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Archive for May, 2014

Last Saturday and Sunday, the Spaniel hunt tests were family affairs. We all went: Russ and I, plus Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin. We all had jobs to do.

The stars of the show, of course, were Russ and Tooey, who were out there showing the judges and gallery what a good hunter Tooey really is.

Cooper mostly just rode along, although he had a small job to do at the water test — pick up dog. He’s the one who stood by, waiting (not patiently), for some poor dog to not be able to retrieve his bird. In that case, I’d send Cooper out to pick it up. He got to do that exactly once — and to his mind, that was not nearly enough retrieves for the day.

Carlin’s job was to get along: meet new people: learn new sights, sounds, and smells; and gradually get closer to the gunfire. My job was to keep him under some sort of control and give him cookies from time to time.

We started off in the parking lot — every time a gun went off, Carlin got about 10 small pieces of cookie. Slowly, we got closer and closer to the course, and each time a shot gun went off, 10 more pieces of cookie. I was delighted that Carlin didn’t even apparently notice the guns, although he certainly did notice the cookies.

By Sunday, Carlin and I were wandering around just to the side of the course, sniffing out pigeons and chukars, and meeting men with facial hair and hats, women large and small, and even one kid.  And, of course, getting cookies every time a gun went off.

This is not his first exposure to gunfire. His breeder, Jill, shot off starter pistols around the puppies several times. And Russ has been taking him to the skeet range, where Carlin stays in the car while Russ practices shooting.

So, all in all, it was a good weekend. Except, maybe, for Cooper, who would have appreciated about 99 more retrieves.

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Sometime back about another hunt test, I wrote a blog post titled When the rules give you an advantage, take it. It concluded:

If the rules let you do something to your advantage, do it. Use whatever opportunities for training you can get. And then be grateful when it all turns out all right.

That could have been the theme for today’s entry, too.

Saturday, Tooey did a beautiful job hunting and flushing pigeons in the landwork portion of the Spaniel Hunting Test put on by the Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club. She quartered precisely, smartly flushed up two pigeons, and retrieved the one downed by the gunners, and delivered it to hand. (Such an amazing and wonderful improvement from the last series of spaniel hunt tests she participated in.) Her work was good enough that she was invited back to test at the water.

This was a worry. Tooey hates, hates, hates wet pigeons. More often than not, when faced with retrieving a pigeon out of the water, she’ll go out to the pigeon willingly enough, but then simply pushes it to near the shore line, and then refuses to pick it up and deliver it. And that’s exactly what she did on Saturday.

Tooey pushing a pigeon through the water

Tooey pushing a pigeon through the water — photo by Richard Liebaert

So Tooey was out, and we made the long drive back home without a ribbon.

After some debate, Russ and I decided to come back for Sunday’s test (May 25th — also put on by the WWESSC), and try it again. Not that there was much hope of doing any better, but Tooey has actually passed three of these Junior spaniel tests*, so it’s always possible that she’d agree to deliver a wet pigeon at least one more time. But not likely.

But then, I had an idea. I looked at the hunt test premium again, and it said that juniors would be tested on “Pigeon and/or Chukar”. (Hunt test premiums out here almost always say pigeon and/or chukar for juniors, but they almost always get pigeons regardless.) Tooey loves chukars as much as she hates wet pigeons, and on our training day on Friday, she happily retrieved and delivered a wet chukar to hand. (We didn’t have any pigeons to practice with, so used a frozen chukar instead.)

So since the premium specified pigeon or chukar, I suggested to Russ that if Tooey was called back to do the water work on Sunday, he might ask the judges if Tooey could have a chukar instead of a pigeon. We thought there would be chukar available, since that’s what the Master and Senior dogs were tested on.

Like on Saturday, her land work today was fabulous. Conditions were good — cool, cloudy, not raining, with just a bit of dew on the foot-high cover.

Tooey and Russ waiting for their turn on the field

Tooey and Russ waiting for their turn on the field — photo by Richard Liebaert

Quartering beautifully and searching likely cover, she flushed up three pigeons in pretty short order. And since the gunners didn’t bring any of those three down, they threw a bird for her to retrieve, and she delivered that one neatly to hand. So Tooey was indeed called back to the water to give it another go.

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Good girl, Tooey! — photo by Richard Liebaert

When Tooey was called to the water, Russ walked to the line, got Tooey into a neat sit in heel position, and then turned to the judges and asked, “Would it be within the rules for us to have a chukar instead of a pigeon?” The judges were surprised by the request, but one obligingly went to see if the bird boy had a chukar. He did, but the judge reported that it was one that had been pretty badly shot up and had guts hanging out. Russ replied, “Perfect!” We think that response surprised the judges as well, but they let Russ have what he asked for.

And lo and behold, when the bird boy threw the chukar into the water, Tooey leapt in, swam to that chukar, grabbed it up, swam back, and delivered it quickly and neatly to hand.

And halleluiah! combined with her lovely land work, that retrieved chukar gave us what we’d been working for — Tooey’s 4th (and final) pass toward her Junior Hunter Upland title. Who cares that by this time, the rain was coming down steadily? When she delivered that chukar, I whooped so loud it could be heard in the parking lot. Earning this title took a long, long time, and we had many times considered quitting, but today’s pass was totally worth it.

