Archive for July, 2010

Tooey went into season last Sunday. With Cooper here too, we knew it would be inconvenient, but we wanted to keep her home. And for a week, we tried. After a couple of days of wearing a pair of men’s shorts (the back legs go through the legs, and the tail goes through the fly),

I even bought her a pair of britches. (I looked for camo, but didn’t find it in my local store. Dot and circles would have to do.)

But finally, all the advice and warnings got to me. Here’s a sample:

  • From Sandy: “… you need to be watching them like a hawk for the next 21 days. [Cooper] is mildly interested in her now but when she is ready to be bred, both she and Cooper will do anything they can to be together. When he refuses food you will know that she is prime. If you are not going to send one of them away for this period, you will be in for a rough time. You cannot let them out of your sight for a moment or you could find them ‘tied’ in the next room. Or you could miss the breeding all together and 60 days later find yourself with a litter of puppies. When they are going nuts you are going to have to walk them separately since he could grab her in an instant and breed her before you ever have a chance to separate them.”
  • From Mindy: “Be prepared to be ever vigilant!!!!!! And if you’re not in the room with both eyes on them, and aren’t planning a litter……. keep them separated!!!!!!”
  • From Diane: “If you can send one of them away during this time, the female would be your best bet. Why put [Cooper] through that if you don’t have to… Get that scent out of the house. You don’t want him to start lifting his leg or when she is getting close pee on the floor to get her message across. I could go into dogs tearing out of crates, chewing through doors, climbing fences, and the all popular human error. Where there is a will there is a way…..or at least a lot of damage trying.”
  • From Deborah: My girls … from about day 10-15 they will do anything possible to get the boy to breed them. After that point… the boy must now vanish from the face of the earth… A stud dog with a wise nose will ignore all of the girls importunings and only breed when she is in fact ‘ready’.”
  • From Amy: “Pack her bag and send her up to Colleen…life will be much easier.”

So that’s what we did. Liz very generously offered to transport Tooey up to Colleen’s, since she was driving up that way anyway. Tooey was in good company, with Liz’s Niall, Arthur, and Clare.

Liz texted me when they arrived a few hours later, saying that Niall didn’t think Tooey was ready yet, and that Arthur (seen above sniffing Tooey) thought Tooey was the most amazing thing he’d ever smelled.

Now Tooey is safe and sound in Colleen’s familiar “girl yard.” (Thanks, Liz, for the ride, text, and picture.)
After Tooey left, Cooper searched the house and the yard, looking for her. It’s an emptier house without her. But we’ll see her in about a month at the IWSCOPS Specialty, and then bring her home again.

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Have you ever wished you knew what your dogs are thinking? Perhaps pictures tell us more than we might think.

A couple of days ago, I posted this picture of Cooper and Tooey. They’d both been freshly trimmed and groomed, all ready to go into the show ring.

What I also just noticed is that this picture also shows their general opinions about going into the show ring.

Tooey’s like, “Oh, good! The show ring. I can show off and look pretty, Trice will give me cookies, and everyone will look at ME!”

Cooper’s thinking, “Damn. The show ring. All that running around in circles and then standing still. For no good reason. And no ducks, neither. Grmph…”

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It took only 84 minutes to get from the dog show door to one of the ponds at the Sauvie Island training grounds, where a small miracle occurred.

And here we have to thank Tooey again. You might remember that she’s the one who taught Cooper to ignore other dogs who try to steal his duck. Well, today, she also helped him learn a little about the “Back” command.

For some reason, Cooper has been having trouble following the “Back” command in the water. With the “Back” command, the handler directs the dog to go straight away from the handler to find and fetch the item to be retrieved. The “Back” command is usually used with “blind retrieves” — ducks or bumpers that the dog hasn’t seen falling to the ground or into the water.

On the land, Cooper has almost no problem going “Back” toward a bumper or duck. But in the water, he’s seemed confused. He’d swim out a few yards, and then turn around and ask for direction. Given the “Back” command again, he’d swim out a few more yards, and then turn around and ask for direction again. And again. (This is called “popping.”)

