American Field
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By Tom Word | Jul 19, 2021

Richmond, Va. — I first watched Robin Gates handle at the Eastern Open Shooting Dog Championship in Virginia in 1976. His dogs hunted beautiful patterns, found game and were fast and stylish and had impeccable manners. And they reacted to his voice as if connected by cellphone, not then in use. I was impressed by how seldom he spoke to them, and how swiftly they obeyed him. He was just twenty years old.

Beginning in 1995 I enjoyed watching Robin handle his all-age string every year at the Florida Championship and usually at several other events where I was reporting.

Most memorable was the Florida in 2002 when Silverwood was named champIon in an epic four-find race on course two by Judges Luke Weaver and Vernon Vance. He had won the Georgia the week before and would soon win the Southeastern and the Purina Award in a miraculous comeback from injury and spinal surgery at age ten. It was son Hunter’s first year as his scout. His string always contained several top contenders.

I admired Robin greatly for his professional competence but beyond that more for his overcoming of substance abuse addiction which almost killed him, life’s hardest challenge. He did it cold turkey and alone and without relapse. When a day’s running ended he left the grounds, never staying for a tailgate beer. So it was until the end.

Robin’s professional accomplishments are well known and clearly qualify him for election to the Field Trial Hall of Fame. His strength of character and work ethic complement those. His too-early departure from our presence is a tragedy lamented by all who knew him.

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