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Today we finally had deliciously cool weather, clouds, and even rain. A perfect day to go stand outside and watch some Lure Coursing trials. Lure Coursing is a sport for sight hounds, like Salukis, Borzois, Pharaoh Hounds, Greyhounds, Whippets, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and others.

Today the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Portland put on a Lure Coursing Trial, and along with it, a Coursing Ability Test (CAT). The CAT is an event similar to Lure Coursing that is open to non-sight hounds. (Irish Water Spaniels, for example.) To pass the test, a dog runs, pursuing a lure, completing the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within a given time. For a dog of Carlin’s size, it’s about a 600 yard course that must be completed in under 2 minutes.

The course is made up of straights, curves, and turns. The lure in this case, was a series of black and white plastic bags that are pulled on cables by a system of mechanized pulleys, situated so that the course simulates the unpredictability of chasing live prey.

So after watching several dozen sight hounds do their thing for several hours, we decided to enter Carlin in the Coursing Ability test, just for the heck of it.

See the video below to find out how the boy did.

We timed it: just 50 seconds from when the Hunt Master sent us off with a “Tallyho!” to Carlin’s crossing the finish line, 642 yards later.

I was really pleased, especially since a few of the sight hounds, for whom this sport was designed, ran the same course for the Lure Coursing trial, and instead of finishing the course, lost the bags, lost interest, or tried to run off the course.

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The July 2015 issue of the AKC Gazette is out, and, lo and behold, my breed column, “Codes of Conduct Help Us Help Ourselves” is on page 34.

To see it on the AKC website, click the link and then scroll your way through the PDF until you get to page 34. Or you can read the article here, by clicking on the magazine’s cover below:

AKCGazette_cover_July2015

Cover, July 2015 AKC Gazette

This is an odd time for this Gazette article to come out, in a way. I know that very soon, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America will propose a final draft of its Code of Ethics its members. I have made what I hope are constructive comments about the drafts that have been sent out for review by the membership.

I really hope that it will be a Code that I can agree with and adhere to. Because I know that codes and rules and guidelines really can help when they’re well designed and executed fairly.

I feel that I killed my dog.

This is a public blog, and I generally don’t put the really private stuff up here.

But this feeling that I killed my heart dog is a quagmire in which I am stuck. Maybe writing about it will help extricate me.

Of course, I did arrange to help Cooper die. He was sick with lymphoma, and failing fast. On that last day, he came over to me as I sat on the edge of our low deck, put his head in my open hands, and looked up at me steadily. This was so unusual that I called Russ over, and together, looking at our dear Cooper, we knew it was time to help him leave this life.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is the feeling that still makes me cry, every day, even now – 32 days later. I can usually keep myself under control when others are around, but when I’m alone, I cry. Driving to work, taking a walk, sitting on the deck…

From the day I got Cooper, I knew that he needed to stay intact (not neutered). At first, this was to allow his bones and joints to grow properly. But later, after he was diagnosed with Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, I kept him intact to protect his health. SLO is an immune-mediated disorder, and even though his veterinarians assured me that neutering would have no impact on his SLO, I felt strongly that he needed all the hormones his testicles produced to support his whole system. This became even more important to me when he started treatment for low thyroid.

But then we got Carlin, an energetic, impolite, untutored, and rambunctious puppy boy. Carlin wanted so badly to be friends with Cooper, but Cooper was having none of it. He made it clear that he wanted that puppy to go away, and as soon as possible. Cooper attacked Carlin several times, frightening all of us. And once Carlin grew stronger and bigger enough, he attacked Cooper, giving him puncture wounds on the neck.

We tried everything: talking to his breeders, getting the dogs checked out by their veterinarians, consulting two behaviorists several times, adding more discipline and impulse control exercises to their training, and even giving them flower essences and homeopathic remedies. We tried keeping the two dogs separated, but this made none of us happy. We also sent Carlin away to a trainer for a couple of months, hoping that he’d mature and things would calm down.

But nothing worked. Cooper wanted Carlin to go away. It came down to this choice: find Carlin a new home or get Cooper neutered.

Twice I called Carlin’s breeders to tell them that we needed to re-home Carlin. And twice I backed out. Carlin is an affectionate, friendly dog who actually shows some talent for obedience work. He’s beautiful. He’s not the compulsive retriever that Cooper was, and he’s not as good a bird-finder as Tooey, but he hunts and enjoys it, and will make a good hunting dog. I knew that Cooper, and then Tooey, would retire from hunting at some point, and now seemed to be the best time to get another dog ready to fill that role. I couldn’t give Carlin up.

