Archive for August, 2014

About 3/4 of the way through this IWSCOPS specialty weekend, I had thought to begin this post by saying that this has been the kind of dog show where, when asked how it was, you’re supposed to say, “We had fun.” Deciphered, that often means that you didn’t do well at the show. Some people do actually mean that they had fun, but it’s often more like, when you feel like crap, and are asked “how are you?”, you say “fine.” So — we had fun.

But actually, by the time the show was over, discouragement turned to relief and happiness, and I realized that some things did go really well. So let’s start with that.

One of the puppies from Tooey’s first litter, Pax (the former Mr. Red), took Winner’s Dog in both the Friday and Saturday conformation shows (both major wins), under two different judges and with two different handlers. Next, Bold (the former Mr. Green) won Best of Opposite Sex on Saturday, against some stiff competition. He is well on his way to a Grand Championship, and I couldn’t be prouder of his 18-year-old handler.

And then we did actually have some fun, too. Like Cooper and Tooey before him, Carlin, at 5-1/2 months old, retrieved his pigeon (you can read about how that part of the event is run in the posts about Cooper and Tooey), so he got to compete in the Bird Dog conformation match on Friday. Carlin took second after his brother Decoy in the puppy class, but the best part was that he qualified to enter the match at all. To do that, he had to go out about 15 yards, pick up a pigeon and bring it back. He went out fine, found the pigeon right away, and poked it with his nose a few times. I started backing up and calling him, so he picked up his pigeon and ran back to me with it.

In Saturday’s Pee Wee Puppies conformation match, Carlin again took 2nd to his brother. In both events, I got some compliments on my dog and how he was groomed, the inevitable advice about how I should do this thing or that differently, and comments from several people saying that they would have given my dog the nod over his brother. Plus, Carlin wagged his tail the whole time while getting treats and running around in circles.

But the very best part of the Specialty this year was that Cooper’s brain came back into his head just in time to run in Team Rally. Even up to moments before we ran, I was urging the the team captain to use one of the alternates because Cooper had done so poorly in Rally both Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, he’d qualified in the Excellent run, but then NQ’d in the Advanced run because he refused to sit. Half the stations required sits, so there was no way we could qualify. Then on Saturday, he walked out of the ring in the middle of the Excellent run, and even though his body returned, his brain just didn’t. It was as if he was on an entirely different planet from me, so I pulled him from the Advanced run altogether.

I felt dispirited and discouraged, and in the light of Cooper’s troubles, Carlin’s taking 2nd in his two events just felt like defeats. And I was afraid that I would feel worse if Cooper couldn’t or wouldn’t do it in Team Rally. I just couldn’t face letting down the team, too.

Renae, however, refused to let me quit. As far as she was concerned, I had to enter, and I had to go in first and just do it.

So I did. And thanks to the saint of lost dog brains, so did Cooper.

All of a sudden, he was right with me. He sat briskly when asked, heeled right next to me. Came to front, went around, stayed when required, and just generally played the game with me like we were a team. I had my dog back!

I was so happy that my brain temporarily left the building, and I missed one entire station. Fortunately, in Team Rally, missing a station just results in lost points. (If it had been regular Rally, I’d have NQ’d for that.) That mistake bumped us down to 3rd place instead of 2nd, but while my teammates were astonished at my error, no one was angry. And I was happy. I had my Cooper back and we were a team again.

Later, after I got home from the show, I got some more good news. Today, with his third show this weekend, Pax* got his AKC championship. This is especially wonderful because he’s the third of Tooey’s puppies to become champions, after Sorcha** (Ms. Yellow) and Bold*** (Mr. Green), making Tooey an Outstanding Producer. Pax did it under all different judges with different handlers, in a sweep of major wins in just a few short months — first in the IWSCA Specialty in Utah in April and then three shows in a row this weekend — two at the IWSCOPS specialty and a third at the Sammamish Kennel Club show.

What a weekend!


* Pax — Am CH/Can CH Whistle Stop’s Not Me, ‘Pax’ Did It RN

** Sorcha — Am CH/Aus CH Whistle Stop Mine to Keep at Tirriki

*** Bold — CH Whistle Stop’s Bring It On



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We miss Carlin already, and he’s only been gone a few hours.


Decoy, Jill, and Carlin

Jill, Carlin’s breeder, stopped by yesterday afternoon to get 5-3/4 month-old Carlin and take him and his litter brother, Decoy, on a trip through Oregon and Washington. After a sojourn at a friend’s in Yakima, they’ll end up in Bothell, Washington, where Cooper and I will meet up with Carlin again at the IWSCOPS local specialty.

So far it’s been a fun trip for Carlin. He didn’t get car sick during the long ride from Portland to Yakima (Yay!). And yesterday evening, he and Decoy broke through a fence to go swimming in a dog-forbidden pond in the friend’s back yard. And they’ve been playing, romping, and stomping for hours and hours, broken only by a few hours’ (very sound) sleep over night.

Carlin has also met the friend’s dogs, slept in a crate in a strange bedroom, and practiced “Stand” with Jill. Soon he’ll go for a long walk along a greenway, get yet another bath (have to wash the pond off), and (hopefully) learn some lessons on how to stand still to be groomed.

Then it’ll be off to Colleen’s (owner of Carlin’s sire) to romp some more with Decoy and Colleen’s puppy, and to show himself off to the many IWS people gathered there for the week.

Lucky puppy! And lucky Cooper, who is just as happy to see the brat go away. I’ve told him that Carlin will be back, but for the moment, Cooper is enjoying being the only boy.

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With the weather being a balmy 90 degrees, Patrice converted the back deck into a grooming spa for all three dogs.

