When I first arrived in Boise, I went out to find the local leash-free dog parks. I was very disappointed to learn that the city leash-free parks prohibit intact male dogs, so I went off to look for other alternatives.

Turns out that there is a large park called the Military Reserve that has a off-leash area and many off-leash trails. But when I arrived in the parking lot, two very friendly dog owners warned me about goat heads.

It’s a plant, apparently, with thorns that can push deep indents and even holes in shoes and dog feet. One of the dog owners showed me the bottom of her boots so I could see how deep the thorns go. Yikes!

We looked around at the reserve to see if we could see a sample of the actual plant, but I didn’t actually see one until I visited a friend’s house yesterday and found one growing in his back yard.

It’s a low growing plant that has seed pods with pairs I’d 1/8″ inch thorns.

You can see a green seed pod in the lower right quadrant of the photo below, just under the long brown tree seed.

The green ones are reportedly softer and not quite so painful. But here’s a dried one I just pulled out of my shoe.

So now, on top of the ticks I already knew about, and the cheat grass that I haven’t seen yet, now I have to worry about goat heads.

It looks like I’m going to have to clip my dogs even shorter than I thought, just so that I can examine them closely for all these small, but not insignificant, complications.

So far, I think Boise is beautiful. But it doesn’t offer the tick-, cheat grass-, goat head-free luxury I left behind in NW Oregon.

I have disappeared. Or at least, that must be what the dogs think. I’ve been gone for more than a week, the whole house is in an uproar of boxes, missing furniture, unusual activity, and barely enough attention from Russ to keep them fed and taken to the park. Plus, I hear it’s been raining a lot in Portland, and with the house needing to stay relatively clean so it can be sold, the dogs can’t run freely in and out. 

Everything is just so wrong. So I guess the dogs are thinking that safest thing to do is stay on or near Russ at all times. Kind of cute, but it does make it hard to pack. 

Soon. Soon we’ll all be together again. And everything will be okay. Really. I promise. 

Where is she?

“Where is Trice?”

“I don’t know. But almost dinner time. She’s always home for dinner time.”

Ah, my good and faithful companions. I won’t be home to Portland, but you both and Russ will be joining me in our new home very soon.

But never fear. Russ will be there for dinner time, and bed time, and walk time, and ball time. And pretty soon, you’ll be here in Boise with me, and we’ll all be together again. 

The Idaho cut

We’re moving to Idaho soon. Boise, to be specific.


There are (gasp!) ticks in Idaho. I hate ticks. I’ve had ticks on me, and they are just gross. Makes me shudder just to think of it. So, even though we’ll use a tick preventive of some sort on our dogs, I’ll still need to check them regularly for ticks. Checking for ticks in a long IWS show coat is just not my idea of fun. I know many IWS folks live in tick country, so this may not be a particular problem for them, but like I said, I really hate ticks, and I want to make looking for them as quick and easy as possible.

Plus, you really need a long coat on an IWS only for conformation shows. There aren’t that many IWS in Idaho. There are a few, but I haven’t heard that they participate in conformation. The next shows in Idaho are in the middle of next month, but I don’t think we’re going to be settled enough for me to be able show Carlin, even if there were going to be other IWS to compete with.

And then there’s the fact that I’ll be moving to start my new job a couple of weeks to a month before Russ is able to move. That will leave him responsible for the weekly combing, not one of his favorite activities. Keeping the dogs fed, the poop picked up, and the nails trimmed will give him enough dog chores to do. Plus, he’ll be busy and distracted with sorting and packing up the house here in Oregon.

So I decided to cut both my dogs’ coats short. Short coats will just make life a lot easier.


Tooey’s coat was already pretty short (that’s her pre-trim length in the photo above), but Carlin had the long leg, long topknot, and long ear coat. Plus, he was looking a bit woolly after his week away at the boarding kennel while Russ and I were off on our boating trip.

So, off it came, down to about 5/8″ all over, with extra on the topknot and ears.


Both dogs were pretty patient with the whole procedure, Tooey more than Carlin. As long as let them off the table occasionally so that they could properly tell off the squirrels, the dogs were happy to cooperate with me.

Good dogs! On to the next adventure.


Carlin’s 4th MHU pass ribbon

Carlin pulled off two more Master Hunter Upland passes over the four-day Labor Day tests at Scatter Creek: Mount Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association on September 2 and Puget Sound English Springer Spaniel Club on September 3. The next two days he didn’t pass; he overheated on the third day and had to be pulled, and then on the fourth day, he was steady to the flush after a long trail on a running pheasant, but then broke on the shot.

