Cover of Rat Tails, November 2022

Recently, I wrote an article about Carlin’s new AKC Scent Work Detective title (SWD). The article also includes a bit of information about AKC Scent Work. Rat Tails is the newsletter of the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America, and I am pleased that the editor chose to publish my article.

Clicking the photo above will open the pages where my article was published. The newsletter also includes a lovely article about Farley. He is the first IWS to pass the Master National retriever competition, and he did it twice, two years in a row.

I hope these two articles encourage more IWS people to get their dogs into scent work and into field work, too.

One of the reasons a lot of folks come to my blog is that their dog has begun to break their nails. Many nails, often, and on multiple feet. The nails might look like this:

Back right foot, outside nail

These folks are looking for information about their dog’s broken nails. Of course, I’m thrilled that you (if you’re one of these folks) are reading my blog.

But please, if this is what’s happening to your dog, please take him or her to a veterinary dermatologist. Your dog may have SLO (Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy).

Of course, it may not be SLO. It could be a fungal or bacterial infection. But a key here is: is it happening on multiple feet? If yes, go to the dermatologist.

Many regular vets have never seen SLO, so in their experience, broken nails are often something else. Like an infection or an accident.

But my dog Cooper, now passed away for several years, had SLO. He and I did a lot of suffering before we finally were referred to a dermatologist who was able to help us slow the breakage and maintain Cooper’s quality of life.

SLO is an autoimmune disorder. It can be managed, but it can’t (as far as I know) be cured. Once we found the collection of medicines that helped, I discovered that Cooper could never go off them, or his nails would start to break again. But with those medicines, he had a full, happy, and active life.

So. Don’t suffer needlessly. Take your dog and go to the dermatologist.

And I hope my blog helps. I have a number of posts under the SLO tab that talk about our journey. I hope they help you find answers.

Detective Q #12

Someone asked me the other day why I keep doing AKC Detective searches even after Carlin got the 10 qualifying scores we needed for the Scent Work Detective (SWD) title.

If you had a chance to see the previous post’s video, you might see why. Carlin has a blast doing it, and it makes me happy to make him happy.

So, of course, we did it again the next morning.

Map for 12th Detective Q; judge Terri Spaeth-Merrick; PNWSWC; October 31, 2022

This search was on one side of a large barn. It included a small exterior space (the lower right side of the map), and a long, wide hallway inside the barn (the left side of the map). The hallway included a whole cluster of rollaway garbage cans, a big long empty space with a small staircase going off to the left, and a larger space at the top of the map that was the horse entry into the barn’s central riding arena.

Looking from the start line to the right side of the exterior space. It went to about as far out as the start of the yellow building, and angled back to include the utility poles. You can see a dark pile of bark chips on a pallet in the far corner. Carlin’s 1st find was on that pallet.
Looking from the start line at the left side of the exterior space. Carlin’s second find was on the the bottom of the 2nd grey box hanging on the wall.
Looking down the long hallway of the interior space. Carlin’s third find was on the wooden wall just to the right, maybe 10 feet in. You can’t see the spot from this photo, but you can see what the wall looks like.
Just after you enter the hallway, this is what you see when you look left. Carlin’s 4th find was in the midst of these garbage cans. He went into and out of multiple spaces between the garbage cans trying to pin-point the source. It was on a wheel of one of the central cans.
The far end of the long hallway. The search space ends where the deeper shadow start. Carlin’s 5th find was near that doorway you see on the left side of the hallway.
When you get to the end of the hallway space, you turn left to see this entrance into the central horse arena. The 6th and last find was just under the bulletin board hanging from the left wall. He really had to work this one, going back and forth along all three walls. He also had to leap up and crouch down to search up and down all three walls. Finally, he located it and sat. My job was just to be patient while he worked it out. We both did good. I reviewed our search, couldn’t figure out any place we hadn’t been, and called Finish at this point.

We were given 9 minutes to find the 6 hides. Carlin and I took 8 minutes, 9.32 seconds. We placed 4th. There were 7 passes of the about 18 teams to try it.

This will conclude Carlin’s scent work for 2022. It’s getting cold and dark, and anywhere we’d go to get a Detective search would no doubt require driving in the dark and snow. I’m not a fan.

So, we’ll just have to see what 2023 brings!

Map for Detective search; judge Terri Spaeth-Merrick; PNWSWC; October 30, 2022

The thing I like best about this search is that I stayed out of Carlin’s way, while also making sure he got to every part of the search area. He likes to go where he wants to go, and I need make sure he gets everywhere without impeding his progress or blocking any hides. It’s a dance, and in this search, I think we danced the same dance together.

This was also the first AKC Detective search that I was able to get a video. Russ came along to Salem, Oregon, so he could take Grits hunting, but on this Sunday, he was recovering from Saturday’s hunt and waiting for Monday’s hunt. So he was available to video.

