Archive for November, 2010

The last day of a four-day weekend turned out pretty nice — not too cold, not too rainy, not windy at all. Turned out to be a perfect day to go out to the Delta with Cooper.

on the path to the river

at the river, wet after several retrieves

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Some years ago, I bought a crate mat at a dog show. I love that crate mat. It’s the one mat that Cooper didn’t chew, it’s washable, it’s sturdy, and it looks pretty good.

It’s quilted, but not too thick, and relatively flat, and rectangular, with fleece on one side, denim on the other side, and some sort of thin batting in the middle. This one guy sells them, or used to sell them anyway, at dog shows in the Pacific Northwest. And for the last year, I’ve been looking for this guy and his mats at every dog show I went to.

Never found him.

So, here I was, bored, with just a little money, a worn-out round dog bed (not the same thing as the mat), and a desire to have a mat like the one I’ve been looking for.

How hard could it be to just make one?

And my last sewing project was a camo holding blind, also for the dogs. So what the heck?

I took apart the dog bed and saved the covering material that was still in good shape. After taking some measurements, I went out and bought some golden brown fleece and batting, all on sale. I did a little research on the Internet about how to sew two pieces of material with batting between them. Plus, I have a sewing machine in good working order, and I can cut out material to size and even sew a straight seam.

Even so, it was harder (and more time-consuming) than I thought. I didn’t really realize that when you quilt material, the quilting seams draw the material in, so that the finished size is smaller than what you’ve cut out. I didn’t realize quite how many quilting seams I was going to have to sew. And I didn’t quite get that the layers of material can move around, even when you use a lot of pins and sew out from the middle as instructed.

But 8 long hours later, it didn’t turn out half bad.

It’s not quite as stiff as I’d like, and it’s a little thicker than the original mat. And since the finished dimension turned smaller than I anticipated, I had to add an edge of pieced-together material around the outside. But Cooper uses it, it lies flat on the floor, and I got to recycle the old worn-out bed. So I guess I’m happy.

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Butch must have realized how much we have missed Tooey. He took a picture of her up on the training table today and sent it to us:

Tooey on the training table with duck

His description:
“This is her transition from pigeons to ducks.
It wasn’t what you would call silk smooth but successful.”

The training table at Parkdale Kennels is 16′ long, about 2′ wide, and table height off the ground. It includes a wire tether that goes along and above the length and is attached to the dog’s collar.

The table provides just enough room for a dog to walk down the length, pick up one or more objects, turn around, and come back. That keeps the dog’s mind focused on the task at paw (so to speak) — there is some freedom of movement, but not enough space to run off.

The fact that Tooey is on ducks now is wonderful. Just yesterday, she started on pigeons. And, I’m pretty sure this is the first duck that she’s picked up without having first gotten to jump into the water.

Tooey will do anything to get into the water, even bring back a duck. And she’s done that several times. (This previous post includes pictures of the last time.) So for Butch to get her to pick up a duck without that incentive is a very good sign.

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This Thanksgiving morning started with sleeping in an extra hour, a nice coffee and omelet breakfast, and phone calls with some family members. Then Russ, Cooper and I drove out to one of our favorite local fields to do a little field training.

It’s a nice field with a variety of cover, from dead flat, to medium grass, patches of nettle and blackberry, small shrubs, and the occasional pieces of trash for distraction. And it’s close — just about 15 minutes away.

We didn’t do anything too tough, just:

  • three or four nice doubles (two black and white bumpers, thrown off in different directions while Cooper watches)
  • one short triple (same thing, just with three black and white bumpers)
  • a bunch of memory blind retrieves (a pile of orange bumpers, all in the same place, which Cooper hasn’t seen and doesn’t know where the pile is until he’s directed to it the first time)
  • four cold blind retrieves (orange bumpers, each put in a different location, none of which Cooper sees until he’s directed there)

Oh, and one last thing to be thankful for — we got to use the field today. When we got there, we found all kinds of construction equipment and a construction trailer. Looks like it’ll be an office or store, with a parking lot soon. Because today is Thanksgiving, the construction crew was off, and the equipment was quiet. Today was probably our last opportunity, so we were glad to take full advantage.

