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Archive for September, 2011

More walking on the beach, more stick throwing, more swimming and body surfing, more stick retrieving, more watching the clouds, more rejoicing in the unexpectedly sunny weather: That’s how our last-day-of-September morning went. In one word: delightful.

Oooh! Is Trice getting a stick?

In the afternoon, we were joined by Dave and Liz, who live nearby, and their two hunting dogs, Maxie, the Standard Poodle, and Bugsie, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Together we walked the beach between Netarts and Oceanside, chatting about dogs, hunting, and good places to eat nearby.

What are you looking at?

Which one has chicken in her pocket?

Didn't we leave that stick somewhere around this rock?

The one picture we didn’t ever get (and really, it should have been a video anyway) was of Tooey teaching herself to bodysurf. She was absolutely fearless about throwing herself into oncoming waves to fetch the stick we’d thrown (there is a picture of that on yesterday’s entry), and then coming back in. On one of those trips, a wave took her over as she was swimming in, lifted her up, and carried her to shore.

Being lifted up startled her that first time, but after that, it looked for all the world as if she chose her exact moment to return to shore so that a wave would catch her and carry her in. She was so eager to repeat the ride that she crashed through the waves and beat Cooper to the stick almost every time — and that’s another first. In the past, Cooper has always gotten to the retrieve object first.

And then there’s Cooper’s game. Whenever we throw sticks on a sandy beach, Cooper takes a break from retrieving by playing this game he’s made up. He picks up the stick, runs around with it, and then drops it onto the sand. Then he leaps onto it, paws at it as if digging, and then throws the stick back between his hind legs. Then he turns around and, Surprise! There’s the stick! Oh boy! Whereupon he leaps on it again as if he’s just found it, and starts the game all over again.

Days like today remind me of some of the best reasons to have dogs. They have such fun with simple things like sticks, and are filled with such joy. I’ve watched them play for these 2 days, and I could keep watching them for many, many more days to come.

We’ll go home tomorrow. But I’ll remember these two days fondly, and plan to come back to the beach soon.

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We lucked out. Our late September day at the beach was sunny and warm. Just fine for throwing sticks into the Pacific ocean for two very eager Irish Water Spaniels.

Tooey and Cooper, with Trice throwing a stick toward Japan

Tooey and Cooper racing through the surf line

An Irish Water Spaniel or two swimming through the surf

Tooey crashing through a wave

Russ sending the dogs for more sticks

Admiring the view after a hard day at the ocean

After a day like today, I always think I must come back to the beach more often. I love it. The dogs love it. And it’s just been much too long since the last time, just about two years ago.

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Last night, Russ noticed a really, really big spider crawling along the dining room wall. Normally, he picks spiders up and puts them outside. But this time, something made him get up, grab the telephone book, and proceed to pound the spider.

Now, here’s the interesting thing. When the pounding started:

  • Cooper turned and ran into the bedroom.
  • Tooey got up and stood next to me, quietly, paying keen attention, not running away and not jumping into the fray.
  • I suddenly remembered Kayak, our first dog, a malamute-mix, my protector and friend.

Kayak, 1987

Here’s what I saw again in a flash of memory, from more than 25 years ago:

One afternoon, I was really angry, so angry that I had to do something physical with all of that rage. I was in the bedroom, so I grabbed a handy pillow and beat the hell out of the bed with that pillow. Kayak jumped up on the bed growling, and attacked it, certain that I was in mortal danger from whatever was on that bed.

And then the memory segued to:

One dark evening, I was walking Kayak along the even darker alley behind our house. A man jumped out of the bushes, just as every mother has warned every daughter might happen. Kayak put herself in front of me, between me and the man, and barked, “Stay Away!” That bark was so distinctive, so unusual for her, that all the neighbors’ houses lit up with lights. The man left the alley. I stood rooted to the spot, blood pounding. Kayak stayed put and kept watch until I turned and took us home.

I am so grateful to have big dogs. They make me feel safe, or at least safer than I’d feel without them. And I don’t want to give the impression that Cooper is not a protector — he’s the one who alerted us to danger in our yard, the flashing police lights, and kept me feeling safe.

And it did make me wonder what Tooey would do if she thought I was in danger.

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Russ, Cooper, Tooey, and I were just finishing the land portion of our field training at St. Louis Ponds, when who should drive up but some of our “exotic” hunt training friends.

There was not a Labrador Retriever among them (hence, the “exotic” label). Hank and Holly brought their Master Hunter-level Poodle, Laney, and their 17-week-old Poodle puppy, Taura. Dave and Liz brought their Poodle, Maxie, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Bugsie. So after some happy conversation, both among the canines and the humans, we all walked over to one of the ponds to set up some water work.

Patrice, Maxie, Bugsie, Dave, Taura, and Liz
photo by Holly Thau

We did doubles and singles in the water for the experienced dogs, as well as several blind retrieves for Laney. Laney’s blinds were pretty long — giving her a nice water workout. She also had one very long blind that required her to pass by a bumper on the shore and keep swimming toward the bumper she had been directed to. Good girl!

Bugsie also needed work on entering the water at a narrow angle — a task often required for Senior Hunter (ACK) or Seasoned Hunter (HRC) levels of work. It can be a challenge to persuade a dog to go straight out to the mark at a narrow angle to the land. Often, they want to first run along the bank and then take a wider angle into the water. Cooper has this issue, too, but we didn’t practice it today.

The puppy Taura got to work on some short retrieves into the water — I think she entered into the water channeling her inner Irish Water Spaniel — no hesitation, just an all-out leap. She even brought the dummy back to within a few steps of her handler.

Tooey did very nicely on her water retrieves. She dropped the dummy only once and she delivered each one to hand. She did get somewhat turned around on one mark, and that was as a result of Cooper’s behavior.

Cooper had been acceptably honoring the other dog’s work. This is still really, really difficult for him. Russ had to remind him to stay down from time to time, and Cooper quivered the whole while, but he managed to remain in place.

But after watching all the other dogs go, Cooper’s seeing Tooey leap into the water after her mark was just too much for him to bear. He broke, got corrected, and yelped at the correction. The yelp threw Tooey off, and she started swimming away with the bumper instead of returning to me.

I whistled and called her. She swam away and then in circles. I whistled and called some more. After another moment, she came to her senses, and returned to me. But this was odd — in coming back, she went wide around the area of water where she had been when Cooper yelped.

It wasn’t a wonderful water retrieve, but that yelp made it a challenging one. I didn’t like the swimming-away behavior, but Tooey did come back and she did deliver the dummy to hand under these challenging circumstances. She got a piece of the coveted dried chicken for that.

And then, Cooper had another turn at a water retrieve. Even with the recent correction, he had no hesitation. His leap into the water was every bit as dramatic as the one shown on this blog masthead.

With that, we were all wet, happy, tired, and out of time. Time to stop, and go home.

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Cooper is an orphan now, if dogs can be said to be orphans. Both his parents are gone. Balloo died in 2008, and Nova passed away on August 21st.

Ch Realta’s SuperNova CD, RN, MH, WCX, QAA — 9/29/02-8/21/11

Nova, 2010

You can see from her many titles that Nova was a very accomplished Irish Water Spaniel. But they don’t spell out her accomplishments completely. She was:

  • First IWS bitch to achieve Qualified All Age in AKC field trials
  • Second generation Master Hunter
  • First IWS bitch qualified to attend the Master National
  • One of the two first IWS to attend the Master National (along with her half sister, Nike)
  • Dam to the 2009 AND 2011 IWSCA National Specialty WB BOW: Maggie and Emmy
  • A top producer, being dam to three show champions: Maggie, Mowgli, and Cooper
  • Dam to one and almost a second All-Around IWS (Emmy has her CH, JH, and CD; Cooper has to get 2 more legs on his Obedience CD)
  • Beloved companion, and dam to many other lovable and beloved companions

Nova has been an inspiration to me personally. The fact of Nova’s accomplishments has kept me going when I was ready to quit, almost convinced that we couldn’t do it, whatever it was — getting Cooper’s show championship, his hunting titles, and now, his tantalizingly close (but not guaranteed) Obedience title.

But I keep going because my working toward Cooper’s training and titles are inspired and supported by my desire to honor Nova and Rosemary. I am so blessed to have both of them in my heart and my life.

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Cooper and I have been working hard on heel, that is — keeping his head next to my knee. In field work, he wants to be out ahead, and in the obedience ring he lags behind. So we’ve been working on heel. A lot.

On the other hand, two tasks we’ve not had to work on quite so much are the long sit and long down. In class, in the house, in controlled circumstances, Cooper’s done a pretty good job of staying in a sit position for 1 minute and in the down position for 3 minutes. We practice these, of course, but I haven’t been really emphasizing it.

So what happened this morning during our Obedience Novice A trial this morning?

We got all the way through the individual exercises, including the heeling (which was better). I’m pretty sure we had a passing score when we left the ring. And then we went back into the ring for the group exercises: the long sit and then the long down.

Those are nerve wracking exercises. You sit or down your dog, then walk across to the other side of the ring, and just stand there. You can’t move, you can’t talk, you can’t even change your facial expression. You can’t do anything that might look like a command or a correction. The time passes very, very slowly.  And the whole time, the dog is supposed to stay in position until you return to them and the judge releases the dogs.

We succeeded at the long sit exercise, and then I put Cooper into his down. I walked to the other side of the ring and turned around to face him. He stayed down for a minute, and then a minute and a half, and then…

And then he got up, calmly walked across the ring to me, put himself into the perfect heel position, and then looked up at me as if to say, “Nice heel, huh? I’m a good dog, aren’t I?”

Sigh…

But, he did somethings really wonderfully well. His recall was snappy and his front almost square. His finish on the recall was a delightful hop into the heel position — even made some of the spectators laugh. He sat on all the halts. He didn’t go wandering off anywhere, nor did I lose him during the about-turns. He even let the judge, who was in a wheelchair, put her hands on him during the stand for exam (although he did move his feet).

So, while I would have preferred to bring home the green ribbon, I do have to look at how much we have achieved.

And also, work a bit more on those long sits and downs.

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