I thought all the hides in this search were pretty straightforward. We had 9 hides, were given 10 minutes to do it, and did it in 7 minutes, 28.94 seconds. I’m always nervous when we finish earlier than the allowed time because I think maybe we haven’t been everywhere. But at the end of this search, I reviewed the whole area in my mind’s eye, and couldn’t see anywhere we hadn’t been. So I called Finish.

At the very end of the video, you’ll see the judge mimicking the facial expressions I went through as I was reviewing the search. She made me laugh because I hadn’t been aware that the whole process showed on my face. But, now that I think about it, I realize that I would be a terrible poker player–almost everything shows on my face.

And besides, I was primed to laugh. I was pretty happy because Team Carlin had Qd. Later I found out we’d gotten 3rd place. Three teams passed out of the about 18 who tried it.

Carlin SWD!

10th Detective Q map; judge Sandra Tung; Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers; October 8, 2022

The main thing that running AKC Detective has taught me is that failure is survivable. It can even be fun.

For most of my life, I have avoided anything at which I might fail. So for me to have failed at least 20 AKC Detective searches is something of a milestone.

And I do mean that I failed. Carlin failed only a few times, with a false alert once or twice and missing hides that he’d walked right past. All the rest of the failures were mine. Most of them were either the result of not searching every part of the search area, or calling Alert when I should have called Finish. But Carlin loved doing every one of our Detective searches. He had an absolute blast, which made me very happy. And every one of those searches taught me something.

So this most recent Q was the culmination of a streak of Detective successes: 1 pass in July; 3 in September; and this last one on October 8. After some failures this summer, I captured and watched a bunch of videos of Carlin searching. I realized that my insistence that he sit to indicate that he’d found a hide wasn’t working. I got confused about whether his sit was telling me that there was a hide or telling me that he was done with a part or a whole of the search. So I stopped waiting for a sit at all and starting looking for some other indication instead.

I don’t think I can describe what the “here’s a hide” and the “I’m done” indications morphed into. But I can say that I started waiting for a feeling or a realization on my part, rather than a specific indication on Carlin’s. Sometimes he tried to put his nose on it; sometimes he sat; sometimes he leapt up at a specific spot; sometimes I can’t describe what he was doing.

And as for “I’m done here” indication? Mostly I started looking for a slumping of the shoulders, or his putting himself in heel position, or his just really slowing down.

So this last Saturday, it all came together for our 10th qualifying search. The search area included two school classrooms and a graveled area between them. One of the classrooms was elevated, and we reached it via a ramp. Both classrooms were crowded with students’ desks, chairs, teachers’ desks, cubby holes, filing cabinets, white boards, shelves, and all kinds of stuff hanging on the walls. The graveled area had coolers, carts, garbage cans, a picnic table, a tetherball pole, and a couple of ramps.

I’m guessing that the total area was maybe 4,000 square feet. We were given 8 minutes to complete the search. Carlin did it in 6 minutes, 48.75 seconds. Even though there was a lot of stuff to catch a leash on, I kept him on leash. I wanted to make sure that we completely cleared each area before moving on to the next area. And the last time we went off leash, Carlin did the search in whatever order he chose, and I lost track of where we’d been and not been, missing areas where we should have gone but didn’t.

I this case, it worked out. The leash turned out not to be a problem. He found the hides in about the same order as they are numbered on the map. In the first classroom, 3 and 4 may have been switched, and in the graveled area, 5 and 6 may have been switched as well. But in any case, he found everything in a area before we left it.

When we finished the 2nd classroom, I went back out into the graveled space and just kind of watched Carlin aimlessly trot around the space. I realized he was still searching because I was standing there. So I checked my timer. We had a good 1.5 minutes left, so I did this mental inventory. Where haven’t we been?

I decided we’d been everywhere, and called “Finish”. Instead of a “Yes”, the judge said “Congratulations. I’m so glad you didn’t do anything silly.”

All I could do was yell “Whoop-ee!”, dance a bit with Carlin, and hug the somewhat startled judge. Everyone in the parking lot could hear me yell, and when it got around that this was Carlin’s 10th pass, and hence the Scent Work Detective title, they started whooping and yelling with me.

I guess that’s the other thing I really love about AKC Scent Work: I and my fellow competitors are genuinely happy when someone succeeds.

Carlin and I have been at this Detective thing since March 2021. Since there have been very few Detective searches in Idaho, I’ve had to travel a lot to Utah, Oregon, and Washington to pursue the AKC Scent Work Detective title. And so now I have this expansive group of people who know me and Carlin, and who have cheered us on when we succeeded and commiserated when we failed. I’ve really felt a part of this community, and I am so grateful for it.

