Archive for March, 2014

You remember that High in Trial Rally dog I was bragging about a couple of months ago? The one who got a 96 in Rally Excellent and a 100 in Rally Advanced?

Well, that dog took a vacation this weekend.

Cooper and I drove up to Monroe for the Washington State Obedience Training Club rally trials. Being optimistic (or perhaps complacent), I entered Cooper both days in Rally Excellent and Rally Advanced, hoping for two more RAE legs.

Here are the course maps for today (Saturday). Although the maps don’t really show it, both levels have the dreaded bar jump, and in Excellent, the bar jump appears in the Send Over Jump exercise, where the handler must send the dog over the jump from 10 feet back rather that at the jump. Excellent also has the 3 Steps Backwards exercise, which sometimes Coop does great, while other times he stands back and watches me do it by myself.



Cooper was really distracted in these strange surroundings. There were big, bright windows on two sides of the rally ring, and he wanted to see something out there. And some dog kenneled along the wall was playing with his squeaky toy. So, Cooper didn’t stay tightly in heel position, and he also didn’t sit very quickly. We lost a bunch of points sprinkled throughout the runs for being out of position and lacking a brisk performance.

But the big point-eaters were, first, that Cooper wouldn’t jump over the bar jump. He went around it in both levels. And in the exercises where he was to do a Stand-Stay, he moved several steps. So, right there, we lost 10 points each (out of 100 hundred) for those two, plus losing all those little points throughout. That left us with a 72 in Excellent and a 77 in Advanced. Since 70 is passing, Cooper did qualify for his 4th RAE leg, so…

You know, I distinctly remember a day when simply qualifying made me really, really happy. And then we started getting placements every once in awhile — a 2nd place here and a 3rd or 4th there.

Then came that amazing day when Cooper got High in Trial. I think that wrecked it. Now I have expectations.

News about tomorrow in the next post…


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While we are in the midst of the rainy season, I still planned a day of chasing pheasants, weather-be-damned. Cooper and I got lucky. The first day of Spring was delightful.

Photo by Norm Koshkarian

Photo by Norm Koshkarian

Between Norm and Scarlett, plus Cooper and myself, we managed to bring home 6 pheasants. And not to miss out on the nice weather, I promptly smoked the pheasants over hickory, pulled it from the bones, and added it to a curry with wild mushrooms and coconut milk. That and some cool porter in a glass is how we celebrate Spring.

pheasant blog

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I have always known that Tooey loves critters — moles, voles, rabbits, squirrels, mice — any critter she can chase. She’s an Earthdog wannabe.

So, when I saw how much Tooey loved finding rats in the hay at a couple recent Barn Hunt workshops (posts here and here), I knew I’d have to enter her in a real Barn Hunt test.

So this morning, too early and not nearly bright enough, I drove up to the Columbia Country fairgrounds to exhibit both Cooper and Tooey in two of this weekend’s River Ratters Barn Hunt tests.

The experience was a lot like a hunt test — checking in, watching other dogs, chatting with other exhibitors, “airing” your dogs, and waiting, waiting, and waiting for your turn. And not knowing exactly when your turn is going to be because the running order gets adjusted from time to time.

While I was waiting, I took a couple of pictures from two sides of the first Novice course*. It’s constructed of hay bales stacked in various configurations inside an enclosed ring. There has to be one tunnel made of hay bales (which you can kind of see in the middle of the top photo), and there have to be hay bales that can be climbed onto. Two of the requirements are that the dog has to go through a tunnel and has to put all four feet on top of at least one hay bale.



There are also piles of hay around, next to, on top of, and stuck beneath various hay bales, and that’s where the rats (enclosed in sturdy aerated tubes) are hidden. (A Novice Barn Hunt course has three tubes hidden in the hay — an empty one, one with rat litter in it, and a third with a rat in it.)

Both Cooper and Tooey NQ’d the first test. I put that down to inexperience on all our parts. Cooper wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Tooey knew what she was looking for (she’d previously dragged me over to the area where the waiting rats were resting), but I was unable to interpret her body language. I thought she’d found a rat, and called “Rat”, when she had only found a tube with rat litter in it.

The second trial went better. Cooper had a better understanding of what he was looking for, but I again misinterpreted his body language. I thought he’d found a rat, and called “Rat”, but what he’d found was the place where the rat had been for the previous dog. Oh well.

On Tooey’s second trial, she made it easy. She scooted through the tunnel without my asking her too, happily jumped up on a hay bale, hunted around a bit, and then dove head-first into a hay-filled corner. I called “Rat”, and this time I was right. And she’d done it well within the two-minute time limit.

So, with this nice performance, Tooey earned the first leg of her RATN title. The judge complimented her on being a “good little hunter.” And on top of that, she placed 2nd in her division (Novice – Large) for her time of 1 minute, 2.13 seconds. And that time put her 5th overall in Novice, out of 26 competitors.

