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Archive for October, 2009

You know, I need to make a new “note to self.” Whenever I think I “know” something, I really ought to see that as a signal that I probably know w-a-a-a-y less than I thought.

This has happened so many times. In the case of Irish Water Spaniels, I know I wrote about this before, when we were planning to get Cooper. We’d had puppies before, trained them, house trained them, prevented them from chewing stuff they’re not supposed to chew, etc. So, getting an IWS puppy ought to be a piece of cake, right?

Wrong.

Now it’s : Oh, yeah, we’ve had two dogs before. Been there, done that, piece of pie.

Well, maybe.

Having two dogs is really different, and it’s only been less than 24 hours. Russ kept telling me we’ll figure it out, and yes, we WILL figure it out. Here are some of the things that require figuring:

  • What do do when you give the “table” command, and both dogs jump up on the small grooming table.
    (Tell one dog to lie down, then give the other dog the “Table” command. And hope the 1st dog obeys.)
  • What to do when it’s raining hard outside, it’s muddy, and both dogs push their way through the door and get into the carpeted living room before they even hear the “Feet” command — stop and get your feet wiped.
    (Tell both dogs to sit, let the one who sits first come in first, and block the doorway with your body should the 2nd dog choose to disobey. Or get a baby door. Or another person, or all of the above.)
  • How to give both dogs their evening walk.
    (Probably, let them both out into the back yard, then let them play for a bit to work off some steam, then crate one dog and take the other out, then switch.)
  • How to get a relatively calm good-morning cuddle.
    This is easy with one calm IWS. With two IWS, it’s a tornado. Maybe skip this ritual, or let one dog out of his/her crate, alternating mornings with one dog and then the other.

I’m sure other issues will come up. But I will say, Cooper and Tooey seem to really like each other. And they’re both so different in temperament, personality, looks, structure, everything. It’s real entertainment.

So far, we’re loving it.

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Today, Renae sent me some pictures of Tooey, taken on March 8th, when Tooey was 12 weeks old. In several of these pictures, she’s playing with Rod and Renae’s Rio, Cooper’s cousin.

Waiting to play

Waiting to play

Please play

Please play

Attack of the Clone

Attack of the clone

Yes sir

Yes, sir!

Charge!

Charge!

Smells like chicken

Mmm... smells like puppy

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Observation has led to a theory that squirrels have developed a telepathic-type ability to “single-track” the mind of a dog.

Through a currently unidentified mechanism, when a squirrel sights a dog, that squirrel sends a pulse or signal directly to the dog’s brain.

The result for the dog is that conscious brain functions are turned off. Control of the eyes, ears, and nose is transferred to the squirrel, and for a short period, ambulation is disabled. In essence, the dog becomes unable to respond to non-squirrel-generated environmental stimuli, particularly any originating from the dog’s handler.

Some change in the modulation or frequency of this pulse or signal then enables ambulation for the dog. This sudden release of energy, accompanied by the continued directed control over the eyes, ears, and nose, causes the dog to suddenly bolt in the direction of the squirrel. Hence, the squirrel is forced into sudden, extreme aerobic activity, with attendant (but relatively low) risks of being caught and eaten.

How this mechanism might benefit the individual squirrel is in question. One proposal states that this mechanism is employed by squirrels with a highly developed need for thrill-seeking behaviors. Another proposed idea notes that this behavior seems to be evident particularly in the autumn when squirrel intake of nuts and other calorie-dense foods is high, thus necessitating the usage of some factor which can motivate the squirrel to engage in frequent and vigorous aerobic exercise.

How this mechanism benefits the squirrel as a species is more obvious. Squirrels who activate the mechanism, and then do not run fast enough are swiftly removed from the gene pool. Another possibility is that the mechanism is actually used, not by the squirrel who is chased, but by other squirrels competing for resources and access to mates.

Further daily study of this phenomenon is required. Studies using local Irish Water Spaniels will be developed to test this theory.

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OK, I’ll admit it. After yesterday, I was really hoping that Tooey would win Best of Breed again today. She is certainly (IMHO) beautiful enough.

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But instead, I was able to take pleasure in another goal that I had going into this show. Like a lot of dogs, Tooey has been a bit shy with men. And I already knew that today’s judge was going to be a man. So one of my goals was that Tooey would not freak out at being examined by the male judge.

We’ve been practicing. I have been approaching strange and not-so-strange men everywhere we go, asking them if they would give Tooey a cookie. Several weeks ago we had a major breakthrough at Colleen and Gary’s house.

