Archive for March, 2010

Lots of people complain because their dogs jump up. I’ve been concerned because Cooper hasn’t been jumping up. He jumps up on the bed and into the truck, both of which he loves, only with effort.

Clearly, he’s not comfortable. Not crying or whining, just not eager to jump up. And he has this funny dip and rise in the thoracic area of his spine. We had our regular vet x-ray the area to see if anything obvious was causing the problem, but no. Her suggestion was to consult a veterinary orthopedist, go to a physical therapist, and/or take anti-inflammatory drugs.

Now, I’ve been through all that for various orthopedic ailments of my own, and sometimes those are the best choices. But for the vast majority of my joint and tendon issues, I’ve had the most success with acupuncture.

So that’s what I decided to try with Cooper.

He was really good about it. He let Dr. Curran of Two Rivers Veterinary Clinic put the needles in without protest. After a few minutes, Cooper tried to take out two of the needles himself, so she took them out for him. The rest of the needles stayed in — one at the crown of his head, four in his mid-back, one over his spine at the hips, and one at the base of the tail. For the 15 minutes while he had the needles in, he simply lay on his side next to me, and asked me to rub his belly.

We’ll need to schedule about three more visits, which I was expecting. And Dr. Curran gave me some anti-inflammatory herbs.

I hope it helps.

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For today’s picnic trial (a practice hunt test), the Oregon Hunting Retriever Club somehow arranged for sunny T-shirt weather in Scappoose, Oregon, about 15 miles downriver from Portland. The crowd of us enjoyed practicing (or watching) both Junior and Senior level tests, plus a hotdog lunch.

Cooper was his usual self: a butthead on the way out to the line, and a rocket once actually sent to retrieve. On any kind of hunt or retriever training, he gets so filled with thrill-filled energy that he can barely contain himself. The picture below is sort of misleading — it shows Cooper sitting still with a loose leash.

Once Russ started walking out to the first blind (which you can see, out of focus to Russ’s right), Cooper was bound and determined to get out there as quickly as possible. There are birds out there! I must retrieve them! Russ had to correct Cooper all the way out there, just to get him to stop pulling on the lead for more than two seconds at a time. So frustrating!

Once out there, though, Cooper was like a rocket getting the land birds. Out, grab the bird, come back into heel position, and deliver the bird. The water bird, though, was a little different.

Cooper marked where the bird fell in the pond, leapt into the water when sent, and then practically swam right over the bird. He paddled around for quite awhile, and even hunted along the bank for a bit. The problem? The bird was a pigeon. If it’s in the water, it’s supposed to be a duck, right? Who would have thought to look for a pigeon in the water?

Eventually, though, the bird boy threw some clods of dirt at the pigeon, and Cooper got the picture. O-h-h-h, you want me to pick up the pigeon? OK, I can do that. Swim over, grab the bird, come back into heel position, and deliver to hand.

So, if we can just train a civilized heel in thrilling situations like this, Russ will be a much happier camper. But even so, we can’t help but be very pleased with what Cooper has achieved since August. Can’t wait to see how he does in real hunt tests, coming up in April and May.

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Russ took this shot of Cooper on the same night as we did the blind bumpers. The amazing thing is that he took it with his phone camera.

And then, of course, he applied his magic touch.

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Tonight, we did some more hunt training with another bumper drill. In this case, Russ first put Cooper in a sit. Then he walked off to three different locations, and dropped a couple of bumpers in each.

Cooper wasn’t watching Russ. Coop was obediently sitting in place, but watching Tooey’s enthusiastic digging off to the side. The fact that Cooper didn’t see where the bumpers got put is why the bumpers can be described as “blind.”

It’s a lesson in faith on Cooper’s part. We want him to believe, “If Russ sends me in that direction, there must be something there to retrieve.”

Coming back to Cooper, Russ lined Cooper up with one of the bumper piles, and sent him off with a “Back” command. In every case (hooray!!!), Cooper went back in the direction indicated, located the pile of bumpers, and brought one back.

