Archive for December, 2015

Holiday 2015

In the photo that June, that one dog,
The one on the right, is slightly out of focus.
He’s on the same focal plane as the rest of us,
But forward, a little ahead, toward the light.
His nose is blurred, but his eyes are sharp,
Intent on the lens, lively and bright,
Still loving the camera as he always has.

That was June. This is December.
We are choosing photos for Christmas cards
For those who are left and still love us.
That was June. This is the end
Of the year that one dog left us
That June, our beloved.

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On Sunday morning, just very briefly, there was a tiny break in the pouring rain. Portland, actually most of western Washington and Oregon, has been having more than a week of record-breaking rain. Just taking the dogs for a short potty run will get a person soaked through to the skin. Ponds and waterfalls have sprouted up where normally you wouldn’t see much water at all.

So anyway, Sunday. After all this time stuck in the house or out for relatively tame leashed walks on the city sidewalks, both dogs were ready for a run. So we ventured out to a dog park, even though we knew that many people would probably be taking advantage of the break in the weather to visit that same park.

There were. But fortunately, most people were trying to keep their dogs out the of the temporary ponds. Not us. We know better. We have Irish WATER Spaniels.


The ball is up there!

We tried briefly to do some training, but cabin fever had struck both dogs and discipline went out the window. OK. Oh well. We’ll just chuck the ball and get the dogs some exercise.

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I love walking outdoors, and my dogs love to work. And those are two of the major reasons I like hunt tests and hunting. They are all excuses to be outdoors, watching my dogs do the thing they love.

As much as the dogs and I love working outdoors, it’s not always safe for the dogs. And I’m not talking about the big dramatic things, like getting lost, falling down a bank, or running into a trap. And I’m not talking about the annoying but not dangerous collection of burrs and twigs in the coat. I’m talking about little insidious things. Like seeds. Like grass awns. Like splinters of cactus spines.

Before today, we already knew a little something about this. You might remember that Cooper got a seed trapped under a third eyelid while doing a summertime hunting demonstration, causing the whole area around the eye to swell, grow painful, and become inflamed and weepy. When he got home that day, we’d done the best job we could, carefully searching out and removing all the seeds we could find from his eyes, ears, feet, and anus. But even with our best efforts, Cooper still had to go to the vet for treatment.

Today Carlin joined the ranks of dogs who go to the vet after hunting.

We’re not sure what the nasty small thing that got Carlin was because, whatever it was, it was either already gone or too small to see. But it was something sharp and nasty, like a grass awn or a cactus splinter, something he would have encountered in California at the hunt test or Colorado while hunting. It burrowed its way into the skin between two toes, and then, based on what the vet saw, it traveled halfway up the paw and then straight down, stopping just short of coming out between two pads at the bottom of his foot.

The vet opened the track left by the debris, and flushed it out several times. Now Carlin is home, recuperating. We’re in for a week of foot soaks, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory meds, but that’s OK.


See? I have an owie, but the vet cleaned it up really nice


Getting my foot soaked is not so bad. I get lots of treats!


I am being a very good boy. I lick my foot just a little bit. The vet says that’s OK because it keeps the wound open. Good vet!

Carlin doesn’t seem too unhappy. He’d been sedated, so he was a bit loopy when he came home. But he’s not licking the wound excessively, he’s not limping, and he’ll let me touch it, so I think maybe we’re going to be OK.

My friend Sharon advised me to make some changes to my grooming routine when I go hunting in dry areas, where grass awns and seeds abound. She suggested I trim the fur out from between his toes. Apparently, grass awns and other debris hook onto the fur, and that gives them the traction they need to propel themselves into the skin. If I’m very careful, she says, if I use a very small scissors, I can trim the coat from just between the toes and still leave enough coat on the top of the toes to keep him decent looking enough for a conformation dog show.

I’ll give it a try, but I wonder — maybe Carlin doesn’t want to be a show dog. First he gets a series of skin infections that makes him drop his fur. Then, after that has finally grown out again into a beautiful show-worthy coat, he rolls himself in a field of burrs in Montana in October, requiring a very, very short all-over clip to get them all out. And now, just when I think he might be barely presentable in January, he gets into something sharp and nasty, requiring a foot shave.

I guess I could stop taking him hunting… Nah!

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Happy 7th Birthday, Tooey!


Tooey at 7

Today Tooey turns 7 years old. As you can see, she is still her beautiful self, still scanning tree branches for squirrels, still living enjoying her life with a quiet zest.

It’s been a relatively quiet year for Tooey. She’s no longer competing in any obedience, hunting, or conformation activities (although we may get that last Barn Hunt leg next year and possibly I may show her in the Veterans class at the next Specialty), so the training she does is in the living room, just for fun.