A bath, blow dry, trim, and a pedicure for the fleet of pups.

Tooey admiring her nail trim

Tooey consulting on her foot trim

Carlin found his bath and blow dry strenuous enough that a nap was in order while he waiting in the queue for a nail trim.

Carlin, catching up on his sleep

Carlin says, “Wake me up when it’s my turn.”


Carlin, catching up on his sleep

Cooper relaxing after his turn

Surely a belly rub is included in the full spa treatment, is it not?

Ms Tooey, looking proud in her field cut

Ms Tooey, looking proud in her field cut

The three pups and their personal spa mistress.

The three clean pups and their personal spa mistress. Tooey, on the table, Carlin, in the lap, and Cooper, with one of his tennis balls

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Yep, just as was determined last time, Irish Water Spaniels once again demonstrate the laws of momentum and the conservation of kinetic energy.

As written earlier:

When a 25 Kg dog runs at a speed of 10 kph and is impeded by a stationary object, kinetic energy is transferred to the object, which in turn alters the object’s position in space, depending on its mass and any additional forces that affect its position, such as gravity and friction. In the case of a couch, the kinetic forces of a jumping dog combined with gravity result in a change in position of the couch.

Now, just figure what two 25 Kg dogs, plus a 18.4 Kg puppy, can do when their forces are combined.

dogs win

Of course, the 18.4 Kg puppy was not around when the original experiment was conducted. And scientific rigor demands that experiments be replicated. Hence…

And anyway, afterwards it’s sometimes best to blame it all on the puppy.

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I knew it was going to be really hot in Salem, and I hoped Tooey would be hot on the trail of a rat there, too. And in fact, she found three (one with a little help)!


Tooey with her Novice qualifying ribbon

We found the Northwest Barn Dog’s Barn Hunt at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in the Livestock Pavilion. Just like the last (and also our first) Barn Hunt we attended, there were lots of terriers and “go-to-ground” dogs, but there were also a fair spread of other breeds, everything from a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to a Poodle and Portuguese Water Dog, to an Afghan hound. Tooey was the only Irish Water Spaniel.

First, we entered the Instinct test. I mostly did this to remind Tooey what the smell of a rat is like. Once in the ring, she sniffed at all three tubes (one empty, one with rat litter, and one with a rat) for a few seconds, but then wandered away to sniff around in the hay. Not a good opening — I mean, how am I supposed to figure out which tube has the rat in it, if she doesn’t tell me? So I pointed at the tube at which she had sniffed the longest and asked, “Is that the rat?”

The judge gave me a funny look, and then I remembered the rule: the handler must call out definitively, “Rat!” So, I said, “um…, Rat.” The judge’s expression changed, he said “Congratulations,” and with that Tooey earned her RATI title.


Tooey with her RATI qualifying ribbon

In the Instinct test, Tooey had found the rat in much less than her allotted minute, but she didn’t seem all that interested in it, so when it came time to enter the first Novice trial of the day, I wasn’t sure what kind of signs to look for. How was she going to show/tell me where the rat was hidden? Since the rat tubes are moved every five dogs, and since dogs and handlers have to stay behind a blind while each member of their group of five is in the ring, I wouldn’t know where the rat was hidden. Tooey would have to find it, and tell me she’d found it.

The Novice course is more complicated than the Instinct test, and the tubes are hidden under hay, in and around hay bales, rather than being out in plain site.


Novice course with Rat wrangler (background) and judge Wally Quinn (foreground)

While waiting for our turn, I had helped as leash runner and scribe at the Novice ring, so I’d been able to watch about 15 Novice dogs hunt in the hay ahead of us. Some madly wagged their tail when they found the rat, others barked, some tried to dig the tube out from under the hay, some looked back and forth between the rat and their handler. And some seemed to give no sign at all. That’s what I was afraid Tooey might do, based on her performance in Instinct.

So when we got into the ring, I made several errors. I didn’t give her long enough to hunt, and I didn’t direct her quickly enough to new areas of the ring to hunt, and then I called “Rat” at the first spot she’d shown some interest in. Turned out, that had been a spot where a rat had been hidden at one time.

Once nice thing about Barn Hunt is that when dogs fail to qualify because they didn’t find the rat, the rules require the judge to take the handler to where the rat is hidden, so that the handler can direct the dog to the rat and then praise the dog for having found it. I took full advantage of that, praising Tooey generously for having found the rat, and then as soon as we were out of the ring, rewarding her with many salmon treats.

After getting ourselves soaked with water from a garden sprayer and then resting quietly in the shade, we had a second try in the afternoon. This time, Tooey found the rat quickly and decisively. She dove nose first into the pile of hay, and then tried to push the tube out into the open. With that, she completed the Rat element of the trial, but to qualify in the trial, she also had to jump up with four feet onto a bale (the Climb) and go through a tunnel made of hay (the Tunnel).

Getting her up onto the hay bale didn’t take too much longer — I just encouraged her to search up on the top of three stacked bales, and she had to climb up to do that. But then it took her forever (I have no idea how long, as handlers are not allowed to time themselves) to go through the tunnel. I’ll find out in a couple of days, but I’ll bet her time was very close to the 2 minutes allowed to complete all three elements.

But in any case, she qualified, and earned her 2nd (of 3 required for the RATN title) Barn Hunt Novice leg, and I learned what she does when she finds the rats — dives in nose first.

Now that I think of it, that’s what she did in her first Novice trial, too. Why did I lose faith? As one of my fellow handlers said after her dog failed to qualify because she missed her dog’s signs of having found the rat, “Trust the dog. I just have to trust my dog.”

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