I took the three dogs out for an easy-does-it training day last Sunday. It was bright, sunny, and warm (weird for this time of year), at a new location for us. Mainly, I just wanted to see the grounds where some friends of mine train, and give the dogs a little time out running around.

Joan brought frozen ducks and a chukar to train with, plus a winger (essentially a giant sligshot) with which to fling the birds into the air.

We started with Joan’s dog, a Toller who has recently learned how wonderfully fun retrieving birds can be. Then Donna’s black Lab, Turbo, who several years got his Master Hunter title, is now retired, and just enjoying a bit of retrieving in the sunshine for the heck of it.

Then Cooper. You know, it’s a good thing we’ve stopped trying to train and compete in hunt tests with him. Despite the years of training, he is still as eager and as unsteady as he ever was as a young dog. It took quite a bit for me to get him into heel position and to stay there until I sent him for his birds. But, oh boy, did he love being out there retrieving. Such joy to do what he was meant to do, and if it meant being corrected and pulled back into heel position many times over, that’s OK. The retrieve is worth it.

Then Carlin got to do a couple of short retrieves. I am so glad that he’s happy to pick up and hold a duck. So many dogs hate the taste or texture of ducks, but not Carlin. I held him by the collar at my side while we watched the duck fly up into the air and then come down. As soon as the duck was launched, Carlin leapt up himself, eager to Go! Go now! Go right now! But I held unto his collar until is butt hit the ground in a sit, and then I sent him off to fetch his duck.

He went out and picked it up with no problem, then turned around to come back. About 3/4 of the way back, he decided that he really wanted to keep the duck to himself instead of bringing it to me, so he tried to swerve around me.

Carlin holding his duck - photo by Joan Armstrong

Carlin holding his duck – photo by Joan Armstrong

Fortunately for me and his long-term hunting career, he was wearing a 40′ leash, called a long line, so when he started to veer off, I grab the end and pull him to me.

Carlin returning with duck -- photo by Joan Armstrong

Carlin returning with duck — photo by Joan Armstrong

I let him keep his duck for a few minutes, petting him and telling him “Good hold” as he held onto it. Then I said “Drop”, and he actually dipped his nose a bit and dropped the bird into my hand (which was ready and waiting right beneath the duck). He got in a couple more very good short retrieves. Good boy.

Then Miss Tooey. First she did a very workmanlike single retrieve with the chukar — out and back at deliberate speed. Then a lovely double retrieve with ducks. She doesn’t rush, she’s in no hurry at all, but she gets her birds and brings them back.

Tooey returning with the memory bird -- photo by Joan Armstrong

Tooey returning with the memory bird — photo by Joan Armstrong

After that, my friends had to leave, but they were happy to leave me with the birds, so I planted them out in some tall grass for Cooper to find and retrieve. I do believe he was in heaven doing that, and could have done it all day.

But we had to head home — laundry to do, dishes to wash, rugs to vacuum — all the usual excuses for not training longer on a lovely October day.

Stewarding at an Obedience trial is usually straightforward. You take and return leashes, lay out the gloves for directed retrieve and articles for scent discrimination, raise and lower the jumps. You check exhibitors in and mark them off when they’ve finished competing. You follow the judge’s instructions. Best of all, you watch the dogs and handlers perform, sometimes with delight and sometimes with commiseration.

But sometimes, something disagreeable comes up. My first experience with this was almost a year ago, observing some double handling in an adjacent Obedience ring and collaborating to report it to that judge. But this weekend, I had to handle it myself.

Here’s what happened:

Exhibitor A comes up to me and says, “You’re stewarding, right?”


“Well,” she said, “I have to tell you something.”

“OK.” I’m thinking, Oh dear. This can’t be good.

She then went on to tell me that Exhibitor B approached her, and said that if A’s dog looks at B’s dog during the group stays, “there is going to be a blood bath.”

Oh God. Those two dogs, if entering the ring in catalog order (as called for in the rules) would be right next to one another for the group stays. How likely was it that A’s dog would not ever look at B’s dog during those many long minutes of the group stays? And if an attack were imminent, their handlers would be no where close enough to prevent it.

As soon as the exhibitor currently in the ring was finished, I called the judge aside and reported exactly what I was told. It put the judge in a tough spot because no actual aggression had actually occurred, so all the rules that she could otherwise use to excuse an aggressive dog could not be applied.

I don’t know exactly what happened (except through hearsay), but I observed that B, whose dog had not qualified in the individual exercises, was not in the lineup for the group stays. And A’s dog ended up qualifying and winning 1st place in the class.

