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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.

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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.

pretrim

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Two Master ribbons

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

We can’t say we were really looking forward to this last weekend. Carlin was entered in his first Master level spaniel hunt tests, but the weather forecast had the temperature soaring past 100° F for both days. And our training sessions leading up to this weekend were revealing a few possible gaps in our performance. Carlin (we) have improved in some areas, but are still sketchy in others. That combined with the fact that Carlin is a hot blooded dog who easily overheats, we were not primed for a successful weekend.

On the other hand, the hunt test grounds near Monmouth, Oregon are very familiar. The first time I was there was in December 2013 with the Mighty Coop. The high that day was only 9° F. In the photo below is a toasty Cooper and his birds, but with me bundled up with layers of long underwear, and topped with insulated overalls. Notice that I was wearing two hats, one with ear flaps.

The might Coop chillin' with his birds

The mighty Coop chillin’ with his birds

But back to Carlin and a hot hunt test put on by the Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club.

We started the morning with the field work. We were running last in the Masters, and so we got to start around 9:30 a.m. and in the mid 70°s F. Watching and waiting behind the 8 dogs ahead of us got on Carlin’s nerves, especially when he saw a bird fall and he was not called for the retrieve. And it got on my nerves with basic performance anxiety, as this was my first attempt at handling a dog at the Master level.

Carlin stays focused while we wait our turn to run

Carlin stays focused while we wait our turn to run

The field was thigh-high grass interspersed with tall groves of Scotch broom and blackberries. And it was uphill. Carlin put up his first bird within seconds, but the gunner missed it with both shots. As the bird flew away over the trees, I was so happy to see Carlin sitting and watching intently (steady to flush and shot). A fly-away is often a weak link for a dog, but Carlin did me proud.

I called him back to continue our run. Unfortunately, I did not cast him off in the opposite direction, so he immediately took off in the direction of the fly-away that he had watched and carefully tracked. Oops. A few whistles and a verbal comment got him back on course and hunting again. As Carlin and I rounded a large clump of Scotch broom, he put up another bird. The right hand gunner knocked it down as it glided downhill into a another clump off the course.

Carlin stayed steady, but the judges, who had still been behind the Scotch broom, could not see if the bird had been hit or was down. I made another mistake by saying that Carlin could find it rather than taking a pass on the retrieve. He just sat there while I chatted with the judges.

After a bit, they said go for it. So with the release command, off Carlin went. But it wasn’t a slam dunk. He took a good line but cut left about 80 yards away. I was thinking I really screwed this up by being over-confident in his ability. But he cut back right into the clump and after a long 30 seconds of my heart in my throat, he came trotting back with the bird and delivered smack into my hand. The gamble paid off, and we were onto the next series after the Seniors and Juniors finished their land series.

It was 1:30 p.m. by the time we ready to run our turn at the “hunt dead” series, and the temperature was now a balmy 103° F. We waited for our turn in the shade of some big maple trees, but when we came out to run we were hit with a blast furnace of sun and dead air. We had 5 minutes to find a dead planted pheasant about 65 yards out, and with me directing Carlin with hand signals and whistles from the line. He did it in just over 3 minutes. I immediately threw this hot dog into a stock tank full of water, where he relaxed and drank his fill.

So we qualified to run the water series. For the water work, the order was reversed, starting with Junior dogs and ending with Masters. Being we were the last Master in the queue, we were the last dog to run for the day. The water work started with a blind retrieve across the Luckiamute River, about 50 yards away, followed with a marked retrieve into the river.

Well, when we got to the line, Carlin locked on to the bird handlers and ignored my direction to the blind. He jumped in and swam about 45° off course, swimming about 80 yards downstream to the bird handlers. He struggled up the steep bank, did not find a bird, and so he looked back at me to tell him what to do next. I whistled him back into the water, and now he had to swim about 50 yards upstream to find the low bank on which the bird was hidden in the grass. He was spent, but at 5 minutes and 10 seconds on the clock, he found it, swam back, and delivered it to hand.

Did I mention the 5 minute limit? Even though we’d gone passed that, the judges let us proceed to the water retrieve, which was launched and shot by the very handlers that distracted him on the blind. So back into the water, cross the river, and back with another bird. Oh well, I was thinking, nice try.

At the ribbon ceremony, the Juniors got theirs first, next the Seniors, and then the Masters. No ribbon for Carlin. And then the surprise. One of the judges mentioned that they were a Master ribbon short, so the secretary went and got another orange ribbon. It turns out that the judges were impressed with Carlin’s persistence and not giving up after that long swim, so  they decided to be flexible on the 5 minute limit. And considering how he smoked the land series, they gave us the benefit of the doubt and awarded Carlin his first Master pass.

Carlin shows off his Master ribbon where Cooper showed off his pheasants. The sweat on my brow is from the heat and the anxiety of watching Carlin's water blinds.

A tired Carlin shows off his Master ribbon in the exact spot where Cooper showed off his pheasants in the first photo. The sweat on my brow is from the heat and the anxiety of watching Carlin’s water blinds.

Tomorrow is another chance for another ribbon, but no matter how tomorrow turns out, today was sweet indeed.

In Pursuit of the Wily Pear

One of our favorite training grounds is St. Louis Ponds, south of Portland, Oregon. In addition to the ponds and the hundreds of acres available to practice field work, there are a few extra delights this time of year. In the back corner of the park, we came across an old pear tree full of ripe fruit. After a hot morning of retrieving birds and swimming, a piece of juicy ripe fruit is just what an Irish Water Spaniel wants.

May I have another please?

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I will work for pears

A balanced diet is what is best for an active field dog. So after pears, maybe it’s time for an August blackberry dessert.

Yummmm.

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Blackberries for a second course

Also in this far corner of the park is a pond that brings back fond memories. This is where Cooper revealed his passion for water, jumping, and retrieving. The masthead banner of the Cooper Project (see top of this page) is Cooper leaping into this pond. I made this image on July 4, 2008. Here is the uncropped version:

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A young Cooper (17 months) doing what he loved

So here we were, 8 years and one month later, with our current IWS, Tooey and Carlin. From the very location where I shot the image of Cooper in 2008, I made this short slo-mo video of Tooey and Carlin making enthusiastic but less dramatic entries into the same pond, lowered several feet by the July and August heat.

Life is good.

 

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