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Archive for June, 2015

Cooper was accomplished in a number of venues, but the one that provided the most satisfaction for both dog and human, was bird hunting. Take one part pedigree, add another part training, provide the opportunity, and the results are a happy bird dog.

Hunting in the west is typically spending the day in photogenic territory. But this photographer likes to carry the shotgun and not a camera, so photography always was a second tier priority. Not all hunts with Cooper were documented photographically, but all are etched into our memories.

Here is a selection of photos of Cooper in his element.

Cooper sees his first waterfowl

Cooper sees his first waterfowl

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Cooper’s first bird hunt, November, 2009.

Patrice and Cooper heading out to hunt upland game birds

Patrice and Cooper heading out to hunt upland game birds

Mt. Hood and the Irish Water Spaniel

Mt. Hood and the Irish Water Spaniel

Retrieving a chukar

Retrieving a chukar

Cooper, handing off a successful flush and retrieve

Cooper, handing off a successful flush and retrieve

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Cooper and Russ admiring their hunting partner

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Checking out a Washington state pond for some ducks

Stealth Spaniel waiting for ducks

Stealth Spaniel waiting for ducks

Cooper and Matt on Sauvie Island

Cooper and Matt on Sauvie Island

Ready for a pheasant flush

Ready for a pheasant flush

Cooper bringing back the bird

Cooper bringing back the bird

A day of pheasant hunting in Washington

A day of pheasant hunting in Washington

string of lakes

Cooper and his young protegé, Tooey

Southern Oregon pheasants in the rain

Southern Oregon pheasants in the rain

Cooper, taking a break with Mt. Hood in the background

Cooper, taking a break with Mt. Hood in the background

Cooper and Patrice in central Oregon

Cooper and Patrice in central Oregon

With Russ in the duck blind

With Russ in the duck blind

Cooper and a novice hunter scour an oar field for the elusive pheasant

Cooper and a novice hunter scour an oat field for the elusive pheasant

A November hunt in Oregon (2013)

A November hunt in Oregon (2013)

A cold December day, 2013

A cold December day, 2013

Cooper and his mature protegé, Tooey

Cooper and his mature protegé, Tooey

Cooper and his class of new pheasant hunters

Cooper and his class of new pheasant hunters

Cooper on the cover of Rat Tails

Cooper on the cover of Rat Tails

Near Monmouth, Oregon, 2014

Near Monmouth, Oregon, 2014

Cooper with a spring time rooster (his final bird, March, 2015)

Cooper with a spring time rooster (his final bird, March, 2015)

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It came to me last night out of the dark, all in a sudden moment, as if broadcasting from the dark corner in the ceiling. It came complete with the music, the voices, guitar, percussion, and organ as clear as if the musicians were in the room with me.

If you can’t be with the one you love, honey,

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Cooper

Love the ones you’re with.

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Tooey and Carlin

This morning, I looked up the complete lyrics, written by Stephen Stills

“Love The One You’re With”

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slips away
Because your baby is so far away

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love honey
Love the one you’re with

Don’t be angry – don’t be sad
Don’t sit crying over good times you’ve had
There’s a girl right next to you
And she’s just waiting for something to do

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love honey
Love the one you’re with

Turn your heartache right into joy
‘Cause she’s a girl and you’re a boy
Get it together come on make it nice
You ain’t gonna need anymore advice

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love honey
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with

Not great poetry. And I never really liked the song before this — before last night, it always sounded to me like a justification for cheating.

But last night, it was a great comfort to me, and I’ll hear the song differently from here on out.

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This blog was started more than 8 years ago (2007), when Cooper entered our lives. For whatever reason, we decided to document his life from the beginning, without any idea as to where it would take us. Little did we know. For two adults, well set in our ways, this dog proved to be the pivot point of lives. Our activities, our friends, and our future all changed in the Spring of 2007 when Cooper joined our family.

