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Romulus teen has gone from first-time dog owner to canine crazy, and soon will open Autumn’s Harvest Kennel

Millie, a 3-year-old English pointer, whines in her crate with unbridled excitement at the top of an open field. It’s an interminable wait for the young dog, whose 15-year-old owner, Ty Haws, has wandered down through the grasses to hide two trapped pigeons for a training exercise. When Haws returns to unlatch the crate, Millie bounds out, anxious to explore the field’s teeming treasures. But first, she stands like a statue alongside her master, who simply utters “Millie, whoa.” The boy and his dog gaze at the expansive field in front of them, Cayuga Lake in the distance, and then Haws releases her with a simple “Hup.” Millie races full speed into a grove of trees, meanders a bit, then stops short with her tail straight up as Haws yells, “Point.” He fires a blank pistol, releases the pigeon from its cage, and Millie’s eyes laser in on the flying bird. She remains “on point,” as if almost in a trance, until Haws utters “Hup” once again and off she goes to chase the pigeon.

Autumn's Harvest KennelThis 10-minute exercise is the fruit borne of a young boy’s desire for a dog — and that desire has spawned a cascade of offshoots for the Haws family. Now Haws’ two younger sisters, Olivia and Noelle, own and train English pointers as well, and Haws and his father, Tim, added a German wirehair to their family of dogs last summer.

The latest incarnation of this growing passion is Ty Haws’ own business venture: Autumn’s Harvest Kennel, featuring a store and boarding facility where the teen will sell supplies and board and train dogs.

A simple beginning

Although the family always had a dog around (including guard dogs for the sheep and cattle they raise), Haws, a ninth-grader at Finger Lakes Christian School in Seneca Falls, pined for a pup of his own.

“I really wanted a puppy, something I could start at the beginning with and hang around and play with,” he
said. But his parents, Tim and Sarah, did not fulfill that wish carte blanche. They required their son earn the money to buy and care for the dog and do his research on what kind of dog to get. “This was a long-term thing,” Haws said. “(They) wanted to make sure I would be the one solely taking care of it.”

Tim Haws also used his son’s desire as a way to tackle what he called Ty’s “debilitating” shyness. “I wouldn’t even talk on the phone and had a hard time talking to people in general,” Haws says about his younger self, noting having Millie has boosted his confidence and comfort speaking with others, and his organizational skills as well. “My dad had put me in a situation where I would have to talk. I’ll always remember him sitting next to me as we practiced what I would say before making my phone calls.”

A covid dog

Haws settled on an English pointer for a multitude of reasons: It is short haired and doesn’t shed, likes to stay active, has few health issues (i.e. hip problems associated with larger breeds), and possesses a calm and easygoing personality.

He researched and contacted breeders, including one in Middletown, Ohio. On the night Haws called Ray Burns, the breeder said he was unable to talk because puppies were being born. That was the sign Haws needed, who had earned the funds to buy his dog by working on his parents’ farm, pet-sitting for neighbors, doing yard work for his grandmother, and selling firewood he harvested and split on the farm. Burns also took a shining to the young boy who waned an English pointer, letting Haws have the pick of the litter and reducing his price. After seeing the litter through pictures and video, Haws settled on Millie because “…she was the one always walking around messing with the other puppies.”

The new pup was named in memory of a beloved old family cow and joined the Haws Feb. 23, 2020, just a handful of weeks before covid restrictions upended life’s routines.

But for a Haws and his new puppy, the timing was an opportunity.

“I thought, this is perfect,” he said, “because our school shut down and everything. I had so much time to spend with her after that.”

Haws soon noticed that Millie was more drawn to the natural world than traditional dog toys. She would chase crickets and butterflies and rather run than take a dip in his grandmother’s pool. He witnessed her spotting prey and “freezing up on them like a statue on point,” and saw she had the desire and potential to be trained as a hunting dog.

Haws connected with the North American Versatile Training Dog Association and soon enlisted the help of trainer Alan Burkhart of Byron, Genesee County, visiting him on weekends — even weekdays, when school was closed — to learn how to harness Millie’s potential.

Haws’ patient training led him to field trials and hunting test competitions, the first coming in August 2020 when Millie was just 8 months old. He said she was the youngest dog there and earned a perfect score, except for the water portion, “where we struggled a little.”

The family farm is a fertile spot for dog training. Haws is up at 6:15 a.m. on weekdays and does two laps with the dogs through the woods on a gravel trail the family created. After school, the dogs get another run in the woods and some quick training in steadiness (holding still on command), retrieving, and sometimes bird spotting. There are ponds on the property where the dogs can swim and plenty of room to roam.

For bird training, Haws has made good use of a homing pigeon from Pittsburgh that got lost, landed on the family’s farm, and stuck around. They bought a female; now, Haws also raises pigeons. He’s up to 78 that are split between a barn stable and an outdoor shed that he and his father adapted into a pigeon coop by adding an easy entry/exit door for the birds. “The best part of the pigeons is they’ll come right back and we can reuse them again,” he said.

Haws’ research has paid off. He and Millie are inseparable, and he says she has become one of the joys of his life. Pointers, he noted, are very willing to please and not dominate. He recalled how during a walk in Ovid another dog on a leash was barking and lunging at Millie, who was unperturbed by the aggressive attention.

“They’re the kind of dog who would rather keep doing what they’re doing instead (of fighting),” he said. Hobby to business Burkhart said he’s witnessed Haws’ dedication, noting his young pupil is “120 percent into it. He’s going at it big time.”

Burkhart, who has been training dogs for 40-plus years, said Haws not only has the desire to learn but also “the right foundation” thanks to hard-working, supportive parents. A friend was getting rid of a lifetime of dog training magazines, so Burkhart passed along “two or three crates” to Haws, who now reads them incessantly.

“He wants to learn. He’s one of those kids,” said Burkhart, who teaches the same training plan to all his students. “But when they go home, it’s up to them to work with the dog every day.” Burkhart turned his love of training dogs into a business, and that’s what Haws intends to do with Autumn’s Harvest Kennel, which he hopes to open this month. It’s a venture about two years in the making, he said, and possible in large part because of the farm property.

The business has two components: a store where Haws will sell dog food (healthy brands with no artificial ingredients) and other supplies, and a kennel boarding area where dogs can come and stay for training. Old horse stalls previously used for storage were upgraded, with heated cement floors and wooden walls (sourced from ash trees on the property). Each of the five kennels has an automatic flow water bowl, food bowl, and dog door to an outdoor run.

The store, which is partitioned from a garage section, sits between the kennels and a multibay garage. It features a wooden counter, also sourced from farm trees, and shelves filled with dog food and treats. Leather leashes made by a nearby Amish craftsman hang on the wall. Also for sale are training whistles and floatable “bumpers” for water training or simple water play.

A single wooden cutout silhouette of a dog leans against the wall. Used in training to teach a dog to wait its turn, Haws explained that he and his sisters hope to sell a supply of them as well. He will cut the silhouettes, and his sisters will paint them to resemble pointers.

The store will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays to match the Autumn’s Harvest farm store hours. “I’m excited to get it all open and stuff,” he said. “I’ve been preparing for a while.”

Haws has done some trial runs boarding a few dogs, which he said went “pretty well.” Burkhart, who has visited the teen on the farm a few times to see how he’s doing, is pushing potential clients his way.

“He’s at the beginning. The more dogs he does the more he’ll learn,” said Burkhart, who has no qualms recommending Haws for training despite being just 15. “He’s got the drive, and he’s never afraid to call or text or ask a question. For a kid at that age to be so dedicated, it’s something.”

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