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Archive for July, 2009

It’s tongue-dragging hot.

Way too hot for the Pacific Northwest. This afternoon, it was 107 degrees at Pepper’s, the training grounds in the Puget Sound area that Andy uses for his more-than-novice dogs.

And at WaterDog Kennel, it’s just about as hot. But Andy assured us that Cooper and the other dogs who stayed back at the kennel are all fine in the shady barn. They get fresh, cool well water four times a day, and the barn is staying in the 80’s.

Andy also said that Cooper “certainly has the desire.” That’s for sure. Going out and getting things has always been Coop’s passion, from when he was a little puppy.

morning-paper-9-wks-1

Now, Andy says, Cooper’s retrieving, coming back, and holding (not dropping) the bumper.

He also added that Coop’s beginning to eat a bit better and cooperate a bit more.

OK, so that “beginning to eat a bit better and cooperate a bit more” worries me a bit. That means that, at least for awhile, Cooper wasn’t eating all that well and that he wasn’t really all that into it. Oh, dear.

I’d like to think that it’s because he misses me (and Russ) as much as I miss him. But I hope he gets over that and enjoys himself, like a little kid away at camp who comes to realize how wonderful camp can be.

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Cooper is still at Andy’s, and we haven’t seen him since we took him up for training. So to get a bit of an IWS fix, Russ went up the the recent hunt test on Sauvie Island.

Whitney and Andy

Whitney and Andy

Andy was there with a couple of Irish Water Spaniels, including Whitney, who earned her JH (Junior Hunter) title with this test.

Whitney, owned by Colleen, is now an “all-rounder.” She has her conformation, obedience, and now hunting titles.

We hope Cooper can do as well, and be as happy as Whitney was yesterday.

Dancing Whitney

Dancing Whitney

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Dede, one of the members of the Yahoo group for IWS, posted a link to videos about Irish Water Spaniels. These videos were apparently made by the AKC (though I can’t find a reference to them on the AKC website).

There are four videos on the site: Intro, Head, Body, and Coat. (You might have to scroll down in the box to find the link to Coat.) Each one describes some aspects of “correct” conformation to the breed standard.

To see the videos, go here: http://www.dog.com/dog-breeds/irish-water-spaniel/.

dog-com-akc-videos

If you notice that this link doesn’t work or the videos have been taken down, could you let me know? Thanks.

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Andy reports he’s been playing with Cooper using bumpers for the past couple of days, and that Cooper’s beginning to lighten up and join in the fun.

bumpers -- image from GundogsOnline.com

bumpers -- image from GundogsOnline.com

That’s reassuring news.

Liz told me that this was like sending the teenage boys off to camp, where they have fun while the mommies worry.

Although I’ve never sent a human teenage boy off to camp, this feels all too true. I’m glad to hear that Cooper’s having fun. And I’m trying, really trying, not to worry.

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We took Cooper up to Andy Fontenot’s WaterDog Kennel yesterday. While Coop’s there, he’ll learn the skills, knowledge, and etiquette of being a proper hunting dog. Irish Water Spaniels were bred to hunt, and Cooper demonstrates the drive, intelligence, and enthusiasm to be a good hunting companion and a success at hunt trials. Now what he needs is the training to harness that drive.

Andy and Cooper

Andy and Cooper

It’s hard to find a trainer here in the Northwest who knows anything about training IWS — A few had never heard of the breed, and many didn’t know that IWS can hunt. Most trainers have the majority of their experience with Labrador, Golden, and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. IWS are really different from those breeds in their temperaments, and what works with a Lab is unlikely to work with an IWS.

And fortunately, Andy has a good reputation with IWS owners. And we’ve talked to most of the folks who have sent their IWS to him. We also spent an afternoon watching him train owners and dogs last May, and spent an afternoon with him at his kennels a a couple of months ago. Plus, he’s put both AKC and UKC titles on IWS. If anyone can do the job with Cooper, it’s likely to be Andy.

The only downside is that I will really miss Cooper. I already really miss him, and it’s only been 18 hours, 28 minutes, and 49 seconds since we dropped him off.

What Cooper thought about being left

What Cooper thought about being left

And possibly, he’ll miss us, too. At least until he gets to handle his first duck with Andy.

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Steve, one of the X-Fidos flyball team captains at the “Fun Fair All” tournament, has just posted a video of bits and pieces of Saturday’s action.

Cooper shows up in the opening box-turn segment at about 00:11 and again as the 4th dog in the full race segment at 00:32-00:55. He shows up once more, just for a second, as he starts to veer off into the other lane (ARGH!) at 01:47.

The segment from 02:30 to 02:50 show the tricks and games that people did during lunchtime break.