I am a photographer by trade. And Patrice is a professional writer/editor. Together, we started the Cooper Project with our own aesthetics and interests. There are nearly 800 posts in this blog, and over 1600 photos so far. And there will be many more.

Here are a few of the portraits of our boy from the beginning, both in studio and the field.

7 weeks (April, 2007)

7 weeks (April, 2007)

14 weeks

14 weeks

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Young Dog with Toy Duck, Oct., 2007

March, 2008

March, 2008

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January 1, 2009

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May 17, 2009

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August 21, 2009

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May 29, 2010

A satisfied Cooper with a dry topknot

A satisfied Cooper with a dry topknot

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Cooper as trading card

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Realta Rosario Cooper on his 5th Birthday

Realta Rosario Cooper on his 5th Birthday

Ch Realta Rosario Cooper CD RN SH JHU

Ch Realta Rosario Cooper CD RN SH JHU

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January, 2014

January, 2014

July 2014

July 2014

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June 17, 2015

Cooper's final portrait

Cooper’s final portrait

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I’ve been thinking about Cooper a lot today, naturally enough. Remembering him in the days before the suffering, missing him now that he’s gone, not getting much work done.

My co-workers are telling me to go home, but I don’t really want to go just yet.

When I go home and walk in the door, Russ will be there. Tooey and Carlin will run to the door to greet me. But not Cooper. Because Cooper doesn’t live there any more.

But thinking about how I don’t want to go home just yet reminded me of something that Cooper did almost every day when I walked in the front door. Something I never wrote about and don’t have any pictures of. It was just ordinary, just the usual way Cooper greeted me after we’d been apart.

He would trot up to me, and push first his nose, and then his shoulders, and then the rest of his body between my knees and out the other side. Once he’d gotten all the way through, he’d turn around and come the other way through my knees, wagging his whole butt the whole time. I would gently sway my knees and hips in time to his wagging, making our two bodies into one giant greeting wag dance.

Sometimes he’d do this just once each way, sometimes he’d repeat the maneuver several times until he decided we were done.

Cooper was never one for kissing much, and though he tolerated hugs, he didn’t love them. But his wag dance greeting? That he loved, and I did, and do, too.

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SHR UCD CH Realta Rosario Cooper CD RAE SH SHU CGC FdX WC WDX

February 14, 2007 – June 18, 2015

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This evening I took Cooper and a bumper out to the park. We found a quiet corner where we wouldn’t be disturbed, and I threw the bumper for him.

Each throw was no more than 20 yards, but Cooper ran out after each one like it was the most important thing in the world. And after each one, he laid down next to me and rested, panting, with the bumper between his feet. When he was ready for another one, he’d stand up and place the bumper near my feet.


We did about twenty of those, until the rest periods got longer and the sun finally began to set. He didn’t want to leave, but he was tired and thirsty, and it was time to go home.

But you know, the entire time, whether he was retrieving or resting, Cooper’s tail never stopped wagging.

It’s the end of a very full day, and almost the end of a very full life, and Cooper is ending it happy.

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On April 6th, 2007, this little guy came to join us in Portland, Oregon.

This look into the camera was an indicator of things to come.

The mighty Coop goes eye to eye with a camera

The mighty Coop goes eye to eye with a camera

8 years later, he still knows what to do when the camera comes out.

Patrice, Cooper, & Russ

Patrice, Cooper, & Russ

Photographer’s secret: how to get your pup to stare into the lens. “Where’s your duck?”

Cooper knows where his duck is at all times

Cooper knows where his duck is at all times

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One of the delightful aspects of both working with dogs and dog people and being a photographer is that I get to share my combined interests in many ways. After an article that I wrote and photographed was published last winter in the German magazine, Der JagdSpaniel, it was read by an Italian spaniel enthusiast. Elaine just happens to be the secretary of the Italian Spaniel Club, and she was looking for some photographs of an Irish Water Spaniel.