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The prime photo would have been a triumphant portrait of the mighty hunter and his dog, with birds. Having not gotten any birds during this month’s hunting trip, though, we will settle for photos of hiking with shotguns and dogs.

You can see the varied terrain: everything from sage brush, tall grass, cattails, worn deer paths, ponds, and etc., plus the variety of weather from dense fog to lightly clouded skies. Nice hiking temperature, no rain — the only thing keeping it from being perfect was the lackage of birds.

Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Cooper, Russ, and Rod hunting in the fog and sagebrush

Rod and Rio

Russ watching Cooper and Rio work the brush

Our gracious hosts, Rod and Renae, and their dog, Rio

Just prior to Cooper's retrieving a weeks-dead duck. Good "leave it!"

Russ in the fog and cattails (there is a dog in there somewhere)

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When you write a blog, it’s always nice to have the photos right away, on or near the day events occurred. But with official dog show pictures, this is usually not possible. You have to wait until the show photographer has the time to print and send the photos to you.

So, just the other day I finally got the official show pictures from our lucky day at the Del Valle dog show, back on October 24.

Tooey, after her championship point, photo by Holloway Photos

Cooper, after his first major win, photo by Holloway Photos

These pictures are very traditional:

  • The judge holds the trophies and/or ribbons.
  • The handler stands next to the judge and holds the dog.
  • Both the judge and the handler ideally look at the dog, not the camera.
  • The dog stands in a stacked position. (Front legs should be straight and under the shoulder blades. Rear legs should be vertical from the hock down.)
  • There is a placard that shows the show name, what placement the dog won, whether it’s a major win, and the title earned, if any. Usually the photographer’s name is on there, too, and often a date.

In these pictures, you can also get a hint of how wet it was outside — see the rain water on my shoulders? and the judges’ raincoat?

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Since Tooey went to Parkdale Kennels for retriever training, I’ve been able to talk to the trainer every week about how she’s doing.

I’m very happy to say that Tooey is doing well.

She spent the first week learning to work indoors: sit and whistle-sit (sitting when the handler whistles once), heeling on leash, and a trained retrieve of bumpers while she’s tethered to a post.

The second week, she was no longer tethered to the post during the training sessions. Instead, she moved on to trained retrieve and deliver to hand on a 16-foot training table. This means that she has the opportunity to retrieve more than one bumper (and also has more opportunity to misbehave!). She also kept working on whistle-sit and heeling indoors.

This week it was planned that she’d go outdoors to do the same things, and maybe get a bird, but I’ll hear more about that on Friday. Since it’s been below freezing a lot this week, the plan may have changed.

Tooey and Butch (her trainer) had one disagreement during her second week, and he had to insist, using the e-collar at its lowest setting, that she comply with his instructions to fetch. Apparently, she reacted (as he’d hoped) by figuring out that she avoids pressue and gets rewarded for complying.

She also had one session where she pretended not to know what he was talking about (oh, I recognize that maneuver!), and he had to insist once again. If she hadn’t tried to pull this right after she’d done it several times correctly, then he may not have have been sure that she was pretending. Silly girl.

Butch is very happy with her progress. I wish I could see for myself, but I just have to wait. I’ll check in again this coming Friday.

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On our second hunting trip with Rod and Renae out near the Potholes Reservoir in eastern Washington, Rod and Russ carried the guns, Renae served as guide and expert commentator, and I took pictures. Taking pictures is one area where hunting and hunt tests, at least the ones I go to, are alike. In both cases, I generally get pictures. And that was true on this trip, too. I’ll post more later, but this is one of my favorites of Cooper and Russ:

One of the biggest differences between hunting and hunt tests is that in hunt tests, you are guaranteed that there will be birds. The hunt test organizers go out and buy them, and then throw them for the dogs, so you know they’re there. Hunting is different. On this trip, Rio (Rod and Renae’s Irish Water Spaniel) flushed up only three birds: a hen (which you can’t shoot), and two roosters (which you can).

And then, in hunt tests, the birds are either pre-killed or shot for you by several experienced gunners. And the area of the fall is generally planned to be a place where a dog can be expected to be able to find the bird.