Judge Sandra Tung holding the very cool Detective trophy offered by CECSF, me with our 2nd place ribbon, and my handsome and accomplished Mr. Carlin Detective

A 9th Detective Q for Carlin

Detective map, September 23, 2022, judge Liz Lynch; Bristle Nose Scent Work Club of Utah

8 minutes, 53.87 seconds. That’s how long Carlin and I took to find all 6 hides in Friday’s Detective search at the Bristle Nose Scent Work Club of Utah’s scent work trials.

8:53.87. That’s just 6.13 seconds short of 9 minutes. Which is a real heart-stopper, given that judge Liz had allowed us 9:00.00 total.

The search area was about 5,000 square feet, or maybe a touch larger. Looking at the map, you’ll see little X’s where the hides were. The pavilion at the upper right was crowded with picnic tables and benches, firewood, and forest debris. To the left of the pavilion were several trees surrounded by rocks, all of which Liz specifically mentioned were in play (noted by the one drawn left-leaning tree figure).

Going farther to the left and crossing a dirt road, there were a string of wooden benches along a filled pool. (The pool was out of play.) Connected to the bottom of the pool area was a log-cabin shower house and laundry room. Going a bit farther down, there was the very dark hallway leading out of the shower house and back onto the dirt road.

That’s about the order we took things. Carlin found a hide in a pile of firewood, just off the lower right corner of the pavilion. Then we snaked our way in and out of the picnic tables and benches, when he caught some scent and headed toward the trees and rocks.

But the trees weren’t quite right, so he took me back to the pavilion and the tables at the upper left corner of the pavilion, trying to isolate the odor. Finally, he lifted his nose and then his body, up one of the support posts. I called it, and we were right. I didn’t realize until later that that hide had been about 10 feet up that pole.

We took another look at all the trees and rocks, me trusting that he wouldn’t pee on them. (He didn’t but the dog before us had peed there, and another pooped there after our run.) And then he hurried over to the benches. He went up the road along the line of benches, and then we came down the line. I started to take him up along the benches again because they looked like perfect hiding spots to me. But Carlin just sort of deflated. I looked at my timer and decided, okay, he’s not excited. We have time and can come back if needed.

So then we headed into the shower house via the little hallway. There were about 6 little tiny, kid-sized shower stalls in there. Two stalls directly across from each other each had a hide on identical benches. Those stopped me for a second. When he found the second one, I had to wonder, had we found that one already? But if we had, and I called it again, it would have been just a fault, so I called it. But I was correct–there were two right next to each other.

Then we headed into the laundry room, where Carlin easily found a hide buried deep in a full laundry basket. I didn’t wonder until later if that laundry had been clean or not…

That was 5 hides. Five is the minimum number, so we could have been done. But we hadn’t covered all of the hallway. So we went out of the shower house and down the hallway (toward the left), and then turned to go back the other way, to the right. Something stopped Carlin, and he started searching up the walls on both sides of the hallway, and up the walls on both sides of a door, and then up a post, and then horizontally along one of the logs of the wall.

Finally, at the door, he sat and looked at me with what I thought was a big smile on his face. That hallway was really dark. I could just make Carlin out in the dark. I couldn’t read my timer, but I knew time was almost up. I was pretty sure that if this was a hide, it was the last hide, so I called “AlertFinish”.

At that, I could just hear all the spectators release the breaths they’d been holding. They knew we’d done it before the judge had a chance to say, “Yes!

And then I found out how close we’d been: a Q with only 6.13 seconds left. But still good enough for 1st place!

AKC Detective map, judge Penny Scott-Fox, Spokane DTC, September 18, 2022

So here Carlin and I were at another AKC Detective search start line. If we passed this one, it would be our 8th pass. Yesterday, the judge predicted that we would pass today’s search. I so wanted to believe it.

The search area was again huge–I’m guessing another 5000 square foot search. And again only 8 minutes to find 5 to 10 hides. But hey, we did it yesterday with a huge search area and 8 minutes. And the judge was confident we could do it. “So… ok,” I thought, “Let’s just go for it.”

There were basically three parts to the search area: a grassy area with a couple of bleachers and some junk; a much bigger grassy area with a section of fencing and a sprinkler tripod in it; and another quonset hut with fans, fence panels and parts, wheelbarrows, boxes, and other assorted fairgrounds equipment and supplies lining the inside walls.

Carlin found hides #1, 2, and 3 pretty quickly. They were all in the first grassy area. #2 was on a flat panel of some sort, about 6 inches off the ground, pretty much right opposite the start line. #1 was on the back of one of the bleachers, and #3 was next to those same bleachers on a hose stand on which was hung loops of water hose. Carlin took himself around the bleachers in both directions just to confirm he’d found everything, and then pulled me out to the larger grassy area.

Well, actually, he pulled me through the larger grassy area. He had no interest in stopping until he got to the quonset hut. When we got there, he went outside of the search area along a side of the hut and thought he’d found something there. But no, and besides, that wall was out of the search area.

