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Carlin SWM!

I am so pleased and so proud that Team Carlin achieved a goal we’ve been working on for three years: pending AKC approval, Carlin has earned his Scent Work Master (SWM) title.

He passed his third Buried Master search on October 31, 2020, under judge Vicky Lovejoy at the Pacific Northwest Scent Work Club trials in Keizer, Oregon. That was the last pass he needed for his Buried Master title. And since he had already earned the Scent Work Container Master, Interior Master, and Exterior Master titles, having the Buried Master title completes the last thing needed for the overall Master level title.

Vicky, Patrice, Carlin just after passing Carlin’s 3rd Buried Master search

As best I can tell, Carlin is the first IWS to reach this title. That is an achievement in itself, as I know many other IWS people are competing with their very talented dogs in the sport, too.

This SWM been a long time coming, or at least it seems that way to me. Three years ago almost exactly, I went to a Scent Work class on a whim. It was being taught by scent work judge, Hallie McMullen. It was fun, so we kept coming to class. She watched Carlin and I work for months. And then one day, we were sitting in the sun after a trial and she told me, “Carlin could be a Master dog, if you want.”

I did want. So Carlin and I have been working steadily with Hallie and her other students toward that goal. I love working with my dogs, and it’s especially thrilling when we exceed my expectations.

Our performance hasn’t always exceeded expectations, however. Not by a long shot. And Buried has been hard. At the Excellent and Master levels, the dog searches tubs of both sand and water, and for some reason, Carlin stopped finding odor in the water. It went on like that for several months. He found odor in the sand pretty well, but water… Well, in any case, we failed way more Buried searches than I liked.

But finally, we went back to training basics, upped the reward for success (oooooh–baked liver! Yum!), and just kept at it. Carlin slowly gained back some of his lost confidence. And I started to believe him again when he indicated he’d found odor in the water. And last August, he got his Scent Work Buried Excellent title, and now, his Master title.

We’ll take a little time to celebrate and maybe go hunting this fall. And then? On to Scent Work Detective searches, which are a blast to run and exceedingly difficult to pass.

 

Tooey, the miracle dog

That’s what the vet said as he came out to the clinic parking lot to talk with me about Tooey’s checkup today. She’s a miracle dog.

And why?

Because there’s no trace of the cancer that this same vet found when he removed the tumor from inside Tooey’s mouth last February.

No inflammation. No redness. No tumors. None of the aggressive growths we were warned about. Nothing. Just healthy pink tissues.

Of course, he cautioned me, melanomas are notorious for coming back. New tumors could appear in her mouth, lungs, or digestive tract.

There are no guarantees, he said.

But there never are, are there?

So for now, we’ll just celebrate Tooey, the miracle dog. Which is what she’s always been to us.

If you have read this blog much, you might remember my post from years ago about the killer dog show. The one where, shortly after failing a Novice Obedience run with Cooper, I collapsed with heat exhaustion and went to the hospital in an ambulance. The one where fellow dog show people took care of me, took care of my dog, and took care of my car and all its stuff.

I have never forgotten any of those people, or their generosity, or their selfless kindness and concern.

This weekend was just about as eventful. Except this time, I didn’t go to the hospital and my dog Carlin didn’t fail.

What happened was this: I was about 100 miles north of my motel close to the scent work trial I had entered for this weekend. I was stopping to get gas, when my car kept stalling and dying whenever the car moved really slowly. You know, like when you’re stopping at a stop sign, or turning a sharp corner, or pulling up to a gas pump.

The car started right up again each time after it died, so I wasn’t totally stuck. But I was in the boonies and wanted to get to the motel so I could go to the trial the next day (today). So I decided to just go on to my destination and deal with car issues there.

But while I was on a section of busy, congested freeway about 35 miles from my destination, I saw the check engine light go on. This is not good. Traffic was getting heavier. It could easily have turned into stop-and-go traffic. I had visions of my car stalling on the freeway, in 98 degree weather, with a dog on board.

So I pulled off the freeway at the next exit and called AAA. They said they could tow my car to a Ford dealership, but they couldn’t take me anywhere once we got to the dealership. While waiting for the tow, I called the dealership, so they knew I was coming. But of course, by the time the tow truck arrived at the dealership, the service department and the showroom were closed.

