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Archive for November, 2013

Tooey came into season yesterday, a fact I discovered when I noticed stains on the grooming table.

Cooper has been trying to tell us for several days. He’s been sniffing studiously wherever she’s been sitting, and trying to lick and sniff her at every opportunity.

I should have known at one point yesterday morning when, after trying to get in close and personal with his nose, Cooper jumped back with a cry as Tooey turned and snapped at his face.

Fortunately, no harm was done. We’re keeping them separated now, and Cooper tries to remind himself that he has to leave the girl alone.

Even in the face of provocation.
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Cooper, keep on keeping on

At the last Obedience match I went to, after watching Cooper and I approximate pieces and parts of an Open-level run, my friend Donna said, “I know you lied to Cooper. I’m sure I heard you promise him that he wouldn’t have to do obedience any more.”

Yeah, well. That’s true. I did make that promise. And if he hadn’t started liking it, I would have kept my promise. He really seems to be liking going out to lessons and to practice, although that doesn’t mean he’s always paying attention or doing what I ask him to do.

Like last night. I wish I had a picture of it. I was out at a lesson, and instead of jumping over the broad jump as I’d asked him to, Cooper ran up to sit next to me, and gazed up at me with an expression of, well, of a boy who is looking at a girl he adores.

I wanted to laugh and smile at him, but of course I couldn’t. He hadn’t done what I asked him to do. So I turned away and composed my face, before turning back, leading him back to the jump, and asking him to jump again.

It seems that it’s not Obedience he likes so much, as (at least for the moment) being out with me doing something. And since “something” these days is Obedience, he’s thrilled to be doing Obedience. And sometimes, he even gets it right.

Tooey, find it

After Tooey got her CD Obedience title, I wanted to find something that she’d enjoy doing. Something that was so wonderful that she’d stop paying attention to the strange people and weird noises, and just enjoy enjoy herself.

She liked conformation because she got to trot around and show herself off, but when it came to being examined by the judge, that was not always wonderful. Some judges, she just didn’t want getting that close to her.

Hunting with Russ and me is apparently fun — usually there are no strange people out in the field and she gets to sniff around open country for birds and critters.  She seems to regard flushing and retrieving a bird as just the price she has to pay for getting to go out with us. Hunt tests are another thing altogether — too many strange people wandering around.

Obedience competition has, I think, worried Tooey. She wants to do well, and some things she does do very well, but with some exercises, she still not totally sure what she’s supposed to do. And then there has also been the matter of working in the ring with a stranger (the judge).

So, I decided to try Nosework.

You can predict how our first class went — strange instructor, strange (human) students, strange place (outside of a big-box hardware store), and weird flapping tarps and doors whooshing loudly open and shut. She was jumpy.

But it got better. She had three tries at searching seven cardboard boxes for bits of liver and hotdog. The first time, she had no idea what she was doing out there in the middle of all those boxes surrounded by people. But I told her to “find it,” and then she got a whiff of the hotdog, went straight to that box, and vacuumed up the bits of food.

The second time, she looked around a bit at the people and flappy things before getting into the search for food, but she quickly got down to work and found the food quite fast.

The third time, I got the leash put on her collar, and she practically dragged me over to the boxes. Who cares about all those strange people? I didn’t hear any flapping tarps, did you? And did you know there’s food in those boxes? Let’s go find it!!!

The second lesson went even better. Food was still hidden in boxes for her to find, but this time the boxes were placed up on ledges and set an angles. Even so, she found the food quickly each time at this lesson, too. Oh, and all those strange people, classmates and store shoppers alike? It was like she didn’t even notice. let’s get to work! There is food to be found!

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One of the very best pleasures of being a breeder is hearing back from your puppy people. And what makes it even better is when you see them giving the pup a full and happy life. And even more wonderful is when that life includes doing what an Irish Water Spaniel was bred to do.

Steve and Kathy knew that Foley (Tooey x Cork’s Mr. Blue) was at least a little birdy. A friend has a stuffed pheasant in his basement, and when Foley saw that bird, he barked at it and went on point. (Tooey knows something about this — she LOVES to go in and see the stuffed pheasant Russ keep locked up in his office.)

So it wasn’t a complete surprise when Foley went out on his first hunting trip with Steve, and came home with birds for the table.

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Here’s what Steve had to say (thank you, Steve!) about Foley’s first hunt:

Eventually we got to the club and to the field. We had the birds marked so we could learn Foley’s bird signs. He found the first bird, pointed it and flushed it. The bird was not hit hard and coasted a fair distance. We walked over with the dog. He found it and pounced on it. Not much of a retrieve was required since we were right there. I threw the bird back out for him and he delicately brought it back.

