Medicine for the hunting dog

Some years ago, our friend and sometime hunting partner, Rod, told us to always check our dogs’ eyes when we come in from hunting. The reason? To find and remove any seeds that may have worked their way in under the eyelids.

Our IWS regularly come in from hunting covered with debris — seeds, twigs, burrs, grass — so checking the eyes has become a regular part of the post-hunt, post-field training, coming-home-and-cleaning-up process. In fact, last Saturday, while driving home from a day of hunting with a debris-covered Cooper, Russ joked to his buddy that the first thing out of my mouth when they arrived at the house would be, “Oh my God, did you check his eyes?”

And of course, Russ had checked his eyes, several times out in the field and just before coming home. I checked his eyes when they got home. We found seeds, and got out everything we could find.

By the time Sunday afternoon came around, Cooper’s eyes were red, swollen, and weepy, particularly the left eye. We first thought it was allergies from all the grasses, and so gave him Benedryl. But on Monday morning, the swelling hadn’t gone down. In fact, it had gotten worse.

We got him into the vet at their earliest appointment, where they examined his eyes, pulling the upper, lower, and “third” (nictitating membrane) eyelids away from the eyeball with forceps. Then they put a yellow dye in his eyes and looked at them using ultraviolet light.

2014-09-12_ODFW hunt-4-2

Despite all our efforts, the vet found a seed under the third eyelid (the brown inner lid in the lower inside corner of the eye). They also found that the seed had scratched the cornea (which shows up as green on the outside corner of the eyeball).

They also checked his feet, which had gotten uncomfortably chafed by the grasses and cat tails, and small cuts on his nose. These injuries are annoying and uncomfortable, but not dangerous.

For his eyes, they prescribed a 2x/day ointment, which I think also soothes his eyes. And for his feet, we were told to simply clean them and apply antibiotic ointment to the chafed areas.

It’s been 4 days now since the vet appointment, and his eyes have returned to their normal shape and have lost their red weepiness. His feet are healing up nicely, and the little nicks on his nose and also just about closed and healed.

Blaze Orange as Found in Nature

Carlin in the pumpkin field

Where did Russ throw that orange bumper?

On most Wednesdays, Carlin and I go to the gun club for some field training for him, and a few rounds of skeet for me. My gun club is located south of Portland in the heart of the Willamette Valley, a verdant agricultural zone that is now in peak harvest season. The club is surrounded by garlic, onions, corn, green beans, grass (seed for golf courses), wheat, and, of course, pie pumpkins.

Today, after Carlin’s noon-time swim and water retrieves in the pond near the club house, we wandered across the road for this photo-op. His collar was a perfect match for the acres of blaze orange, so I couldn’t resist. These pumpkins will be in cans by the end of this week and on their way to grocery shelves waiting for this year’s holiday desserts.

If you find an Irish Water Spaniel hair in your pie this year, it is either from one of your dogs, or your pie filling was from Oregon.

Bon Appétit

Cooper, on task in a sea of oats

Cooper, on task in a sea of oats

Cooper is a remarkable dog in many ways. Sure, he has a collection of titles and a wall of ribbons, but this weekend he raised the bar for dogs and community service.

Once again, Cooper volunteered his services to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) as a working field dog in two days of pheasant hunting workshops for new hunters. Now this may not seem like a difficult task for a great bird dog, but just like last year, weather conspired to make this really hard work. With temperatures pushing 90 degrees and blazing sun, this was easily 60 degrees too hot for ideal pheasant hunting conditions. Dogs overheat, scent is hard to find, and the vegetation is at its summer peak, which means it is thick, harsh, and with billions of seeds and all things velcro.

This workshop was held on the ODFW managed wildlife area of Sauvie Island in the Columbia River, where the crops are planted exclusively for wildlife food. The pheasants had lots of cover, from corn, millet, and oats, plus all the native grasses and cattails around the sloughs running through the area. Cooper took a half dozen novice hunters out with him for several hours each day trying to locate, flush, and retrieve birds.

On Friday, the one bird that was successfully shot by a new hunter, went down in heavy cover and disappeared. This is the second bird in Cooper’s 5 years of hunting that he could not locate. (It may have run fast and far after it hit the ground). But with high temperatures, low humidity, and one hot dog, I will cut him some slack on his stellar record. On Saturday, the flushed birds eluded the hunters’ aim, so no retrieves were in order.

I managed Cooper’s temperature by soaking his coat, frequent breaks, numerous swims in the sloughs, and plenty of cold water drinks. Each hunter in Cooper’s group carried a quart of cold water for him, and he happily consumed most of it.