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At this past weekend’s “Fun Fair All” flyball tournament, Cooper earned his FDX (Flyball Dog Excellent) title from NAFA (North American Flyball Association)!

Cooper jumping over hurdle

Cooper jumping over hurdle

Cooper at the start of a box turn

Cooper at the start of a box turn

To get this title, Cooper had to run fast enough, with no errors, and in enough NAFA-sanctioned flyball heats to win at least 200 points.

It’s both an individual title and a team effort. Each heat has to be finished successfully by all 4 dogs running the heat — no passing early, no dropping the ball, no stealing the ball, no running off into other lanes, no interfering with the other team, no missing any of the hurdles, no helping by any of the people — everything has to be perfect.

And then the team of 4 dogs has to run the heat fast enough. If a heat is run in under 24 seconds, each dog receives 25 points toward a title. If under 28 seconds, then 5 points, and if under 32 seconds, then 1 point.

Cooper’s points are based on the results that were posted at the tournament, so they’re not “official.” In about a month or so, we should get the confirmation from NAFA.

Cooper runs reasonably fast — he averages about 6.5 seconds, and his fastest last weekend was 5.55 seconds. (His slowest was just over 12 seconds. That run, with it’s beautiful recovery, was described in the previous post.)

I am thrilled. Just the practices before, he was STILL running off into the other lanes to chase the other dogs. To have him run so many heats so fast and with so few errors… It’s an unexpected and exciting pleasure.

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During the “Fun Fair All” flyball tournament this past weekend, Cooper earned an unofficial award for Best Recovery. Here’s what he did:

He ran from the gate (#1) to the box (#2). I’ve indicated the tennis ball with a green circle on the box.

step 1

He got the ball out of the box, but dropped it. The ball rolled around to the back of the box. (#3). Cooper then ran back over the hurdles until he got to the middle (#4), stopped, sat, and looked at me like, “Something’s wrong with the picture. Help me out here.”

step 2

From back behind the start gate, I pointed at the box and told him to “Go get the ball! Go get it!”

He turned around (#4), ran back over the hurdles, around to the back of the box and picked up the ball (#5).

step 3

Then, and this is the amazing part, he turned around, and ran back over all the hurdles through the finish gate. What amazed everyone was that he didn’t simply run back in the shortest possible distance with the ball. Instead, he returned to the lane, and ran back over all the hurdles and through the gate to finish (#6).

step 4

All totally legal. His time was 12.6 seconds for the whole run, which is twice as long as his usual 6.6 seconds, but finding the same ball that he dropped and running back with it over the hurdles made the run completely legit.

He got a standing ovation and a fuzzy squeaky toy as a reward.

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In the many moments of frustration with Cooper, the thought that I got the wrong dog has crossed my mind several times. But, I have to say, that I’m glad we got Cooper. This weekend provides a prime example of why.

Cooper and I competed in the Muddy Paw’s “Fun Fair All” flyball tournament this weekend in Salem, Oregon. Cooper did really well, earning his FDX title (more on that in another post). In addition, our team won 3rd place in our division. Both of these are better-than-I-hoped-for results.

It’s been a difficult and often discouraging experience training Cooper for flyball because he likes to go running off into the other lanes (which makes the team lose that heat, no matter how well the other dogs on the team have done).

But, this weekend, with the help of all my teammates, Cooper did really amazingly well.

And that gets to what I’m grateful for. With a less driven dog, I would have done what originally I expected I’d do with my water dog — go on hikes and walks, play fetch, go boating, have a companion, and generally hang out.

But with Cooper, I have been forced out of my shy shell and into (gasp!) a team sport.

I have never played team sports — never wanted to, never thought I’d be good enough for, never found any sport interesting enough, etc.

But here I am, on a team, playing a team sport.

Cooper and Patrice at the start of his run in a flyball heat

Cooper and Patrice at the start of his run in a flyball heat

Patrice and Cooper as he finishes his run

Patrice and Cooper as he finishes his run

And on top of that, I’ve joined several clubs — also amazing for me (I never join clubs) — X-Fidos flyball club, Cascade Dockdogs club, and IWSCOPS.

So thank you, Tammy and Rosemary, for Cooper. He’s been my catalyst.

(And thanks to Laci for the pictures.)

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All sports stars have their own web pages, right? Well, Cooper’s got two. Here’s Cooper’s flyball page:

x-fidos_page_090709

You’ll find it at http://www.x-fidos.org/id87.htm. Once you get there, you can click “Back to the Team” or the other links along the left to see bios of the other team members.

And here’s the Cascade Dockdogs page:

(arrow added)

(arrow added)

You can find this page at http://www.cascadedockdogs.org/members.htm, along with the other club members bios.

Woo hoo!

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