Archive for May, 2009

Or, Cooper gets his bird…052509_Coop's Co-op Coup

On this beautiful Memorial Day, we decided to take a drive up I-5 and along the Columbia River. We took the turn-off to Winlock, and drove a bit along some country roads. Crossing through town, we came across the Washington Egg & Poultry Co-operative Association building, with its 5′ rooster.

On the other side of the road, out of the picture, is an equally giant egg. Cooper has little interest in eggs, unless they’re already broken, cooked with butter, and put into his bowl. Although, now that I think of it, I haven’t tried throwing an egg… That might get his attention.

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I can’t decide if Cooper looks more like a zombie or a land shark. What do you think?


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In Cooper’s first real dock diving event (Northwest Challenge Xtreme Air Dogs Competition during the Multnomah County Fair), he jumped his best recorded distance: 14.6 feet. As I had predicted, the real limitation is still my throws. I really need to give the chase toy a bit more loft, make it go straighter, and a little farther out. I also have to absolutely insist that Cooper WAIT at the start of the dock until I tell him it’s okay to run. He gets so excited that he cheats, and I get so rattled that I let him. Bad handler!

Tammy and Steve came out to the fair with Russ and me. Tammy took Cooper on a couple of jumps, so I could watch a master at work. Meanwhile, Steve and Russ both took some great photos.

Athlete and coach conferring

Athlete and Coach Tammy conferring


And my favorite photo of the day, taken by Steve:


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Cooper comes from a long tradition of hunting excellence. His mom, Nova (CH Realta’s Supernova CD RN MH), is titled as an AKC Master Hunter. She competed in last year’s Master Nationals. This is a competition in which all the retrievers are already Master Hunters and are competing for the top title. In that competition, there were mostly Labs and two Irish Water Spaniels: Nova and Nova’s sister, Nike (Ch Realta’s Just Do It, CDX, MH, TD, RA).

Today, Nike flawlessly passed the Sauvie Island Retriever Hunting Test. Because Nike is already a Master Hunter, the test she takes is the most difficult. The test consists of three scenarios over two days. For each scenario, the dog has to find and retrieve three ducks. Sometimes the dog can see where the duck is located, and sometimes the dog has to follow the handler’s directions to find the duck.

NIke bringing back her duck

Nike bringing back the first of three ducks

Passing this test adds one more leg to Nike’s test roster for this year. She needs to pass 5 out of 7 tests this year to qualify for the 2009 Master Nationals in Texas.

I should add, too, that Cooper’s brother, Tiki, earned his Senior Hunter title earlier this month.

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The X-Fidos Flyball Club gave a rousing demo of flyball at the Multnomah County Fair at Oaks Park. Eager dogs and orange team shirts really radiated energy in the bright sunny day. We alternated on the field with a local dog agility team, both of us giving demonstrations of the fun you can have with your dog. We even staged a race, dog team vs. kids’ team. Of course the kids won.

Kristine Gunter, dog photographer, writer, trainer, and fellow X-Fido, took this photo of Cooper and me. Cooper looks very attentive. I was patting my chest, inviting him to jump up on me. What dogs don’t like jumping up on their people?

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

In between heats, Cooper and I went down the Willamette River to cool off. As far as Cooper is concerned, everything always goes better with swimming. And even better, we found the Northwest Air Dogs dock diving pool. Guess I know where we’re going tomorrow!

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It was hot and sunny today, perfect for washing the deck. Of course Cooper wanted to help. Take a look:


051709_hose houndpsd

051709_Hose hound 2

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Today, Cooper and I went out to the pond to practice dock diving with the Cascade Dock Dogs club. It was a very warm, sunny day — unseasonably so for the Portland area. I was sure that everyone would be out there, but happily, it wasn’t too crowded.

Cooper got lots of jumps and a lot of swimming. All morning, I don’t think I was ever more than 7th in line (although Cooper still does not understand the concept of “line” or “turns”), and for every turn we had 3 jumps. Then in the afternoon, we had an informal competition, and Cooper got 17.5′ — definitely an improvement. (Cooper does great — It’s me who needs to improve my throwing.)


All the way home Cooper slept in the back seat of the car, and then late this afternoon, we both napped for an hour. Then it was time for our evening walk.

And here’s the thing. Cooper walked behind me, at the end of the leash, almost all the way. It was amazing. It was like walking our old dearly departed Cleo, who never saw any reason to go faster than a leisurely stroll.

So when the  trainers tell you that a tired dog is a good dog, they must also mean that a really tired dog is an excellent dog.

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Russ has started a series of original oil paintings of sporting dogs. The first is a portrait of Cooper (our most readily available model) called “Young IWS with Toy Duck”. The picture below is a photograph of the 2nd painting of this image.

Young IWS with Toy Duck -- painting and image (c) 2009 Russ Dodd

Young IWS with Toy Duck -- painting and image (c) 2009 Russ Dodd

Russ was very happy to contribute the 1st painting of this image to the recent IWSCA silent auction at the National Specialty. It was won by Jack and Colleen.

If you’re interested in a portrait of your sporting dog, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. Or you can go to workingtheory.com and use the contact link to send an email to Russ.

Please don’t copy this image. Russ worked hard to create it, so we ask you to respect his ownership of it.