At the beginning of the evening, Tooey was being stand-offish with Gary. Not running away, just barely nosing forward and then stepping back several paces when he tried to pet her. But Gary persevered, and by the end of the evening, she actually approached him, asked for the cookie, and let him pet her topknot and ears.

That gave me hope, so I kept it up. At parks, on the sidewalks, in front of stores, at conformation class, I would scout likely male prospects. Russ pitched in by asking some of the men at Tooey’s puppy socialization class to work with her, too.

Food helps. In the ring today, Tooey knew I had her favorite treat in my pocket, and when the judge stepped forward to examine her, she stood still, not backing away. And then, when he moved down her body, I stepped around, stuffed a treat in her face, and joy of joys, she wagged her tail! You can see in the video at about 0:40:

And congratulations to Tom and his Maggie for their Best of Breed win today.

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Tooey at 10 months in the Vancouver Kennel Club show

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Tooey and I went into the ring at the Vancouver Kennel Club show today, and did amazingly well. In fact, this 10 month old puppy won Best of Breed. (With a little help from me and my very generous friends.)

Having won Best of Breed, Tooey and I also competed for a placement in the Sporting Group. We had no expectations, except to get some experience and hopefully have a good time.

Patrice and Tooey in the Sporting Group ring

Patrice and Tooey in the Sporting Group ring

And that was good — because that’s exactly what we got — I got experience and Tooey had a good time. She even nuzzled up to the handler of the German Wirehaired Pointer behind us, asked for a cookie, and got one.

So, thank you to Colleen for amazing grooming help, to Tammy for grooming and showing tips and moral support, to Tom and Jill for bringing some other IWS to compete with, and to Colleen and Judith for letting us have this delightful little girl.

Tooey and I got to thank each other a bit more personally after we got home. Take a look:

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Thank you, Tooey

Thank you, Trice

Thank you, Trice

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Yesterday evening, Colleen shaped Tooey’s former “rags in the wind” style into  a more refined look. You can actually see some movement and structure now under all that fur. (Thank you, Colleen.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures. While Colleen was wielding the scissors, I was feeding a steady stream of pinkie-fingernail sized treats into Tooey’s mouth. Tooey is not a big fan of the grooming table, so I’m using her favorite treat to try to convince her otherwise.

Actually, it’s not the table so much — it’s those dang combs, brushes, and scissors that always seem to appear when Tooey’s on the table. So, she gets this particular treat (Natural Balance beef dog food roll) only when she’s actually being brushed, combed, or scissored. Worked for Cooper and his pills.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to deliver treats at the same instant that I’m putting the ear cleaning solution into her ear…

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When our friend Kurt came over for a chat and a cup of tea this afternoon, Kurt’s African Grey parrot, Zane, came along for the ride. Tooey was fascinated.

Tooey focused on Zane

Tooey focused on Zane

She briefly considered jumping up, but we managed to change her mind. We didn’t want Tooey to lose her cute little nose to the parrot’s beak. Kurt assured us that he and Zane had dealt with fascinated dogs before. The worst case was Kurt’s having to remove Zane from the jaws of a Chow.

Tooey’s plenty “birdy,” especially when they’re express-delivered right to the house like this. Probably a good thing that Zane didn’t choose to squeak or imitate squirrel chatter.

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Especially when it’s just a week before a dog show. But puppies don’t necessarily know exactly where their faces (and other body parts) are in space. Or, at least, this puppy didn’t.

Tooey's face

Tooey and Russ were in the back yard, playing fetch, when Tooey returned to Russ with this injury just under her eye. She’d run into something. Not sure what it was. Could have been the corner of the deck. Could have been a rogue branch sticking out from the rhododendron bush. Could have been any number of things.

Fortunately, it looks like just an abrasion. We cleaned it up and have some ointment we’re putting on it twice a day. It’s already looking better.

Hope the judges overlook it next weekend at the Vancouver Kennel Club show next weekend.

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Today’s training session with Cooper was yet another milestone. Last week he executed multiple single water retrieves back to back, all under verbal control. So this week we moved into double retrieves.

At the water’s edge and guided by the shotgun muzzle, he marked the launch and landing of the first duck dummy. Then we rotated about 120 degrees and marked a second dummy as it hit the water. With his laser focus, he shot out through the muck, the shallow pond water, and weeds, grabbed the second dummy, and returned to heel. He did drop the dummy to shake off the water and mud, but with a “fetch” request he picked it up and handed it over before spinning around to get the first dummy. All in all, it was a good performance (other than his covering  me with water and mud).

In the gallery above the pond was Patrick’s owner, Kathy, up from California, and Marian, from Florence, Oregon. Marian, who is a well known IWS breeder on the west coast, brought her pack o’pups with her to have Andy evaluate a couple of girls for their potential as trainable hunters (they most definitely have it).