Here’s a photo we took at the end of the evening, just as the light was slanting.

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Tooey and Cooper celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by sunbathing on the deck.

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Much to my shock and delight, Tooey took Winners Bitch and Best of Opposite Sex today. I was so happy that I walked out of the ring, and straight into Colleen’s arms, crying.

Tooey wins Best of Opposite Sex

So, what was different today from yesterday? Here’s what happened today that didn’t happen yesterday:

  • An epiphany in the bathroom (more on that below).
  • A different judge.
  • Rescue Remedy and Vitamin B drops (thank you, Rebecca).
  • Frequent mental reminders to slow down, to get dressed in plenty of time, to breathe, to breathe, and to breathe.
  • Talking to Tooey while we were in the ring, telling her that she’s such a pretty girl.

Bathroom epiphany

While pulling on my panty hose, I started to imagine myself standing tall and smiling while in the ring. I saw myself looking happy and talking happily to Tooey as we went around and did the up and back. I imagined smiling at the judge and acting like I knew what I was doing.

In that moment, as I had these imaginings in the bathroom, I realized, “Wow, I’m actually smiling.” So, as a little test, I purposefully made myself stop smiling and then started up the imagining again. That made me actually smile again.

It was like I couldn’t help myself. Imagining smiling was making me smile. That seemed like a good thing, so I kept it up as I finished dressing, fetched Tooey, and walkd to the ring.

Perhaps, if I was right about yesterday, and my nervousness communicated itself to Tooey, perhaps my smiling and confidence communicated themselves to her and to the judge today.

As the judge was examining Tooey, he muttered to himself, “This is so hard.” I knew he was wavering between Tooey and another dog. I just stood there with Tooey and smiled. Maybe my epiphany was just enough to tip that balance.

Of course, when Tooey did win, I started crying. But I was smiling, too.

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For the first time, I was able to march with an Irish Water Spaniel in Seattle’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was a celebration of all things Irish and Irish-wannabe. (Thanks to Bill Lord for the photos.)

Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound in Seattle's St. Patrick's Day parade

In addition to groups of pipers, troupes of dancers, marching bands, drill teams and drum squads, 4-part harmony singers, at least one cannon, the Seattle firefighters, a banner of St. Patrick, Irish heritage clubs and various dignitaries, a fleet of Deloreans, and lots of others I didn’t see, the parade included (at least) two groups of Irish dogs: Irish Water Spaniels and Irish Wolfhounds.

The parade was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and I was thinking it would be pretty fun. The weather cooperated, I enjoyed the walk, the dogs were mostly well-enough behaved, and nothing really tragic happened, even with all the crowds, noise, and other things dogs (and their people) get distracted by.

Tooey and Trice in the parade

One IWS puppy bolted and got loose when the cannon went off — that was frightening. I don’t think any of us, particularly the puppy, expected a cannon. But the puppy was retrieved, so hopefully all will be well there.

Another IWS, Gromit, dressed as a leprechaun, pulled a cart loaded with a (fake) pot of gold and a rainbow balloon. That was a highlight for spectators, especially the ones who got the gold chocolate coins we were handing out.

IWSCOPS members and dogs after the parade

And all the rest of us, the people and their dogs — show dogs, hunting dogs, pet dogs, puppies, old dogs, adult dogs, city dogs and country dogs, all got to show off and be a (momentary) center of attention.

And then Tooey and I, with Cameo and Tammy, got/had to walk all the way back to our cars. At least there was gelato along the way.

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Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing showing my Tooey. On days like today, when she doesn’t win, I think to myself — maybe she’d have a better chance if someone else showed her.

Tooey is a beautiful girl, but today, neither of us showed her at her best. I was nervous (well — that’s normal, anyway), rushed, distracted, dry-mouthed, and unfocused.

That description could apply to Tooey, too. She sat when she should have been standing, scratched when she should have been gaiting*, and squirreled around when she should have held still.