So that left neutering Cooper. Just about everyone recommended it, and we didn’t know what else to try. So even though I knew in my heart that Cooper needed to stay intact to support his health, I had him neutered. I satisfied my own wants at the expense of Cooper’s needs. I brushed off the warnings in my own heart, and convinced myself that somehow I could have both.

Life is hardly ever like that, where you can have two contradictory things at once. You have to choose. I chose, and based on the depth of my grief and guilt, I can see I made the wrong choice. And I made the wrong choice because I didn’t clearly realize what was most important to me.

Carlin would have been happy in another home. I could have gotten another puppy later. But Cooper is my heart dog and cannot be replaced.

And now he is gone.

This morning turned out way better than yesterday morning.

Yesterday morning, we loaded up early to get out training before it hit 99 degrees F. Winger, birds, training bag, dogs all ready to head out to the St. Louis Ponds training grounds. We got there nice and early, only to discover that the place was crawling with dogs and their people for a retriever hunt test.

Oops. Can’t train there.

So we turned around and headed out to the training grounds on Sauvie Island. We had our dog training permit and parking pass along with us, so that seemed all good. It’s just that after an hour driving down to St. Louis Ponds, and an hour and a half back up to Sauvie Island, the temperature had zoomed up into the humid mid-80s.

We trained anyway. Tooey did a fine job doing her “hunt dead”, looking for a pheasant hidden about 45 yards out away from Russ. But poor Carlin, who really doesn’t handle heat very well, had a hard time keeping his mind on the job. On his second marked retrieve, he ran out just fine to pick up the bird, but rather than coming right back to me, he headed off across the field toward the bowl of water and the shade of the car. I coaxed him back to me, but it wasn’t pretty. That’s about all we got done before the temps hit the upper 80s and we decided to call it a day.

So, today, we left even earlier and headed straight to Sauvie Island. By the time we set up, it was in the mid-70s and humid again, so this time, I started Carlin in the shade, so that he’d want to come back to me with his bird. Russ threw two single retrieves. Carlin was nice and steady at the line, ran straight out, hunted around a bit, got each of his two birds, and brought them back to within about 5 feet of me before he sat, holding his bird. I called him to my side, and thankfully, he held onto his bird even while moving into heel position.

Tooey didn’t particularly want to do her hunt dead this morning. Way too many delectable cow pies to distract her from on her out to the bird. But with some help, she finally did it. And Carlin did a nice short sight blind, too.

So with that good work, we decided to reward ourselves with a trip to the river. We’d brought the kayak just in case, and sure enough, the spot we found a couple of weeks ago was open, just waiting for two panting dogs and their people. The tide was going out, and that made the current decidedly swift, so we stayed in the eddy that curled along the bank. Even so, the dogs got in lots of leaping, splashing, and swimming.

The sound on the video is odd. Because the video is in slow motion, the sound of my voice is distorted. It sounds to me like there is a monster advancing onto the innocent party of dogs. But even so, what a delight! Look at how beautifully Carlin drives off the edge of the bank and reaches way out on his way to the water’s surface. And Tooey, throwing herself with abandon into her favorite element, the water. At the beginning of the video, Carlin looks to Tooey, “wanna jump?” and at the end they look at each other, “wanna do it again?”

Yes. Yes we do.

Water play therapy

One piece of advice I got after Cooper died was to start some new activities and traditions. Do something that will make me happy because it makes my dogs happy. Do something that doesn’t carry memories of when I used to do that or go there with Cooper.

Sounded like good advice. So, inspired by last Friday’s training day, I went and got an inexpensive, bright orange, kayak.

Sunday morning, before it got all hot, we all went to the Sauvie Island dog training area, hoping to find enough water to kayak in. It’s been very hot, and we didn’t get any of our usual June rains. So we weren’t surprised that the usual smaller training ponds were completely dry. But there is a larger lake inside the dog training area that we thought we’d try.

Too bad it didn’t occur to me to check out the name of that lake: Mud Lake.

Muddy and mucky it was. Even though I tried to pole they kayak out several yards to what I hoped were deeper waters, I never did get into waters where I could float, much less where the dogs could swim – in fact, they never got deeper than running through really muddy muck.

