Archive for April, 2009

I had been warned that just because a dog is on a flyball team, that does not mean that he will actually run in a tournament. But this past weekend, at The Ball Is Out There tournament, Laura, my very kind flyball captain, said that he would get to warm up. This would give us both a feel for the noise, activity, confusion, lights, music, other dogs, and distractions that make up the excitement of a flyball tournament.

Russ got some video of Sunday morning’s races. Cooper shows up for the first 16 seconds of the video, acting like a twit and showing off his samurai hairdo. He also appears much later (at about 2:50) doing some of the warm ups:

Unfortunately, the video doesn’t include the two heats that Cooper actually got to run. One time he did it perfectly (hooray!). The second time he stopped after the 2nd hurdle, turned around to confirm with me that, yes, he *is* supposed to go and get the ball now, and then finished his run. Slowed up the team some, but fortunately, they thought it was funny. (Cooper doesn’t usually stop to confirm anything!)

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Here’s the problem: My flyball captain is of the opinion that Cooper’s long topknot unnerves the other dogs because they can’t see his eyes. And this is the weekend of the big The Ball is Out There flyball tournament — we can’t be freaking out the teammates.

Normally, I’d get out the scissors. But in a week we’re going up to the 2009 Irish Water Spaniel National Specialty, for which he has to look his best. His “best,” my friends in the breed inform me, includes the long, full, forward-growing topknot. “I know you’d like to trim it, Patrice,” Colleen says, “but the judges like it long.” Sigh…


prize winning hair-in-eyes

So, here’s today’s solution:


The flyball folks at first thought it looks like a muffin on his head, but then they settled on “samurai.” It goes along with the whole fighting-ninja-streak-down-the-flyball-course idea much better than a muffin.

And the good news is, Cooper got to run in a couple of races, and actually did it right once. Not bad for a non-border-collie first-timer, who’s only been training for a few months. I think he even got a point toward his “Flyball Dog” title. (I have no idea how many point he needs, or even exactly how many points he got today. Everything went so fast.)


Thanks to some other IWS folks who suggested the the use of the coated elastic. You can’t see it, but I put in an orange one — team colors, you know.

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I have had the same dream since I was 10 or 11. Not every night, but often. Sometimes I go for months without dreaming it, and some nights, like last night, I have some variation of the same dream several times.

Actually, it’s a nightmare. Someone is breaking into my house.

The house is usually one of my many different dream houses, but sometimes it’s my current real house. Sometimes several people are breaking in, and sometimes just one. Sometimes they break into the basement, and other times, it’s the main floor or the second storey.

Sometimes they actually get in and steal things. Sometimes they’re just jiggling the doors and windows. Mostly, I don’t encounter the housebreakers, but a few times I’ve actually talked to them. Once I begged for my life. Once I persuaded them to go away.

Usually I can’t get moving enough to call the police or grab a gun. Sometimes I actually get to the phone or to the weapon, but they don’t work or my fingers fumble. Sometimes I actually get through on the phone, but I can’t talk or I can’t make them understand me.

Last night, I had this dream over and over. It felt real. It was my real house. The three of us were sleeping in our bedroom, Russ and I in the bed, Cooper in his open crate. And someone had broken in. I could hear small shufflings in the rooms at the other end of the house, but I didn’t see a flashlight glow. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the bed to do anything to help myself.

And through it all, in my dream Cooper slept. He didn’t bound out of his crate, stiff legged, barking his whoo-howl like he usually does at any strange sound.

I told myself that if Cooper wasn’t concerned, then probably it was okay. And in my dream, I’d go back to sleep, only to wake up again to sounds of someone breaking in. Over and over. And every time, Cooper slept, peaceful, unworried. If Cooper’s not concerned, then I am safe.

He wasn’t. And, at least for now, I am safe.

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One of my friends recently asked me what I was going to do on the weekend. I started talking about something having to do with Cooper — flyball practice, or going to the river, or something.

She interrupted me to say (not unkindly), “Boy, it’s all dog, all of the time with you, huh?”

And now it occurs to me that readers of this blog must get that impression, too (all 3 or 4 of you).


Four favorite things: my dog, the water, hiking, and my husband (the photographer)

Oh, well. I guess it is. Or at least it’s a lot of dog, lots of the time.

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At last year’s Northwest Pet & Companion Fair, Cooper refused to jump. NW Air Dogs had set up a pool and a dock for a charity event inside the Portland Expo Center. For quite awhile, Coop had been jumping into ponds and rivers from the bank, but he hadn’t jumped off a dock, and he certainly hadn’t jumped into a pool.

Human-made pools are strange. Everything’s all clear and blue. You can’t really see the bottom. So even if we admit that there is some water in there, there’s no way to tell how deep it is. Too deep? Too shallow? Who knows? Cooper decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and declined.

