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Carlin SIN SEN SCN

What a weekend! Exhausting and exhilarating and wonderful. And all done without my talking.

So what happened? Well, the short answer is that this weekend at the Idaho Capital City KC Scent Work trials, Carlin earned three AKC titles: Scent Work Interior Novice (SIN), Scent Work Exterior Novice (SEN), and Scent Work Containers Novice (SCN). He also qualified in one Novice Buried search. And, on top of all that, on Saturday, he won High In Trial for Novice out of the Novice A classes.

Friday was the first day of the trial, and strangely, I wasn’t nervous. I was pretty confident in Carlin’s ability to find the hidden scent of birch essential oil to qualify in the Novice Exteriors, Containers, and Interiors classes. Novice Buried was last. I didn’t feel quite confident in Buried. In practice, he’s successfully found the Buried hide about 70% of the time–which is not where I like to be when I enter an event. But, I was going to be there. I might as well try anyway.

Well, he did great, better than I expected. He found the hidden scent in Exteriors in 20.96 seconds, for a 1st place; Containers in 10.41 seconds for another 1st; and Interior in 16.86 seconds for a 4th place. In both Exterior and Containers, he did very little searching, almost as if he knew where the hide was before he even entered the search area. Interiors was a little harder–the hidden swab with a little bit of birch oil was on the bottom of an easy chair. But that chair was right next to an ottoman, so it took me a bit longer to be convinced that I could identify specifically where the hide was, should the judge ask me to show her.

Buried eluded us, though. He searched all the boxes of sand several times, and didn’t seem to be able to identify which box the odor was buried in. So, I started to do a directed search by pointing to each box. He sat (his indication that he’s found a hide) after I pointed to the first box, so I called it. But he was wrong. I should have waited and pointed at every box, getting him to search each one again.

Saturday. I don’t even remember Saturday except for the end. If the ribbon stickers didn’t say the times, I would not remember them. No 1sts, but overall Saturday was just great. Exteriors in 16.27 seconds for a 3rd place; Containers in 11.12 seconds for 4th place; Interiors in 10.85 seconds for 2nd place; and lo and behold, Buried in 16.99 seconds to qualify. So, we qualified in all the offered Novice classes, I had no handler faults, and Carlin’s times added up to be the quickest of all the dogs (55.23 seconds out of a possible 480, which is 2 minutes per element). With that, Team Carlin took home the High in Trial ribbon for the day.

I was not expecting that at all. I had figured that one of the teams with a 1st would get it. So when our names were called, I think my smile split my face. (Not unlike when Cooper got a Judges Award of Merit in Conformation.)

Sunday poured down rain, but the show went on. I think folks were relieved to have cooler weather, and the dogs didn’t seem to care. And Carlin did pretty well. Exterior in 19.63 for a 4th place; Containers in 8.58 seconds for 4th place; and Interior in 9.28 seconds for 2nd place. Those passes were the third for each of those classes, so that earned Carlin his new titles.

And Buried? Well this time, Carlin searched about three of the boxes and then did an enthusiastic sit at one of them with a huge smile on his face. Must like the enthusiastic sit he does for all the other elements. So I called it. But darn it. He was wrong. Or fooling with me. Or just tired. So we didn’t qualify in Buried on Sunday.

Oh, and about the no talking? That makes our successes particularly sweet. I had surgery on my vocal cords on May 8th, and I was not allowed to use them. No talking. No whispering. No singing. No yelling. So Carlin and I did all three trials without my talking to him. Just gestures and pointing and facial expressions. Not the way I’d normally like to do to it. But Carlin and I are a team, and there are times we don’t need to talk.

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Last summer, Tooey found and sampled almost all the ripe melons before we had a chance to harvest them. We just got used to eating around the bites she’d taken.

She’d pick one up, take it to a nice shady spot, and have a snack. If it it wasn’t quite ripe enough for her, she’d retrieve another.

Carlin got into the act, too. He liked cucumbers and lettuce.

So this year, when we replaced the old rotting raised beds with new sheet metal ones, we decided we’d build a fence around them to keep the dogs out. Or we hope it’ll keep them out anyway. They’re not particularly enterprising thieves. For example, they haven’t bothered to figure out how to open the cabinet where the kitchen garbage is kept, and they don’t counter surf (at least yet).

Once we get the gate installed (it wasn’t in yet at the time of the photos below), we hope the fence will be sufficient to keep them out.

But then we caught them casing the situation, so you never know what will happen once the scent of ripe cantaloupes and cucumbers starts floating through the air.

That title isn’t exactly in English, is it?