As we all know, this is a rare breed, but they may actually be non-existent in Italy, and there is a subsequent shortage of IWS images to choose from. Elaine was hoping I could supply a photograph for their club booth at the 2015 World Dog Show in Milan (June 10-14, 2015). So I sent her a variety to choose from: images of our 3 dogs, plus a number of our friends’ dogs here in the Pacific Northwest.

Now, if I were to guess which image they would choose, my money would be on Ms. Tooey. She has graced the center spread of Gun Dog Magazine, had her portrait in Ducks Unlimited Magazine, and appeared on the title page of the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s book Irish Water Spaniels in Art. (Yes, I am her stage mom.) She is quite strikingly photogenic and makes the breed proud with her visage.

But no. They liked a puppy portrait of Mr. Carlin that I made when he was just 21 weeks old.

Carlin at age 5 months

Carlin at age 5 months

Well, I guess if you are going to enter the family business of being a model for Russ, debuting in Milan is a good start.

Club Italiano Spaniel booth, World Dog Show, Milan, 2015

Club Italiano Spaniel booth, World Dog Show, Milan, 2015
photo by Elaine Narduzzo

The family tradition continues . . . .

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My mind has been spinning with the recent development of Cooper’s imminent departure from our lives. All of my reactions, concerns, and fears are nothing that every steward of a companion animal has not experienced. Cooper is special, but so is every relationship between a human and their favorite companion. I have been crushed before with the loss of a dog, and then I get up and do it again. Why?

Here is my latest theory. It is about relationships and living life as it was intended. Cooper was our first “working” dog, and in the last 8 years, we have been working together. Compared to my prior relationships with other great dogs, this one seems to have raised the bar on what defines a balanced and reciprocal relationship, a true partnership. Cooper’s numerous successes and achievements over his short but rich life were a joint effort with symbiotic benefits. The ribbons, titles, and accolades are the sum total of 8 years of working together as a team, Cooper, Patrice, and me.

As I look at his wall of ribbons from hunt tests, show rings, and obedience competitions, I don’t see bragging rights. I see days of training together by ourselves, doing what we loved, and being in the moment together. Each ribbon is just a milestone along our daily path of acknowledging that we have done this together. No rights, no wrongs, no second places. Just get up in the morning and fully participate with the task at hand. Walk the neighborhood to confirm that nothing significant has been moved, saying hello to the lady we see every morning at the bus stop on 29th avenue, or adding another found tennis ball to the collection. Delivering a pheasant to hand in the high desert of Oregon’s sage country is as meaningful to Cooper as supervising the street crews who repaired the water mains in front of our house.

reminders of what a true partnership can accomplish

reminders of what a working partnership can accomplish

Even as Cooper is clearly fading, getting thinner every day, his attitude is as robust as ever. From now, until the last moment we can no longer do what this working dog loves to do, everyday will be a day of retrieving, swimming, and inventing new rules to break. Two days after his diagnosis turned my world upside down, we headed to the field to do what had to be done. Work. Not fast, but with full commitment.

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No bumper left behind

Cooper is no longer doing 20′ dock diving entries into the water, but a 6′ leap is good enough. 20150612-637_blog 20150612-608 blog The lesson Cooper is trying to teach his partner, is that willpower is not what is required to muscle through the tough times. It is an inbred passion for working everyday and to the fullest that reveals the meaning of life. Cooper is not an easy dog, and some say I am not an easy person. But if every day of every week is utilized, with just microscopic improvements, two steps forward, one step back, then life defines its own purpose. No need to find a muse, search for a guru, or hire a life coach. Just live with a working dog, and work.

Thank you, Cooper.

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Early Sunday morning at the dog park. Sunny. Cool. No other dogs in sight. Just me and Cooper, the other two dogs, and Russ.

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Carlin taking the lead, Cooper carrying his ball, and Tooey looking for grass to eat

Perfect.