This year the light switched on. And Cooper jumped. Boy, did he jump. And jumped, and jumped, and jumped again. See for yourself:

At work, I’ve been writing recently about the importance of doing enough “pleasant activities” every day to keep one’s mood upbeat. This weekend, I overflowed with pleasant activities. The picture below shows how happy both Coop and I were after today’s dock diving. The ribbon is for a 14.5′ jump — 2nd place in the day’s friendly competition!

Hugs for a job well done!

Hugs for a job well done!

Thanks to my sweet husband for taking this bright, warm, sunny, perfect boat-building-weather morning off from working on the boat to come and take pictures!

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For almost the entire time we’ve had Cooper, we’ve been asked, “Is that a labradoodle?” We also get asked, “Is that some sort of poodle?” Sigh… No, we explain (more and more patiently as time goes on), it’s an Irish Water Spaniel.

These are such popular questions that another IWS owner has even created some T-shirts that say “Not a poodle or a doodle”.

But just in the last couple of weeks, the question has changed. Now it’s “Is that a Portuguese Water Dog?” or even, “Is that an Obama dog?”

Of course, Porties are very nice dogs. I even considered getting one. And I wish the very best to the new First Puppy and his people. But, these days, I’m glad I don’t own one.

It might be time to create a new T-shirt.

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I was looking through my blog stats, and found that lots of people get here by doing a search on “finding an IWS dog”. Here’s what I did:

  • Read everything on the web about Irish Water Spaniels.
  • Go to the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America website, and look at their breeder referral page. Contact the closest breeder and ask them about their Irish Water Spaniels.
  • Go to a dog show and talk to owners, breeders, and handlers of Irish Water Spaniels. The people are usually really friendly (unless it’s right before show time — then they might be rushed). The AKC has a list of all the shows, and about a week or so ahead of each show, you can follow links to the show’s pages. They will indicate what time and how many (if any) IWS will be at that show.
  • Join the IWS yahoo group, read, and ask questions.
  • Do the same above steps for another dog breed you’re interested in, so you can compare. This will give you a much fuller picture of both breeds and their people. I did this with Portuguese Water Dogs.
  • Make nice with all these people. See if you can get an appointment to go meet somebody’s dog at home. Try to meet both dogs and bitches. Since I’ve had Cooper, I’ve participated in group meet-and-greets, where several owners bring their dogs to the same place.
  • Be prepared to chat about your experience with any dogs you’ve had in the past, what kind of home and yard you have, your other family members (human, canine, feline, avian, and other), and why you’re interested in an IWS.
  • Send a thank you note to everyone who helps you. (I know — so 20th century, but people like it and it’s good karma.)
  • If you haven’t found your breeder yet, go back to the IWS yahoo group and ask about available puppies. Say what you’re looking for: a companion, a show dog, a hunting dog, an agility, obedience, rally, dock diving or flyball dog, or whatever. If you’ve done all the above steps, enough people will know who you are and will be more likely to help you.

Here’s what I couldn’t have known ahead of time:

  • If you do get an IWS, be prepared to be adopted by the IWS family. The IWS people are a major reason to choose this breed. And that’s good because IWS can be a challenge to live with — most likely you’ll need all the help you can get. They’re also a wonderful group to celebrate your successes with.

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The answer, based on this photo taken last Saturday, must be “yes”!

tail as rudder

tail as rudder

Also, brake maybe?

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Today, we decided to give dock diving another try. A local club, Cascade Dock Dogs, practices in a pond about an hour southeast of Portland. If you took a look at an earlier post, this practice took place at the same pond.

Last time, as you might remember, Cooper fell off the big dock. Jumping was not involved.

Today, though, was a different story. After several practice jumps off the puppy dock, Cooper figured it out. He got almost 11 feet off the big dock. Not quite up to daddy Balloo’s standards of 21′. (Yet.)

chasing the wubba toy off the edge

chasing the wubba toy off the edge

in mid-air

in mid-air

touch down

touch down

tail-butt junction lines up at almost 11 feet

tail-butt junction lines up at almost 11 feet

We’re considering trying it out in an indoor pool next weekend at the Northwest Pet and Companion Fair. It’ll depend — will he be too tired out from the flyball contest earlier in the day, or will that just rev him up for more action?

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Yesterday evening, I went to one of my favorite off-leash areas, the one at Mt. Tabor Park in Portland. It’s got lots of trails and trees, a central bark-dusted play area, generally responsible people, nice dogs, and room enough to get away from the inevitable obnoxious dog or person.

But — my main point here is to rant a bit …

I noticed that Cooper and the other males (intact and not) were following this German Shepherd bitch around, noses to butt, pretty closely most of the time. At one point, I got a look at her rear, and saw that it was red and swollen. I asked her people, “Is she in heat?”