But I couldn’t stop wondering about it:

  • Had A told me the truth about what B said?
  • If A had told me the literal truth, did she accurately convey the intent behind B’s comment? Was it simply a statement of fact?  Perhaps B’s dog hates A’s dog so much that an attack was likely. Or was it “merely” a threat of some kind to unnerve A, and an attack was actually not likely?
  • And even if A had accurately conveyed B’s intent, did intent matter in this case?
  • And why hadn’t B simply pulled her dog from the trial when she realized that A’s dog was there and that they would be right next to each other.

My first thought is that B had no business bringing her dog into the Obedience ring if she thought there was the slightest possibility of her dog attacking another dog.

But maybe B’s dog hates only A’s dog. Part of me thinks that if A is not there, and if B’s dog is OK with every other dog, then perhaps it’s OK to enter. It’s hard enough to find close-by Obedience trials that fits one’s schedule. Plus, once you’ve spent money to enter and traveled to the show site, it’s very difficult to just walk away. I would think it’s simple enough (although perhaps not easy or comfortable) to coordinate entries so as to keep these two dogs apart.

But then I think about all the innocent dogs whose show careers are derailed or ruined because another dog harassed or attacked them at a show, and that leads me back to my original thought: if you think your dog is at all dangerous to any other dog or person, keep it away from dog shows. And get help for the poor dog.

The boys are home!

We got our boys back yesterday! Even though the truck was not fixed yet, Russ drove the loaner car four hours up to Marysville, WA, to pick up Cooper and Carlin, and bring them home. Here they are, with Jayme, almost ready to load up.


Cooper, Jayme, and Carlin

Carlin, as I predicted, wasn’t actually sure he wanted to come home. He had had such a wonderful time with Jayme and the Classy Canines pack, that he pretended that he didn’t know who Russ and I were for pretty much all last evening. This morning, he cuddled up to Russ on the bed, though, so perhaps he will soon remember us and our routine.

Cooper was thrilled to see Russ when he came to pick the boys up yesterday, and was so happy to be home, wagging his whole butt when he realized that all 5 of us were actually in the house at the same time. (Well… maybe the 4 of us. He doesn’t care so much whether puppy Carlin is there or not.)

I can’t thank Jayme enough. Russ came home with photos demonstrating Jayme’s doing a nice show stack with Carlin, and she also send me a video of her doing the 3 Steps Backwards exercise with Cooper. For the pre-scheduled 6 days, plus an emergency extra 5 days, my dogs got excellent care, training, and daily runs in the field. They both got baths, and Carlin even got trimmed for show. I got regular photos and reports, plus peace of mind. I wouldn’t hesitate to send my dogs back to Classy Canines.


The pups back together again — Carlin, Tooey, and Cooper

More photos from camp

More photos of Cooper and Carlin, enjoying their runs with the Classy Canines pack.


There’s something in that grass! — photo by Jayme Nelson


Cooper enjoying himself — photo by Jayme Nelson


Happy Carlin — photo by Jayme Nelson


Pack in the woods — photo by Jayme Nelson


Carlin Photobomber — photo by Jayme Nelson

We’re going to get our boys back soon, and I can’t wait to see them. But, oh, how I would love to have a place like this for them to run every day.

Cooper and Carlin at camp

While Russ and Tooey were off hunting, I took a short dog-free trip to visit my cousin in Marin County in California. So I sent Cooper and Carlin off to camp at Classy Canines.

Jayme, who owns Classy Canines, was the person who groomed, trained, and showed Cooper at the beginning of his show career, so I thought Carlin would benefit greatly from her attentions. She’s also a fabulous dog trainer — her dogs have Rally, Obedience, and Hunting Test titles, so she knows where we want to go with Carlin. And plus, I’m hoping she’ll help Cooper learn the elusive Three Steps Backwards exercise for Rally Excellent.

And last but definitely not least, her boarding dogs get to go for daily runs in a multi-acre open space, and I knew both Cooper and Carlin would love that.


Carlin and Cooper running with the pack — photo by Jayme Nelson


Carlin and Cooper running with the pack and Cooper’s Springer buddy, Stryker — photo by Jayme Nelson


Cooper — photo by Jayme Nelson

Here are Carlin and the most of the pack practicing their Sit-Stay for the camera.


Sit! Stay! Camera click! Good dogs! — photo by Jayme Nelson

Cooper, amazingly enough, is not in the picture. Usually he’s a real camera hog. But instead, he was apparently off with his English Springer buddy, Stryker. They had flushed a pheasant earlier in the walk, and were convinced that they could find another one. Good dogs!