He did okay work on Friday. Even though he had just gotten stung multiple times by a swarm of yellow jacket wasps (and then given 37 mg of Benedryl) a half hour before his run, he did nice land work, finding his birds, being steady to wing and shot, and delivering nicely to hand. But then he took about 4 minutes (out of the 5 allowed) to do his hunt dead, and, on the water, ran the bank back and forth on the water blind before finally plunging into the creek to swim across and find the bird on the other side. Fortunately, he did his water marked retrieve with some style, so that combined with his stellar land work got him enough points to pass. One judge gave Carlin all 10s on his land work, remarking that Carlin was the best IWS he’s ever seen work.

Saturday’s test was a thing of beauty. Carlin’s scores averaged 9.1 from one judge and 9.2 from the second judge (out of 10). Most of the other Master dogs had difficulty locating birds on the long curving land course, and several were NQ’d for not finding any. But Carlin found his two birds in just under 4 minutes, trapping one pheasant and flushing and retrieving the second. The cover was knee high grass interspersed with hillocks covered with brambles, small trees, and dying ferns. Master dogs ran first, so it was still cool-ish for Carlin’s run.

His hunt dead was equally stunning. He went straight out the 65 yards and straight back with the bird. It took about 30 seconds, earning applause from the gallery.

His water blind was not elegant, but well above the standard needed to pass, and then, after being rock-steady at the line, he did an IWS-style leap into the water out to his marked retrieve bird and delivered it to hand.

All in all, we were thrilled. Four master passes in a row (2 at Monmouth and 2 at Scatter Creek), on top of 4 for 4 junior passes and then 4 for 4 senior passes, is just amazing and wonderful for a 2-1/2 year old male IWS. It took just 54 weeks from his first junior upland pass to his fourth master pass. Of course we were disappointed that he didn’t get that 5th master pass needed for the MHU title, but that will come.

The show dog does OK

Carlin did okay at the Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound’s regional specialty.


Carlin with his prizes for Reserve Winner’s Dog and a qualifying score in Rally Novice B (IWSCOPS Specialty), and another Reserve Winner’s Dog (Sammamish KC)

By the time we got to Bothell on Saturday, it had cooled off to a humid high-70s F. Not bad. Not nearly as bad as last Saturday’s hunt test. So that was a good start.

Our first event was Rally Novice. I’ve been in Rally ring many times, but not for a couple of years, but Carlin had seen a full course of rally signs only once, last Tuesday. The good thing was that this event was being held in the daycare building of the Academy of Canine Behavior, and Carlin had been in there working around other dogs last winter. So the space wasn’t strange. And many of the other people competing were trainers he’d worked with while at the Academy, so they were only mildly strange.

But still, I can be a worrier, so I worried. Carlin has not completely recovered from his being attacked, and he can become upset and afraid when he’s on a leash and being approached too close by another dog. There was lots of room, so I just kept him out of the way of the other dogs, and fed him lots of treats and praise and scratches under the chin when he paid attention to me and not to all the other dogs.

When it was our turn, I rushed him on a close leash into the ring, completed the course very quickly, and then rushed out. I don’t remember much about the run, except that I consciously decided not to repeat one station that I knew we’d done badly on, and that I had to pull Carlin’s attention back to me several times. I didn’t even have a sense of whether we’d qualified or not — I had to ask Kim later to check whether we had qualified. We did, with an 83, and he surprised and pleased me by doing a very polite job of sitting next to me while ribbons were handed out to the cluster of qualifiers.

Conformation was next, much later in the day. In the meantime, Colleen, bless her, transformed my rough grooming job in to a beautiful sculpture of an IWS. Carlin looked great. Once in the ring, he moved beautifully, but I couldn’t get him to stack well for the judge. Everyone could see that the judge seriously considered Carlin, but his unwillingness/inability to hold a stack for more than 2 seconds did us in. So instead of Winner’s Dog, Carlin took home second place, Reserve Winner’s Dog.

But I was honored and pleased that two well-respected IWS breeders asked to examine Carlin. They had heard, and then seen for themselves, how beautifully he moves, and I think both were impressed with his two recent master-level spaniel hunt test passes, too.