By contrast, on this hunting trip, Russ and Rod got a shot off each at one of the pheasants, and it fell into the cattails. Both dogs charged in to retrieve it (good dogs!), but after a lot of looking by both canines and all four homo sapiens, we didn’t find the pheasant. Probably it had gotten the scare of it’s life, and then recovered soon enough to run off into the heavy cover.

Lastly, hunt tests don’t generally involve a lot of hiking — some, to be sure, to get you and your dog to the line, where the hunt test starts, but not much. On this trip, we had miles of beautiful hiking through sage brush (smells SO good), tall grass, over rocks, around thick patches of cattails, and through low swampy areas, all set in the hilly ridges around the area. These are some of the pictures I’ll put in a later post.

I have loved these hunting trips — so different from my normal, urban, working-in-a-cube-farm life. I guess that’s something else that’s similar to hunt tests — I love them, too.

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I guess it’s official now:

  1. This is the AKC page that shows the summary of points and titles that a dog has earned.
  2. Tooey’s registered name (Stanegate Second Thoughts) with her new titles (CH and RN).
  3. The show Champion section shows how many points, how many majors (wins worth 3 points or more), how many judges judged those majors, and how many judges total. 15 points and 2 majors are required for a show championship.
  4. The Rally section shows her rally title (Rally Novice), how many Rally judges she showed under, and how many qualifying scores she earned. 3 qualifying scores are needed for the title.

The biggest deal here is that I’m not supposed to claim anywhere (that the AKC can see) that she’s earned any titles until they’re official.

Looks pretty official to me. Hurray!

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I was excited to see Russ’s photos used in a video made by one of our local news broadcasters, KGW.

I can’t get the video to embed in the blog, so all I can do is put a link to the source: http://www.kgw.com/home/Coyote-Spotted-in-Alameda-107384549.html

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Tooey is at duck camp, and we all miss her already.

  • No one to jump on me 15 minutes before the alarm goes off
  • No curly brown girl lying on the bath mat when I get out of the shower
  • No tail-wagging pup sitting politely at the front door when I come home
  • No one to show me where all the squirrels are when we’re out for our evening walk
  • No one reminding me (several times) where we keep the dog food
  • No one to wrestle, jump, and dance with Cooper after dinner (Russ does an OK job of the wrestling, but is clearly not up to Tooey’s standards)
  • No girl belly to give belly rubs to
  • No one coming to ask me if we can play “Stay,” “Sit” or “Come Around” (Cooper will practice these with me, but I have to ask him, not the other way around)
  • No one to bring me a disemboweled, formerly stuffed toy as we’re getting into bed
  • No good-night licks (Cooper is sparing with his licks)

It’s going to be a long 3 months.

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Boarding school for your pup is something I would not have endorsed a couple of years ago. But with experience and observing the results in Cooper, I changed my mind. Cooper is a much better companion because of his time at the Academy of Canine Behavior and a better hunter because of his 3 months at retriever boot camp. So now that Tooey is a show dog champion, it is time to move her full time into her training as a field dog.

For the last year in Cooper’s field training and hunt tests, I have been affiliated with the Lower Columbia Hunting Retriever Club. It has given me an opportunity to forge new relationships and friends, see lots of dogs work, and hone my own skills as a trainer. One club member, Butch Higgins, is a professional gundog trainer. His success with a variety of breeds and temperaments is a significant reason why we have decided that Tooey and Butch will be working together over the next few months.

Both Patrice and I have observed Butch at hunt tests, and the rapport between Butch and the dogs he is handling is very upbeat with a lot of tail wagging and a lot of positive communication taking place. This is not at the expense of high performance either. (Butch had 4 dogs this year pass all 6 days of the Master National Retriever Tests.) Plus, at the initial evaluation that Butch did with Tooey about a month ago, Tooey decided she likes Butch. So we anticipate that this should be a good fit.

Lesson One: "Watch Me"

Tooey’s very first training with Butch is pictured above. Butch walked her around the the lobby of Parkdale Kennels, and then encouraged her to sit in the chair and focus on him. Note that she is wearing a leash, but it is loose on the floor. This is all under his verbal control and encouragement. We should all be so relaxed with relative strangers.