Russ, Tooey, and I are all home now, but the boys are still with Jayme. It’s a long story involving a broken-down truck and expensive repairs, but when the truck is fixed, Russ will go get the truck and the dogs, and we’ll all be home together again.

I’m sure Coop and Carlin will be very happy to be home, but I bet they will really miss running with Jayme and her pack.

I have consolidated the last three days of our pheasant quest primarily because as we traveled west, internet connections became scarce, and so it would have been hard, if not impossible, to update this blog.

Day 9: Near Corinne, Utah

The agricultural fields sandwiched in between the Wasatch mountains and the Great Salt Lake allowed us a morning to look for some Utah pheasants not far from I-84. The rain had been persistent prior to our arrival and consequently the hay fields were still un-mowed (tall and thick). The wheat grass along the edges was tall, but gave the birds some space to move around. While the morning was clear and crisp, the cover was still wet. Not ideal, as birds generally don’t want to fly with wet feathers. (Go figure.) But as we moved up the rows of tall wheat grass, the dogs successfully put up a total of 9 birds.

Two things of note. My shooting was improving quite a bit, so no dramatic shots or retrieves were required. Dog flushes bird, Russ shoots bird, dog retrieves bird, next. But out over the hay fields, two birds did get up in front of Norm, where he made a couple of successful long shots. The deceased birds glided into heavy wet alfalfa, a hundred-plus yards away. Scarlett, who stands just below the height of the hay, quartered out in front of Norm, and found both birds.

So after a couple of hours we had 8 more birds to add to the cooler.

If you are a photographer such as myself, or a serious bird hunter, it is inadvisable to wield both a camera and shotgun for reasons of safety, aesthetics, and only having two hands. I carry a small camera in my upland vest while hunting, but only use it when the shotgun is down and safe, hence no action photos when I have a gun. As such, the following image is one I made while resting at the end of a field, looking back east at the Wasatch mountains to give an visual reference to the hunting conditions.

Norm and Tooey near Corinne, Utah

Norm (carrying both shotguns) and Tooey near Corinne, Utah

After cleaning the birds, we snagged a lunch at Mollies in Snowville, Utah and headed into Idaho for the night.

Day 10: East of Shoshone, Idaho

We spent the night in a ubiquitous Motel 6 in Twin Falls, Idaho. Then after a solid breakfast at a local place named Norm’s Cafe in Twin Falls, we headed north to Shoshone, then west on along the rail line until we found the Little Wood Ranch, which straddles the  Little Wood River. This was an area of hay and grain fields surrounded by sagebrush. Due the marvels of modern irrigation, when you mix water with Idaho desert soils, you get great farm land. (Yes, this is the source for your fried potatoes at McDonalds and Tater Tots from Ore-Ida foods, but I digress.) These fields held quite a few birds and due to the dogs’ week of daily hunting and our week of practice with our shotguns, the birds were easy to find, shoot, and retrieve.

While the hunting seemed like a slam-dunk pheasant shoot, it turned out to be a dunk only. Tooey followed a scent trail and disappeared into some tall cover next the the Little Wood River. I immediately knew this was not a good thing thing, because if Tooey finds water, she goes swimming for the sport of it. I quickly dropped my shotgun, ran to the river bank (a 4 foot drop), and saw Tooey swimming hard upstream but floating downstream in the swift current around the bend. This is not an image you want etched into your memory if this is the last you ever see of your dog. I ran a short distance downstream along the bank, and got Tooey to swim laterally until she could find some traction on bottom. She got to the edge, I lay down and grabbed her collar (and I have long arms) and pulled her up the bank.

Now with a wet (and happy) dog, I had to find my shotgun somewhere upstream. Dog, check. Shotgun, check. Okay, time to start hunting again. We crossed a small footbridge over the river and hunted a field on the north side. Norm shot a bird that glided into trees next to the river. (Oh Shit!! Not again.) Scarlett disappeared into the cover, and then into the water. But as providence would have it, the pheasant landed in a shallow eddy on this side of the river, and  Scarlett found an entry point that matched her 12″ height. Wet dog, wet pheasant delivered to hand. Heavy sigh.

Tooey, thinking about the Little Wood River on the other side of those trees

Tooey, thinking about the Little Wood River on the other side of those trees

The only other interesting note was that we bagged a couple of chukar in addition to the 8 pheasants. While this is a pretty location with birds, I am no longer inclined to hunt areas with swift moving rivers with steep banks.

