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Archive for December, 2009

No, not a real duck. But a very important duck (or pair of ducks) nonetheless.

The duck on the right has been Cooper’s favorite toy ever since he “won” it for participating in the bird dog match at his first IWSCOPS Specialty in August 2007. To be in the bird dog match, he’d had to qualify by first retrieving a pigeon and bringing it back. Going out to get the pigeon was easy. Bringing it back … well, not so much.

Being an untrained, wildman puppy, Cooper didn’t want to bring the pigeon back — he wanted to run around with it in his mouth and play keep away with the crowd of onlookers. So that’s what he did.

We called him, waved toys at him, and grabbed at him when he came within inches of our hands. None of that worked. Finally, a crowd of us all ran away from the finish line, enticing him to chase us across it. That was enough for Cooper to show in the bird dog match, and thus get the duck.

That duck has seen a lot of action. It’s been hidden and thrown all over the house for tracking and retrieving games. It’s been squeaked, pounced upon, and carried around for hours at a time. Eventually, the poor duck got some holes, which destroyed the squeak, but the duck stayed a favorite anyway. It appeared in Cooper’s New Year 2009 photo portrait, his in oil portrait last May, and another blog entry.

Then Tooey, Miss Destructo Dog, came to live at our house. She easily got the duck away from Gentleman Cooper, and chewed off one toe. The duck had to be put away to prevent total destruction.

So I went on a hunt, all over the Internet, to find a new duck.

On Christmas morning, Cooper was bored, lying head on feet next to the breakfast table, when Russ opened the package, reached in, and gave the duck a squeeze. Being a new duck, it squeaked.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that dog’s head whip up so fast. Russ gave the duck another squeeze, and Cooper temporarily reverted to his wildman self. He jumped up, with feet on the table, to get a closer look.

Ever since then, that duck has not left Cooper’s side, except at night, when we put it away in the toy drawer. (I don’t really care to listen to squeaking ducks at 3 in the morning.)

It’s not clear yet what we’ll do about the duck when Tooey comes back home. (Since she’s in season, Tooey is up at Colleen’s for another week or so.) We may have to put the duck away, and only take it out when Tooey is out of the house for walks or training. Or we might try to teach Tooey to leave the duck alone.

Yeah, right. Maybe I’d better get busy, and order another duck (Squeeze Meeze Mallard Duck, made by Premier).

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The real joy about being associated with Irish Water Spaniels is the like-minded people and their dogs. When we first got started in the beginning of 2007, the people who mentored us (and continue to do so) made this breed really enjoyable. Cooper’s sire, Balloo, belonged to Tammy. Both are mentioned and pictured on various blog posts going back nearly three years. Tammy introduced us to grooming, dock diving, real dog training, and dog shows. Cooper’s first dog shows where done under her close supervision at the other end of the leash.

Tammy’s current female IWS is Cameo. She is about as close to the ideal package of energy, personality, humor, and cuteness as I have ever seen in one creature. At the most recent dog show at Clark County, Washington, Cameo was in perfect form and spark. It is that combination of qualities that I wanted to capture in an illustration of Cameo. Here’s my interpretation:

(c) 2009 Russ Dodd

Commercial photography and illustration are my “day job”, and it is nice to be able to transfer those skills to a subject that so many of us enjoy, dogs and IWS in particular. Dog art is so rewarding, not just for the subject matter, but the great people associated with the breed.

From time to time, I will post images of other great IWS that are a part of Cooper and Tooey’s extended family. There are so many that I hope to have enough examples so that our blog readers don’t think we obsess only about our own dogs. We love them all and the variety of personalities. And the people that go with them.

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Last week in Centralia, Washington, it was 10 degrees with 4 inches of ice on the pond. Then a warm, wet storm system blew in from the south Pacific (we call this the “Pineapple Express”) and we are back to our usual soggy but mild winter weather. So with the ice off the pond, it was time for water retrieves doubled with a land retrieve on the other side of the pond.

During the last week at home, while Cooper was recovering from his gastrointestinal distress, we worked on the beginning of some handling drills. This included “whistle-sits” where he sits immediately upon a single whistle tweet, facing me, at any audible distance.

Cooper, after a "whistle-sit", waiting for further instructions

If anyone has any doubts about the retrieve drive of an Irish Water Spaniel, they only have to watch Cooper in action. The challenge is to keep him in control until released. I will put him up against a Lab any day, which of course is what a hunt trial is all about. Anyway, at the start of this series of photos, Cooper is staring down range, waiting for the launch of either a duck onto land or a dummy into the water.

Waiting for the launching of a bird across the pond

Having heard "Cooper", he launches himself after the dummy

Blowing right past a set of decoys set out as a distraction

Returning with the dummy

According to Cooper, this is what being an Irish Water Spaniel is all about. He is off the dog-show hook for a while now that Tooey is our current queen of the dog shows.