But on this sunny Sunday afternoon, things perhaps started to improve. Russ threw out a bumper into a patch of lily pads while Cooper wasn’t watching. Tooey had been watching, though, and she took off after it. Seconds later, Russ sent Cooper “Back!” and Cooper took off.

The whole thing turned into a competition in which seconds counted. No time to turn around and ask for directions. Cooper just had to keep going on faith that the bumper was out there.

So far, Tooey has never gotten to a toy or bumper first, and this time she didn’t either. Cooper passed Tooey and kept on going back until he found the bumper.

And then he brought it back and delivered to hand.

Just to test this method, Russ pulled the same stunt several different ways. Each time, Cooper raced Tooey out to a bumper he hadn’t seen. And every time, he kept going till he got to it, fetched it up, and brought it back.

Tooey just played along, a teacher in disguise. She loves the swimming and chasing part. No need to actually fetch and retrieve when you have a boy to do it for you, right?

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Sometimes the decisions judges make in the show ring make sense, and sometimes they don’t. When you lose in a ring where the judge’s choices don’t make sense, disappointment mixes with puzzlement to give the feeling of “So what am I supposed to do now?”

But when you win under a judge whose choice is puzzling, it’s still confusing, but much easier to take.

Winner's Bitch, Patrice, and Winner's Dog

That was my situation today. The judge picked both Cooper and Tooey to win. I’m happy about it, obviously, but sort of confused.

Cooper, Winner's Dog and Best of Winners, Stumptown Cluster, 2010

Cooper was the only dog in today’s show, so the judge had little choice but to give him Winner’s Dog. All by itself, there are no points in this situation because the dog had no other dog to compete against. A nice ribbon, but no points.

However, if a Winner’s Dog who has had no competition goes into the Best of Breed ring (in which the Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch compete against each other), and takes Best of Winners over a Winner’s Bitch who has had some competition, then… Then that lucky dog gets the same number of points that the Winner’s Bitch got.

Got it?

Tooey, Winner's Bitch and Best of Opposite Sex, Stumptown Cluster, 2010

That’s what happened to me today. Cooper got Winner’s Dog, and then Tooey got Winner’s Bitch. In the Best of Breed ring, the judge then awarded Cooper Best of Winners. And since Tooey had competed against two other bitches to win Winner’s Bitch, she got a point, and so did Cooper.

But here’s the confusing part. Cooper and Tooey are both Irish Water Spaniels, but other than that, they are not alike.

Cooper has fine, curly, dark chocolate fur; fine bones and smallish feet; slightly rounded brown eyes; a low topknot; a nice big chest; good body proportions; and a very athletic gait. (He also — still — acts like a dweeb in the ring, refusing to stand still in the classic “stacked” position that best shows off a dog’s shape. Not to mention that I temporarily lost my mind in the ring with Cooper, running 1-1/4 times around the ring instead of the required 3/4 way around.)

On the other hand, Tooey has very thick, medium brown fur with orange tinges; some wave in her curl; large bones and big feet; somewhat slanted more-golden eyes; a high forehead; sometimes appears slightly longer than preferred; and a lovely flowing gait.

In almost everything except that they each have beautiful gaits, Cooper and Tooey are entirely different. So, here’s the puzzle: If the judge liked dogs like Tooey, why did she choose Cooper to be Best of Winners? And if she prefers dogs like Cooper, why did she choose Tooey for Winner’s Bitch instead one of the other bitches, which resemble Cooper more closely than Tooey does?

It’s a real puzzle. Not that I’m giving the points back, of course. I’ve worked long and hard to get this far (with a lot of help from my friends), and I’ll take every point I can get.

There’s one more part of the puzzle that may have occurred to you. If I handle both Cooper and Tooey, how did they compete against each other in the Best of Breed ring?

Today Russ came along, and he got drafted for his very first time in the show ring. He handled Tooey (who already had today’s Winner’s Bitch point), and I handled Cooper. We were gambling that Cooper might win Best of Winner’s if I handled him. Amazingly, the gamble paid off.