Maybe she was reacting to my nervousness. Maybe she was hungry, not having eaten her breakfast. Maybe, maybe… who knows?

Three good things:

  • Tooey was beautifully groomed, started by Colleen and finished by Greg
  • We got pictures, compliments of Cathy
  • I got to ride in and share a grooming space with Tammy

Returning to the judge (who is out of sight at right)

Stacking for the judge (who is out of sight to the left)

Cameo, Annah, Tooey being examined by the judge, and Bella

*According to the AKC Gait: Moves freely and soundly with balanced reach and drive. Should be true, precise and not slurring; may have a characteristic rolling motion accentuated by the barrel-shaped rib cage.

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The 2010 Seattle Kennel Club show is coming up this weekend. Last night I got Tooey all brushed and bathed, and tonight, Colleen came over to help trim Tooey’s mass of raggedy fur into shape. We start by getting the topknot and ears out of the way of the scissors by tucking them up into a snood.

Tooey in her sparkly snood

Tooey gets pretty while Cooper sympathizes

I was going to start out this blog entry by saying that “the show is next weekend, so it’s time to start getting ready.” I will admit that such was my actual thought process. These thoughts reveal me to be an amateur.

If I’m going to be serious about this dog show stuff with an Irish Water Spaniel, I have to get with the program. Had I been following said program, I would have started the grooming process weeks and weeks ago.

Here’s the minimum weekly regime that I should have been following:

  1. brush out thoroughly: first with a rake (wide-toothed comb) in the direction of the fur growth and then with a slicker brush
  2. bathe
  3. rake again, this time through wet fur in the direction of fur growth
  4. brush wet fur with a pin brush
  5. air dry (use this time to brush teeth, clean ears, and clip nails)
  6. trim off of all the little pieces of dry fur that are sticking out with scissors
  7. many times over the next 24 hours, lightly mist Tooey’s back with water and scrunch it in
  8. repeat process the next week

I have been told this by several people now — all people who have gotten championships on their dogs. I would suppose that they know what they’re talking about, darn it. And we do need to get ready for the 2010 Irish Water Spaniel Club of America National Specialty, which occurs at the end of April.

Guess I’d better get started as soon as I get home from the Seattle show.


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You remember the post that described how Tooey loves my massager?

Well, it turns out that Tooey has her own preference in electric massagers. Tooey likes Vacuum Cleaner Massage.

I discovered this by accident. I was vacuuming the top of the bed to get all the dog hairs off (we’re among those who allow our dogs on the bed). Miss Manager hopped up onto the middle of the bed to see what I was doing.

I vacuumed all around her, but she didn’t move. So, figuring that it would persuade her to change position, I put the vacuum brush on her. She didn’t move. I vacuumed her shoulders and back for awhile, and then she turned over, as if to say, “Do the belly now, please.”

I ended up vacuuming her whole body. She lay there limp as cooked spaghetti, relaxed and loving every second — her own personal spa.

Cooper, on the other hand, has a different opinion of vacuums. I don’t think he understood that she actually liked the vacuum. He stood in the bedroom doorway, barking, “OMG!!! It’s the vacuum. The vacuum got out of its closet! Watch out! Oh, no! It’s the vacuum!”

But really, I think Cooper enjoys the vacuum, too. He just enjoys it his own way. It’s like he’s play-acting in a war game. And he knows his role — The Defender. He gets to play this game when the vacuum comes out, which it always does after he’s brushed or trimmed.

After grooming, he hops off the grooming table, runs over to the closet, and waits for the vacuum to escape. When it does, he barks and does these feinting, pouncing attacks. Not enough to actually damage the vacuum (or himself) — just enough that he can be satisfied that he has Done His Job.

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Russ just finished building the website for the Lower Columbia Hunting Retriever Club:

Lower Columbia HRC website home page

We’re members, so Cooper is shown on one of the club’s webpages:

Cooper's picture on the LCHRC website

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