Here’s what it means. “Top IWS Upland 2017” is an award given by the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America (IWSCA. It recognizes Carlin for being the most accomplished Irish Water Spaniel (IWS) in Spaniel hunt tests (sometimes known as Upland tests) in 2017.

So what did he do to get that award?

  • 6 Master-level Spaniel hunt test passes–5 of them with scores of 8.0 (out of 10) or higher
  • 1 Master Hunter Upland title
  • 1 Master Hunter Upland Advanced title

Each one of these items is awarded points. Added up, Carlin had the most points of any Irish Water Spaniel owned by a member of the IWSCA.

I thought we maybe had this award for 2015 and 2016, but another very accomplished dog beat Carlin out by just a couple of points.

But this year was Carlin’s year, and I was thrilled to travel to the IWSCA National Specialty in Blacksburg, VA to pick up the award.

Tooey feels better now

Think large, raw link sausages. Thick, fully packed, almost to bursting. That’s how Tooey’s lower intestines looked on the X-ray.

I’d known she was feeling bad for a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. She was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, and sleeping just fine. But she didn’t quite run as fast as I thought she used to, and she just didn’t seem to enjoy the things she usually enjoyed. Like, she could hardly have cared less about finding her rat in a couple of Barn Hunt practices, and she totally didn’t care during the Barn Hunt trial in late March. When I took her out to a friend’s ranch, she didn’t critter at all, just kind of moped along as we walked.

Then I felt her abdomen, and one side felt enlarged and firm, in a soft sort of way. I had my friend Jan feel it too, and she said, “Take her to the vet tomorrow.”

So I did.

Honestly, I was afraid — I was afraid that Tooey had cancer. The vet listened to me and examined Tooey, and suggested X-rays to take a look at the soft tissue. So that’s what we did.

Turns out, Tooey’s intestines were so full of poop that the vet couldn’t see any organs at all. Tooey was constipated. Which is odd, since I’d been picking up poop every day.

So I fasted Tooey for 24 hours (oh, she hated that!), and took her back to the vet again the next day for new X-rays. This time things looked much better. Only about a 1/3 of her intestines were full, and the vet could see that her organs looked fine. The spleen she described as “prominent”, but not enlarged, so that’s worth watching, but nothing to worry about.

But Tooey still wasn’t feeling well. So the vet did another quick exam, and found a broken upper molar. It hadn’t been stopping Tooey from eating, but it must have hurt. It also could have been infected and abscessed. So I gave the go-ahead to have the tooth pulled.

While Tooey’s tooth was being extracted, the vet found two more broken teeth, another upper molar and a lower pre-molar. So those were pulled, too.

We went home with a prescription for pain pills, antibiotics, and direction for adding more blended veggies to Tooey’s diet.

I have to say, that after just few day, Tooey is much perkier. I even found her crittering in the woodpile. So I know she’s feeling much happier.

When Dagmar, a very accomplished hunting dog trainer in Germany, saw this photo, she said, “This dog would fail in a hunting test here.”

And when I read Dagmar’s comment, I thought, yes, exactly.

The photo shows a 9-month old Cesky Fousek that was participating last Saturday in the Natural Ability Test put on by the Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club of America. If this dog had been participating in an upper level AKC pointer hunting test, it would have failed here, too. Pointing dogs are supposed to stay steady and point, not flush a bird or grab at one that flies.

But that is not the point of a Natural Ability Test. And as one who has participated in AKC hunting tests, getting my head around what exactly is the point of a Natural Ability Test has been a bit of a puzzle.

One of the aspects I have looked for when evaluating a dog or a bitch is the titles before and after their pedigree names. This, I have thought, tells me something about what they’re good at. If I see a CD, I know the dog can succeed at Obedience competitions. If I see a hunting test title, I know they can succeed at hunting tests. And etc.

But what I can’t necessarily tell is whether the dog has natural talent in those areas. Does he love Obedience, and just naturally follow the handler’s lead? Or has he learned the exercise only after extended repetition and repeated corrections? When I see hunting test titles, can I assume the dog naturally finds game and brings it to her handler? Or has she been forced the pick up birds and deliver them to avoid correction? Just by looking at titles, I can’t tell.

This is something that other people think about, too. And one group of such people is the Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club of America (BWPGCA).

The BWPGCA is trying to sustain and improve a breed of dog for upland hunters. They want dogs with natural talent for searching for, finding, pointing, trailing, and retrieving upland game birds and ducks on both land and water. Specifically, they want to select dogs and bitches for breeding who have these talents naturally.