So I took a gamble and texted Alexandria, one of my fellow Scent Work enthusiasts, who is one of the students who take classes with my scent work instructor. I knew my she was going to the same trial I was traveling to. In my text, I just said, “I need help.”

And she helped me. Her husband Brian drove the 35 miles in rush hour traffic to the dealership and picked me up. Me, my dog, and all my scent work trial stuff. He drove another 35 miles to my motel. And the next morning (today), Alexandria picked me up and drove me, my dog, and all my scent work stuff to the trial.

She lent me her cool coat to keep Carlin cool in the 96 degree F weather. (Mine got left behind in my car by accident.) We shared our aluminet tarps to keep the sun off the car. She had extra water, some protein bars, and and a easy-up tent for shade. We watched each other’s runs, held each other’s stuff, and celebrated each other’s successes.

And at the end of the day, Carlin had earned the last run he needed for his Scent Work Buried Excellent title (SBE) which is the last title he needed to earn the overall Scent Work Excellent title (SWE).

And on top of that, that last Buried Excellent search was fast and accurate enough to win 1st place.

And then, even better, he won 1st place in Excellent Exteriors, which we ran just because he loves that element. And those two first places won him High In Trial for the Excellent level, too.

Such an amazing weekend so far. And I couldn’t have done it without the amazing generosity of fellow dog people who could, and then did, help me.

Now I have more people to never, ever forget. And thank God for that.

Judge Laurie Schlossnagle with me and Carlin

My beautiful Tooey

As Tooey has gotten older, her coat has become more woolly and difficult to comb through. So, I keep her coat mostly short. I pay for it if I don’t, and so does she.

And at the beginning of each summer, I clip her topknot and ears quite short–just a little longer than the rest of her coat. I know many IWS aficionados disapprove, but this is easier for me and for her.

And no matter how I groom her, Tooey is beautiful.

This time, I wondered if I should put her through the rigors of being clipped down. Every month since her cancer diagnosis in February, I have wondered if this month will be her last grooming, and maybe I should just comb her out and let her be in her long IWS coat.

But Tooey is still with us, it’s almost summer, and this weekend it’s going to be 100 degrees F. Not a time for a long coat. And who knows, Tooey could be with us for several more months.

So, I improvised. She can’t stand for very long. But as long as there were plenty of treats coming, she was happy to lie on her sides and be clipped. I scissored her front legs while she was lying down. I clipped the undersides and tops of her ear flaps while she was lying down. It was only when I needed to finish her head and ears that I needed her to sit up.

Which she did. I worked as quickly as I could and let her lie down for a rest when she needed to.

Finally we finished and she could lie down and recuperate, looking out at the sheep and the squirrels.

I think she’s beautiful in this short coat–it shows off her beautiful eyes. But to me, she has always been beautiful, no matter how she’s groomed, whether in full show coat or in ratty, thin post-puppy coat.

Before, I worked away at the office, and the dogs spent their weekdays without a regular audience.

But now, in these days of COVID-19 stay-at-home, work-from-home, I am trying to do my job, writing consumer healthcare information, from a desk in an outbuilding that faces the street and the little business next door. Accompanied by two Irish Water Spaniel co-workers.

Life is way more exciting for two of us…

Irish Water Spaniels looking out a window at the UPS truck

Tooey: Bark! The UPS guy is here!

Me: Thank you. Now quiet.

Tooey: Bark! The UPS guy is still here!

Me: Quiet!

Tooey: Bark! The UPS guy!!! He’s still here!!!

Carlin (running back and forth from the window to my desk): You better come see.

Me (getting up and looking out the window): Oh look, it’s the UPS guy.

Dogs (staring at me): Well,… yeah.

Dogs (looking at each other as I walk back to my desk): We have to tell her this every time, don’t we.

Tooey: Bark! The FedEx guy is here…

Drawing not completely to scale, but close-ish

This social distancing thing is hard to take, for me anyway. I like to be around people. And one of the reasons I do dog sports, besides the joy of working with my dog, is to be around other people who also like to work with their dogs.

But now in this age of the COVID-19 virus, all the Scent Work trials I was entered in have been cancelled, and no one really wants (understandably) to get together to practice. I get that. But both Carlin and I can get a bit stir crazy if we don’t work on something. So today, I designed my second Detective search for us to try out.