Then we tried another lake. It was a little deeper. I slogged several yards away from shore, pushing the kayak along, the muck almost sucking my sandals off my feet with every step. Finally, I hit some float-able water, but no matter how far away from shore I got, the dogs never did find anything deep enough to actually swim in. (Although they did get a mud pack beauty treatment.)

After just a few minutes, we packed up everything and left.

So disappointing.

And then Russ mentioned this spot he remembered where we might be able to find some deeper water. So we turned around and found a low bank where we could put into to the river. The river was definitely deeper. When we stayed in near shore, there was an eddy where I could paddle slowly and the dogs could swim. When we got out farther, the current was swift enough that it took some doing to not simply float away downstream.

image

Trice in the kayak, Carlin and Tooey in the water

Trice and Tooey swimming in the river

Trice and Tooey

But even so, it was like heaven. Before last Friday, I hadn’t been on a boat for years, and that session was way too short. So on Sunday, floating on the water, watching my water-loving dogs play and swim, run around on the bank, and then jump back into the water — I loved every single second, and they did, too. They both slept soundly all the way home.

I hope we can do it again very soon.

It has been just too hot to ask Carlin to practice land work, whether it’s quartering down a field looking for upland birds to flush or running out to retrieve a downed bird. For the last couple of weeks, it’s been in the upper upper 90 degrees F, which is hot for any dog. But for Carlin, who seems to be hot even in an air-conditioned room, those temps are just not do-able.

We still want to work, though. Normally, Richard, our trainer, does water work during the week, not weekends, so I usually can’t participate. But today I’m in luck. It’s both a weekday and a holiday, I have the day off, and Carlin and I can join Richard for some practice retrieves in the water.

Richard does much of his water training on a pond near his regular training grounds. When I got there, what I saw on the shore were kayaks. Kayaks? Turns out Richard uses them to exercise himself and his dogs in hot weather. He gets in his kayak, pushes off, calls the dog to him, and together they go off into the water paddling with paddles and paws.

So that’s what we did with Carlin. We worked out the young-dog yahoos by swimming him for about 400 yards, and then went back to the shore to do some water retrieves.

The last retrieve was perfect. Richard threw the duck, and I sent Carlin after it. Unbeknownst to Carlin, the duck was alive and swimming, so when he got to the duck, he had to chase it some more in order to get a grip. And a nice grip he got, too, firm and gentle, delivering that live duck unharmed to my hand.

Another retrieve excited me, too. Richard kayaked out with a live pigeon, and instead of throwing it, he laid it gently in the water. I sent Carlin out for it, and he picked it up and delivered it, too, as unharmed as the duck. What made that retrieve exciting for me was that this bird had not been thrown, so there wasn’t that throwing-and-flying-through-the-air movement to excite Carlin into action.

There were a couple of additional retrieves, not quite as perfect. One time, he didn’t quite swim out far enough to find the partly sunk duck (this one a dead one), and had to be encouraged to swim out farther. A couple of times, upon bringing the bird back, he dropped it at the shoreline and had to be reminded to pick it up again. Once he didn’t come directly back to me, but sort of took this wide detour around me before returning to my side.

I got one more thing out of that training day — the idea about kayaks and swimming. Such a cool idea for hot weather. I can see it now — I’m going to have to get myself a kayak.

What a pleasure to discover that the AKC used a photo of Cooper, taken by Russ, to illustrate an article re-published on the AKC website on June 25, 2015. (The original article was published without photos in the July 2014 AKC Gazette.)

They used a cropped version of the photo in the header of the web page, and the full photo farther down in the article. If the link doesn’t work, you can click the image to visit a PDF of the article.

Cooper_Gazette_snapshot

Russ had taken that shot, plus others that I personally like better, back in 2011. He had just made some portraits of Tammy’s three dogs: Mowlgi (Cooper’s litter brother), Cameo, and Gosling*, and was editing those photos.

Cooper obviously felt that his input was needed. He loved the camera, and I guess that extended to the computer from time to time.

So, in a way, Russ had actually taken Cooper to work that day. Or maybe it was Cooper who invited Russ to work with him. Either way, they made a team.

In a way, I guess, they still do — virtually — through the magic of publishing.

* The three dogs:

  • Mowgli — CH Realta’s Bear Necessesities of Yo-Yo CD RE JH JHU CGC WD
  • Cameo — Yo-Yo’s Cameo Moment CD RA CGC
  • Gosling — Yo-Yo’s Not What You Think RN
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