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Archive for March, 2015

It’s wonderful to be married to an accomplished photographer — that means we usually have really great photos to remember our activities by. But sometimes I am grateful to be just an amateur snap-shooter. That way, when I come home from hunting with less-than-perfect photos, I can just shrug my shoulders and say, “Better luck next time.” Russ did the vast majority of the shooting on today’s hunting trip. I mostly just carried my shotgun, which lead to fumbling my phone when I wanted to take a picture and hold the shotgun at the same time. We had a good laugh when we got home and examined the photos I’d taken. There were a whole series of photos like the following. I won’t embarrass myself further than publishing just one.

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Why you shouldn’t try to shoulder a shotgun and take a photo at the same time

But… on to the hunting trip

I took a rare day off from work today, and Russ and I accompanied the three dogs out hunting for our last day of the pheasant preserve hunting season. It was much warmer than it should be in March, but the blue skies and fluffy clouds made for a delightful day. We walked up and down the rows of downed corn and new grass, behind a row of conifers, and along the top of a low cliff over the Luckiamute River with Cooper, and then Tooey, sniffing the ground and the air, looking for birds. Cooper got the high total of the day, flushing 4 roosters and 3 hens, while Tooey put up 3 hens and 1 rooster. We were allowed to shoot hens since it was so late in the season, and we came home with 8 cleaned birds for the freezer and eight necks, gizzards, hearts, and livers for the dogs’ dinners.

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Having delivered one bird, Cooper hunts for another

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Tooey and Russ hunt pheasants in the grass

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Bringing one out from behind the trees

Carlin got to do some practice flushing on some hen pheasants that we’d planted. He did a good job finding them, but didn’t quite know how to get one into his mouth. Pheasant skins are loosely attached to their bodies, and so the mass of the bird slides around inside the skin unless the dog has a good solid hold. Carlin hadn’t ever tried to pick up a pheasant before, so we were not surprised to have to help him. But once he got it in his mouth, he did a fine job of holding on to it.

Carlin holding his first pheasant

Carlin holding his first pheasant

He’s going to be a fine hunting dog one day, and soon as he gets it all together in his head and syncs it all with what his body is doing. Perhaps I should say the same thing about my photography — if I can just get my brain and my fingers all synced up…

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All our dogs have been fed kibble. Our first dog, Kayak, a malamute-mix, ate grocery store dog kibble. She did fine on it, healthy, happy, and long-lived (almost 15 years). Cleo, a Chow-mix of some kind from the Humane Society, also ate kibble. Having lived on the streets, she was used to scrounging, so she also self-supplemented her diet with food off the counters and dining room table. She was a contented dog with a beautiful dark tri-colored coat, who lived only to about 6-ish, dying early of a heart defect – nothing food related.

It was only when we got our first purebred dog, Cooper the Irish Water Spaniel, that I began to learn that there even existed higher- and lower-quality kibbles.

As a puppy, Cooper came with instructions, one of which was a recommendation to continue feeding what he’d been getting, which was definitely not to be found at my local grocery store. So we switched to a kibble that looked pretty much the same as the grocery store brand, but was about twice the price.

But hey, he was my special puppy, and I wanted to do what was best.

As time went, we moved in to more and more high quality kibble. Cooper developed Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, and I started reading. In addition to all the recommendations about salmon oil and vitamin E, almost everything I read recommended feeding a grain-free food. So, OK. I can do that. And again, the kibble looked about the same, but cost three times the price of the grocery store brand. Admittedly, the ingredients read much more like food and much less like chemicals. There was no corn, wheat, rice, or any other grain. And there was more recognizable meat ingredients, like “beef liver” and “chicken fat” instead of “meat meal”.

Then two things happened. We got another Irish Water Spaniel puppy, Carlin, who almost right away lost his coat due to skin infections, and I finally got really tired of Cooper’s cycling through seasons of shiny thick coat, then dry woolly coat. Tooey can eat anything and stay perfectly healthy doing it, but for the boys I thought maybe better food might be at least a partial answer to their skin and coat issues. So I decided to try feeding raw food. As in mostly raw meat.