Today I was fortunate because I was able to hand off my camera to Annette (owner/handler of Dillon, another hunt trialing IWS who shares a grandfather with Cooper). She took these photos of Cooper and myself as we worked as a “team.” It was great to get some documentation of this process. Thanks, Annette.

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I just got my first-ever show picture in the mail. Show photographers are a standard fixture at dog shows. The handlers of the winners can get their pictures taken with the dog, the judge, and the various ribbons and plaques. This was my first “major,” so everyone told me I should get an official picture taken of me and Tooey.

So, I just now looked at the picture. As soon as I saw it, I finally understood what the judge was trying to tell me as we stood waiting for the shutter to click.

Stanegate Second Thoughts -- Winners Bitch -- GCCKC Dec 5, 2009
photo by Roberts Photos

“Look at the dog, not the camera,” he said. He actually said it twice, but I was so flustered, with that frozen smile on my face, that I didn’t actually process what he said. Until today, when I looked at the picture. Every other picture of winners and handlers at dog shows have all the people looking at the dog.

Oh, well. Hopefully I’ll have another chance.

Tooey’s doing so well that I may actually have that chance. Colleen handled her at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship show today, and Tooey got Reserve Winners Bitch — essentially 2nd place. Not bad for a really young dog, who celebrated her 1st birthday three days prior.

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Today’s field training session with Cooper started on a cold crisp morning of 10 degrees. The set up was 4 long single retrieves averaging 150 yards. Cooper’s task was to mark a duck falling into cover and navigate the undulating terrain to find and return with the bird.

In the ideal world, both in hunting and hunt tests, once the dog locates and picks up the bird, it stays in his mouth until the dog delivers it to hand. This is important so that if the bird is merely wounded, it will not escape, as it might if set down while the dog is attending to other business, such as shaking off water upon exiting a pond.

Today, due to some unknown cause, Cooper was experiencing some “gastrointestinal distress,” but his spirit and drive was undiminished. He relieved himself several times before our training session and was driving at full speed on his retrieves without any problem.

Until duck #3.

Returning at full speed with duck in mouth (and Cooper is a sprinter by nature), he abruptly stopped at 50 yards out and assumed the position appropriate to another lower intestinal event. While he completed this untimely call of an irritated colon, the duck stayed firmly locked in his jaws. And then he was back into high gear, made his usual spinning stop into the heel position, and handed off the bird before blazing out for duck #4.

Good hold. Good boy!

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To get points in a dog show, there has to be another dog to beat. Today, Cooper served that function for McDuff. Cooper did the job, and McDuff got the point.

But Cooper looked great to my eye. Nice stride, strong body, and a let’s-get-it-done attitude.

McDuff has the better coat right now. Cooper’s been out in the field, so his coat is not as full. His “jacket” (the area on his back, sides, and chest) looks good to me — nice tight curls. But all those brambles and burrs have broken and pulled out the fur from his legs, so they’re a little rough and way too short for the show ring. (You can compare how he looks today to how much show-ring better he looked in August 2008.)

Plus, unlike Tooey, Cooper doesn’t particularly like the show ring. He’d much rather be out hunting up ducks, playing flyball, or going dock diving. So after the show, we went out to a local field, and did retrieving drills, which he loves. We also did whistle-sit drills (Russ blows on the whistle once and Cooper’s butt is supposed to hit the ground instantaneously, no matter how far away from Russ he is.) We’re working on that one.

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Had I been willing to stand outside in the freezing air last night, I might have wished upon a star that Tooey would do as well or better today than yesterday.

Turns out that wishing on said star was not necessary. She did it again, and even better. At today’s Greater Clark County Kennel Club show, Tooey took Winners Bitch and then Best of Winners. All that means that Tooey was judged the best not-yet-champion Irish Water Spaniel in the show*.

Tooey likes being in the show ring. I talk to her the whole time, which she likes. And I have treats in my pocket, which she really likes.

Since she won Winners Bitch both days, and since there were 5 other bitches to compete against both days, she won two “majors.”

Majors aren’t that easy to get. In Division 8, where I live, there have to be 6 bitches competing for Winners Bitch to get a major. (It’s 9 for dogs — even harder to get.) To get a championship, a dog or bitch needs two majors and 15 points.

Tooey has her two majors and 7 points. Now she can get the other 8 points at shows that aren’t necessarily majors. (You can read about the whole points thing at the AKC website.)

Thanks again to Stacy for grooming Tooey before today’s show. She looked wonderful.

* This is not Best of Breed. Dogs and bitches who are already champions can compete in the Best of Breed competition, along with the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, who are not yet champions.

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