And the picture above, taken in the ring, during the Best of Breed competition? Once a photographer, always a photographer. It’s like my sweet husband can’t help himself. And as he pointed out, the judge wasn’t  looking…

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It’s a rare day when both dogs are all groomed up at the same time. Tooey’s been going into the show ring pretty regularly over the past several months, but Cooper has been too busy working in the field. But today is that day, so Russ got a great picture to mark the event.

Cooper and Tooey, all dressed up and going tomorrow

This weekend, the Stumptown Cluster of dog shows is located in my home town. No traveling, no motels, no excuse not to show both dogs at least one of the days. Though I might have found an excuse if I’d wanted to, if I were basing my decision logically on the order of events:

  • Tuesday evening, Cooper was at flyball practice.
  • Wednesday, Cooper was in the field, retrieving in ponds.
  • Wednesday evening, Cooper got a brush-out and bath. We got a pile of seeds, twigs, burrs, and what have you.
  • Thursday morning, Colleen did some beautiful scissoring to trim him up to show standards.
  • Thursday evening, Tooey went to Rally class.
  • Friday evening, Tooey got her brush-out, bath, and trim. (Colleen had already done the scissoring on Tooey last week.)
  • This morning early, Cooper was back out in the field.
  • This afternoon, Tooey was in the show ring.
  • This evening, Cooper got another brush-out and bath, and another pile of seeds and twigs.
  • Tomorrow morning, before the show, both Cooper and Tooey will most likely get a very slight trim to take off the “sticky-outies” — any wayward hair that is sticking out from their curls.
  • Tomorrow afternoon, both dogs are going into the show ring. (If the judge has any trouble choosing, perhaps she will be beguiled by the sweet scent of Cooper’s duck breath. Or maybe not.)

Later tomorrow afternoon, after the show ring, both dogs are going back to the ponds. Finally — they’ll each be doing what they love best in life: to swim (Tooey) and practice retrieves (Cooper).

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It’s always interesting and kind of disorienting to watch oneself on video. In real life, I can’t see my own facial expressions or posture, for one thing. And when I’m in the dog show ring, I can’t really see how my dog is moving. (Or I suppose I could turn my head so I can see her, but the one time I tried that, I lost my place in space, and ran squarely into the ring gates.)

This is why I am so grateful to Cat for taking these videos of Tooey and me at the Nisqually dog show last Sunday. I can see that in the very small rings they had there, Tooey never really got up to speed, and never really showed off her lovely gait and nice reach. I can also see that I didn’t stack Tooey quite right, so that the judge had to move Tooey’s front leg to get her into position.

Anyway, here are the two videos. First is the one of Tooey and me in the Open Bitches class (we were the only one), and then of all the bitches in the Winner’s Bitch competition. Molly, the bitch handled by Marty (the male handler) took Winner’s Bitch (darn it!).

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Well, if an emu is a bird, then yes. Tooey is birdy.

I could spend this post whining about Tooey’s not getting any points at the Nisqually Kennel Club show this weekend, but instead we can talk about the 7-mile walk, the emu, and turning back before sight of Puget Sound.

Teri, her husband Gary, and I took our Irish Water Spaniels, Maeve and Tooey, on a long walk along the Chehalis Western Trail, a former railroad bed, which heads north from about Lacey to the sound end of Woodard Bay in south Puget Sound. We think we walked about 7 miles along the paved, level trail, along wetlands, forest, ponds, and the occasional back yard.

One particular back yard had the above emu in it, who was happy enough to be observed from afar. But once Tooey got too close, he grunted (funny — that an emu would grunt), and moved away.

We walked about another 1/2 mile and then decided to turn back. We knew that if either Irish Water Spaniel were to actually see Woodard Bay, they would have nothing on their minds but swimming. As it was, it was all we could do to pull them away from the duck-filled ponds along the way. If this had been today, after all the shows were over, we might have kept on. But our walk was on Saturday, and neither Teri nor I could quite convince ourselves that we wanted to drag a muddy dog back to the car and then drive around a strange town looking for a dog wash.

Now, if they’d been Labs, we could have just hosed them off somewhere and been good to go. But if they’d been Labs, they’d have been somebody else’s dogs.

