Archive for March, 2009

Art? Who cares about art? I’m sitting nicely, aren’t I? So, somebody, come throw the darn duck already!


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I’m not sure why going to the river with Cooper makes me so happy. I make plans as soon as I know I’m going to have some free time and the weather (probably) isn’t going to pour down rain. I imagine ahead of time how wonderful it will be. And then, when the day itself finally arrives, I gather the floating Kong toy, the leash, a hat, a small squeak toy, a towel, some dry socks, and a spare pair of shoes, and head out.

Of course, Cooper recognizes this collection of stuff, and starts dancing as soon as he’s put it together where we’re going.

032709_cooperdikeroadIt’s something of a hike out to the river, but the trails are level and the smell of dirt and cottonwoods soothes me every time. The picture above shows Cooper leading the way down the trail, but really, he does this back and forth thing — he does at least twice the mileage I do. This morning, we went out early, so we pretty much had the trail to ourselves.

032709_cooperriverFinally, we got to the banks of the river. With all the rain and snowmelt, the river was running high, so there wasn’t much bank. And what was there was very sandy, as you can see from looking at Cooper’s feet and face. I threw the Kong a few times, but after only 10 retrieves against a stiff current, it looked like Coop was tiring, so we took another trail back to the start. Along the way, Cooper found a pond. It was large enough to toss the Kong across and deep enough for swimming, so I threw the Kong several dozen times there.

Does this description sound sort of boring? It’s hard to convey my sense of being out there, listening to flickers peck-peck the trees for insects, the rush of water along the riverbank, the blue-grayness of the winter day, the whole spans of time without coming across any other person, the feel of wet grit in Cooper’s topknot against my hand, the fresh smell of damp and green and coming spring, and the joy of making someone really, really happy.

Then, of course, on the way home, it was straight to the do-it-yourself dog wash.

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Awhile back, I consulted Lisa, an animal communicator. I told myself that it was “just for fun,” but really, Cooper is such a mystery to me that I hoped I’d get some answers, or some help, or something.

Anyway, one of the things she said was that Cooper wanted me to brush his teeth. Apparently, he’s very proud of his teeth. And also, I was instructed to get chicken-flavored dog toothpaste.

Well, hmmm… We keep Cooper’s teeth clean with bones, and they work pretty well. Plus, I don’t know when Cooper would have even seen a toothbrush. Russ and I use power toothbrushes, and Cooper has not shown any interest in them.

But this morning, I noticed some buildup on Cooper’s teeth, so okay, I thought — I guess I’ll get a dog toothbrush and — why not? — chicken-flavored toothpaste.

When I got home, I put Cooper up on his grooming table, opened up the toothpaste, and put some on his tongue. He liked it, so I put some paste on the finger toothbrush, and proceeded to brush 3 teeth, figuring that that’s a good introduction. I put the stuff away, and went about my business.

A few moments later, I noticed that Cooper was still on the grooming table. Now, this is strange. Usually, he wants off the table ASAP. And when I passed close by him, he pawed me gently. Also strange.

So, I thought, maybe he really does want his teeth brushed. I got out the toothpaste and finger brush, and did all his teeth. Then I guess we were done because Cooper hopped off the table and went to find his orange squeak toy.

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Cooper and I have been out looking for strange men to practice on. Rumor has it that one of the assistants in our upcoming CGC test will be a man. This man will approach us, talk to me briefly, and ask to pet Cooper.

During all this, Cooper will have to sit politely. No lunging forward. No jumping up. No running away in the other direction.

The problem is that the instructor for the CGC class and all of the other students are women. Cooper is used to women. Hence, the need for men.

So, last Saturday, we were out walking on Hawthorne in SE Portland, looking for a man to talk to. (Hawthorne is one of those busy streets that has not quite been totally gentrified out of its hippie past.)

Just off Hawthorne, we came upon a black man gathering bottles and his shopping cart. He had longish curly brown hair, not unlike Cooper’s curly brown topknot. Seeing Cooper made the man smile. I said, “Hello,” and he said, “Is that an Obama dog?”

We stood and talked awhile, first about the differences between an Irish Water Spaniel and Portuguese Water Dog and then about the need to keep curly hair brushed out to avoid dreadlocks.

All of a sudden, I realized that Cooper was being a perfect gentleman, sitting quietly at my side, just letting me go on talking. Oh, happiness! Right away, I told him “good sit!” and “good boy!” and fed him about 15 little pieces of hot dog.