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I still don’t believe it. It’s not that I think our veterinarian and the veterinary radiologist are wrong. It’s just that when I look at Cooper’s beloved face and watch him run to the door with his duck, I can’t believe that what they are telling me can possibly be true.

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Just last month, we had the vet do a blood panel on Cooper to see how well he was tolerating the Rimadyl. The drug had really been helping his arthritic hips, but it can sometimes do damage to a dog’s liver, so we wanted to make sure all was well. The blood panel was all normal, except for a very slightly elevated number for a particular white blood cell. The vet explained that when the count for that white blood cell reaches the 30,000’s, then that could be a sign of cancer, but while Cooper’s count in the 3,000’s was higher than normal, it didn’t seem immediately concerning.

But then he developed this diarrhea that didn’t go away. The vet, having just seen Cooper, was confident enough to prescribe an antibiotic over the phone. But even after several days, that didn’t seem to be helping. And plus, we noticed three other things: he was eating only about half his regular amount of food, his soft and runny poop was bright orange, and his abdomen seemed hard and somewhat oddly expanded.

So back to the vet Cooper went. When the vet saw him, she sent Russ and Cooper to a veterinary radiologist to have an ultrasound done of his abdomen and see what could be seen.

What they saw are masses on his liver, his spleen, and his lymph nodes. They also suspected a mass in his lungs and their associated lymph nodes.

It’s cancer, they said. Lymphoma.

They offered to do a biopsy to determine which kind of lymphoma. A biopsy would help determine the best kind of chemotherapy that might help Cooper. But Russ declined, and I agree. We didn’t want to put Cooper through an uncomfortable and expensive procedure, just to get information that we wouldn’t actually use.

Of course, the vets offered us the option of chemotherapy. They know that some folks will do anything to keep their dogs alive just a bit longer. But because the cancer is so diffuse in his body, they didn’t offer much hope of improvement with chemo. They also offered prednisone, to temporarily shrink the tumors and ease the inflammation, which would help Coop be more comfortable. With the prednisone, they estimated we’d have a month or two more with Cooper. They also mentioned doing nothing and just letting him go in a couple of weeks.

We decided to go with the prednisone, and it’s like he’s a different dog. Instead of laboring to breathe, he’s able to run to greet us at the door with his duck. He seems happier and more energetic. Of course, his poop is still bright orange, probably the result of a failing spleen, and he can’t eat as much at once as he’d like, probably because a mass is pressing on his guts. And we know the prednisone is a deceiver, making it look like perhaps the vets made a mistake, and that Cooper will come out of this and be with us for many years to come.

But he won’t, except in our hearts. So for right now, we’re cherishing him and doing what we can to give him happy times doing the things he loves: rides in the car, trips to the park, and chances to go out and retrieve one bumper after another and another.

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Tooey has produced beautiful puppies. Her first litter, sired by Cork, has so far included three AKC show champions: Pax, Bold, and Sorcha.

In recognition of this, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America awards an “Outstanding Producer” certificate.

Thank you, IWSCA! (And Brenda, Julia, and Colleen — along with their various helpers, groomers, trainers, etc. —  for showing their pups!)

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One of my (many) fondest memories with Cooper is the one Rally trial where he and I were totally in sync. He was with me every step of the way, and it showed in the fact that we earned both Rally High in Trial and Rally High Combined.

His other RAE scores mostly good, in the low 90s and high 80s, and I think a couple were (somewhat embarrassingly) in the 70s.

But one thing that made getting his RAE remarkable was that he got 9 out of the 10 required legs all in one year.

This turned out to be the most of any IWS for 2014. Thank you to the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America for recognizing our achievement with this certificate:

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I did something today that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but didn’t have the conviction necessary to do it. Until today. This afternoon, I gave Carlin a very short “field dog” all over, including the topknot and ears. He looks like the other two did a month ago, and I hope he’s much more comfortable.

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Russ with Tooey, Carlin, and Cooper in their field dog cuts.