So then he ran into the building, and pretty quickly found the two hides in the fence grates (hides #4 and 5), and then the one at the threshold on the fan pole (#6). I went around in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions inside the hut, but he showed no more interest.

“Hmmm,” I wondered, “… where haven’t we been?” Well, we hadn’t been almost everywhere in the larger grassy area in the middle of the search area. So I took him out there, and we searched along the section of fence, did a bit of wandering around the downwind part of the area just to see if he’d catch any odor, searched along the front wall of the hut, and then I took him over to the sprinkler tripod.

Now, that tripod was about 5 to 5.5 feet tall. It’s a perfect place to put a hide. So I asked him to search it. He jumped up a couple of times, sniffing. And then he sat.

Here’s where my heart about sank. Just a couple of weeks ago, we’d failed a Detective search because I called a hide on a tall section of fencing. Carlin had spent quite a bit of time jumping up and down searching that fence, and then sat. He did the same thing in that search as he did in this search: he searched and searched, and then sat.

The confusing thing is that a sit is often his hide indication. So when he sat in that failed search, I thought he’d found a hide, and called “Alert”. But a sit is often his “I’m done” indication, too. So, when he does this, I have to decide if the sit is a hide sit or a finish sit. I was wrong in that failed search, and would have passed if I’d just called “Finish”.

Since that last, heart-breaking failure, I’ve been working on trying to figure this out. I’ve been videoing Carlin myself and having my friends and instructor video us, trying to figure out the difference between his hide sit and his finish sit.

And of course, in the moment when Carlin sat next to the sprinkler, smiling his aren’t-I-a-good-boy smile, all this is going through my mind in a fast-forward flash.

Finally, I realized/remembered that there’s this thing Carlin does with his mouth when he’s located a hide. And he hadn’t done that thing when he was jumping up and down on the sprinkler tripod. So there was an excellent chance that there wasn’t a hide on that sprinkler. Plus, this was the last place we hadn’t searched. So I called “Finish”.

The judge came up to me and said, “I was so afraid you were going to call Alert on that sprinkler.”

What I said to her was, “He only searched that because I asked him to.” And to myself, I thought, “You have no idea.”

So that was pass #8, just like the judge had predicted the day before. And on top of that, we’d done really well this weekend, with a 1st place in Saturday’s Detective and a 2nd place in Sunday’s.

I slept well that night. And maybe our next Detective search will be pass #9.

AKC Detective map, judge Penny Scott-Fox, Spokane DTC, September 17, 2022

The search area for this Detective search seemed huge to me. Turned out it was the max size: 5000 square feet. We entered through a doorway; out into a large grassy area between three buildings, of which only an L-shaped section was in play; to a patio in front of the building farthest from the start line; and into a large old quonset hut. And we had 8:00.00 to find anywhere from 5 to 10 hides. To me, that’s a very large area for such a short amount of time.

But at walk-through, Penny (the judge) said, “If you just let your dog work, you’ll pass. If you think, you won’t.”

Hmmm… That seems, I don’t know. Intimidating? Confusing? Against every instinct (of mine, but probably not Carlin’s)? As we exhibitors left the briefing, we were all sort of joking with each other. “Don’t think, now,” we said with an encouraging smile. “No thinking!”

Probably the dogs heard this, and were rejoicing. “Finally!” they’d say. “Finally someone gets who is in charge of this game!”

Finally, it was my turn. Typically, at the start line, I wait for a couple of beats before we actually go through. If there is odor to be found close to the start line, I want to give Carlin a chance to catch it before we actually start. And sure enough, he found the hide on the concrete block that was at the threshold, but behind the open entry door (#1).

Then he took a couple of trips around the picnic table (one clockwise and one counter-clockwise) before he finally climbed over the bench to get under the center of the table to find hide #2. Of course that cost us a few seconds while I unwound his leash, which was caught under a bench leg. (I always run Carlin on leash, although I’m allowed to run him off-leash if I choose. It’s just that he moves too fast, and I can lose my ability to see him indicate or to make search suggestions if he’s off leash.)

Then he found #3 under the first bench, #4 under the opposite bench, #5 at the threshold of the quonset hut, #6 behind the back edge of a high shelf (I took him back and forth along the wall under that shelf before he caught it), #7 under a table, and #8 in a cart. I was very pleased with his ability to handle all that converging odor.

By this time, I knew we had a few minutes left. I kept him out searching for almost 2 more minutes. There was all that large grassy area to search, plus the walls, windows, and doorways of all the buildings, plus the sprinklers, flower pots, and myriad cracks in the concrete. Plus that place where it turns out another dog had peed. So much to investigate!

Finally, Carlin slowed down and started walking next to me in heel position. So, I figured he’d found everything in places where we had been, and I couldn’t see anyplace where we hadn’t been. So I called “Finish.”

The judge said “[mumble]” as she made notes on my score sheet.