Just then, about 2 blocks away, a woman with her own shopping cart began to screech at my conversation partner. I’m not sure what exactly the woman was saying, but whatever it was, Cooper began to look a touch restless. I decided it was time to walk on while we were still having success. And so we did.

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Sometime in 2008

Do you remember the commercial for Shake ‘n Bake from years ago? A little boy says something like, “It’s Shake n’ Bake, an’ I helped!”?

Well — think Russ working on the computer, and Cooper “helping.” The result is this picture.


Russ was trying to get some work done, and Cooper has having none of being left out. He’s jumping around and leaping up on Russ, on the desk, and yes — you guessed it — on the keyboard.

And what key does he hit, but the key that activates the camera in the computer monitor. And that produces this image of Cooper and Russ giving high-5’s.

This picture is one of my favorites. In fact, it’s the wall paper on my computer monitor at work.

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If you’re interested in Cooper’s pedigree, take a look at this great website:


It shows many generations back of Cooper’s ancestors. You can probably find the pedigree of almost any registered IWS on the site by going here: http://www.iwsdatabase.com/

This is a wonderful service, and very interesting. The site is copyrighted 2009 by Michael Roeterdink. Thank you, Michael!

The only thing I wish the database included are the dogs’ call names. I’ve met many IWS by now, but I know only a few of their registered names. And so few folks put the call name in the registered name, like I did: “Cooper” (call name) and “Realta Rosario Cooper” (registered name). There’s no requirement to use the call name in the registered name — I just thought it would be easier for me.

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Summer, 2001


After Kayak and Chaco, we got Cleo, the chow-mix. We got her from the Oregon Humane Society in Portland.

Kayak had been gone for 1-1/2 years, and I couldn’t stand being dog-less one more day. I missed the dog smell, and I was lonely on my walks.

So I went to the Humane Society and looked at the description cards before I actually saw any dogs. At the time, I was looking for “mellow” or “laid back.”

I met three dogs, one at a time, in the Society’s meet-and-greet room. The first two dogs completely ignored me. They found me less interesting than the chairs, plants, toys, walls, corners, and floor. Obviously, not the right dogs for me.

Then Cleo came in. She walked straight toward where I was sitting, and put her chin on my knee. Clearly, this was my dog.

She was indeed mellow and laid back, as the picture of her on the porch shows. Lying around, wherever we were, was her usual posture.

But Cleo died on Christmas Eve, 2006. I started to look around for an active water dog who would like boats. And in April of 2007, we got Cooper, an IWS on the far end of not-mellow and un-laid back.

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Sometime in the late 1980’s kayak_chaco_001

Sometimes you’re just lucky.

One of the reasons we got Cooper was that we’d already had several dogs. A good breeder, like Rosemary, wants to be sure that the new owner can actually handle the demands of a puppy and then a dog.

These two were our first dogs. First we got Kayak, our Malamute mix, in 1985. She was our wedding present to ourselves. She came from Gold Bar, Washington, and lived with us for almost 15 years. She was a companion, a playmate, an adventurer, and a lover of cows and car rides.

Then, a couple of years after we got Kayak, we got Chaco, a white German Shepherd mixed with something. He came from a farm in southwest Washington.

Neither had the official “water” in their names, but they loved the water anyway. And we loved them.

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Cooper has, among his many qualities, an essential sense of fairness. He doesn’t mind rules, so long as he gets to decide on some of them, and he doesn’t resent being scolded when the scolding is deserved.

And he doesn’t steal. He trades.


The above picture shows an example. Among the valuable things in the house are the dog’s orange squeaky toy and the people’s washcloth. I mean, they must be valuable, right? Each one is handled several times a day. One squeaks and the other feels so good to chew. Both of them smell like both the people and the dog. Both are kept in their own special cabinets.

Every once in a lucky while, the washcloth’s cabinet is left open, and the temptation is too great to resist. But it wouldn’t do to simply take the washcloth. The people don’t like that. Maybe it’ll be OK if a trade is made: a washcloth for the toy.

Now, you might say that this is accident. That the dog simply wandered into the bathroom, spied the washcloth, and dropped the toy in order to grab the cloth. But I don’t think so. The dog trades the toy for other favorite things, too.

img_0475 Where is the second shoe? Ahh… traded for a toy.

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