And listen to what they said: “A little bit.” A little bit in heat? Is that like a little bit pregnant?

Now, I realize that “being in heat” is a process that goes over many days, and that on only some of those days is the bitch actually able to conceive.

But really, what were these people thinking?

  • Do they actually want to produce puppies with whatever male gets there first?
  • Did they want to create a cause for conflict in a public park?
  • Did they want their poor girl to be harassed and bothered the whole time?
  • Did they want to break the published rules about bringing bitches in heat to the off-leash area?

No, probably not. Probably what they wanted was to get out of the house, to a nice park, on an unseasonably sunny spring day. But still.

I grabbed Cooper and left. Maybe we’ll find another park for the next couple of weeks.

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Well, it’s official. I’m a paid-up, tennis-ball carrying flyball team member. In fact, I picked up my team tee-shirt today.


Actually, I got two tee-shirts. This running around with the dogs can get a person all hot and sweaty. If Cooper actually gets to run in a tournament, I may need to change shirts.

He’s doing great on the box turns — mostly always hits the box with all four feet. He does well coming back to me (as well he should, since I’m running away from him as fast as I can so he’ll chase me).

He’s still not so hot at passing another dog. He wants to stop and play, or at least check the other dog out. Fortunately, the other dogs don’t give a rip about Cooper when they’re running — they just want to get the ball.

We’ll work on it. I have a lot of help.

The club is going to put on a demo the local Northwest Pet & Companion Fair at the Portland Expo Center on April 18th. We’ll see how we do in all the excitement. If you come to the fair on Saturday, look for the team in the bright orange shirts.

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Halleluia!!! Last night, Cooper passed the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. I thought I’d give a short run-down of each part of the test.

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

Cooper was so busy orienting himself in this strange room and looking around at all the unfamiliar people (particularly the strange guy over in the corner rolling idly back and forth in a wheelchair) that he needed several minutes to settle down. The evaluator was very patient.

Finally I got Cooper in a sit, and the volunteer “friendly stranger” approached from the side. It looked like Cooper was going to stand up, so I moved slightly to put more of myself between the woman and Cooper, and Coop settled down again. The woman and I shook hands. Coop stretched his neck w-a-y out to get a better sniff, but stayed sitting.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

And he stayed sitting while the woman petted his topknot briefly. The evaluator reminded me to breathe.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

Cooper is actually quite practiced at this, having let many, many people brush him. He just stood there and let his ears be looked at and a brush be run down his back. He was less happy about having his two front feet picked up, but he allowed it.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

This one was easy — it took place in a big empty room. I put Cooper in a “right here” (our version of a loose heel), and he walked right with me: right turn, left turn, about face, stop and sit. We practice all of these a lot on our daily walks.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd

Cooper is also used to gaiting in circles from being in the show ring. What was less familiar was doing this calmly so close to people.  I told Cooper to “right here” again, and we walked very quickly around each of three people who were milling around.

The evaluator reminded me to breathe again.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

Oh, Cooper is beautiful at this. He sat and downed just wonderfully. Then, I put him in a Sit and Wait, and walked the 20 feet away. When I turned around to come back, he was sitting there, straight and proud, just like the leader of a pride of lions.

Test 7: Coming when called

He LOVES this one. I put him in a Sit and Wait and walked the 10 feet away. I turned around to see that proud lion pose again, and when I called him, he put on his burst of speed, and ran to me, right to front. We practice this one a lot, too. Particularly when he’s on the porch, waiting for me to call him to get into the beloved car.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog

Glory and oh, happiness. Walking in control around other dogs has been a big, big challenge for us. In this test, we had to walk up next to another person/dog team, then have Cooper sit, me shake hands with the other person, and then both teams walk on. The other dog was very calm. Cooper was curious about the other dog, and it took a few very long seconds before he “heard” my command to sit, but otherwise, he did fine.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction

OK, here comes that strange guy in the wheelchair. The wheelchair guy rolled around behind Cooper, and Cooper was curious, but fine with it. Then, when Cooper looked away, the guy dropped a large, heavy book, making a big booming noise. That made Cooper startle and look around, but he didn’t (oh, thank you!) bark, lunge, run away, or make a scene. I’m so happy I got to practice on the fellow with the shopping cart.

Test 10: Supervised separation

Cooper doesn’t like this one. As soon as he recognized what we were going to do, he asked me if we could go now. But I told him to “go visit,” “sit,” “wait,” and “I’ll be back,” and then walked away out of sight. This was a very long 3 minutes for me, but he did fine. Just sat there and waited for me to come back.

I showered Cooper with praise and an invitation to jump up on me. And then I reminded myself to breathe.

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