“Sorry?” I said. “What did you say?”

“Well done,” she said smiling. “He found them all in 5 minutes in the same order that I set them. What number is this?”

I whooped, and danced with Carlin a bit, and fed him more cookies, and then said, “Thank you! That’s pass number #7.”

“Well then,” Penny said, “tomorrow will be #8.”

And with that, I went out into the crowd of my clapping friends and sat on a bench to catch my breath.

Detective map, August 30, 2022, judge Steve Detata, Pacific NW Scent Work Club

When I thought Carlin had found all the hides, I said “Finish”. And the judge said, “Do you know why he was so interested in the hanging bell?” (The hanging bell is represented by the rectangle with a small circle in it, just above hide 5.)

I said, “Um… no. Did we pass?”

Steve, the judge, paused a moment, and then said, “Yes. What do you think about the bell?”

First I whooped, danced a few steps with Carlin, and then talked about the bell. Air was moving through the door of the little elevated schoolhouse (where hides 6, 7, and 8 were), which was about the same height as the bell. Air was also moving up the path and up the side of the schoolhouse ramp, moving odor from the hide #5 at the bottom of a ramp post. All of that converged up inside the bell.

True, Carlin was really interested. He jumped up to it several times, and then investigated it again while going up the ramp. But he never looked that committed to me, so I never called it.

Carlin did a really thorough job, and he did it quickly. As usual, he did better than I did. My 9:14.00 time (out of the 10:00.00 allowed) might have been shorter if I hadn’t gotten lost. Getting lost is one of my issues. Sometimes, I have a hard time remembering what I’ve called and what I haven’t called, and you can see by Steve’s notes that I called hide #5 and #8 twice. So, we got faults.

But we also got a Q!!!

And I did some things well, too. We cleared each area–a dining hall, a pathway, and area out front of the schoolhouse, the ramp up to the schoolhouse, the schoolhouse entryway, and the school room–as we went. I only went back a bit along the pathway so we could move through that in the other direction, but there wasn’t anything there.

Detective is always fun, Q or no Q. But I gotta admit, it’s way more satisfying when you Q.

On to #7!

I wasn’t able to attend the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America‘s National Specialty this year, so I was thrilled the other day when a package arrived in the mail. Inside was a trove of awards. The Dodd family has been truly honored by the club this year.

Starting at the left side of the photo is the club’s Spotlight Award medallion. Russ was given the award for 2021 for promoting IWS as hunting dogs with many published magazine articles, interviews, and photographs. These include articles in Hunting Dog Confidential and Sponiel NW, photographs in Gun Dog, Covey Rise, and Project Upland, and interviews in the Hunting Dog Confidential podcast.

Being the modest guy he is, I couldn’t get Russ to actually wear the medallion for the photo. To myself, I thought that if Russ wouldn’t wear it, I wished Cooper, our first IWS, were here to wear it, as The Coop is responsible for the whole direction our lives have taken to get us to this point.

Next, I was awarded the AKC Outstanding Sportsmanship Award. The VP of club told me that it was for managing the club’s website for many years. True, the platform is a PITA to work with; photos and files are almost impossible to upload to it; and every year I ask for a new platform. But hey. I keep my whining to a minimum and just keep doing it anyway. I guess the club has realized, in a positive dog training sort of way, that I work for recognition (unlike my dogs, who work for cookies).

But the real achiever in the family was Carlin. He was awarded the #1 Irish Water Spaniel Scent Work 2021 trophy for being the IWS to reach the highest level of achievement in scent work last year. I know there are a couple or three other IWS who are hot on his heels for this award, so I’m thrilled to win it for the 3rd time for 2021. He also was awarded a Milestone Award medallion for qualifying to run in Detective scent work searches. He was one of two IWS to win this, so I know that at least that one other team is aiming for the #1 spot next year.

Many thanks to the club, and to the very hard working Awards committee (Kim, Sarah, Nicole, and Edith) for these recognitions.

This May 2022, Russ and I took our Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Grits, to New Plymouth, Idaho for a Natural Ability (NA) test put on by the Treasure Valley chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. (She passed with 108/112 points and a Prize III. And that “natural ability”? Yeah, true, but there’s quite a bit of training that goes into it as well. But I digress…)

We got to the water portion of the test, and when the first dog wouldn’t retrieve, the Test Director realized that he hadn’t arranged for a pick-up dog. At the NA level, there are often dogs who won’t go in the water or don’t retrieve. So, somebody has to swim out and pick up the bumper.

Fortunately, there was an Irish Water Spaniel ready to come to the rescue.

I ran out to the car to get Carlin, who had been hearing the gun shots all morning and likely smelling the birds. I brought him to the line, where the the director gave us some directions. So there was Carlin, the center of attention in a crowd of Pudelpointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, Spinonis, and Munsterlanders Large and Small. Most of the people at the test had never seen an Irish Water Spaniel before, or didn’t quite believe that curly dog could retrieve or hunt. One of the judges actually asked for a photo of Carlin to show his friends in Ohio.

