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Archive for August, 2011

During our visit to my doctor’s office last week, Russ asked, “Can she go to the next dog show?” The doctor had just finished examining me, following up on my collapse at the previous weekend’s dog show in Enumclaw. After doing some tests and ordering some others, she first looked me in the eye, then at Russ, and then at me again, and said, “If you feel up to it, then you can go. But take care of yourself. No stress.”

Fortunately, as dog shows go, this year’s IWSCOPS specialty was pretty relaxed. I had my husband and my friends surrounding and taking care of me. People brought me water and offered to groom my dog. I even got offers to take him into the ring for me. And besides, since Cooper already has his show championship, taking him into the show ring was easy and not stressful. I knew we weren’t going to win, so I simply got to enjoy showing my beautiful hunting dog off to the crowd.

Cooper in the Field Trial Dogs class, IWSCOPS specialty 2011

Cooper mugging for Russ's camera

The obedience ring was a bit more stressful (don’t tell my doctor), but on Saturday, we had a few advantages. The trial was held indoors, which led to fewer distractions (all the bitches in season were not allowed in the building, and that helped Cooper concentrate on the job at hand). The professional photographer agreed to not photograph while Cooper and I were in the ring (Cooper thinks all cameras are held my Russ, and that breaks his concentration, too — see the picture above). Plus the crowd was quiet while we worked and burst into applause when we finished — I think they wanted Cooper and me to pass just as much as I did.

The judge was incredibly kind and helpful — she even gave Cooper and me another chance at the Long Down exercise, in which the dog has to stay down in place across the ring from the handler for 3 minutes. During our first try at it, the dog next to Cooper stood up and walked over to Cooper, and the other dog’s handler ran across the ring to get her dog. With all that distraction, Cooper stood up, too. The judge decided that this was unfair interference for a Novice dog, so she gave Cooper and me another chance at the Long Down.

I was surprised because I’d assumed we’d already failed. I knew we’d had lots of points taken off already. Cooper didn’t sit when we halted during the Heeling exercises. I also had to give him an extra “Heel” command when his attention lagged during the off-leash Heeling exercise. And, instead of standing still during all of the Stand for Exam exercise, he moved in a very small circle when I returned to him at the end of the exercise. Plus, during the Recall, he came to me at a nice trot, but instead of coming and sitting immediately in front of me, he came around behind me and sat, perfectly straight, facing my rear.

But even with all this, we hadn’t failed yet, making his extra chance at the Long Down was very fortunate. We passed that, and that kept us just enough points to qualify for Cooper’s first leg of his Companion Dog (CD) obedience title.

Christine & Riki, Patrice & Cooper, Lois & Bonnie, Judge Carolyn Wray
photo by Richard Liebaert

Cooper's first qualifying score in Novice A Obedience, IWSCOPS specialty 2011

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Dog shows are stressful. You wait your turn to go into the ring, and you try to remember to breathe. You go into the ring, hope your dog will live up to the hours of training you’ve put in, and try to remember to breathe. Sometimes you shake a little with nervousness, and your friends outside the ring make breathing motions at you. You look at them, smile, and breathe. Then the judging is finished, and you leave the ring, either pleased or disappointed with the results, and you try to remember to breathe.

In the past, between breaths, I have joked that someday a dog show would be the death of me. But I never really thought that one day a dog show would actually try to kill me.

All morning before my slot in the Novice Obedience ring at the Eunumclaw dog show, I complained to Rod and Renae that I felt bad. All three of us thought it was nervousness. That makes sense — I’m usually nervous at dog shows. And then I got into the ring, and couldn’t breathe easily. Also usual. And then my hands started to shake. Well, that’s not usual, but, after all, this was my first time in Obedience, so maybe not unexpected.

When we got out of the ring (Cooper didn’t pass — he walked away during the Stand for Exam to go check something out in the next ring.), I gathered up my lightweight crate, Cooper on his leash, and started to walk over to Jayme’s RV, where she was going to do some grooming on Cooper for me (bless her heart). It was hard walking over there. I had to stop every 15 steps or so, put down my stuff, rest, and then pick it up and take 15 more steps. Well, I thought, it’s hot (90 F), I’m still nervous, and I don’t feel good. But I didn’t suspect that I had anything to worry about.