A couple of hours to the west, we stopped to have dinner with a dog friend, Ryan, near Boise, Idaho. We met Ryan several years ago in Oregon where he was one of the founding members of the Lower Columbia Hunt Retriever Club. But his work took him, his family, and small fleet of Labrador Retrievers to Idaho. After a nice break catching up and having great Thai food (way off the Interstate), Norm and I headed back into Oregon and a night stop in Baker City.

Day 11: A great Oregon pheasant hunt

Back in our own state of Oregon, we wandered out north of Baker City to the Tucker Creek Ranch. Fortunately Tucker Creek, which runs through the heart of the ranch was about 2 feet wide and dry. But the fields and trees along the creek bed were ideal bird habitat. The weather was perfect, the landscape was eye candy, but the birds very elusive. Tooey put up two rooster pheasants that went into my hunting vest. Tooey put up a third rooster, but somehow my crack shooting and Norm’s long distance skills were no match, and it got off to live another day. Oh well. On our way back up the creek towards the car, a covey of about a dozen quail flew up out from the cover and upstream among the trees. But quail season does not open for another 5 days, so we just watched with delight as these birds reconvened into the cover (another reason to return to Tucker Creek).

Russ and Tooey with our matching vests at Tucker Creek Ranch

Russ and Tooey with our matching vests at Tucker Creek Ranch

As we poked around the stream bed, I frequently reminded Tooey to “go find the birds”, but in her excitement, she must have misheard me and instead thought I said, “go find the burrs”. Being a good dog, she complied and brought back plenty. In addition to the cockle burrs and the sand spurs, she added a new variety to her collection, Beggars Lice.

Tooey with the birds and burrs

Tooey with the birds and burrs

While we only came away with two birds today, it was the best hunting of the trip. The weather, topography, ranch owner were perfect. Maybe it’s an Oregon thing.

After nearly two weeks of Motel 6s, it was time to go home. We just packed the dogs, birds, and gear into the car and headed the last 300 miles home to Portland. Arrived dirty and dog tired. But happy.

Day 12: Dog Grooming

Even though an hour was spent last night grooming Tooey to get out the burrs and spurs acquired from Tucker Creek Ranch, another pass was required this morning before it was bath time. Trice will be returning from her vacation in a few hours, and Tooey will be clean, dry, curly, and smelling fresh when Trice walks in the door.

Sand Spurs and Beggars Lice (a burr the size of a lentil)

Sand Spurs and Beggars Lice (a burr the size of a lentil)

And so in the last 12 days:

  • 3000 miles driven
  • traveled through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas (and back again!)
  • 47 birds delivered to hand (45 pheasants, 2 chukar)
  • weather included hot sun, tornado warnings, flash floods, thunder storms, driving rain, and blue skies. Everything but hail and snow.

Tooey has been a trooper; sleeping all night on the beds in Motel 6s, logging 3000 miles in her car crate, protecting me from thunder, and covering miles on the ground looking for birds.

She is a Champion in the show world. She also has her titles in Obedience and Rally, Retriever and Upland Hunt Tests. She has earned the AKC All-Around IWS award and has qualified for the Quintessential Versatility Award. She is also a Top Producer in that she has produced three champion show dogs (aka puppies) located in the the USA, Canada, and Australia. And she is (as of now) one of only 5 Irish Water Spaniels to have done all of the above.

And now for the drum roll . . .

I have no data to prove this, but of the other 4 IWS that can match Tooey for the number and variety of titles and accomplishments, I venture that none of the others has ever produced as many birds in as many states as Tooey. So far to date, she has found and delivered waterfowl and/or upland birds in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho. (And next year’s plan includes the Dakotas and Canadian provinces!)

In my mind she is quite a Renaissance Dog. What’s not to love.


To be continued . . .

Day 8 is as boring as driving on the Interstate because that is what we did: Rock Springs, Wyoming to Brigham City, Utah.

There was a stop at the Browning Museum in Ogden, the original home of Browning (not too far from corporate headquarters in Morgan). On display is the very first Superposed Shotgun, which is the first commercial over/under shotgun made (and still in production). This was John Browning’s last invention and patent (1926), and it is the precursor to Tooey’s 28-gauge Citori.

 The very first over/under shotgun (1926)

The very first over/under shotgun (1926)

And then it was time to hit the motel in Brigham City and catch up on emails and blog post entries. We are scheduled to be out hunting nearby tomorrow morning. So there should be some fresh content and new geography.

So how do I make blog posts on the road? Just log on with my laptop, upload any relevant photos, sit on the bed, and write. Of course having a technical adviser who make sure I keep the facts straight helps.

My copy editor looking under my shoulder

My copy editor looking under my shoulder — photo by Norm Koshkarian

To be continued . . .


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