The trial photographer took a couple of pictures of Tooey hunting for rats during her second trial:

photo by Amy Paynter

photo by Amy Paynter

photo by Amy Paynter

photo by Amy Paynter

Like many other dog sports, in Barn Hunt, a dog needs to qualify at three tests to get the title at that level, so Tooey is 1/3 on her way.


*Those of you who know about Barn Hunt already may notice the three tubes laid out side by side in the foreground of the top course photo. Those tubes had been placed there for the Instinct test, in which the three tubes are placed out in the open. In the photo, the hay bales had been mostly rearranged from the Instinct test configuration to the Novice test configuration, but the tubes had not yet been hidden in the hay.

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Tooey got a beautiful new water bowl last night. I was very happy with the water bowl Cooper got last year, so I am even more pleased to take another one home this year.

Trophies are good. Useful trophies are wonderful.

The Oregon Hunting Retriever Club awarded Tooey this bowl at the this year’s annual club banquet. The company was friendly, the food was wonderful, Russ’s presentation about how to photograph dogs was engaging — so all around, it was a fun evening.

As you can see, the bowl is engraved with:

OHRC 2013
Junior Hunter
Russ* & Patrice Dodd


*According to the AKC’s official paperwork, Tooey doesn’t actually belong to Russ. But according to Tooey, Russ is hers and she is Russ’s. And besides, the two of them worked really hard to earn the title and the bowl. So there.

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This is going to be a short post because this is a busy, busy dog weekend.

Cooper got his 3rd RAE leg today at the Mt. Hood Keeshond Club Rally trials in Salem today. Our performance wasn’t as spectacular as his 2nd RAE leg, but it did the job.


He earned a very nice score of 93 and a 4th place in the Excellent class, and then went on to qualify in Advanced class with a 94, tied for 4th place. The beagle who also got a 94 was just over a minute faster completing the course than Cooper, so the beagle took 4th place.

I started out being disappointed. (When did placing become just as important as qualifying? It used to be that I was thrilled to just qualify.) And for an IWS to be slower than a beagle — it just boggled my mind.

But then I saw how thrilled and delighted the beagle’s owner was. Her eyes sparkled, and her cheeks were pink with happiness that she and her dog had done so well on their first Advanced leg — I couldn’t begrudge her that.


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We’re not going to let a little thing like a show coat get in the way of hunting down critters. Nope, nosiree. Damn the hay, and full speed ahead! There are critters in that there hay!


If nothing else, Tooey has the drive to hunt critters. I have watched her more than once dive into blackberry bushes after rabbits, dig madly in the mud for moles, and climb trees after squirrels. She comes back from her adventures covered in whatever was between her and her prey — brambles, mud, leaves, twigs, and thorns.

And now, with our recent Barn Hunt practices, she’s come out covered in hay.

Tooey loves to hunt, and she’s fast, agile, and balanced. So, you can imagine what I thought when I read this on the Barn Hunt website:

Barn Hunt is also for any breed or mix of dog who loves to hunt and who can fit through an 18” wide gap between two hay bales. It will test speed, agility, and surefootedness.


The fact that rats are new to Tooey is not a problem. She got that right away. And, unlike the wild rabbits, etc., the rats in Barn Hunt are well protected. And she’s used to hunting in streams, ponds, grasslands, sage brush, and farm fields. What’s new are the hay bales and loose piles of hay.

We spent last Sunday morning out in Damascus, Oregon, practicing with the NW Barn Dogs group. They set up a Novice-level course, and Tooey did well in both her practice runs, running through a tunnel, climbing the hay bales, and finding two rats (only one is required at the Novice level). In fact, she found her first rat (enclosed in an aerated tube, of course), and put her front legs around the tube as if to gather it to her chest and say, Mine! She let the rat wrangler take the tube, but followed him across the ring, watching where he put the rat before responding to my encouraging her to “find another one!”

In my next foray out, I plan to take a picture of the set up, but you can see pictures on the Barn Hunt website.

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Cooper and Tooey aren’t related at all closely. Back 5 generations, they don’t share any relatives. Except that they are both Irish Water Spaniels, they don’t look alike, they don’t act alike — no family resemblance at all. But now they are related “through marriage,” so to speak. They are an uncle and great-aunt to a litter of brand new Irish Water Spaniel babies.

Cooper’s half-sister Emmy (Nova is mother to both) is today the proud mom of 9 pups, 5 boys and 4 girls. And Tooey’s father, Woody, is the grandfather of Harry, the dad.

Both Emmy and Harry are Senior Hunters, and both are All-Around IWS, having a show championship, an obedience title, and a retriever hunt test title. And they’re both very nice dogs.

I’ve enjoyed knowing Emmy and Harry. Theirs should be wonderful pups. I hope to keep an eye on them as they grow and prosper.

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