The total area was just under 4000 square feet. Half of the search area was inside our “barn” (It used to be a barn 35 years ago), and the other half, outside in a carport, plus the lawn area just east of the building. I set out 9 hides (I didn’t write down which odors went where, but I used all 4 odors):

  1. (Main room) Under the top in the corner of one of three big folding tables shoved together. The tables had about 6 chairs around them, none of which obstructed the hide.
  2. (Main room) On the metal leg of an etching press, about 30″ above the ground. The space between the press and the wall was just wide enough for the dog to get into.
  3. (Bathroom) Behind the latch of a glass shower door, about 36″ high.
  4. (Garage) Under the foot pedal of the snow plow.
  5. (Garage) Above the top hinge of a door.
  6. (Carport) Under the pedestal of a column that holds up the carport roof.
  7. (Side yard) Under and behind a metal power box, maybe 40″ high.
  8. (Side yard) In a sand-filled Buried tub, next to a blank sand-filled tub.
  9. (Side yard) Pushed into the grass, so the top of the scent vessel was just under the level of the dirt.

The doors between the kitchen and garage, the hallway and bathroom, and the hallway and carport were left open during the search, as was that chain link gate. The front door and garage door were closed. All the windows were closed. The furnace was not turned on inside. Outside it was sunny, with no discernible breeze, and about 60 degrees F. I did not set out any distractions.

I use the barn pretty often to practice various things, so I really tried to find locations I haven’t used before. For example, there is a row of drawers and cabinets that line the hallway, but I left that area blank this time, as well as the kitchen, which has lots of shelves and cabinets that we’ve used a lot. I’m not sure why I got the idea to use Buried tubs, but we’ve been practicing Buried searches with sand, so I thought mixing it up this way would be interesting.

One thing that I’m noticing now that I didn’t do–I didn’t really create areas of converging odor, except for maybe kind of the two hides in the main room, which were almost the same height. I need to make sure to do that next time. I also didn’t do any threshold hides, which I should do, as Carlin often blasts right past those.

So, we started by coming into the front door (top of the diagram). Carlin took a pretty decisive right into the kitchen (we’ve done a lot of hides in there). He didn’t find anything right off the bat, so he took me into the garage. Hide #4 was tricky–he kept sniffing the opposite corner (to the right of the closed garage door). It looked like he was going to get stuck there, so I called him toward the center of the room, around the back of the snowplow, and he caught the odor. It took him a bit to decide that the odor was inside the snowplow and not underneath, but finally he called it.

Next he found #5. Back in that corner, there is a small furnace and a hot water heater. He spent quite a bit of time searching behind and around those, and then went to the opposite corner to sniff the shelves there. Then he came back along the wall toward the hide, lifted his head, and bam, there it was. He indicated, and when I asked him “Where?”, he lifted his whole body up toward the hinge. Good boy.

We went back out to the kitchen, where he took himself first on a clockwise, then a counter-clockwise circuit of the room. Deciding that nothing was there, he trotted down the hallway toward the bathroom, where he quickly found #3. Being near the back door, he wanted to go out that way, but I called him back in to search the main room. He searched the chairs and the table, and found #1 pretty quickly. (Those tables and chairs aren’t usually in that room, so that changed the picture quite a bit from usual.) #2 on the press was easy–in the past, we’ve hidden lots of hides on the press.

Then I had him search the cabinets in the hallway, which I think he did just to humor me. They were blank, and I think he knew that already.

So it was out the door to the carport, which had a big pickup truck parked in it. He did a wide sweep around the outside of the carport, sniffing the out-of-bounds grass and concrete. While out there, he did a head-snap, turned his body, and then found #6. He then took himself on a circle around the truck, decided nothing else was in the carport, and headed out and through the chain link gate.

We’ve used that yard many times before–there are a number of places I’ve hidden odor, and he checked all of those. But all those spots were blank. At that point, he notice the Buried boxes. That stopped him in his tracks for just a microsecond–we don’t normally have Buried boxes out while practicing Exterior hides. I think he was curious, so he went to check them out, and dang, if there wasn’t odor in #8.