If you’re interested in really jumping into controversy and argument, try reading about feeding raw food to dogs. Try asking a raw-feeding advocate a question, and then prepare to duck. Unless, of course, you’re talking to someone kind and reasonable – I’ve been fortunate to have found several of those. But even so, strong opinions are held in this arena, and a few folks can be quite combative. Based on my reading and conversations, here are some things people apparently want to argue about:

  • Should you feed fruits and/or vegetables to your dogs? What about grains?
  • Can you feed both kibble and raw foods? If so, must you feed them in separate meals, or can you mix them within a meal?
  • Can you cook some of the meat, or do you have to feed it all raw?
  • Can you mix meats in a single meal?
  • Can you grind the meat, or do you have to feed it in chunks, or perhaps even in the form of an animal part or whole animal?
  • Is there a proper ratio of muscle meat, bone, and organ meat? If so, what is it?
  • Is it OK to feed your dog fish? If so, what kinds? And does it have to be raw?
  • Should you add any supplements?

So basically I’ve come to my own answers, and here’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months.

Typical dinner: section of turkey neck, ground beef heart and green tripe, and blended veggies

So far, it seems to balance convenience and quality, the dogs love it, and it’s only four times more expensive than grocery store kibble (if four is an exaggeration, it’s not by much):

  • Weekday breakfast consists of half (by approximate calorie count) very high-quality kibble and half ground meat. Usually the meat is ground beef heart and green tripe, but sometimes its ground turkey or chunks of pork. Lamb is just way too expensive, and I think chicken is too “hot” (in the Chinese medicine sense) for dogs with skin issues. Weekend breakfasts don’t include kibble.
  • Dinner consists of something boney, like a chunk of turkey neck or chicken wing, plus some kind of ground or chopped meat. About once a week I’ll include whole cooked high-fat fish like sardines or mackerel (the dogs make disgusted faces when given raw fish and won’t eat it), organ meat like beef or lamb liver, or an egg.
  • To each meal, I add a vitamin supplement formulated for raw diets.
  • Each meal also gets moistened with hot water, or if I have any, hot homemade meat broth.
  • Dinners also include a teaspoon of coconut or olive oil, plus a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
  • About three or four times a week, I add chopped and blended raw vegetables to the dinners, usually leafy green, cruciferous, and/or non-starchy vegetables blended with water and fresh garlic.

I don’t know yet if this is having an impact on their coats. But here’s what I do know:

  • They almost always eat all of the food. (Well, Tooey has always eaten all of her food plus whatever the boys leave, but since I’ve been feeding mostly raw, the boys don’t leave her much anymore.)
  • The skin on Cooper’s elbow calluses has softened.
  • The inside of their ears stay clean longer and are much less gunky.
  • Cooper has much less discharge from his eyes.
  • Less poop.

If I didn’t feed any kibble at all, probably that would be even better. It’s just that I get so rushed on weekday mornings, that including some grain-free kibble has been just easier on me.

So, how much do I feed? I know the approximately calorie count of the ground meat and kibble I feed, and I just adjust up and down based on whether or not I can feel the dog’s ribs. Right now, I feed the equivalent of these amounts:

  • Carlin, 1 year old intact male: 2.5 .lbs of meat per day (plus a bite of apple for dessert, please)
  • Cooper, 8 year old neutered male: 1.6 .lbs of meat per day (sometimes he asks for more, and I give it to him)
  • Tooey, 6 year old spayed female: 1.0 .lbs of meat per day (which she believes is way, way too little)

Most likely I’ll adjust all this as I go along. But as long as I can afford it, I’ll keep feeding mostly raw.

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My friend Kay was working hard to keep Carlin still on the grooming table. He was getting antsy and just couldn’t keep himself in a steady stand. Sit, twist, squirm, attempt to lie down, try to jump off, sit again, squirm, twist, anything but stand still.

That makes it tough for a person to practice giving a show groom to an Irish Water Spaniel. Admittedly, he’d been on the table for a while, and I could see he was bored and tired. Treats weren’t doing it. So while I was trying to figure out something that would help keep Carlin’s mind occupied, it came to me: practice holding birds.

So I got out a frozen chukar, which I just happened to have handy in my freezer, put it into Carlin’s mouth, and told him to Hold!

Huh... am I a show dog or a bird dog?

Huh… am I a show dog or a bird dog?

All of a sudden he stopped moving. You could see the wheels in his head grind to a slow stop: being groomed and holding birds do not belong together, so, ah, what is happening here? And as his mind slowed, so did his body. He quieted down, held the bird, and stayed still. He held the bird. He didn’t drop it, or squirm, or twist. He just held the bird.

Then he started whining. I could see a new thought bloom in that head of his: I want to jump off this table with the bird, and take it away somewhere. But I can’t! But I want to! But I can’t! Whine. So I told him to drop the bird. He had to think about that one. He wanted to keep it.

He’s thinking, Could I actually jump off the table with the bird? No. Darn it. OK. I guess I’d better give it up. But with all that thinking, he stayed still. Good boy!