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Cooper is a traffic-stopper. Twice this week, we’ve been out with Cooper, minding our own business, when a car has suddenly stopped at the sight of our dog.

A couple of days ago, we were walking along a neighborhood street, and an SUV drove over to the wrong side of the road just to screech to halt right next to us. This woman hops out and asks, “It that an Irish Water Spaniel?” Turns out she has a 6-year old Whistlestop girl, named something like Jamie Céilí.

Then, the next morning, Russ was out with Cooper at the off-leash dog park near Portland International Raceway, when a car with no dogs in it drives up. What’s weird is that you sort of have to go out of your way to get to this dog park — it’s not something you would just normally drive past unless you have a dog or are going to PIR.

Anyway, the driver parks, rushes over, and asks, “Is that an Irish Water Spaniel?” She used to have IWS several years ago, dogs she got from Kalama, Washington. “They’re funny, aren’t they…”

So refreshing to meet people who know their dogs. Not a Portie, not a labradoodle, but an Irish Water Spaniel.

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As we were packing up the car to leave the National Specialty, we heard it again. “That dog looks like Rick James!” See what you think:


(Source of Rick James photo)

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When we got Cooper, the plan was to have a pet, a companion, someone to hike and boat with. Well, he is all that, but he’s also been a show dog. There’s a lot of grooming for dog shows — Irish Water Spaniels have to have long, eye-hiding topknots and long leg fur, about which I’ve whined many times before. And then there’s the seemingly pointless running around in circles in the ring.

Cooper hasn’t done too badly in the shows, so it hasn’t been totally “pointless” — he has 6 points after all (a dog needs 15 to be titled a Champion). And we’ve formed some important relationships.

But we’re tired of it, at least for awhile. And Cooper doesn’t love it like some dogs do. You can tell who they are — the divas and princes of the ring. They strut their stuff, reveling in the crowd’s attention.

So about an hour after we got home from the Specialty today, I clipped his fur down to what we call the Sportman’s Cut — 3/4″ all around, except for the topknot. And even that has been shortened around the eyes so he can see, and so other dogs can see his eyes. He’ll be cool and easy to comb.

Before and After

Before and After

And we can still do all the things we love — flyball and dock diving, running in the park, hiking along the river, and soon, if we’re lucky, boating.

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Here’s some video of Tammy and I showing our dogs in the 2009 IWSCA National Specialty. The video starts with me showing Cooper in the Amateur/Owner Handler class, and then Tammy showing Cameo in the American Bred class. (The Judge is Dorothy Macdonald.)

Cameo looks like she’s having fun. Cooper looks like he could give a rip.

Cooper and I are in the ring by ourselves because I was the only person to have registered my dog in the Amateur/Owner Handler class. That means, of course, that Cooper won his class. We got a nice medallion and a chance to compete with the other dogs who had won their classes for Winner’s Dog. But no such luck.

I am embarrassed that I can’t remember how Cameo placed. But I have a good excuse.

After Cooper and I finished our run around the ring, I went off to the side to calm down. As I was standing there, Tom, who was standing next to me, started to laugh. I looked at Tom, and then down to my side where he was looking.  Cooper, the little !@#$%, had just pissed on my skirt! I think he was stating his opinion of dog shows.

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Tammy, our friend, and Mowgli, Cooper’s brother, do a very nice job at the 2009 IWSCA National Specialty show. The video focuses on Tammy handling Mowgli in the Open Dogs class. The judge, Dorothy Macdonald, placed Mowgli 4th in Open Dogs.

At the end of the video are some snapshots of Tammy showing her girl, Cameo (Cooper’s cousin), in the Bird Dog Match several days earlier. To compete in this match, the dog must have passed the Bird Dog Tryout, going out from a line, retrieving a bird, and bringing it back across the line. The judge is Jack McDaniel, who awarded Best of Winners to Cameo.

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The call came mid-afternoon on Saturday. Jayme, who usually does the clipping and scissoring on Cooper, was sick. She wasn’t going to be able to make it to the Olympia Kennel Club show on Sunday to help get Cooper ready.

Panic! Fortunately, Colleen, who lives close by, came to the rescue. On Saturday evening, she shaped Cooper’s legs and trimmed his “jacket.” It looked good to me, but Colleen said that I should have “them” look at Cooper when I got to the 2009 IWSCA National Specialty on Monday. I wondered who “they” would be, but took it for granted that Colleen knew what she was talking about.

Cooper and Colleen

Cooper and Colleen

When we got to Olympia show on Sunday, and we were very happy to find Rebecca getting her Seamus ready. She graciously agreed to work on Cooper. She trimmed his jacket even more, shaped his topknot a bit, and rounded out his jacket. Must have worked — Cooper won Best of Winners in that small show.

Cooper and Rebecca

Cooper and Rebecca

On Sunday evening, we arrived at the Specialty site and were delighted to find that Jayme was feeling somewhat better. The next day, she took even more off Cooper’s jacket, clipped around his face, shaped the fur around his ears, and sculpted his legs. She said that all this is the easy part — the hard part, she said, is the combing and bathing.

Cooper and Jayme

Cooper and Jayme

Yeah, right. Combing and bathing is just labor. Clipping and scissoring for a conformation show is an art.

Now I know who “they” are, my artist friends: Colleen, Rebecca, and Jayme. Thank you for all your help.

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