Looking for that stash of office cookies

Tooey then decided that if this was going to be her home for a while, she should get to know the staff and her surroundings.

In about 2 months, Patrice will be making weekend trips to Parkdale (about 50 miles from home) to start learning how to be Tooey’s field handler. This will all be leading up to the hunt test season of 2011, so they can join Cooper and me in competing for those hunt test titles. Team Tooey will be testing for a Working Certificate this spring and hunt titles in the both the AKC and the HRC.

Blog posts about Tooey will probably be sparse for a couple of months, but as soon as Patrice and Tooey meet up again, she will probably be a very popular topic for Patrice.

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Tomorrow is almost here. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for, for months. The day before which I really, really wanted to get Tooey’s show championship.

Tomorrow is the day Tooey leaves for three months to work with Butch Higgins of Parkdale Kennels. He will teach her the finer points of heeling and sitting politely at heel, fetching up a bumper or duck (or whatever she’s been directed to fetch), and holding it in her mouth until directed to give it to the handler.

She’ll also learn to watch for ducks or bumpers to fall out of the sky and retrieve them, to go out to find bumpers or ducks that she hasn’t seen fall, and myriad other tasks required for hunting retrievers.

In thinking about Tooey’s sojourn at “duck camp,” I long ago decided that Tooey’s show coat had to come off beforehand. Tooey’s show coat is too long, much thicker than Cooper’s, and velcro-like in the presence of burrs, brambles, stickers, seeds, twigs, thorns, and other botanical debris. Trying to maintain a long, flowing show coat in the field is a time consuming pain in the butt.

Thankfully, Tooey got her show championship a couple of weekends ago, and yesterday her breeder got to see her in all her show glory. So today, finally, there was no longer any reason to keep the show coat on.

This evening, the show coat came off. Tooey now has a short, very comfy, easier-to-care-for ‘do. Cooper approves completely.

Cooper observing, Tooey getting trimmed

And besides, concentrating on the the trimming has so far kept me from feeling sad. From realizing just how much I’m going to miss Tooey while she’s gone.

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Russ and I were thrilled to finally meet Judith, Tooey’s breeder. We’ve been emailing some, and chatting on Facebook, but that’s not the same.

And that’s exactly why Judith came to Bothell, Washington from the far northwest corner of England. Having sent Tooey to the States, she’d been considering taking home a certain American dog. She’d seen pictures and video of the dog in question, but that’s not the same as meeting him and getting a feel for his personality and temperament. She wanted to see the dog for herself.

So Judith made the long trip from England, we drove the 4 hours north, and Colleen and Jack provided the warm hospitality. We were able to meet Judith in person, and Judith could see a grown-up Tooey, daughter of Judith’s Best-in-Show-winning Dora (aka Stanegate Sparks Will Fly).

It was a happy meeting all the way around.

Judith and Tooey

Thank you, Judith and Colleen. I hope Tooey and I can keep making you proud.

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The local coyote, who was out cruising our very urban neighborhood, is either getting very bold or very hungry. On our morning walk today, the dogs and I met up with the coyote, who was having a stare down with a cat. Neither was budging, so I opened my cell phone camera to get a few photos (my disclaimer for the lack of image quality).

The presence of Cooper and Tooey was enough to distract the coyote away from his breakfast-to-be and for it to begin to consider its options. Based on the size of Cooper and Tooey, who both weigh in at 65 pounds, I’m estimating that this canine is probably about 45 pounds. He (or she) didn’t want to back down because breakfast was still sitting under the truck. But he didn’t want to go forward either because we were there, too. Good for the cat, though I don’t want to go on record of having been nice to a cat — this was strictly a photo-op. 😉

Mr. Coyote, meet two Irish Water Spaniels

Very vigilant Cooper and Tooey

Cooper, who was off-lead, was perfectly willing to go investigate, but stayed put because he was trained to do what he is told. (Can you believe that I used the words “Cooper” and “trained” in the same sentence?) Notice that Tooey’s leash is pulled very tight, as her training is still a work in progress.

After about a minute, the coyote did an about face and wandered off down the sidewalk into the morning fog.

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