Finally, I got over to Jayme’s RV, and over the next couple of hours, I felt worse and worse. Dizzy, lightheaded, unable to stand up for more than a few seconds. Had to sit down, and then I had to lie down. I sweated profusely and then stopped sweating. Paul came over, looked at me, told me my face was all white, and suggested I drink something with sugar in it. He brought me a Coke. Jayme gave me water. Russell made me a sandwich, but I was too nauseated to eat it. All the while, I felt worse. Finally, I asked Paul, who had been a medic, what the symptoms of a heart attack in a woman are. What he described, after checking with his clinician wife Paula, sounded like what I was going through. Except I never did suffer any chest pain or pressure — but I guess that is not unheard of in women.

Then my Irish Water Spaniel friends saved me. They called the medics. They encouraged me to go in the ambulance to the emergency room. Jayme, Russell, and Paul took care of Cooper and my car and all my stuff. Rod and Renae met me at the hospital. They picked up Cooper and my car, and took it all to their house for the duration. They even missed a wedding the next day to take care of me and my dog.

So here I am, three days later, not dead. After days in the hospital, many tests, blood draws, and checkings of vital signs, they don’t know what went wrong. Several signs and my family history point to a heart problem. Could have been dehydration. Could have been an anxiety attack.

So, I’ll be off to my physician this afternoon to see what my next steps are.

The question is: Do my next steps include my going to the IWSCOPS specialty dog show next weekend? I’ve been looking forward to it for months and months. Everyone thinks I’m nuts, but I still really want to go.

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Here I am, doing it again. Going to a dog show. This weekend is the Olympic Kennel Club shows, and Cooper and I are entered.

Not in conformation, though. No, this time I am getting really brave/foolish. I’ve entered us in Novice A Obedience. “Novice” because I’d like to get a CD (Companion Dog) title on Cooper, and a team needs three passes at the Novice level to get that. “A” because I’ve never, ever earned an Obedience title on any dog before.

AKA “rank beginner.”

I thought we were sort of ready. We’ve been working, practicing, and going to fun matches. But then, the hormones around the house changed.

Tooey went into season, and Cooper is distracted. He’s not eating. He is obsessed with knowing where Tooey is at all times (one of them is always in their crate). He’s whining in his crate when Tooey is out of hers. When he’s outside and she isn’t, he’s sniffing and licking and pissing on every spot she’s peed on.

And this show in Enumclaw is about an hour south from where Colleen, Tooey’s co-owner, lives. So I’ll be driving both dogs north with me. Colleen will come  down to Enumclaw to pick Tooey up, and Cooper will be perhaps even more distracted because he doesn’t know where Tooey has gone to.

She is his, he thinks. And he takes those responsibilities and his hoped-for (but never-to-be-realized) benefits seriously.

Eventually he’ll calm down and accept that Tooey is gone (she’ll be back, but he doesn’t know that). But that won’t be for awhile.

And in the meantime, I was really hoping we’d pass our first Novice A Obedience trial.

Oh well. I’ll guess we’ll do what we do.

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Yesterday, Russ was noodling about, trying to design some demonstrations for the beginning Photoshop class he was preparing to teach that night. Something fun that also demonstrated the skills he was planning to teach.

He came up with these two “trading cards,” done in the style of comic book printing.

I am envisioning “stats” on the back:

  • Age (Cooper – 4.5 years; Tooey — 2.5 years)
  • Dam and Sire (Cooper — Nova x Balloo; Tooey — Dora x Woody)
  • Breeder (Cooper — Rosemary; Tooey — Judith)
  • Titles earned (Cooper — SHR, CH, JH, RN, FDX, CGC, WC; Tooey — CH, RN)
  • Relationship status (Cooper has a live-in girlfriend without “benefits”; Tooey has someone willing to be bossed around)
  • Favorite activity (Cooper — retrieving anything, specializing in ducks, bumpers, tennis balls, bath towels, and socks; Tooey — swimming)
  • Ambitions (Cooper — to get someone to throw something; Tooey — to get someone to take her swimming)
  • Current challenge (Cooper — to sit and stay even when things are being thrown; Tooey — to hold a bird without dropping it)

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Although it’s been awhile since I last wrote about Cooper’s SLO (symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy), it’s never far from my mind.