And of course, Carlin put on a show. Not only did he do that signature IWS dramatic leap into the water multiple times, he swam and retrieved with with energy and joy absolutely shining out of both eyes and every curl.

But then, this whole pick-up thing is definitely his Thing. Carlin also went with us to the Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club spaniel hunt tests in Three Forks, Montana. Russ was judging, so we couldn’t run Carlin in the tests, but we thought he’d enjoy the ride and the opportunity to swim after the tests were over.

But as it turned out, Carlin got to be both the set-up dog and the pick-up dog. At the water portion of the tests, the club was using wingers to fling the birds into the water. The placement had to be calibrated so that the birds would land in just the right spot for each level. So of course, there was some experimenting and redo until they got it right. And with bird flu being prevalent, the club had only just enough birds for the test. So all the birds used for set-up had to be retrieved and reused. Carlin was thrilled to go get every one.

During the test, none of the Senior or Master dogs had any trouble retrieving birds out of the water. But many of the Junior dogs just wouldn’t go in. Some would go in, but just paddle around. So, again, somebody had to go get the birds. And that weekend, that Somebody was a very happy Carlin.

Amazingly, only one or two people had ever seen an IWS. I’d have thought that since Carlin got his Master Hunter Upland title at this same club’s test in 2017, that the folks would have at least heard of IWS. We got lots of questions and many admiring remarks, especially from the American Water Spaniel people.

Carlin doesn’t test in field events anymore. So it was a joy to all of us to see that he hasn’t forgotten a thing and still loves it with all his being. I am grateful to both clubs for giving us the opportunity to show off our wonderful IWS.

At the end of the search, the judge said “Yes!” Time stopped. (I know that’s a cliche, but, oh well.)

After a beat, I asked, “Yes?”

And again, laughing, Vicky said “Yes!” Carlin and I had our 5th qualifying score in an AKC Detective search.

For some reason, this search came more easily than other attempts. I don’t think it was because the hides were easy. I think it was more that Carlin and I were in some sync that day, the conditions were good, he worked hard, and my handling was effective for the space.

The scent work trial was at the fairgrounds in Chehalis, Washington, and the search happened in the sun at midday. The start was at one end of a narrow exterior alley way, next to a building that’s often used to display baked goods or flowers during the fair. This not being fair time, the alley was crammed with little vendor booths, cabinets, plant pots, and furniture. Of course, Carlin bombed past the threshold hide (marked #3), and instead we found the one inside a booth first (#1). Then he found the one on a plant pot next to a door (#2). I circled him back toward the start, and then, oh there’s one at the start! (#3). On our way out of the alley, he found #4 on a piece of furniture.

#5 was fun. It was up on a post for the ramp up to the building. A dog could find that one from any direction. So at this point, having found 5 hides, it’s possible that there would be no more. But… on to the interior.

The interior space was cool, and air was moving slightly but noticeably through it. Thankfully, there weren’t any fans, or heat, or air conditioning going to muddy up the airflow.

#6 was another threshold hide. This time, I made Carlin go in multiple directions around the whole threshold. Going back and forth along the wall where the door was, he found the just off the doorway and also the one on the high electrical box (#7).

#8 took him awhile. There were signs, furniture, a small platform, a low wall–all kinds of things where a hide could be put. He kept circling and working the area, checking each object multiple times. He even went back to hide #6. But it wasn’t on any of the things or the walls. I turned out to be in a crack in the concrete. (Later I asked the judge if I could go back and look at that one before she pulled the hide. I had not been able to see anything in that crack, and I wanted to know how she hid it.)

Finally, we searched all the chairs and benches in the middle of the room, all the electrical boxes on the posts, and all the little inset display areas. And bingo, we found #9 in the corner of the walls inside one of the display areas.

There could have been a 10th hide. For Detective, there can be 5 to 10 hides. But Carlin slowed down, looked around, sat down, and looked at me. It appeared to be a “there’s nothing more here” look, so I said “Finish”. And the judge said, “Yes!” After confirming that I’d heard her “Yes” correctly, Carlin and I danced out of the room, me whooping.

I don’t remember now how long it took us to do that whole search. The limit was 9 minutes, and I think we took almost 8 minutes.

We’ve done several Detective searches since this last pass. We’ve NQed all of them. Mostly we have gotten through the whole search area, but missed one hide. But I’m glad to write this all out, so that I can remember that we can do this. Detective is hard, but it’s doable. And Carlin is a very good boy.

