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Archive for January, 2015

This morning, while Russ and I were eating breakfast, Cooper came over to my chair, sat, and just looked up at me with this big smile on his face.

Cooper smiling at me

Cooper smiling at me

What a delightful way to start the morning.

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A lot of retriever dog trainers advise against working on water retrieves in the middle of winter. The water is too cold and it might put the dog off jumping into water when a water retrieve is needed.

Those trainers have never worked with Cooper.

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Cooper will (wants to, demands to even) retrieve anything, anywhere, any time. And that includes from the water in winter.

Now, admittedly, yesterday morning at the delta was not a worse case scenario. Although it was in the low 40 degrees F, it was bright and sunny enough that Cooper could run around after getting wet and dry off. And I did stop throwing the bumper after the 6th water retrieve when I noticed him shivering. He didn’t want to stop, but to make up for that, we did lots of finding bumpers on land that I “accidentally” dropped along our walk, and several marked retrieves as well.

It was a wonderful day, spent doing just about my favorite thing — walking with my Coopman outside.

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Cooper and Tooey are hunting dogs. So when it came time to choose our next dog, we knew we wanted another hunting dog.

But hunting dogs are not just born. Genetics and early learning do count, of course, but to get a reliable hunting partner, those are not enough. You have to train your dog. Although we’ve been playing at it for several months, we knew it was time to get serious, so we started in earnest with Carlin by visiting Richard Matzke of Tuxedo Kennels to see how he might help us.

First we started by just running Carlin around the grounds, getting used to the area, the scents of other dogs (oh, boy! dogs!), the bird pens, a horse (we’ll give that huge snorting animal a wide berth, shall we?), and new people (oh, yeah, hi, OK, you smell okay, can we go do something now?).

Carlin scaring up a pigeon

Carlin scaring up a pigeon

The first hour we spent out in a field of low cover, with Richard and I teasing Carlin with pigeons and planting pigeons, a chukar, and a quail for Carlin to find.

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Carlin found the birds okay, and he was happy to chase them if they ran or flew, but once he cornered one, he wasn’t sure what to do with it. He poked a couple, but if they didn’t run or fly, he lost interest. And in the case of the live duck, when it stopped running away and turned to face Carlin instead, Carlin figured discretion was the better part of valor, and ran off in the opposite direction.

That was sort of discouraging. But Richard said he saw something in the boy, and figured that we could come up with something that would turn on Carlin’s inner birddog.

And then he had an idea. We’d told him that Carlin had been out a couple of times retrieving birds that had been flung by wingers and that he’d been out once hunting alongside Tooey, so Richard suggested, let’s just try the real thing.

That worked.

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What’s that guy doing out there?

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Oh, he’s going to shoot the bird! Let me go! Let me go!

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I got the bird! I got it!

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I got a bi-ird! I got a bi-ird! Look at me! I got a bi-ird!

So the plan is that Carlin and I will go up every Saturday for a lesson. There is so much to learn when you’re trying to teach a dog.

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Today is my birthday, and I hear tell (based on this photo that Russ texted to me) that the canine choir is practicing up to serenade me with birthday songs when I come home from work. They have, after all, been practicing since last summer.

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Carlin, Tooey, and Cooper

Either that, or they are staging a sit-down strike, protesting my having to go to work on my birthday in the first place.

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The AKC sent me an email. Either one or two people (it’s not clear if the email is from Steve or Lisa — but no matter) in the AKC Companion Events department sent me an email. It’s an invitation. And even though I can’t accept the invitation, I am still thrilled to get it.

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If you go to the website in their email, you can navigate to the Eligibility Information to see what Cooper had to have achieved in order to get this invitation to compete in the Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) class. During the qualification period (12/1/2013 to 11/30/2014), Cooper had to have earned:

  • A confirmed Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) title (He did that on 10/26/2014.)
  • Three scores of 95 or more points (He actually got five scores of 95 or more.)
  • At least five double qualifying scores from the Advanced B and Excellent B rally classes (He got nine double qualifying scores during the qualification period.)

