shaking his head. But then I cast him off and on a section of the field where so many dogs bombed out, he put up two birds. We were in and out.”

This fall, Barrow and Bailey collected a second-place finish and earned the gunner’s award in September at the Maine Spaniel Field Trial Club event in Dresden. And she plans once again to compete in the national amateur championship, this year in Utah. It’s extremely rare for a dog to win the national title twice, but Barrow said the title is not the point.

“It is all about the dogs,” Barrow said. “Honestly, one of the things I love about dogs – they are a good barometer for me. If I’m being strong and confident, they are more likely to respond to me than if I’m being wishy-washy and unclear. So much good has happened to me because of dogs.”

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