Now, if we can just get 5 more passes for the Detective title…

(And wow, I am behind on my posts. This all happened back on April 15, 2022, and I wrote this in July. Oh well…)

When I finish running a Detective search, I almost immediately forget everything that happened. It’s like I’m in this tunnel-of-concentration when I’m running the search. It’s like a movie or something that runs through my mind and then turns off when I’m out. If I haven’t taken photos of the search area to remind me, all I have is the judges drawn map, which is sometimes of little use to me in remembering. (This has been true of all but Carlin’s 3rd Detective pass, which was just too memorable to forget.)

Course map from Carlin’s 4th Detective Q, October 22, 2021

Our fourth (and 1st place!) pass was under judge Carol Chase, at the Idaho Capital City Kennel Club trials on October 22 of this year. The day was damp and cloudy, but not raining, with swirly, variable wind. It was even a bit windy inside the interior space, a conference room with multiple open doors.

I don’t remember the details of our search. I do remember we started with the interior space, and then moved to the exterior space. I remember taking Carlin back inside after we’d searched the outside, and realizing that he thought he’d found everything already and didn’t need to search the inside again. I remember calling Finish, and hearing the judge say “Yes. And your dog told you he was finished a while ago.” “Yeah,” I remember saying, “People tell me that a lot.”

I also remember flashes of things I thought about during the search. And now it seems to me that the key to this search was making sure to cover every area:

  • To make sure to check thresholds, as at the start line (hide #1) into the interior area. I also made sure he checked the doorway to the outdoors, but there was nothing there.
  • To notice odd things, like the lone backpack (#3) hanging from a coat rack.
  • To not assume that just because a hide was on one object (garbage can #1), that a hide can’t also be on the same type of object (garbage can #4) somewhere else.
  • To make sure to get into alcoves, as adjacent to the #5 hide outdoors. That one was next to a recessed doorway, and Carlin first caught the odor in the recess, and then followed the odor out along the wall, up where the bank of electrical boxes were mounted.
  • To make sure to go outside the search area, so the dog can get into any odor from hides that may be out near the edges of the search area, like #6 and #7.

We did well in that search, using 7:01.32 minutes of the 8:00:00 minutes we were given. I was happy. And we had fun. But then, we always have fun in Detective.

Carlin’s 3rd Q in Detective

Carlin’s 3rd qualifying run in an AKC Detective search was a doozy. The interior parts were fine: challenging and fun. But the exterior?

Think loose guard dog immediately on the other side of the chain link boundary fence. Think an angry driver whose usual shortcut was blocked. Or how about a construction truck running through the exterior search area? And a lift-gate truck driving just into the edges of the search area, and then beeping loudly as it backed out again.

Recreation* of map, Detective search, Sept 24, 2021

The interior search area was in the narrow hallway in an animal therapy business that had the whole south end of a long strip mall. The exterior was a graveled alley that ran north and south along the back of the business, which faced west. We later found out that the alley served as access to separate outdoor storage business and as a shortcut for a nearby apartment complex. We also found out that it it often got a lot of traffic.

The hallway was lined on both sides with several folded up tables, lamps, crammed bookshelves, doorways to small storerooms and bathrooms, and overflowing boxes. I say “lined”, but really, the walls of that hallway up to about six or seven feet were almost totally obscured with stuff.

We found the first hide right at the start line, on the table just to our left. Then pretty quickly, Carlin found the hide on the lamp base. At that point, since there was so much stuff in that hallway, I decided to do little circles–up one side of a section of the hallway, then back down the other side, then up to the next small section. So we gave a good look at the shelves and boxes in the middle section of the hallway.

Then we got to the table on the far right of the hallway. Carlin indicated, but I hesitated. Hadn’t we found that one already? But then I said aloud, “It’s just a fault”, thinking that I’d found that one already. So I called it, and the judge said Yes. I guess I hadn’t found it… Turns out the reason it looked familiar was that the hide was placed exactly as our first hide have been placed, on exactly the same kind of table.

At that point, the judge asked me, “Do you want to wait? We can pause the clock.”

Wait for what?, I wondered. I couldn’t see anything to wait for, and Carlin was on a roll. Pausing would only frustrate him. What I didn’t register was the construction truck parked right in the middle of the alley, which was our exterior search area. I could see it through the exit from the hallway, but it didn’t occur to me that the truck might be a problem.

I shook my head No, and we kept going. We found the cypress hide on the last table on the left, got a Yes, and went out the door. By that time, the truck was moving out of the way as we went out to search the exterior area.

We got to the top of the stairs to the alley and ran into odor. Carlin had to go up and down the stairs a few time, and then around the corner to the alcove formed by the stairs and building. As Carlin was solving this puzzle, a lift-gate truck showed up just outside of that alcove, parked on the gravel just inside the search area, lifted some construction materials to the roof of the business next door, and then beep-beeped loudly as it backed out of the alley the way it had come.

Carlin didn’t care. He indicated the cypress hide, and we got a Yes. That one was a interesting puzzle. From the top of the stairs, the hide was below us, on an electrical box. But down on the alley floor, the hide was above us. Then nearby, we found a converging odor hide on the wall, under a power/water complex of outlets and inlets. After getting that Yes, we moved south to the other side of the stairs to take a look at the bobcat.