What a dog my Cooper is, and what a team we made.

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This was the scene almost immediately after Carlin’s most recent circuit in the show ring today.

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Chasing a ball, through puddles and mud, out in the sun — a nice reward for a job well done.

And Carlin did do a nice job in the ring. On his second time around, he gaited beautifully around the ring (the first time, he galloped). And he stood still (mostly) when the judge came over to examine him, instead of backing away like he did on Saturday. And his up-and-back was smooth and easy, with a nice stand in front of the judge to top it off.

Even so, he got third in his class of three puppy dogs, aged 9 to 12 months. Even though I hoped for better, I expected something of the sort, as Carlin is still recovering from a series of bacterial and fungal skin infections that made much of his coat fall out. At its worst, a couple of months ago, he had no coat on his belly, no coat on his neck, no coat on his tail, no coat on the back of his thighs down to the hocks, and very sparse coat on the outside of his thighs. Now he looks much better, sort of like he’s been trimmed to a field cut.

But you know, sometimes very nice things happen in the show ring, even when you don’t win. In this case, the judge stopped me as I was leaving the ring. He told me that Carlin had the best reach and drive of all three pups, with a lot of power in his back end. And then he asked, “What happened to his coat?” So I told him, and he said, “Well, when that coat comes back, you’ll have no trouble at all.”

Judges so rarely say anything one way or the other about the dogs, that when I left the ring, I was surrounded by folks who wanted to know, “What did he say?” It was so nice to be able to share with them the nice compliment the judge had given me — sharing it made it even better somehow.

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Our Irish Water Spaniel connections and friends are diverse and spread around the globe. Tooey is from England, but her puppies have moved on to all over the USA, plus Canada and Australia, with new friends in each country as a result.

From a subset of IWS aficionados, those who hunt with their pups, one I have been frequently emailing is Dagmar Lukas in Germany. As she is an avid hunter with her curly brown dogs, we have been comparing notes about hunting with IWS in our different geographies. Local culture, game laws, public and private land use, and firearms laws, all color how each country defines and regulates hunting. Our conversation prompted Dagmar to ask me to write an article for a German magazine about my particular approach to training and hunting with my dogs in North America, and specifically in the West.

This article was featured in the magazine, Der Jagdspaniel published by the Jagdspaniel Klub. Fortunately, Dagmar could do the translation from English to German and so I was able to provide my manuscript in English and the photographs. The only local term that did not have a corresponding word in German was “sagebrush”, but she figured out that it was “Steppe aus Beifußbüschen”.

And once again, I am delighted to see my two dogs in print. This is the fourth time for Tooey, most recently with the December issue of Ducks Unlimited.

First page in the article about hunting with spaniels in North America

Cooper and Tooey on the first page of the article about hunting with spaniels in North America

For those of you who want to see the entire article and all the photos, here is a link to down load the PDF that Dagmar supplied. Irish-Water-Spaniels-in-Nordamerika (note: The article is in German but the photos are universal.)

If you want to read the English version, here is a link to a PDF of the manuscript with no photos. Hunting Spaniels in North America

Dagmar maintains a great website for her group of dogs, and with stunning photographs. See her website here.

I can’t say enough about how delighted I am to have met so many amazing people through the world of dogs, especially Irish Water Spaniels, and even more so, the ones that hunt with their dogs. On the 5th page of the PDF, in the lower left hand corner is a photo of Rod Peterson hunting with Rio and Kasen. Rod and Renae Peterson, well-respected IWS folks in the US, have been great mentors. They also gave Tooey her first home in North America, before she made her way to Oregon. (Tooey is quite fond of Rod and Renae for good reasons.)

Also shown in the article are photos of duck-hunting partner Matt Johnson, Scarlett the Boykin Spaniel (Norm Koshkarian’s), Kent Koshkarian hunting with Tooey in Kansas, Patrice hunting with Cooper in Oregon, and other assorted IWS.

As soon as the planets align correctly, I hope to go hunting in Germany with Dagmar and her Lockenköppe pups. You can’t have enough good dog friends.

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