Three times a day, Cooper gets medicines. Every day, I’m always on the look-out for another broken nail, another session of determined toe-licking, or non-accident related limping. And awhile back, when Cooper’s coat began to look dry, my first thought was not to wonder about the effects of weather or the need for a new diet.

Instead, it was, “Oh, I wonder if this is a signal for another flare-up of SLO.”

Cooper’s current SLO status

Since last March, when his two front “index” nails were so badly broken, there have not been any new breaks that were anywhere near that bad. He’s had a couple of nails sort of peel, like a banana, where an outside layer of hard nail tissue peels away.

Several nails look very beat-up and irregular. One of these, Cooper started to lick last night. This might mean it has split back under the cuticle and is causing discomfort. If that’s the case, I should see the nail split in the next several weeks.

But it’s not all horrible. Four nails (one on each foot) look beautiful, black, glossy, straight, and strong. And (thankfully, knock on wood, please God) nothing that makes him limp, cry, or bleed.

Medication regimen

We’ve changed his medicines a little bit. We’re still with

  • 500 mg tetracycline, 3x day
  • 500 mg niacinimide, 3x per day
  • 400 IU vitamin E, 2x per day
  • 2 1000 mg salmon oil, 3x per day
  • 2 capsules Permaclear in the morning, 1 at midday, and 1 at night

To that, we’ve added

  • super vitamin B caplet, ground up and added to his food, 2x per day

We’ve stopped (mostly because it got expensive)

  • Si Wu Tang powder, 2x per day

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The last time I wrote about Cooper’s grooming, I was very much enjoying his new short field cut. It was March, and I was looking forward to months of less debris and less grooming time. Not to mention improving Coop’s ability to see.

Well, now we’re getting ready for Cooper’s (probably) last conformation show in about 3 weeks. So we’ve been growing his coat out, with the idea of sculpting it back into dog-show condition.

It’s not sculpted yet though. Take a look:

For the show, we’ll probably clip his muzzle to get rid of the muttonchops. And we’ll shape the topknot. The ears, though, are the interesting issue. The ear fur seems to have grown a lot slower than the topknot fur, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be grown out to their full length to the show.

Which is OK. Part of me is sorely tempted to give him a modified field cut. He’s a hunting dog, after all, and I’d like people to see him in all his hunting-dog style. But I don’t know just yet.

And fortunately, I don’t have to decide right now.

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I know you will be kind when you watch the video below of our 3rd Novice Obedience fun match. Cooper and I are both beginners at this. Neither of us has done competition obedience before. And really, what you see below is such an amazing improvement over our first fun match.

I have a lot to work on. I’ve entered Cooper in our local Irish Water Spaniel specialty (in a month), and I’d like use to give at least a creditable performance. I am trying to hope for it, yet not count on it, while doing my best to work for it.

Right now, what I see is that I need to keep Cooper’s attention when we are doing any sort of turn. In the fun match, an invisible something on the floor captured his attention, and then there were people to look at (including the photographer — Cooper does love getting his picture taken).

Prior to this, I’ve been using toys or treats to lure him around the corners. In this fun match, I moved to just using my hands (with liberal treats in between).

But soon we’ll need to move away from that hands and treats. I’m just not sure how. I’ve gotten reasonably good at teaching him static behaviors like Sit and Stay, but the moving behaviors like Heel are much tougher. I know I’ve asked my obedience instructor about this several times, and I’ll ask again this evening.

Sometimes I finally “hear” an answer after it’s been given to me several time. Maybe this evening I’ll hear and understand her answer to this training problem.

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