#9 was just about 6 feet from #8, and also in a spot we haven’t used before. But he found that one almost immediately after finding #8.

The last one, #7, took him quite a while. I’m not sure why. He was sort of avoiding sniffing along that wall for some reason, so after a minute or so, I directed him down the wall. Once he went down the wall, passing #7, he turned himself around and searched back along the wall in the opposite direction. He caught something underneath the various power boxes (there are a several on that wall), so he took a moment to search each box. Finally he found it and sat.

I was ready to quit myself, but if this had been a real Detective search, we would have no guarantee that we had found all the hides. A judge can set ten hides, so there could have been one more. So, I told him to “find another one”. He casted around a bit, and then went back inside to #3 again and sat. Returning to a known hide is often his signal that he’s done. And he was right!

Carlin did some things today that I haven’t noticed him doing on his own consistently before.

  • In two cases, in the kitchen and along the outside wall with #7, he took himself in one direction and then in the other, without my asking him to.
  • He didn’t give up after four or five hides and tell me he was done. He kept going until he was satisfied he’d found everything.
  • He didn’t try to pick up nearly as many hides. If he had his way, he’d retrieve the hides and bring them to me (being a gun dog and having had so training in retrieving). He still tried to pick up a couple, but happily sat when I asked him to, before he got that far. I do try to place my hides and use vessels that make it hard to retrieve them. I keep hoping that this will interrupt that self-rewarding behavior and break the habit. Maybe it’s working.

It seems like it’s taken me much longer to describe all this than it took Carlin to find the hides. I really tried to pay attention to what he was doing, and less to whether he’d found hides or not. That’s a tough one for me. Hopefully writing this out will teach me something, even if I don’t quite know what it is just yet.

We forget, and get a puppy again. This one is brown and curly, sweet, a bit older at 8 months, and way too smart. And named Two-E (which we almost immediately change to “Tooey”. I mean, what blogger wants to be constantly spelling a name with two capital letters and a hyphen).

Tooey grows up, and with the help of a lot of friends and some stiff competition, she gets her show championship.

She grows up some more, and we do lots of stuff together. Fun stuff, like hunting in 8 states and 1 province, spaniel hunt tests, barn hunt, and scent work; the not-quite-but-almost-as-fun stuff, like retriever hunt tests and Rally, and the stuff, Tooey says, I’m doing because Trice wants me to, like Obedience and the CGC. Titles in all of it (except the real-world hunting), enough to earn the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s All-Around IWS and the Quintessential IWS awards.

She has puppies. Two litters of them. Some of them are hunters. Most of them are pets. Five of them win show championships (making Tooey a Dam of Merit), and one of those wins a Best in Show Specialty. All are loved, and well worth loving.

Tooey was the love of Cooper’s life. She is Carlin’s mentor and friend. She has been Russ’s reliable hunting partner. And she is my best girl, my Tooey Honey, my comfort in sickness and companion in health.

And somehow I must have thought that Tooey would live forever.

But she won’t. Of course she won’t. None of us will.

On February 19, Tooey went in to have a tumor removed from the left cheek at back of her mouth. The biopsy report came back 6 agonizing days later: Canine oral malignant melanoma. And it is an aggressive one.

…The mitotic count is 32… Approximately 80% of the cells exhibit nuclear atypic…

A mitotic count of greater than 4 and a nuclear atypic score greater than 30% correlate with survival times of less than 1 year. Tumors located behind the carnassial tooth… are considered more aggressive.

So. Terror in the heart. Love, lots of love. And a memento mori, a reminder that time is always shorter than we think it is.

Carlin is 6!

Irish Water Spaniel

Carlin (aka Realta’s Carlin O’Whistlestop, Bud, Buddy Boy, Carlinator, Mr C., Cuddle Puppy) is 6 years old today!

Happy birthday!

… to strike terror in one’s heart. I’ve had cancer; I have close family relatives who have had cancer and who have died of cancer; my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, died of lymphoma, a type of cancer.

And today I found out that Carlin’s sire died just last month of cancer. Harry was just short of 9 years old. Carlin’s dam died of cancer several years ago.