Just then, a sedan drove down the alley at speed from the north, and screeched to a stop just opposite the stairs and bobcat. The alley was blocked by spectators, Carlin and I, the judge, the timer, and a bunch of cones. And boy oh boy, was that driver pissed. Later people told me that she shouted that this is her usual route, she was in a fu**ing hurry, wanted us to let her through right now, go**amn it. But no one would.

So she did this 8-point turn around, jerking the car forward and backward in short squealing bursts, trying to get out of the alley by going back in the way she’d come in. Several times she almost backed into Carlin or me. She wasn’t watching out for us, I was in kind of a tunnel trace focused only on Carlin, and Carlin was paying attention only to the hide he knew was out there somewhere. And before the car could get out of there, find it he did, the one on the bobcat claws.

I called it just as the car finally got out of there in flurry of spun gravel. I called it. It took several moments, but finally we got an “Oh!… Yes” from the judge.

But I didn’t really register any of that at the time. And I wasn’t thinking about the car. I was thinking: That’s only 7 hides, and there could be 10. So I took Carlin over to the chain link fence to search the fence and gravel over there, and boom! Out charges an off-leash guard dog, barking and growling, teeth bared, and hackles raised. That dog had a job, and that job was to keep everything and everybody away from that fence and out of the storage yard.

Those of you who have followed this blog at all might remember that Carlin has been attacked a number of times, once enough to cause injury. This has made him deeply distrustful of strange dogs and more inclined to join in a fight than run away from it. So when he saw that dog charge the fence on the other side, he decided to charge it from his side, too.

My heart sank. I knew they couldn’t really get to each other, but I was afraid that his joy and trust in the sport of scent work would be destroyed. We’ve worked so hard for years to develop the ability to ignore the other dogs in what has always been a safe setting, and just do the work. And now, I was afraid, we could lose it all.

I jerked his leash gently and said, “Get back to work.” Carlin eased up a little, and the people on the other side of the fence ran out and grabbed their dog. He grumbled. I told him again, “Back to work.” He grumbled a bit more, but then, miracles of miracles, he went back to work.

Carlin slowed down his search, acting like there wasn’t anything else to find, so we went back inside briefly just to see if there might be something we hadn’t found yet. There wasn’t anything else in there, though, so we came outside and I called Finish. The judge stared at me for a moment, and started to say No.

But then she changed it to a Yes. After all, we’d found every hide that hadn’t been pulverized and ground into the gravel by heavy trucks and a squealing sedan.

I, of course, am thrilled with the Q, which was also a 1st place. But it also feels a little off. Best would have been for Carlin to have indicated the place where the hide in the gravel had been.

But I am taking this Q as a gift. There have been times when we’ve been NQd through no fault of our own: things like contaminated searches missed because no demo dog was used, a rule from another organization being applied to one of my AKC searches… You know, stuff like that. Shit happens. And when shit happens, sometimes we just have to take it.

So when we get a gift…, I think we can feel free to take those, too.

*The map in this post is a recreation. The original map is too faded to photograph well enough.

Irish Water Spaniel Carlin wins the IWSCA #1 Scent Work IWS and Spotlight awards for 2020
Carlin wearing the Spotlight medallion with his #1 IWS Scent Work trophy

Russ handed me a package and said “You’ve got mail.” I looked at the box. It was labeled “Bellissimo Traditional Cooked Meatballs.” 


“Russ answered, “It’s from Jeremy.”

Jeremy. My mind took a minute to process—it was busy solving a quilting problem. Then the proverbial light dawned. “Oh!” 

Russ took his pocket knife out and handed it to me. He knew I had to get that box open that box, like right now. 

And inside were several charms with Carlin’s and Tooey’s AKC titles from 2020, a certificate, and, oh boy!, a trophy recognizing the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s #1 Irish Water Spaniel Scent Work award for 2020. Carlin earned that by passing the most AKC Scent Work searches at the highest levels, beyond what other IWS did that year. (Although I know there are some others that are coming up quick!)

And there was also a medallion for the club’s Spotlight Award. The Spotlight Award was established to recognize a team for special accomplishments. Some examples are placements at National events, dedication to the world of dog sports, or any other notable occurrence worthy of special recognition from the club. It’s awarded to teams that are out there promoting the breed by showing everyone what IWS can do. 

The winning team has to be nominated by another club member. I am thrilled with the award and touched that Sarah nominated us. Just knowing my fellow club members, I am sure that there were many who totally deserve this award, and I am grateful to be in their company. 

Carlin was mostly happy to let me take his picture, in all his summer/field-cut glory. But then afterwards, he wondered, “Yes, okay. But where are the meatballs?”

%d bloggers like this: