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Archive for April, 2012

I just heard from Colleen. She took Tooey to be X-rayed this morning to see how many puppies Tooey’s actually carrying.

The text message was short, but exciting: “At least 6. Maybe 7 and could be 8.”

Oh-h-h-h-h! Puppies!

I wish I could have seen that X-ray. If it weren’t for the fact that I have to be at work, 188 miles away from the vet’s office, I’d have been there in a flash. And it’s really disappointing that this particular vet doesn’t do digital X-rays, so I can’t even get a copy emailed to me.

Oh, well. I’ll just have to live with it. And hope that Tooey sticks to the expected schedule, so that I can get up there in time for the delivery.

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Someone has to be your first. And if you’re lucky, that first someone is kind, firm, and funny.

My first someone is Carolyn Wray. She was my first Obedience judge and first judge to give my Novice A dog a qualifying score, and she was the first judge I stewarded for at an Obedience trial.

Patrice and judge Carolyn

My first trial as a steward was today at the Sherwood Dog Training Club’s trial at Canby, Oregon. We all had instructions on what to wear (black pants and white sweaters), when to be there (7:30 a.m.), what ring (Ring 3), and for what judge.

I felt a little intimidated, but Carolyn was all smiling clarity, efficiency, and business, giving each of us specific instructions on when to take the leash from each exhibitor and when to return it, when to appear in the ring to serve as post for the Figure 8 exercise, when to change out the jumps for each exhibitor’s jump height, how to lead the exhibitors into the ring for the group exercises, and where to stand with a leash in hand in case some dog tries to leave the ring (as one actually did). Plus there were the matters of how to treat the exhibitors (be kind and don’t rush them), as well as permission to adjust the running order as we saw fit to help exhibitors resolve any conflicts in their schedule.

Besides being in and out of the ring as Carolyn instructed, there was also the matter of checking in each competitor as they arrived, writing their numbers on the board so that they could see how far down the list they were, when lunch was going to happen, and when the group exercises were likely to take place.

With a lot of help from Karen, a more experienced steward, I basically got the hang of it. I wrote the numbers on the board pretty clearly. I think I walked into the ring at the wrong time only twice. When I was a post, I managed not to look at any of the dogs. And as far as I know, I set the jump height correctly every time. And I managed to stop one dog from running out of the ring.

As the day wore on, I came to appreciate Carolyn’s emphasis on efficiency. We had a long day of it — five classes in total: Open B, Novice B, Novice A, Beginner Novice A, and Beginner Novice B. If we hadn’t followed Carolyn’s instructions on how to be both not rushed and efficient, we’d have been there much longer than the 8 hours we were there. When you’re standing most of that time, 8 hours is a very long time.

Watching all of these people, being in exactly the same place as I have been with Cooper, I gained a lot of appreciation for the whole enterprise — the beautiful performance and the poor.

It seemed to me that when I have been an exhibitor, I was very self-involved, paying attention to mostly just myself and my dog. But as a steward, I saw that mine is not the only dog who gets up in the long sits and downs. I saw that I’m not the only exhibitor to have left the ring crying, and was glad that my dog has never actually run out of the ring (although Cooper has definitely thought about it) or been excused for being out of control. And I watched in awe those dogs who stayed perfectly at heel throughout and then sighed when they didn’t sit at the halts.

And I could see how many people, like me, were thrilled to just qualify standing next to those who were disappointed because the didn’t win 1st place in their class, as well as some who were shocked by their good fortune at winning 1st and others who simply expected to do that well.

When I got home, I was exhausted. I couldn’t bear the thought of standing one more minute, so I went straight in and laid down with my feet up. Each foot felt like it weighed 25 pounds. But I’m glad I stewarded. And I’ll probably volunteer to do it again. Next time , though, I’ll wear support stockings.

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Let’s just get to the thrill-packed conclusion: Cooper and I failed today’s WCX test. And we totally failed this time, unlike Cooper’s almost pass last time.

But it wasn’t just Cooper. Working certificate tests, like hunt tests, are a team sport. And this time, both team members messed up big time.

As Cooper and I walked from the parking lot to the first holding blind, it became obvious that Cooper was wild and revved up. As you can see from the picture below, I even resorted to wrapping the leash around his muzzle to stop him from pulling me.

photo by Martha Jordan

He waited in the holding blinds like I asked him to (without jumping on the blind or running out from behind it), but he was still pretty amped up, looking wildly around at every gunshot and whistle.

When it was our turn, we made our way to the line. I walked. Cooper, now off leash as required in the rule, essentially ran in circles around me, as he jumped out and I called him back, jumped out and was called back, and again, rinse, lather, repeat.

At the line, I took a few minutes to get him into heel position facing the spot where first bird would fall. I signalled to the judge that we were ready. The judge called for the bird. The bird was thrown, the gunshot went off, and so did Cooper.

In a hunting situation, this would be somewhat acceptable. But in the land series of a WCX test, the dog is supposed to wait for three birds to fall before being sent out to retrieve the first one.

When it became apparent that Cooper intended to retrieve that first bird, I called him back with a “Here!” command. He came back part way. The second bird was thrown, and Cooper went out about 10 more feet.

And that’s when I started my series of mistakes. I yelled, “Cooper! Here!”

To the non-hunt-tester reader, that sounds reasonable enough: get your dog’s attention with his name and call him back. But anyone who does hunt tests will immediately recognize the problem.

In hunt tests, the command to go out and retrieve is traditionally the dog’s name. And that’s how Cooper was trained. So what I essentially just told my dog to do was, “Go out! Come back!”

I was so discombobulated and so inexperienced, that I then made matters worse by repeating my mistake several times (I don’t know how many, but at least three, possibly four): “Cooper! Here!” And every time I did so, Cooper went out farther and then jumped back. Out and back, out and back.

Finally, Cooper couldn’t stand the contradiction any longer, and just went out and retrieved the second bird. All of this before the third bird was even thrown.

He brought that second bird back to me (he always brings back his birds), and at that point, the watching gallery (who were too far away to hear my mistakes), and the judges, and I, all knew that Cooper had failed. I just had to leash him up, say “Thank you, judges,” and walk off the test.

Everyone could see that Cooper was out of control, and later at lunch, I got a lot of very well-worn advice about how to get my dog under control and what I might be able to accomplish if I could just get that dog under control.

But it’s a team sport, and I am way more of a newbie than Cooper is. I’ve watched him in a lot of hunt tests, but I’ve only run him once.

Both of us need practice together, training us both on being steady and keeping ourselves under control.

———————

Even with the failure, there were some nice things about that test:

Cooper picked the most difficult bird to go out and retrieve. That second bird was the farthest away, and the dog had to run over some up-and-down terrain in moderately heavy cover to get there. Even with all the jumping around, he marked that bird exactly, ran straight out to it, picked it up, and brought it back.

And I am grateful that my dog actually wants to go out and retrieve birds. I watched some other dogs at that test who didn’t want to go out, or couldn’t find their bird, or who objected to picking up a bird once it was found. Cooper doesn’t have any of those problems.

Another nice thing was watching Cooper’s half-siblings run the test: Riki and Emmy are also Nova puppies. Riki passed his WCX  today. He’s got all the talent Cooper has and an accomplished handler. Emmy ran the WC test and failed, probably because she’d never run for Russ before, or even worked with him before. Even so, it was wonderful to watch her lovely line manners and her ability to mark and locate her birds.

Here’s a picture of the sibs:

Christine with Riki, Russ with Emmy and Cooper

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It’s astonishing to watch Tooey grow. Not even a week ago, she looked like this:

Yesterday evening, she looked like this:

Along with the amazing growth, we’re making other discoveries about canine pregnancy.

For one, Tooey farts. A lot. And very stinky. I guess the puppies are producing gas, and Tooey has to get rid of it for them. Night before last, one incident was so smelly that it woke me up out of oa deep sleep.

For another, she also poops a lot, which would go with the amazing amount of food she’s putting away (and not getting fat, either). Kibble, raw liver, full-fat yogurt, pieces of fruit, flash-frozen chicken wings, and whatever Cooper leaves behind in his bowl.

And in the last couple of days, we’ve found evidence of leakage from those beautiful, huge nipples — – little whitish puddles. Especially on the patches of cool tile we have on the floor in front of the fireplace and in the bathroom. She must be hot with all those little bodies growing inside her.

And she lies around a lot. Those pictures above are typical. She’s very slow on her walks, trailing behind at the end of the leash. Fortunately, those periods of inactivity are interspersed with squirrel chases, leapings onto and off the bed, and playing bumper-keep-away with Cooper.

We’re taking her to Colleen’s this evening, where Tooey will whelp her puppies in just over a week. She’ll be gone for 5 or 6 or maybe even 7 weeks, while she whelps her puppies and then feeds and takes care of them. Even though I plan to go up and visit as frequently as possble, I won’t get to see her nearly enough.

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Some gestation periods are shorter than others. The gestation period for Irish Water Spaniels, like other dogs, is 63 days. Tooey is at about Day 49.

The gestation period for the Spáinnéar Uisce has been much longer. Russ has been building our cabin cruiser (off and on) since July 4, 2005.

For the last couple of years, we’ve both been distracted by dog training, hunt tests, and dog shows.

But now that he has finished Cooper’s Senior Hunter title, Russ is turning over the bulk of the hunt test training to me. That will give him more time to work on our wooden Water Spaniel. And after all, wanting a dog who would go on our boat was the initial reason we chose IWS in the first place.

I can hardly wait!

Oh, and if you know how to pronounce “spáinnéar uisce”, could you let me know? I’d love to hear it spoken.

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Back in January, Russ wrote about taking Tooey upland hunting. He mentioned when he came back that the lightbulb really seemed to have flipped on in Tooey’s head — there are birds out in those fields that must be flushed and retrieved!

Little did I realize the significance of what lay behind his words.

Yesterday we took Cooper and Miss Tooey out to to a spaniel training day with the Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association. Every one was eager for the work: the people to get ready for upcoming spaniel hunt tests and the dogs to find birds ASAP.

Knowing that Tooey particularly likes chukars, I’d gone out on Saturday to buy a few. Saturday afternoon and over Saturday night, I kept the chukars in nice comfy cages in the garage. All afternoon, all evening, and most of early Sunday morning, Tooey kept telling us, “Hey! There are chukars out there. Let’s go see the chukars. Now. Right now. I want to go see the chukars out there.”

And then, on the ride up to the training grounds, she did her best to keep a constant eye on those chukars. While Cooper and Scarlett* napped, Tooey stayed awake and watched those chukars.

That all amped her up, but we made her wait. And that combination probably explains why my arm and shoulder are sore now.

Tooey has generally been pretty gentle on the leash. Even when in hot pursuit of a squirrel, she manages to moderate her forward movement before reaching the end of the leash. So much easier on the arm and shoulder than Cooper is.

But when I got Tooey out to the practice hunt test course yesterday, she lost her mind and I almost got pulled over. What Tooey saw was just about unbelieveable: other dogs flushing and retrieving birds, and Russ out there with them doing the gunning. Without her.

course with two gunners, one working spaniel and handler, plus one waiting spaniel and its people

We were supposed to wait our turn somewhat near the course. But I had to get us away from there. So close to the course, I could not make her sit for anymore than 1 second at a time. And every time a gun went off, she was at the end of the leash, and both of us were 6 feet closer.

So instead of just trying to make her sit, I changed my tactic. Every time she pulled me toward the course, I turned around and dragged her farther in the opposite direction. We got all the way up a small hill about 100 yards away before she could sit quietly.

Eventually, it was Tooey’s turn. And she did great at the hunting. The gunners planted 2 dead birds close to the beginning of the course to give her confidence that birds were indeed out there. She found both of those quickly and retrieved them to hand.

Farther along the course, she also trapped two more chukars, grabbing them before they could get off the ground. Those were also retrieved to hand, alive.

Then, toward the end of the course, she flushed up a bird, which the gunner shot. She marked the fall, ran to go get it, and then brought that bird to hand, too.

That was the end of Tooey’s turn, but she was ready to keep going. Unlike Cooper, who tired himself out during his turn with a lot of running around, Tooey did a nice even zig-zag, back and forth across the course. And she did it at a moderate pace, too, kind of a fast trot. That makes for a more casual time hunting, when you don’t have to rush after your dog or worry that he’s going to flush birds too far ahead and out of gun range. (Take note, Cooper!)

Tooey’s puppies are due around May 7th, so I don’t know how much more hunting practice she’ll get in the next several months. But she remembered well enough from January to April. I imagine she won’t forget for the next time, either, no matter how long away it is.

Now we just need to work on steady.

———————

*Scarlett is a Boykin Spaniel who is our friend Norm’s hunting partner

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Well, it’s official. Cooper qualifies.

The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America awards a Certificate of Recognition called the “AKC All-Around Irish Water Spaniel” to IWS that are AKC Champions of Record (CH), have earned an AKC obedience title of CD or better, and have earned an AKC hunting title of JH or better.

And today, the AKC officially recorded the last of the necessary titles to recognize Cooper as an All-Around IWS.

He earned his JH first by qualifying in the Umpqua Valley Retriever Club 2010 June Hunt Test on June 19, 2010.

Then, after more than three years of showing in the conformation ring, he got his second major and last points to earn his CH at the Dog Fanciers Association of Oregon show (part of the Rose City Classic set of dog shows) on January 22, 2011.

And finally, he qualified for the third leg of his CD at the Mt. Hood Keeshond Club Obedience and Rally Trial on March 18, 2012.

Like all owners of All-Around IWS, I am very proud of my dog’s achievements. But I am most proud of the fact that Russ and I — 1st time IWS owners, 1st time show dog owners, and 1st time performance dog owners — did it (mostly) ourselves.

  • Russ handled Cooper to all 4 of his JH legs (and all 4 legs of Cooper’s SH, too).
  • I handled Cooper to 11 of his 15 conformation points and both of his majors (of the remaining points, 2 points were won when handled by a pro, 1 by Jayme, and 1 by an available stranger when I couldn’t be there).
  • I also handled him in all 3 of his Obedience legs.

We did it ourselves, but of course, we didn’t do it by ourselves. We had help, and lots of it, with training, grooming, transportation, housing, more training, more grooming, and untold amounts of emotional support.

So a lot of thanks are in order.

For the JH, thank you to Andy Fontenot who trained both Cooper and Russ in the ways and means of the hunt test game. Thanks also to Tellus, Hank, Holly, Janice, Norm, Matt, Christine, Rod, Renae, and Martyn, and all of our hunt test friends, training groups, and members of the LCHRC who helped Russ and Cooper with training scenarios, advice, stories, real hunting experience, commiseration, and encouragement.

For the CH, thank you to Tammy, Colleen, Jayme, and Rebecca for their skills and hours of grooming help. And to Jayme, Tammy, and Emily Fish for training Cooper and me to run properly around and up-and-back in the conformation ring. And to Dorothy, Liz, Colleen, and Sharon, and all the other IWSCOPS and IWSCA members who applauded our efforts at shows and specialties.

And for the CD, my gratitude goes to my teachers Joan Armstrong and Cindy Leung. And to Tammy who encouraged me and let me cry on her shoulder, and to Jayme and the trainers at the Academy of Canine Behavior. And to Rod, Renae, Russell, Jayme, and Paul for their help at the dog show that tried to kill me. And to Dee and Lee for letting me practice with them in their back yards, to Donna for letting me join in her practice sessions, and to all the members of the Sherwood Dog Training Club who set up matches and played judge for Cooper and I to practice on.

And most of all, thank you to Rosemary and Tammy, who placed Cooper with us. And to Russ, for everything.

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