The next day at the Sammamish KC dog show, Carlin got another RWD. This was a tougher show for him. Way more strange dogs getting too close. I tried to keep him back and away from the other dogs, but one got that one inch too close, and Carlin growled loudly and got ready to lunge. I intercepted him in time, but not in time to prevent him from making a spectacle of himself. It was really remarkable, how all the people turned their backs to me after that. Perhaps they were just giving me some privacy; perhaps they were excluding me; or perhaps something in the middle.

So on top of that excitement, the ring was relatively small and the ground very uneven. Even though Carlin did a much better job of stacking this time, I couldn’t really get him into his most beautiful gait. And plus, I’d shown under this job before — she didn’t give the nod to Cooper, either, and Carlin is built much like Cooper was.

But still, there was improvement, so I was pleased. We hopped into the car, stopped briefly to have a nice lunch with Tammy and Steve, and then took the long drive home.

Day 2: same club and same location as yesterday, but different judges. Saturday’s judges knew Carlin, as we often practice together at Scatter Creek, Washington. Having a personal relationship didn’t hurt his cause. But the judges on Day 2 were relative strangers. They were known to have sharp pencils and had lots of experience running and judging accomplished dogs. So we were not expecting to be given any slack.

On Sunday, it was a good 10° cooler and since we now running as the 4th dog of the day, we got a cool start. Carlin put up his first bird at mid-course, and then sat while the gunner dropped it down further down the course.

Carllin quarters at full speed through tall grass

Carlin quarters at full speed through tall grass

The judges tapped my shoulder for a release, and upon my release to Carlin, he zoomed straight out and straight back with the bird delivered to my hand. Text book awesome.

Carlin heads out to pick up a pheasant

Carlin heads out to pick up a pheasant

We continued up the course where Carlin caught the scent of a bird near the edge of huge cluster of Scotch broom and blackberry brambles. He circled the cluster and then dove in to root out a bird.

The brown spot in the center is Carlin forcing out a pheasant from heavy cover

The brown spot in the center with a pink tongue is Carlin forcing out a pheasant from heavy cover

It flushed, the gunners missed, and I had no idea where Carlin was because I was on the other side of the cover. So were the judges. Was he steady? Apparently so. I called him in back, and as soon as I pulled broken-off pieces of blackberry vine out of his topknot, we were done with the land series.

Carlin takes a break while the judges record their scores for his last flush

Carlin takes a break while the judges record their scores for his last flush

For Sunday’s hunt dead test, we were the second dog to run. Only 4 out of 9 dogs running masters qualified on the land series and made it this far. (We were dumb struck by our good fortune.) A cross breeze had come up, and so I lined Carlin up downwind for this 5 minute test and he nailed the bird in under a minute. On to the water . . . .

Same scenario as yesterday, but now Carlin knew that there was not a bird across the river next to the bird handlers. I got him to focus on the bank directly across from us and I sent him with a “Back” command. He immediately cut left and ran the near bank and refused to enter the water.

WTF? I pleaded with my whistle, hands, and because I was under the observation of 3 judges, I limited my verbal commands to skip the traditional 4 letter words. After about 3 minutes of running up and down bank ignoring my commands (a very bad thing), he jumped into the river, swam across, grabbed the bird, swam back, and handed it off like nothing unusual had taken place.

I leashed him up while the judges conferred, gesticulated, shrugged, etc. for several long moments. Finally, they said they would let me try for the water retrieve to see if he altered their opinion. No pressure. Carlin sat at my side, the bird went up, the shot report came across the river, the bird hit with a splash while Carlin calmly sat and watched. The judge tapped for a release, I sent Carlin, and off he went, straight out, straight back, bird to hand. More judges conferring, scribbling on their score sheets, gesturing. To be determined.

Well, once again, his stellar land work and marked water retrieve saved our asses and Carlin passed another Master test. Other than this water blind debacle, his scores were mostly 9s. We looked at the score sheets later, and noticed that the Trainability score for the water blind had been scribbled out and changed. Perhaps that change put his Trainability score just enough so we did not NQ.

To celebrate, three of us decided it was time to go swimming in the Luckiamute River. Both Tooey and Patrice were troopers in the heat and fully enjoyed Carlin’s Master passes from the cool of the water.

Back into the Luckiamute river for the love of water

Back into the Luckiamute river for the love of water

Patrice and Tooey washing away the tension of watching Carlin's first Master passes.

Patrice and Tooey washing away the tension of watching Carlin’s second Master pass


Two Master ribbons

Life is good. And we do it all again in two weeks.

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