Cooper with his students, taking a mid-day break in the shade

Cooper with his students, taking a mid-day break in the shade

Several volunteer dogs and their handlers had cancelled at the last minute, rather than work these fields under these conditions. So Cooper had to really step up and fill the void for the workshop participants. Chafed foot pads, sore muscles, a scratched face, and a couple of hours of grooming the seeds out of his coat was the cost of doing business. But Cooper and his hunting buddy, Scarlett, did what they could to encourage new hunters to the world hunting over a dog.

So not only did Cooper help new hunters explore the world of pheasant hunting, he was able to contribute significant financial support for the program. Because Oregon state hunting activities are funded exclusively through hunting license fees and nothing from the Oregon general fund, the only other available money is through matching federal grants. And because volunteer work is considered a contribution on the state’s part, Cooper was able to secure a tidy bit of federal funding for this program by donating his time and skill (pro-rated at $25 an hour!). Outstanding performance by this bird dog!

Cooper, Outstanding in his field of oats.

Cooper, Outstanding in his field of oats

Sunbathing girls

A bit of recovery time, Tooey relaxing in the sun.


My little patchwork girl

Tooey’s resting quietly after having her spay operation on Wednesday (September 10). She also had a growth removed from her flank, which is the bare patch you can see on her side.


I am glad to have the growth removed. It’s been growing very slowly over the last four years. Last time we had it biopsied, it was just a benign, fluid-filled cyst.

I am sad about the spay, though. Dogs are generally healthier when they keep all their parts and all their hormones. But Tooey has been suffering with false pregnancies, with fruitless nesting behaviors, mood swings, and swollen teats, even lactating for non-existant puppies. And as much as she loves all her people, I know she hasn’t wanted to be sent away to her co-owner’s when she goes into season.

Plus, she’s already had two large litters of beautiful, well-loved puppies, and we don’t plan to breed her again. So with all that, plus our having two intact boys in the house, it was time to have her spayed.

Since she’s an older girl, the healing will take longer than it would a younger dog. We’re to keep her indoors for two weeks, except to pee and poo, and keep the elizabethan collar (seen in the photo) on her whenever she’s unsupervised. It’s important that she not chew on any of the stitches, on belly or side. If she were to do that, it would mean more surgery and more stitches to repair the damage.

Fortunately, at least up to now, she hasn’t been too interested in her stitches, so until the incisions start itching (if they do), we should be OK.

It will be great to have Tooey up and out with us again. There are games to play, hikes to take, and birds to find this fall.

While Russ was out running errands, it looks as though the furniture movers came again. dogs_furniture Lets see:

  • The couch is turned over onto its back. Again.
  • The dog bed is moved half way across the room.
  • The end tables are no longer nested.
  • The two black chairs are pushed up against the wall.
  • The white ottoman is flipped over.

I’m pretty sure Cooper had little to do with this — he’s trying to stay above it all by perching on the black ottoman, which is the only piece of furniture still in its place. The other two innocent-looking ones — Tooey and Carlin — now, those two, I’m sure are out perpetrators, er… furniture movers.

Labor Day, 2014 is exactly 6 months since the Emmy x Harry litter hit the ground in Alaska. Because Carlin’s 6-month birth date coincided with a holiday, we had some free time to celebrate as only field dog owners might understand. Now that summer is beginning to hint of fall, we spent the morning with all three dogs at one of our favorite training grounds, St. Louis Ponds.

Carlin at 6 months

Carlin at 6 months

We started off with some tracking exercises. I laid a duck-scented trail through the grass, trees, blackberries, more grass and then left the duck (deceased) about a 100 yards from the point of origin. I then sent Cooper on a 50-yard blind retrieve to the start point, and then let him “hunt it up”. About a minute later he returned with the duck, as planned. It took an extra tutorial for Tooey to find it, and Carlin came along for the session as an intern.

Then it was time for retrieves. As this was Carlin’s first exposure to a duck, we let him watch the other dogs do their retrieves and then gave him the opportunity to pick it up and do a retrieve with a new taste and texture in his mouth.

Carlin gets his first taste of duck

Carlin gets his first taste of duck

And that is followed with a retrieve . . .

And that is followed with a retrieve . . .

Carlin has pieces of the work he’ll need to do as a hunting dog. He’s excited to go out and find the bird he’s marked, but he doesn’t always pick it up without encouragement. He’ll bring it back, but often he needs to be enticed by our running away from him. And when he does get the bird back, he drops it nearby rather than delivering to hand. But unlike many beginning dogs, he had no objection to picking up a duck, and he loves retrieving out of the water.

So then it was time to move on to the water.


Trice sends Tooey on a water retrieve, while Cooper honors. Carlin admires the photographer.

A variation of a triple retrieve

A variation of a triple retrieve

A family portrait was also made this morning, which was also an opportunity to practice “sit-stay”.

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin

And of course, Trice photographed the photographer at work.Russ, Cooper, Tooey, Carlin



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