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Archive for January, 2014

When I woke up yesterday morning, in the dark at 5:00 a.m., my first thought was to skip the Rally trial. My knee ached and I knew that if I went, I’d be limping around the ring. I’d signed up for this trial quite awhile ago, before I knew that I had torn the meniscus in my right knee.

But the Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club Rally trial was local and it was indoors, an auspicious combination that doesn’t come around all that often. Plus, Cooper and I had been practicing, and I was awake already, so what the hell. ‘I’ll go,’ I thought.

I am so glad we went.

Cooper and I are working on his RAE title, so I had entered us in both Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B. (A dog has to qualify in both in the same trial at 10 different trials — this would be his 3rd attempt, and if successful, his 2nd leg. His 1st attempt was, ahem, entertaining.)

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In the Excellent course, at station 2, he jumped the dreaded broad jump (instead of walking over them), and even sort of did the Three Steps Backward (station 7, where he lost his points for walking sideways instead of backwards). I was very happy with his pivots and thrilled with his immediate down without taking additional steps on station 13, the Stand Dog, Leave Dog, Down Dog, Call Front – Finish.

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We ended up this run with 96 out of 100 points.

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The Advanced course was easier, of course, but it did have a couple of tricks that could trip up the handler. Two similar versions of Call Front, but one where the handler can take a few steps backwards (station 1) and the other where you can’t (station 4). And during the walk-through, I discovered that it would be very easy to miss the Weave Twice (station 9) by going straight to the Left Turn at station 10 after doing the Left Turn at station 8.

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But neither Cooper nor I made any “scorable” mistakes, so we ended up with a perfect 100 points. That’s the best score Cooper has ever gotten, and I was thrilled.

I was also eager to get out of there. My knee ached and Cooper wanted to get into the car (his usual reward after doing either Obedience or Rally). So I packed up his crate, my chair, and our stuff, and we drove off.

Only to get a phone call a little later from the show secretary, asking, “Where are you? You won High in Trial and High Combined, and we have ribbons for you.”

Well, sheesh. Never having gotten scores this high, and never having tried to get an RAE title before, it never occurred to me to wonder if we might be in the running for HIT or HC (High in Trial Rally is the highest scoring dog in any level of Rally for that trial and High Combined is the highest total score for a dog entering Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B).

Cooper, HIT Rally and HC Rally, Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club, Jan 2014

Cooper, HIT Rally and HC Rally, Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club, Jan 2014

So I turned around and drove right back to the fairgrounds to get our big beautiful ribbons. Cooper obligingly sat for the photo, and we drove on back home again. He took a nap, and I iced my knee.

I have surgery scheduled for next week, so we won’t be doing any dog shows again for awhile. I’m so glad we’re pausing on such a happy note.

Good boy, Cooper, dog of my heart.

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Some years my birthday falls on one of the weekend days of the Rose City Classic cluster of dog shows. One of the best was the year that Cooper won his second major, earning him his show championship. But this year, my birthday fell during the week, so Russ, Cooper, and Tooey conspired to celebrate my birthday the weekend after this year’s Rose City by taking me hunting.

They could not have arranged for better weather, sunny and hovering just above freezing for most of the morning. And the scenery was fine — a large field with rows of dead corn and milo, separated by strips of grass, and ringed with oaks. Curious Cooper’s hawks and marsh harriers, watching our every move. Song birds flitting from corn stalk to corn stalk, blackberry bramble to tree branch. And the dogs, ready and willing to sniff out birds.

All in all, we did well bringing home dinner. Cooper and Tooey found and flushed birds, and I think I actually hit a couple, while Russ brought down the others. The final tally was 11 birds flushed (one was a hen, so she flew safely out of the area), 6 roosters brought down, and 6 retrieved.

Coop and Tooey

Tooey and Cooper with their birds

If you don’t mind scenes of game bird hunting, take a look at the following video. Russ wore a GoPro Hero camera on his hat, recorded most of our hunting adventures, and then edited them down into a short clip. (Some of it is in slow motion, so as not to make viewers motion sick.)