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I have been so blessed with a bevy of friends who are wonderul Irish Water Spaniel groomers: (in alphabetical order) Colleen, Jayme, Rebecca, and Tammy. Each one does a lovely job, and each one has a slightly different esthetic.

I have my own ideas, too, but I can’t bring them into reality like these ladies.

Tooey and I are going to yet another dog show this weekend, and I realized that one of the things I wanted this time was slightly more fullness on her chest. Tooey doesn’t really have much of a chest*, but a good groomer can sometimes create the illusion of one. So Colleen is magicking a chest on Tooey with comb and scissors.

As we saw a couple of weeks ago, grooming isn’t the most important factor in winning a dog show. But it doesn’t hurt, either.

* Later in the evening, after I’d published this post, Colleen called me to say that I should add “yet” as in “Tooey doesn’t really have a chest yet.” Tooey’s only 19 months old, and could still develop a chest. She has broadened somewhat already, so it’s possible. Only the proverbial time will tell.

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Russ and I spent the holiday weekend with Jack and Colleen. One of the highlights of the weekend was being able to give them a gift that can only partially repay the many kindnesses they have extended to us.

Russ does beautiful work, and I am particularly proud that I can be even slightly associated with this oil portrait he did of one of Colleen’s dogs — Mabel, Cooper’s grandmother.

oil painting and image © 2010 Russ Dodd
Am Ch Hooligan's Fair Hibernia "Mabel" CD, RN, SH, WCX

Russ started this project several months ago by taking more than a hundred photographs of Mabel in Colleen and Jack’s yard. You can see one of the photographs in an earlier blog post.

The finished size of the portrait is 22″ x 30″ before being placed in a handmade mahogany frame.

Russ has created several other paintings of dogs, starting with a watercolor of our first dog, Kayak, the malamute-mix. Now he’s focusing on oil portraits of sporting dogs, including Irish Water Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and soon, Boykin Spaniels.

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At the recent Lower Columbia HRC hunt test, I got to be an observer and part-time photographer. That left me lots of time to notice things that a person wouldn’t see in real life.

Bitch check

“Bitch check” is one of those things. I kept hearing officials ask handlers of female dogs if they’d gone through bitch check yet. Finally, I had to ask.

I already knew that bitches in season (aka “in heat”) are not allowed on the grounds of a hunt test. You can imagine the sort of trouble that might bring on with a lot of high-drive dogs around. So, I just sort of assumed that an owner or handler simply wouldn’t bring a bitch in season.

But no. There was a team of people, equipped with white rags, who were empowered to wipe a bitch’s nether regions. If they found the characteristic bloody discharge on the white rag, the bitch was out.

You want me to do what?

Russ also took a funny picture of Cooper at the edge of the Columbia River. To get the in-joke, you have to know that Russ has been practicing the “Back” command. In that command, the dog is directed (aka “handled”) to go straight away from the handler to fetch the item to be retrieved. Usually, of course, this is a game bird of some sort. Russ’s comment on this picture: “Probably too much for a Started dog, eh?”

The shotgun talk — yes and no

And then, there’s the shotgun talk. At HRC tests, in the Seasoned and Finished levels, the handler must shoot the shotgun at the start of the test. Gun operation and safety are integral parts of these tests. But at the Started level, gun handling isn’t required — instead there is a designated gunner who shoots the shotgun blanks.

Handlers in Started tests are allowed to handle the gun, if they want, and the judges usually give the gun safety talk, which outlines how handlers will be judged on that aspect.

But here’s the funny part. In all the HRC hunt tests I’ve been to, the judge says something like, “At this level, you don’t have to handle the gun, but you can if you prefer. Does anyone want to do that?” And all during the “you can if you want to” talk,  the judge is shaking his or her head “No.” Everybody laughs, and so far, everyone has gotten the message: “Don’t.” Not having to deal with a gun and a dog at the same time is one of those advantages that the rules give you, and everyone I’ve seen takes it.

Strange ritual for winners

And lastly, there is a very strange ritual for handlers whose dogs have earned an HRC title at that day’s hunt test (I didn’t see this at any of the AKC tests). Cooper earned his Started Hunting Retriver title, so Russ was included in the ceremony.

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