Carlin has been dealing with some health issue. We’re still not sure exactly what is going on (and we’ve been through many vets trying to figure it out), but one of its manifestations is that he feels hot all the time.

He doesn’t have a temperature, but his breath is hot, his skin is hot, and pads of his feet are hot. He radiates heat. He pants much more than the the other two dogs, dries himself out panting, and then drinks a lot of water. He seeks out the coolest places he can find, like the bathroom tile floor and the dirt under the deck. And to top all that off, now in Portland, the weather is hot (in the upper 80s and lower 90s F).

Poor dog.

So, I today I took his coat down to about 3/4″ all over. All that lovely leg, topknot, and ear coat is gone. I feel relieved for him — I hope it helps him stay a bit cooler. And just touching him now, as he lies next to me as I write, his body does feel a bit cooler.

But for myself, I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve let down the people who helped me over many months shape his coat into something that would impress a judge in the conformation ring. Soon I’m going to have to call his conformation handler, who had promised to show him in the big shows in August, and tell him that Carlin won’t be able to show. And I can’t forget what a more experienced IWS person told me many years ago when I wanted to clip Cooper. She said, “You have a coated dog, and there are certain responsibilities that go along with that.” So in cutting Carlin down, it almost feels like I’m letting the whole Irish Water Spaniel breed down.

Which is ridiculous. Lots of people keep their IWS cut short, and they don’t feel guilty. There is no logical reason why I can’t do so, too.

True, it will take a long time to grow out his topknot, ears, and leg coat. He for sure won’t be ready for the August shows, and he may not even be grown out enough for the January 2016 shows. But that’s OK. It will grow eventually.

But even so, it appears that I’ve internalized some standard that is lovely in the ideal and necessary for a show dog, but just isn’t the best thing for Carlin right now. And somehow or another, I’ll just have to reconcile myself to what is right in front of me, right now. And do what I need to do to keep my dog as happy and comfortable as possible.

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Back in March while the pups were exercising one morning, Carlin bumped into Cooper (or something as benign). But due to Cooper’s being a bit cranky and one adolescent dog’s being full of himself, the two boys decided that it was time to spar. This was probably an attempt to confirm or re-establish the hierarchy of dogs in the household. In an attempt to restore calm, I inserted myself into the skirmish. Specifically, I inserted my gloved hand into Carlin’s mouth. Crunch. My first priority after separating the two boys was to get Cooper to the vet for some minor first aid. (My vet had a boat payment coming up, and so I thought it was time to transfer some funds into his account.)

Carlin’s taste of my thumb (al dente)

When I got Cooper taken care of, I took my glove off (it was cold last March) and saw that the pain in my thumb was from the area behind the nail where Carlin’s molars had closed around my thumb. Ouch. Fast forward one month to April. I photographed my thumb just to see how it compared. Looking better!

After 4 weeks

After 4 weeks

8 weeks later

Looking good at 8 weeks

And once again in early May (8 weeks later). Even better. Not having a full nail is a mild inconvenience, and not a big deal. But it does leave the area a bit tender, and it gets one’s attention if it you happen to bump the offended area against something hard. Well, as it happened, in late May, it was time for another boat payment for the vet, and so I took Carlin in for a bit of maintenance. While I was at the counter transferring funds into the vet’s bank account, another young pup came into the clinic for a visit. Carlin, went from a calm pup to an excited pup in a few milliseconds, wanting to play, challenge, and be a twit. I kept my left hand securely around his flat collar, but he managed a good vertical jump that slammed my thumb up against the lip of the counter top. The words “Son of a Bitch” flashed through my mind while I restricted the actual words to “Carlin, SIT!” So now that it has been 3 months since the incursion of my thumb into Carlin’s mouth, the new nail is taking on a fresh patina due to Carlin’s exuberance in the clinic. 12 weeks I hope my vet gets his boat paid off in the near future.

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