So they have developed two tests to look for these qualities in their dogs at various stages of development. One is for young dogs 6 to 16 months, called the Natural Ability Test (NA). The other is for dogs 16 to 24 months, called the Intermediate Hunting Dog Test (IHDT). Both tests assume that the dogs have been exposed to hunting, gamebirds, water, and gunshot. But the NA test doesn’t assume any training, and the IHDT assumes only some training. They’re not looking for the dog who retrieves a bird because the dog has been forced — they’re looking for dogs who naturally pick up birds and give them to the handler out of a desire to work together as a team.

Of course, inherent ability is important, but it’s not the only criteria for breeding. They also look for proper conformation, which is evaluated during the tests.

They look for proper coat, eye color, height and length, weight, temperament, and other factors as outlined in the Cesky Fousek Breed Standard. Separately, they also require PennHip testing so they can eliminate dogs with hip dysplasia from the breeding program.

As a person who has owned AKC-registered dogs for over a decade, this whole program is unlike anything I’ve heard of before. In the past, I have advocated for a breeder’s total right to breed their dog or bitch with any other dog or bitch they choose. And I have advocated for a careful program of out-crossing to diversify the Irish Water Spaniel gene pool. And here I have found a group that utterly rejects the first idea, and pursued the second idea so strictly that they have transitioned from one breed to another one, from Wirehaired Pointing Griffons to Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffons (English for Cesky Fousek).

It’s been days since I watched these tests, talked to the people, interacted with their dogs, and listened to their geneticist’s presentation. And I still have no idea what I think.

It was a busy weekend with the dogs. Russ took Carlin out spanieling on Saturday, and on Sunday I took Tooey to Barn Hunt practice and Carlin to Scentwork practice.

Russ said Carlin did everything perfectly spaniel-wise. The grey, snowy weather didn’t trip him up, and he didn’t forget anything, even though he hadn’t been practicing spaniel work since last fall. He found his birds, sat after flushing them, stayed sitting while one flew away and the others were brought down, retrieved the downed ones, and delivered them to hand.

Apparently, Carlin’s work finding birds was better than Russ’s work bringing them down, but as I wasn’t there, so I can’t say.

Anyway, Sonya Holcomb took some photos, for which I am grateful.

Carlin waiting his turn to hunt — photo by Sonya Holcomb

Carlin staying steady in the field watching his flushed bird fly away — photo by Sonya Holcomb

Carlin delivering his bird — photo by Sonya Holcomb

There are no photos of Sunday’s practices, as there were no photographers to hand and I was busy handling my dogs.

On Sunday morning, Tooey was a bit off on her rat hunting. I actually began to wonder if she was feeling well. She was way slower than normal — if the practice runs had been at a trial, she’d have qualified in only one run, which was just two seconds under the time limit (2 minutes 30 seconds for the Open level). And she did something she’s never done before — indicated a tube that didn’t have a rat in it. Very odd. She indicated that same tube (but not any other non-rat tube) in both runs 2 and 3. The woman playing judge said she thought Tooey was treating this non-rat tube differently from the tubes with a rat in them, but agreed that it was a subtle difference.

But in all three runs, she happily went through a longer-than-usual tunnel without being asked, and she was happy to climb the hay bales. So — not a total loss. I do wonder how she and I will perform in a couple weeks at the Valley Barn Hunt trials in Kuna, Idaho. I guess we’ll see, as Sunday’s practice was the last one before the trial.

Carlin did really, really well at his Sunday afternoon scentwork. He stayed mostly calm (except when a pug, dressed in a lumpy yellow coat with a floppy hood, walked by — obviously, this was an alien being that needed warning off). Staying calm around other dogs is his challenge, so I was happy with his demeanor overall.

I am often amazed at that dog’s nose. He found all his hidden odors — small containers of birch essential oil buried in the dirt, lying along the railroad tracks, tucked up high in a door jamb, behind an electric meter, and under a wooden pallet. He even found a container with clove essential oil, stuck up above his head on a fence post. I haven’t trained him to find clove, so he got rewarded big time when he found and indicated that one.

All in all, a very happy weekend. Both dogs ate their dinner and zonked out — Carlin curled up on the grass in the backyard kennel and Tooey inside on her dog bed.

For the third year in a row, Carlin has won the Mount Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association’s Trucker Memorial Field Challenge Trophy.

I didn’t do a blog post on it when Carlin won the 2nd time, but I did with his first win. That post gives a nice little history of Trucker, the dog the trophy is named for, and his owner/handler.

The trophy is awarded each year to the club member’s dog that earns the most points from spaniel hunt test passes: Master=3 points, Senior or WDX=2 points, and Junior or WD=1 point. And in 2017, six Master passes earned Carlin the most points and the trophy for that year.

I handled Carlin to 5 of those passes, and Russ did the first one. We are very proud of this dog and his good work.

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