In addition to the birds, we came home with about 3 extra pounds of mud. The fields thawed as the day wore on, so the dogs’ lower halves, still in their long show coats, were encrusted in drying clay. They were so dirty that even though it was late and we were all tired, we couldn’t let them in the house without dragging the dog bath out to the back patio, hooking up the hose to the kitchen faucet for warm water, and lit by a flashlight, bathing both dogs from belly to toes.

Bath in the night by flashlight

Bath in the night by flashlight

Next on the calendar is a smoked pheasant tamale making party. Yum!

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Cooper is dog with tenacious drive mixed with the perpetual motion of a compulsive retriever. But he will always sit calmly in front of my camera and pose with the sparkling demeanor of a show dog at Westminster. It is one of his many charming virtues.

So once again I asked the boy to step in front of the lights for a few shots. But before he jumped up on the table, he snagged his photo buddy, a.k.a. “Rubber Duck”. The duck has been his companion since August of 2007 when he was awarded it as a participant in a Bird Dog Match as a 6-month-old adolescent. (This specific duck is actually the second generation duck, thanks to Ms Tooey.)

Cooper and dear duck friend

Cooper and dear duck friend

Now Ms Tooey doesn’t like to left out of anything. It doesn’t matter if Cooper has to go to the vet, she wants to go first. It is her nature as HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge). And so when Cooper stepped down, Tooey jumped up to stare into lens as well. If Cooper gets this much attention, she wants more.

Ms Tooey

Ms Tooey

The reason for the photo event was quite benign. I was testing a new camera and wanted have some familiar subjects to compare to photos taken with other equipment I use. As both pups had just finished getting a bath and some grooming for the recent dog here in Portland, this shoot was the convergence of having the studio set up and two clean dogs.

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20140120-122346.jpgOnce I decided to show both Cooper and Tooey at the 2014 National Specialty in April, I’ve been growing out and doing some judicious trimming on their short field clips, trying to sculpt them into something resembling a show dog. Cooper’s topknot is now about the right length, but his ear coat is still too short. Tooey’s topknot is a touch too short, but her ears are beautiful. Both dogs need to grow out some coat on their legs.

But grooming isn’t all that’s needed for show dogs. They have to actually go into the show ring from time to time. Just so that they remember how to gait around in a circle and trot nicely on the up-and-back.

Tooey also needs to remember to hold her head up, and Cooper needs to remember that he has to stay in the ring for the whole time, and not try to jump out. (Based on yesterday’s performance, both dogs need more practice.)

Also, there has to be one handler per dog. There’s only one of me, and two dogs. So, Russ very generously gave me an early birthday gift — he agreed to show Tooey while I showed Cooper.

So for the past several days, we’ve been bathing and grooming dogs, washing and ironing show clothes, digging out the show leads, and coordinating with friends for a little time, a critical eye, and some judicious trimming with the scissors pre-show on a grooming table. (Thank you, Colleen!)

And if you’re lucky, all that adds up to a ribbon. Which Cooper got (even though he behaved like a dweeb, always either turning to look at Russ and Tooey or trying to run out of the ring), winning a very surprising Best of Opposite Sex, beating his half-brother Riki, who got got a ribbon for winning Winner’s Dog. Yay for the Realta brothers!

Fortunately, we also had moral support ringside, and since we were lucky in more ways than one, moral support came equipped with a camera.

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Stacy with Riki, then Patrice with Cooper, [skip one], and then Russ with Tooey
photo by Norm Koshkarian

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Patrice with Cooper, photo by Norm Koshkarian

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Julia with Bold (a Tooey puppy) and Russ with Tooey after the show
photo by Norm Koshkarian

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What does one do with a scrumptious collection of fresh pheasants provided by a dedicated gundog?

How about Pheasant and Chanterelle Mushroom Curry? The mushrooms were picked from the Oregon forests in October, dehydrated and stored. The pheasant is from Wednesday. Combined with coconut milk, curry paste, cilantro, and a side of  cornbread, we have a great winters feast thanks to Ms Tooey and Scarlett.

