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Archive for June, 2014

Lately, I have been blessed (or cursed) with unrelenting work from my best clients. Working 7 days a week for the last couple of months has taken its toll. Memorial Day weekend was a 3-day break with a hunt test for Tooey. But other than that, I haven’t taken a break while producing hundreds of images for a shoe and sportswear company here in Oregon.

The real saints in this process have been the dogs. No field work, no vigorous exercise; just  watching me work. So today, the whole crew took off for a morning to play on Sauvie Island and its water.

This photo sums up what Tooey and Cooper thought getting out of the house and the simple pleasures of just being outdoors and being a dog.

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Cooper and Tooey leap into the lake for the pure joy of swimming

Carlin, at 17 weeks, knows little about the activities that await him as an adult Irish Water Spaniel. He initially looked on with amazement, as Tooey and Cooper swam and retrieved non-stop.

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So to get him into the game, we pulled out a puppy size retrieving duck, dragged it along the ground, and tossed it into the lake. At first, he was not sure what to do, but then his retriever gene kicked in, and that was all he needed.

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Carlin looks like he will be a suitable water dog as he made his first delivery to hand (in exchange for cheese), and this was his first deep water swim as well.

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Carlin, at 17 weeks, weighs in at 30 lbs. His potential as a field dog is showing through nicely.

With long swims for the adult dogs, and lots of running through the pastures practicing recalls, the dogs slept nicely on the way home. The case of cabin fever has been broken.

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When I took this photo of Russ and the pups on June 27th,

conducting_canine_choir_2014-06-28I was reminded of this photo of Martyn Ford and his dogs, which I took on October 17, 2012. Martyn knows what he’s doing, having been for many years both an accomplished field trainer and a professional conductor.

IMG_0916ARuss does a pretty good Martyn Ford imitation, doesn’t he?

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Well, after just over a month, Tooey’s JHU title has shown up on the AKC’s website.

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captured from the AKC’s website – June 26, 2014

She earned that title, fair and square, with her fourth Junior spaniel hunting test pass on May 25. Now all I have to wait for is that beautiful title certificate to arrive in the mail. (Which will go to her co-owner’s address, but I’ll get it eventually.)

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15 weeks blog

Carlin has been doing the sweetest thing. I didn’t realize what he’d been doing until I saw it a few times, and then I thought, “Wow, little guy. You might win Cooper over yet.”

Cooper has this seven-year-old habit of dropping a ball several feet away from his target person, and then running to a spot even farther out. There he waits for the person to pick up the ball and throw it.

For the most part, neither Russ nor I pick the ball up until it’s at our feet, and so over a period of several minutes, Cooper will run up to the dropped ball, bring it maybe a few inches closer to the person, and then run off again. After a wait, he’ll again come pick up the dropped ball, drop it a few more inches closer, and then run off again. Eventually, the ball will appear at the person’s feet, but it takes a while.

Sometimes I think that this is a longitudinal experiment Cooper has designed to see how close he has to get the ball to the person before that person will throw the ball. At the very least, this is a game that Cooper has made up, and he loves playing it.

So, about Carlin. The other day, Carlin watched Cooper start the drop-ball-and-run-away routine. And when Coop turned to run away from the dropped ball, Carlin picked it up. I thought, “Oh, boy. Stealing Cooper’s ball may not be such a great idea.”

But it turned out, he wasn’t stealing it. Instead, he ran to Cooper, dropped the ball about eight inches away from Cooper, and then pushed it toward Cooper’s feet. Experiment interrupted, Cooper grabbed the ball, and started the routine again. And again, Carlin picked it up and brought it to Cooper. Not too close to Cooper, of course. Cooper can be grumpy.

It could be that Carlin is just returning the ball — “Here, Cooper, you dropped this.” That would be sweet.

But there is another interpretation. Carlin so wants to play with Cooper. Carlin is usually polite, and understands that Cooper won’t put up with being jumped on and having his ears pulled, the way Tooey will let him do. But when Cooper runs in the yard, Carlin runs along, just behind. When Cooper sniffs along the fence, Carlin trails after him.

So here’s what I think. I think maybe Carlin is trying to add a new rule to Cooper’s game, so that Carlin can play it, too.

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Two points makes a line, but perhaps not a trend.

Today’s was our — Cooper’s and mine — first successful second-day RAE leg. He’s gotten 7 previous RAE legs, but none of them were on the second day. Our two previous second days were confounding and humiliating, but up until today, not successful.

But today, Cooper kept both his body and his brain in the Rally ring for both the Excellent and Advanced runs. We came out of the Excellent ring with an 88, and Advanced with an 89. The scores today were not as high as yesterday’s. Cooper had to work harder at staying focused, and as one handler put it, today’s judge’s pencil was sharper than yesterday’s judge.

But who cares? Cooper did it, and I was, and am, so very pleased with having earned his 8th RAE leg (out of 10 required), and on a second day.

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After ribbons were handed out, I packed up our stuff, loaded everything into the car, and took Cooper for a little celebratory swim in a nearby river. He chased bumpers into the water until he decided not to bring me the bumper anymore. (That’s quite a few — I stopped counting after 7.)

What a way to end the day. We both came home exhausted and happy.

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The fact that I had a colonoscopy yesterday might explain a few things about our rally runs today.

Like the fact that when reading the course map for Excellent before the walk through, I completely missed the fact that there was a Stand Dog, Leave Dog, Down Dog exercise (station 9).

Or that when we got to the Novice-level sign for Call Front Finish Right (station 17), Cooper did an extra sit. I wondered for a second why he did that, and only then realised that I’d given him a Sit command. We repeated the station.

Sheesh. The anaesthesiologist had promised on Friday that all the drugs would be out of my system by run time on Saturday.

With all that, we got a very generous 91 in Excellent.

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Advanced mostly went well, too. Like several other dogs, Cooper got distracted at a sign near the door. Another handler speculated that stockyard scents were coming through from the nearby stables. (The rally trials were held in a barn at the Canby, Oregon fairgrounds.)

The only other thing was that the judge used that same Call Front Finish Right exercise in Advanced, and Cooper anticipated that I would give that extra sit command, so he sat. We repeated that exercise again, and got out of the Advanced rally ring with a 95.

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I was very pleased. And it was warm and sunny, so I took Cooper for a short swim in the nearby Molalla River.

Wonder how we’ll do on Sunday?

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After yesterday’s successful RAE leg, I texted Russ about our successfully qualifying run, reported all our mistakes, and ended with: “I love Cooper.”

Today, I have to remind myself I said that. And try hard to remember why I said that and what he did right during today’s Excellent Rally run:

  • He jumped both jumps, even the Send to Jump exercise, which he failed yesterday.
  • He did not jump out of the ring, like he did at IWSCOPS Specialty last August.
  • He mostly stayed with me on the Serpentine.

That’s about it.

For the rest of the run, his brain was gone. Just gone. He was looking around, wandering away, not responding when I called him. No sense of teamwork at all.

He was distracted. I was humiliated. The judge gave us an NQ.

We didn’t even try the Advanced course.

I think I see a pattern here, though. So far, we have tried two-day RAE runs only twice, and both times, we qualified on the first day, but on the second day, Cooper’s brain left his body, and we failed.

So.

We are entered for a two-day trial in a couple of weeks, and I’m not sure what we’ll do. Perhaps we’ll just go to the first day, see how it goes, and then decide.

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