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Russ and Tooey with her 4th Junior Hunter Upland ribbon — photo by Patrice Dodd

As soon as the AKC records it, Tooey will now be known as Ch. Stanegate Second Thoughts CD RN JH JHU. And with this fifth AKC title, Tooey now qualifies for the IWSCA Quintessential Versatility Award, too!

*Tooey’s Spaniel hunt test passes:

  1. Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club – August 12, 2012
  2. Puget Sound English Springer Spaniel Association – August 31, 2012
  3. Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club – May 27, 2013
  4. Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club – May 25, 2014

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Three dogs a-swimming, two bumpers flying, one lo-o-o-st leash. (Sounds like a song, doesn’t it…?)

Anyway, today we decided (me being off work and it being relatively warm) to finally take the dogs out training and get Carlin into some real water. It was, if I may say so, a grand success water-wise.

The grounds were soggy in some place with several-inch deep water. Just perfect for running through if you’re a 12″ tall puppy water spaniel.

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Tooey loves swimming, so her first act was find and jump into the deepest water she could find, and Carlin was right there following after her. I think the depth surprised him, but he just puppy-paddled his way to the edge without panicking. A good sign.

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Both Cooper and Tooey did some 35-yard water retrieves. Tooey practiced with a small dove-sized Dokken and a formerly frozen chukar. She marked the falls well, went out to retrieve them, and brought them back to within a foot or so of Russ’ feet. When he asked her to, she picked them back up and handed them to him, which is what we wanted in the first place. It would be good to get more practice in –she hasn’t done much bird retrieving at all since hunting season back in March, and delivery to hand is not her strong suit.

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Cooper did a great job of water retrieves, too, with the big bumpers. He loves the game, and he was very proud of himself. As he was carrying a bumper back to the car, you could see the thought bubble over his head: “I’m the Man. We don’t need the brat puppy — I can get the job done myself.”

Not to be outdone, though, Carlin also did three very nice 15-yard retrieves, bringing the Dokken straight back to Russ. After those three, though, he was done. He was happy to go out and find what had fallen from the sky, but didn’t feel the need to bring it back. The lesson? No more than three retrieves per session for that boy (at least for now).

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Oh, and the leash? Well, it’s lost. We had it when we arrived at the training grounds, and it wasn’t in the car when we got home. So, someone will find a very nice leash. I hope they give it a good home.

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“No, those are my panties. Here, chew your bone.

No, that’s my bra. You don’t need a bra. Chew your bone.

No, my jeans. Not yours. Where’s your bone?

Ow! Let go of my socks! Let’s go find your bone. Where’s your bone?”

That’s how my morning went with almost-12-week-old Carlin. How was your morning?

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In the two weeks that Carlin has been living with us in Oregon, I have not made an image of him with a camera other than with my cellphone, which is substandard in so many ways. Overcoming issues of photographic inertia, I put down the cellphone, and brought out the big guns. (Canon 5D MKII).

Carlin briefly calmed down enough to make a puppy portrait, and then I asked Cooper and Tooey to join in for a family version. Tooey obliged with the condition that she got to sit on the place board in order to show off her superior status in the hierarchy of Irish Water Spaniels. She may be sweet, but she is still head bitch.

Carlin at rest (for a brief moment)

Carlin at rest (for a brief moment)

Cooper, Carlin, and Ms Tooey

Cooper, Carlin, and Ms Tooey

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Russ has been working with Carlin and a place board. The concept is that you place on the ground a low box with defined edges, called a place board, and that whenever the pup has all four feet on the board, rewards rain from the sky.

Carlin loves this game (at least with few distractions and short duration), and he’s happy to run to the board and sit or down on it whenever Russ gets it out.

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But eventually, the game must end. A couple of days ago, Russ put the board up, but Carlin wasn’t quite done experimenting with what interactions with the box might win him more treats.

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When Russ sent me the picture, it reminded me of Ruth Bernhard’s “Nude in a Box”.

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Not quite the same. Bernhard’s nude was a girl. Wonder what kind of treats she was getting…

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Yesterday was a warm and sunny Sunday — perfect for outside dog baths and trims (or at least, I thought so…)

Cooper got his bath first, and then mostly a full clip-down. I was actually sort of sad clipping him down. Having promised him that the 2014 National Specialty was his last conformation show, I decided I had better take a leaf out of Rebecca’s book. She clipped her dog down so that she wouldn’t be tempted to show him. Sounded effective, so I did the same to Coop. Except I will admit I chickened out a bit — I left his topknot and ears long instead of clipping them all off.

Still, ever since Cooper got his championship, I have shown him in conformation just for fun. He’s a beautiful dog who moves with grace, and I shall miss showing him off.

Then Tooey got her bath. I am planning on showing her at least one more time, so she got a more formal show trim.

Carlin was out and about in the back yard all this time, observing the whole grooming routine, when he wasn’t chewing on pine cones and sticks, that is. He saw and heard the water spray start, the hair dryer go, and the clipper buzz. Didn’t seem to faze him. So when the other dogs were all done, Russ lured him into the bath tub, too. And guess what? There are treats in there! Even Cooper was impressed.

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No bath for the puppy this time, though. After bathing, drying, clipping, and scissoring two Irish Water Spaniels, I was tired and didn’t feel like struggling with a wiggly puppy. So instead I captured a family shot of everybody (except me…) relaxing afterwards.

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