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The Internet is a wonderful thing sometimes. Today I was trying to find some corroboration of a news story a friend emailed me about, and what did I find? A news article that features Russ and his nameless Irish Water Spaniel, along with our friend Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett.

Russ and Norm, along with Cooper (Irish Water Spaniel) and Scarlett (Boykin), helped teach a pheasant hunting workshop last September, and the article was written by one of the students.

Here’s a link to the article on TDN.com, the web outlet for The Daily News Online, a local publication for the people of the lower Columbia River.

But the Internet being what it is, I can’t guarantee that that article will always be available, so I’m posting a PDF of it here. Click the image below to access the full article in PDF format.

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The end of the month of March is near. This point on the calendar has seen the transition to daylight savings time, and soon, the vernal equinox (Spring). But it also means the end of the hunting preserve season in Oregon. And so with that as motivation, we took to the field one more time.

Cooper has been left out of the big hunts recently, and it was time to let him shine without competing with Tooey or Carlin. We joined up with Norm and Scarlett for a day at one of Oregon’s best hunting preserves (and our favorite), Luckiamute Valley Pheasants, in Pedee, Oregon.

We started with jackets and fog, but ended in shirt sleeves. The pheasants where there, though several eluded the guns. But all the roosters that were flushed and shot, were delivered to hand.

Cooper with a spring time rooster

Cooper with a spring time rooster

Scarlett, taking a break after miles of tracking and flushing

Scarlett, taking a break after miles of tracking and flushing

And Cooper, resting with his day's worth of pheasants

And Cooper, resting with his day’s worth of pheasants

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This weekend, I took a gamble, and it paid off: Carlin got his first point in the conformation ring (taking Winner’s Dog and Best of Winners today at the Seattle Kennel Club show).

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My gamble? I sent Carlin off to Seattle to be shown by pro handler. This isn’t something I’ve done much in the past. I used pro handlers for several shows when Cooper was young, but after that, I showed both Cooper and Tooey myself. But truth be told, I didn’t really enjoy it until after they had their championships, and winning points no longer mattered to me.

In choosing Marty, I think I chose well. I’d seen him handle several other IWS (including one other idiot male), and I watched him win Tooey over one evening in a motel room by mostly ignoring her and surreptitiously giving her treats.

I didn’t get to see Carlin win — I was instructed to stay home so Marty could bond with Carlin over the weekend. But Marty did take some some snapshots during the weekend:

Ummm…. Carlin. It’s time to wake up! — photo by Marty Glover

Come on, buddy. It’ll be fine. You’ll do great! — photo by Marty Glover

See? I’m a real show dog. I have blue wrap on my ears! — photo by Marty Glover

I'm gonna do good today!

I’m gonna do good today! — photo by Marty Glover

And I got texts telling me what a beautiful boy Carlin is, how pretty he is to watch move, and what a force he’ll be when his coat comes in fully. Marty reported also that other handlers and owners complimented Carlin highly. And I even got a text telling me what a good choice of handlers I’d made.

Staying home did have its benefits. Russ and I were able to spend some quality time with the two older dogs, who firmly believe that they are being neglected in favor of that twerp of a puppy. Saturday was sunny and warm, so we took them to some local training grounds where we threw bumpers onto land and into ponds for the two to retrieve. Cooper also practiced some land blinds, and Tooey got another lesson in taking direction via hand signals (also called handling).

And then this morning, we slept in, had a leisurely walk in the sun, and then spent the rest of the day puttering around the house, fixing little things. It’s been good, and I’ll be glad to have Carlin home again.

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Living with an Irish Water Spaniel puppy (or any puppy) can be a whirlwind event. But we made it to the 1-year mile post with Carlin. So out came the camera for his official birthday portrait.

Realta's Carlin O'Whistlestop at 365 days

Realta’s Carlin O’Whistlestop at 365 days

He is now 66 pounds, tall, dark and handsome. His brain is still lagging behind his looks, but we were expecting as much after living with Cooper. He’s very active, affectionate, and goes after birds with gusto. He’ll be a great bird dog when he gets his enthusiasm under control.

Carlin in Alaska

Carlin’s 1st portrait at 8 weeks

Retrieving @ 12 weeks

Retrieving at 12 weeks

Water retrieve @ 16 weeks

Water retrieve at 16 weeks

Carlin gets his first taste of duck @ 6 months

Carlin gets his first taste of duck at 6 months

Carlins first live shot retrieve @ 10 months

Carlin’s first live shot retrieve at 10 months

Happy birthday Carlin Baby! And many, many more of the same.

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