He found the next bird but would not flush it — just circled around the bird — but he made it clear the bird was there. That bird was shot, and he went and got it and dropped it about 5 feet from me. He found the next bird but again would not go in close and point or flush the bird. [The bird flew.] Unfortunately, 8 shots later the bird was still flying, but Foley stayed on it. I was too busy laughing about the poor shooting and forgot the critical “No Bird!!” command. Foley followed the bird across the field. During his romp, he either found or just ran over another bird, and it too took off flying. He [Foley] came back quickly when called.

The fifth bird was shot and coasted down. When we went over, Foley did not want to grab the bird as it ran away. Once it was dead, I tossed it and he retrieved it. The last bird was tough to find, but Foley kept at it and eventually started circling the area. I flushed it, and we shot the bird. Foley went straight out and brought it back perfectly.

He appears to have a thing about grabbing a live bird and about feathers. He likes to grab the wings and will repeatedly drop the bird — sometimes but not all the time. He is either lazy or doesn’t like the texture. I did throw the birds back out and he would retrieve them fine.

I am not sure about the pointing thing. My only idea is he likes to point, and I was pushing him to flush, and the birds scared him on the way out, or the first one pecked him. Who knows. I believe that he will become more aggressive on the birds with time and experience.

There is definitely a lot of puppy still in him. He would hunt back and forth, then come back and say hi to all of us, run backwards, and zoom up and say hi, then back to hunting. Sometimes he would just walk the trail and not even get in the thick stuff.

The field we hunted was thick with brush and tall grass. Tough hunting for a first time hunt and a young dog. Overall there were more problems on the trigger side of gun than with Foley. He needs experience and maturity. I think he did a great job for his first time out.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to hear all this. And the pointing and retrieving stuff? Cooper and Tooey both point upland birds, but with encouragement will flush the bird, and sometimes even trap it. For Foley, the retrieving will come with training, experience, and the love of doing what he knows in his bones he was bred to do.

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This past weekend, Rod, Renae, Russ and I, and our four Irish Water Spaniels, trekked out to north-central Oregon for a little pheasant hunting. Amid lavender and sage, and along draws and ponds linked with cattails, the dogs flushed pheasants and the hunters brought down a few for future dinners.

On Sunday, Rio (the old hand) and Kasen (the wild child) found and flushed five pheasants. Three of them escaped to live another day or two. (We noticed Cooper’s hawks soaring overhead, so what we didn’t bring down, the hawks no doubt did.) But two of them were flushed and shot, and then retrieved by Kasen.

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After Rio and Kasen scoured the field, Cooper and Tooey had their chance over the same ground. They found lots of evidence of birds — feathers and other bird parts on the ground — but the birds that had been there had the good sense to fly off out of range. So we had lots of fun hiking and searching, but no finding.

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On Monday, it snowed and rained, but we all went out anyway, first with Cooper and Tooey.

Sunday’s terrain was mostly flat. Going out, we followed along a draw lined with cattails and dotted with small ponds. Next to the draw was a huge field of grass that we covered on the way back.

Cooper flushed multiple pheasants along the draw and retrieved the two that were brought down. Tooey helped with the finding and flushing the first three, but didn’t get to retrieve any birds. That’s because the third pheasant she and Cooper flushed together escaped, flying far over the grass field, which is where Tooey decided to run also in pursuit. We whistled and called, and whistled and called, but Tooey didn’t come back.

Russ and I marched out after her, and found her a half mile away up against a barbed wire fence, quartering madly, still hunting up that bird. Good for the hunting, BAD for the not coming back when called. So I escorted Tooey a half mile back to the car, put her up, and then hiked the other way to catch up with the hunters.

While I was gone (darn it!), I missed Cooper’s reportedly persistent poking in and out and around a cattail patch to flush the pheasant hiding there. Finally, the pheasant flew, was brought down, and retrieved by a very satisfied Cooper.

I was glad that he didn’t flush his last pheasant until I returned to the group. It too was flushed out of another patch of cattails along the edges of a different pond. I did get a picture of that one, but with the rain and snow, the lens was damp, giving the picture a misty, out of focus look.

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Rio and Kasen did a sweep of the same area to see if they could find any of the pheasants that we missed. But they came up empty-pawed, and we all hiked back to the cars, packed up, and drove home.

All in all, a great weekend with friends, dogs, and birds for the table.

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