In Ireland and the UK, the name of “Bog Dogs” is given to this breed acknowledging them as water dogs of Irish origins. When Marian’s pack was cruising the pond’s edge I was compelled to photograph them working their way through the bog in the training grounds. Note that the one on the left, with a white muzzle and leading the pack, is 14 years old. Bog dogs, indeed.

Bog Dogs

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Thank goodness for Cooper. He’s taught us so many things, including that a dock-diving natural doesn’t necessarily start off with a bang.

Cooper started dock diving by falling off the dock. That scared him, and put him off the sport for a year. So mindful of that, we decided that whatever Tooey did her first time on the dock is fine.

Today, the Cascade Dock Dogs had a practice at the pond, so we decided to give it a try. Tooey didn’t exactly jump off the puppy dock — it was more of a purposeful slide-off. But she went from dry to wet, and had a good time doing it. Take a look:

A dry Trice and Tooey

A dry Trice and Tooey

Checking out the puppy dock

Checking out the puppy dock

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See? There's water in there...

A slide into the water

Tooey slides into the water

Tooey swims for the wubba

Tooey swims for the wubba

And she grabs it!

And she grabs it!

Shakes off

Shakes off

And gets ready to try it again

And gets ready to try it again

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Cooper goes back to hunt school today. We’ll miss him! But he’s doing so well that we can’t help being glad that he gets to go back for the next six weeks.

So to seal the memory of today, we took a family snapshot. Well, actually, we took about a dozen pictures, hoping to get one that

  • has all four of us in it
  • has all four of us looking at least within 180 degrees of the camera
  • don’t have one of us sniffing the crotch of another one of us
  • is in focus and not over-exposed
  • doesn’t have one or more of us leaping off in other directions

I think this one is OK. I would have preferred also that one of us didn’t have gray hair on the head and bags under the eyes, but there was no time for chemical, surgical, or magical fixes for that.

Russ, Tooey, Trice, and Cooper

Russ, Tooey, Trice, and Cooper

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Russ is a very generous guy — all his friends know that. So it’s only natural that he’d share his new-found hunt trialing education with me.

Here I have just released Cooper to go get the dummy that Russ has thrown out. Cooper was good here — I didn’t have to hold onto him too tightly to stop him from bolting. Eventually, the goal is that he will sit at the handler’s side and wait to be released by the handler’s saying “Cooper!”

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Here Cooper is racing out to get the bumper. Behind him, I am fumbling, trying to hold the e-collar control and grab the whistle so I can give the “toot-toot” that reminds Cooper to come back to me.

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Here is Cooper racing back with the bumper. I hadn’t quite managed to whistle at the perfect time. But I did get the whistle in because Russ started reminding me, “Whistle now! Whistle now!” At the same time, I am supposed to be remembering to say “Here!” and “Heel” and “Sit” all in the right order (and maybe “Hold” if it looks like he’s going to drop the dummy, and “Fetch” if I’m too late with that, and he actually drops it).

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At last, success: Cooper sits at my side with the bumper. He even let me take it (delivery to hand).

100309_0079

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After Russ got Cooper’s x-rays done, he brought Cooper home for the weekend. First we went to a local dog park so we could all get reacquainted.

Cooper, Trice, and Tooey

Cooper, Trice, and Tooey

Tooey chasing Cooper

Tooey chasing Cooper

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Cooper may be a hunk and think of himself as a stud but we have to prove a few things to the (owners of the) waiting babes before anything can happen. Now that he is over the age two and has reached his adult stature, it is time to check out the health of those manly hips that he likes to swagger.

After our Friday training session with Andy, Cooper was surprised to be loaded up in his car and not Andy’s kennel truck. Coop and I headed north up I-5 to Olympia, Washington where we met Tammy and her two dogs (including Mowgli, one of Cooper’s littermates) to get his hips and elbows x-rayed for OFA evaluation.

Tammy arranged this appointment for us (thank you, Tammy). If you have read a number of the blog posts going back to the very first entries, you will recognize that Tammy is very important to our participation with the breed of IWS and number of activities including dog shows, grooming, dock diving, and all our around guide to the world of dogs.

With a mild sedation, the dogs got their photos (x-rays) taken.

canine hip x-ray

canine hip x-ray

Then the digital files were passed on the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals). If they certify the results, then Cooper has one more reason to stay sexually intact. He has already passed his Thyroid screenings, but, if his joints pass muster, he’ll still need to get his eyes examined.

Oh yeah, and then he needs a few other things, like an AKC Championship and a hunt title or two to be really attractive.

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