And on top of that, Tooey is going into the vet tomorrow to have tumor removed from the inside of her mouth. The vet took a sample and looked at it under a microscope. Not diagnostic, not definitive, but the cells in the center of the sample don’t look good. But, you know, maybe all those weird-looking cells aren’t really that bad. Or if they are, maybe they are encapsulated in the tumor and haven’t spread.

I try not to worry.

We did have a cancer scare with Tooey before. But those masses turned out to be benign. And she has several of these fatty tumors on her trunk, and they’re benign. So, let us hope, or pray if you do that. That Tooey is fine this time, like she was last time. And that both she and Carlin live long and happy lives for many years more.

Getting-older grooming

Unlike Cooper and Carlin, Tooey has always had the perfect duck-hunter coat. So thick that when she leaps into the water to retrieve a bird, her skin barely gets wet, if it gets wet at all.

But as she has gotten older, Tooey’s coat, thick and fast-growing, has gotten wooly. It mats much more easily. It’s increasingly hard to comb through. And she’s able to stand on the grooming table for much shorter periods of time. All of this means it takes longer and requires more work to keep her coat clean, combed, and free of mats.

I asked a bunch of people who also have older IWS, and got a lot of suggestions that have helped. Things like: use a spray-on detangler spray to help the brush and comb slide through her coat more easily; lie Tooey on her side with a pillow under her head so she doesn’t have to stand; keep her coat shorter than the typical show coat. I got others I haven’t tried yet, like using a sling under her hips to help her stand.

But even after implementing these ideas, I realize that a big part of the problem is that, as Tooey has gotten older, so have I.

My hands can’t hold the comb as long as they used to. My arms and back get tired. And these days, I have a few extra responsibilities and a few less of the pleasures than I hoped for. Sometimes, by the time I’ve combed out all Tooey’s mats, I find myself in tears of exhaustion.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do. One idea, an expensive one, is to hire it out. But I actually like the bathing and the trimming. It’s just the weekly, heavy-going combing out that’s so exhausting. I could do it less often, but honestly, I think that more than doubles the difficulty when I eventually do the combing. That makes it harder on both Tooey and me.

So I think now the thing to do is just keep Tooey’s coat really, really short all the time. Instead of clipping her once every three or four months like I’ve been doing, do it every month. Never let it get long so it has less chance of getting too thick for me to handle.

It’s a pity because Tooey is such a beautiful dog. She’s beautiful in a short coat, but she’s stunning when she is in a carefully trimmed full coat.

But I think those days may be gone now. We don’t do duck hunting anymore. And I’m not as much a stunner as I was back in the day, either. So now us old ladies will just have to rely on knowing our inner beauty shines through, with a shorter coat for Tooey and not quite so much exhaustion for both of us.

Carlin became eligible to run AKC’s Scent Work Detective class when he earned his first Scent Work Master title last September. But the one time I had a chance to run it (at that same trial in September), I didn’t realize that his third Interiors Master pass qualified him to run Detective. So we missed that opportunity.

But honestly, that’s OK. Neither Carlin nor I are ready for it. For Detective, the search area is supposed to include both interior and exterior spaces totaling 2000-5000 square feet, there are 5 to 10 hides, and the team gets 7 to 15 minutes. We’ve never done anything that difficult.

So today, after the snow let up, I decided to give it a go.

The search area included four rooms inside our out-building (called “the barn”), plus the gate, fence, and driveway in front of the barn. The area probably totaled a bit less than 2000 square feet, but was challenging nonetheless.

Russ set the hides. We found six and I called Finish.

It turns out I missed three. The hardest one was set in a heat vent in the eight-foot ceiling. We also missed two others — one on a tall counter in a hallway, hidden in the folds of a blanket, and the other inside a paper towel roll hanging above the bathroom sink. Russ told me where they were, and when I took Carlin back to those areas, he found them.