Tooey, admiring her bounties at the dining table

Tooey, admiring her bounties at the dining table

Another favorite dish that will be assembled in a few weeks is smoked pheasant tamales. I will make a few dozen and we will be savoring these for some time. While food is not the only reason I hunt with my dogs, eating what we bring home is a requisite and wonderful benefit.

If you have never tried fresh game and wild produce, you should try to have this culinary experience at least once. It is ultimately more humane and healthy (for you and the bird) than eating one of the 7 billion chickens raised in confined captivity and slaughtered every year only to be chewed on mindlessly while watching other people exercise on the television.

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Tooey, who is now an All-Around IWS, having completed her conformation title, obedience title, and retriever title, has resolved to spend less time in the ring and more time in the field, doing what a gundog was bred to do.

Like all resolutions, she came out of the gate strong. On January 1st, Norm, the dogs, and I headed south to Monmouth, Oregon. Tooey and two gunners started working the fields by 9:30. 90 minutes later, she had retrieved 4 rooster pheasants. There were were a couple of birds that made it past the guns either by being too far to shoot or the shooter just missed. (I will remain nameless). After those 4, we swapped Tooey for Scarlett, our Boykin buddy, and continued to work the fields.

Tooey and Scarlett

Tooey and Scarlett with their 10 pheasants

Scarlett put up about the same number of birds with the same number delivered to hand, 4. Because our limit was 10 roosters, we had only two more birds to pursue. I returned to the truck, came back with Tooey, and Norm and I started hunting with a brace of Spaniels.

Scarlett put up another bird, which I shot, and Tooey surged out to retrieve, to Scarlett’s dismay. But Scarlett kindly deferred to a dog 3 times her size. As we continued on with one bird to go, another was flushed, and I took a couple of shots at the crossing rooster, which appeared unscathed by my attempt. It continued to fly off around the corner of the field and into the fog and trees, and alas, Tooey ignored the “no bird” command and disappeared into the mist as well. Beyond the tree line was Lukiamute River, so I figured I had better hightail it and go find this dog, otherwise I would have some big explaining to do when I got home with one fewer dog. That would not be a good way to start the year.

I made it about 100 yards in Tooey’s direction, when she reappeared out of the fog, and with a live pheasant in her mouth. My only guess is that I may have actually hit the bird and disabled a leg, which prevented it from running. Perhaps Tooey had marked where the bird went down, trapped, and completed the retrieve to hand. But that is a supposition, as it was too far away for me to see. Maybe she just found another bird and brought that one back. She is not telling.

Tooey returning through the fog

Tooey returning through the fog

Below is a video with the highlights of day. But before you click to watch, be forewarned: This contains graphic imagery of a gundog doing what they were bred to do, which is to find birds, watch carefully while the birds are shot with guns, and then retrieve the bird, dead or alive. All of these items are in this video. A lot of our dog friends like dogs, but not the “gun” aspect of gundogs. If you have personal convictions on this topic that are similar, do not watch the video.

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In a parallel universe, I have my own piece of dog heaven, but in this one, the closest I have is the delta. So that’s where I chose to spend my first day of the new year, with Cooper, the dog of my heart.

I went out as early as I could, so as to miss as much of the holiday crowd as possible. The delta is one of the few places of any size around here where you can run your dogs without a leash, so it’s popular, especially on weekends and holidays.

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We took a meandering path out toward the river, up hills, through trees, and along the power lines. Cooper always runs out ahead, and then stops and waits for me to catch up, poor two-footer that I am.

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When we got to the river, of course the only thing to do is throw the bumper so Cooper can retrieve it. Does he care that it’s winter and the water is cold?

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No. Retrieve in the water, do a couple of land retrieves in the sun, and then water retrieve again. All that work keeps a dog like Cooper plenty warm.

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The hike in and the water retrieves took a couple of hours, and by the time we’d hiked out, it was midday, and fog had rolled in and obscured the sun. And the crowds had rolled in, too. Definitely time to go.

But we’ll be back to this little slice of heaven, hopefully before the next new year.

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