Challenging. And lots of fun. And a learning experience:

  • Carlin is not at the point where he can clear a space with one pass. This may be because he moves really fast and not very methodically. So right now, I need to make sure he moves through a space in more than one direction. If we go up the hallway, we need to also come down the hallway; if we go around a room clockwise, we need to go through it again counter-clockwise. If we’d done that, we’d have found more of the hides. But this method is not optimal, as it takes up time. So I will need to investigate learning how to deal with this.
  • I need to be able to keep track of how many hides we’ve found. By the sixth hide, I’d forgotten how many we’d found, and thought we’d found seven. There have to be at least seven hides, so if I hadn’t forgotten, I’d have realized that we’d missed at least one and gone looking for it.
  • I didn’t call Alert on the same hide more than once. I’ve made that mistake before, so maybe I’m learning a few things.
  • Carlin is getting better at food distractions. After a quick sniff, he ignored the macaroni and cheese. This is a very good thing.
  • This is a really different experience than searching several small areas and calling Finish on each of the areas before you can move to the next, as in Interiors Master. In Interiors Master, you can just do a space and be done with it (except you do have to remember your total number of finds). In Detective, the search areas is just one big space. The team can move between rooms or from inside to outside (and back) at will. It means that you can go back into a space if you need to, but it also means that there is more to remember for both the handler and the dog.

But gosh, it’s fun. Carlin always whines in excitement when he has his harness on and is waiting for me to say “Find it!” And I love watching him do what he does so well, even when we miss a few.

(On a side note… wow. Six months since I wrote last. Just wow. So much stuff happening that I hadn’t registered the time…)

Anyway…

Carlin and Tooey and I have been doing a lot of scent work. In fact, aside from allowing the dogs to crowd me out of the bed, walks along the irrigation ditch, meals, and the weekly combing out, I haven’t been doing anything with the dogs except scent work.

And we’ve been doing pretty well. Carlin now has two Master element titles (Exteriors and Interiors), and Tooey has three Novice element titles (Exteriors, Interiors, and Buried). It’s fun and they both love it, so I try to practice as often as these short winter days and work schedules allow.

This morning I set up two different Exterior searches, but it’s the second one I want to tell you about.

I wanted to make it hard. I wanted Carlin to really have to think his way around the search. I set it up in an area of the yard we have searched often, but this time I put all the hides along the backs of the shop and sheds. They all back up to a chain link fence between our yard and the neighbor’s driveway, with about a four-foot wide path between the buildings and the fence.

DD194091-3E2F-4751-99E5-299E66160866

One hide, an easy one, is under one of the grey brick (lower right corner of the photo). Another one was up about five feet, stuffed into the corner of the steel shed, the shed farthest away, closest to the wooden fence. (This location is hard to see from the angle of the photo.) At the time of our search, the neighbor’s big diesel pickup truck was parked just on the other side of the fence, full of yard debris and lawn chemicals.

The middle hide was supposed to be the hard one, set about four feet high, right behind the heat pump mounted on the middle building. That’s the shop, and the heat was on in there, so the heat pump fan was running.

Like I predicted, the hide under the bricks was a gimme. And the one behind the fan was a puzzle that took Carlin several minutes. Lots of searching for the edges of the dispersed scent plume. He worked out and them back in, out in another direction and back in, up along the wall of the shed next to it, down along the wall below the fan, back out and in, out in. He found it though, and so we set off for the hide on the steel shed. That one was set high, but should have been fairly easy.

But just then, the neighbor came out and started up his truck so it could sit and warm up. You know what that means—a huge blast of stinky diesel fumes, right next to my hide.

I tried to call Carlin off. But no, by this time, he was determined to find it. He’s a dedicated worker, and besides, he knew he’d be paid in salmon jerky, and that is just too wonderful to put off.

I kept thinking, Dude, we can come back later. He kept searching. Doing his out-in, out-in thing. Finally, he found a whiff of anise in all that odor. First his nose lifted, then his shoulders, and finally his feet were up on the side of the shed, his nose pushing the hide even deeper into the crevice where I’d hidden it.

Good boy! Now let’s get out of here, I said. You can have bites of jerky on the way.

And so we did.

I was thrilled to learn that one of Tooey’s puppies, Pax, was selected as the Best of Breed dog at the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s 2019 National Specialty.

I wasn’t there to see it, but I got lots of texts giving me the good news. And now here he is on the cover of the club’s May/June 2019 newsletter.

photo by Jeremy Kezer

Pax is owned and loved by Brenda. I think Pax heard her say that this show was going to be his swan song in the dog show world (he’s over 7 years old now). So he decided to show her that he still had it.

And boy does he. He was also selected for Best in Veteran Sweeps and Best Veteran Dog. I am so pleased for Brenda, and glad that Colleen and I (mostly Colleen) could breed such a fine puppy.

Carlin Diving Dog

Carlin has always been happy to jump into ponds, lakes, and rivers, but he’s never had the opportunity to jump into a pool. And it’s been many a long year since I’ve taken a dog dock diving in a pool, or anywhere, for that matter.

Cooper, of course, jumped into water of all kind for fun and for hunting, hunt tests, and hunt training. And a five or six times, we got to take him dock diving, mostly into ponds, and once, into a pool. He loved it. And therefore, I loved it.

But since moving to Boise, I had been unable to find a pool Carlin could jump into. A wonderfully generous friend let us use her irrigation canals for Carlin to train in and jump into, and a couple of other folks had ponds that we had access to for a couple of summers. But no pools.

Then Vicki moved in about 45 minutes away, and she brought her pool and dock with her. So last Sunday, we went to try out Vicki’s pool. Oh, lucky us and happy Carlin!

The pool has a ramp from the dock into the pool. Ordinarily a dog comes back out of the water and onto the dock using the ramp. But for a first-timer dog, one who may not be certain that that clear stuff is actually something one can dive into, the dog uses the ramp at first to go into the water, and then come back out.

Once Carlin realized that there was water in the pool, there was no stopping him from jumping in, except temporarily while his handler got into position. Like the very good boy he is, Carlin waited at the back end of the dock. I stood at the front of the dock and dangled a very special toy. When I said “OK”, Carlin bolted to the front of the dock and jumped off just as I threw the toy. Ideally, I would throw the toy so that it would stay just a foot or so in front of Carlin’s mouth as they both flew through the air and into the water.

That happened once.

Irish Water Spaniel dock diving

All the rest of the 45 minutes we had in the pool, I threw the toy inexpertly (too short, too long, too high, wrong direction…) and Carlin got to sail through the air and splash, over and over and over.

Tooey got in several leaps as well, though mostly she just liked the opportunity to swim.

It was glorious.

We finally drove home, dogs zonked out in their crates in the car, all of us tired and happy and feeling blessed.

I admit it. I’m like my dogs. I work for rewards.

Now, my rewards are different than my dogs’. Salmon jerky is all right, but it’s not enough to get me to go out and do one more practice, to set up another blind retrieve, to study Rally signs, or to travel to the spaniel club practice or scent work class.

I admit it’s shallow, but I like recognition. And I’ll work for it. Fortunately, my dogs will work for salmon jerky and dried liver, and they’ll mostly go along with whatever I need them to do to earn it. At some point, though, I usually forget the recognition thing, and mostly just do the work because it has become fun in and of itself.

But, there are those days. You know. Those days when the work just doesn’t sound that fun. When it’s too cold, or too hot, or the drive is too long, or you have to practice alone, or the equipment is just too hard to get out yet again. Those days, it’s the possibility of recognition that will get me out of my chair and working again.

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin have all given me the opportunity for a lot of work, a lot of fun, and more than my share of rewards.

Like Cooper and Tooey before him, Carlin just earned the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s (IWSCA) Quintessential Versatility Award. A beautiful glass medallion is given by the club to all dogs who earn this award.

An IWS is awarded this by earning titles in 5 different AKC sports. For Carlin, these were:

As you can see, we’ve been working on this award for a while now. And I am thrilled that Carlin also has been recognized for his work ethic, talent, and enthusiasm.

And it gets better!

Carlin, to my total shock and surprise, won the club’s Top IWS Scent Work 2018 trophy. The trophy is given to the IWS with the most points earned in AKC Scent Work for the previous calendar year. The IWSCA determines the points, but basically, the dog earns a certain number of points for each Scent Work title earned, with more advanced titles earning more points.

I knew Carlin had done well. I knew he’d be right up there. But I had been convinced that another dog had earned the award. So when I opened the package sent by the IWSCA Awards Committee, I about fell down, huge smile on my face. Totally blown away, was the only way I could describe it. I’d spent some energy trying to just feel good for the winner and not let my disappointment that Carlin hadn’t won get me down.

But then we won! We won!

I still can’t quite believe it. It still makes me smile. But you know, Carlin doesn’t care. He just loves the work. And the fact that he loves it and begs me to do it with him–that’s often all the recognition I need.

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