Tooey spent many days in the car and motel rooms traveling this year — Montana for hunting training and hunting, southern California to accompany Carlin to his hunt test, Colorado for a visit to family and day of hunting. She’s a very good traveler. Her only request is to go swimming whenever we’re near a river or pond. That was totally doable on day trips to the Willamette River or the Pacific ocean, in the Missouri and Marias Rivers on the trip to Montana, and in the ponds in southern California. But it’s not so fine when the Colorado River is many yards down a steep bank and behind a fence.

Tooey and Trice

She’s still our best hunter, finding birds in the field with no help from us and retrieving to hand the ones we bring down. She got birds in Montana this year, adding a new state to her list (California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, plus British Columbia). And along those lines, since she’s ever the beautiful photo model, another photo of Tooey (and Cooper) was published in December, just after her last birthday. The photo accompanied an article written by Russ (and translated into German) about hunting with spaniels in North America.

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

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

For 5 minutes every morning, before I get out of bed, we cuddle, her lying on my chest licking my face, me trying to breathe and stroking her head. She loves her daily walks and trips to the park, which for her are mostly sniffing and critter-finding expeditions — I mean, why rush? Mostly her day is spent keeping Carlin in line and playing with him when she feels like it (which is not that often now that he’s bigger and stronger).

It’s also been a tough year for Tooey. She lost Cooper, a constant source of adoration and the friend who loved her more than anything (except possibly the opportunity to retrieve). She was sad about that for many weeks. And she had surgery to removed a mammary gland for a biopsy of what we were afraid was cancer. (It wasn’t.)

But even so, life is good, and we’re looking forward to many more happy years with Tooey.

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Cooper was a tough puppy. Impulsive, not particularly affectionate, easily distracted from tasks we wanted him to learn, single-minded when it came to retrieving. He pestered us constantly to throw the ball, throw the toy, throw the whatever — that was all he wanted from us. He could not seem to learn to walk nicely on a leash, and he couldn’t be trusted without one.

We’d never had a dog like this. Our previous dogs, Kayak and Cleo, both mixed-breeds, had been mellow and sweet. We didn’t know how to handle high-drive, highly distractable Cooper, and sometimes we didn’t know if we even wanted to.

So I called Rosemary, Cooper’s breeder, and asked her about it. I told her I wished Cooper could be more mellow and affectionate like his litter brother Mowgli. After a pause, she asked me, “Do you want me to ask Tammy if she’d be willing to trade dogs?”

Russ and I thought about it for a week. Talked about it. Discussed it. Wondered what it would be like. Mowgli was a handsome puppy in a more masculine way than Cooper. And he was affectionate — in my opinion, one of the main attractions of having a dog. Puppy Cooper just wasn’t. He didn’t appear to even know I was there unless I was throwing something or tussling with him.


Mowgli — CH Realta’s Bear Necessities of Yo-Yo CD RE JH JHU WC WD CGC

But in the end, we said no. Talking to Rosemary again, we said that we’d decided the Cooper was ours. He was our responsibility, and we’d just have to figure out how to deal with it.

So we didn’t get Mowgli. But he has always had a special place in my heart.

His whole life, with only one exception (after I’d barked at him for something), Mowgli was sweet to me. When I went to visit Tammy and Steve, he’d come up onto the couch or the chair, and lean on me, asking to be petted. In this regard, he was a lot like his and Cooper’s daddy, Balloo. Mowgli and Cooper seemed to hate each other, so we had to keep those two separated, but in a way, that gave me a few minutes to spend with just Mowgli, which was a rest for the soul. When we were together, he didn’t ask for anything other than to be loved. If I happened to throw a toy, that was good, but not necessary. He just asked to be loved, and so, I love him.

Mowgli wasn’t mine — he was Tammy’s through and through. But I am so fortunate to have shared his life. I went to multiple dog shows, watching Mowgli in the conformation ring. He was a beautiful dog, justly earning his show championship before Cooper did.


Mowgli — Winner’s Dog — photo by Kit

I watched him succeed in the Obedience ring, and at the same time, heard stories of his leaving Tammy while doing the heeling exercises to go say hi to the judge. Cooper and I competed against Mowgli and Tammy in the Rally ring at the 2013 IWSCOPS Specialty, with Mowgli beating the pants off Cooper, taking High Combined.

Mowgli and Tammy joined Russ and me on a hunting trip, where Mowgli flushed and retrieved pheasants in the snow with style. And I had the great pleasure of watching Mowgli compete in retriever and spaniel hunting tests, and loving it.

Mowgli flush

Mowgli after a chukar


Mowgli retrieving a duck


Patrice, Tammy, and Mowgli after a hunting trip

Sharing our love of the two Realta brothers, Cooper and Mowgli, brought me the great good friendship I treasure now with Tammy.

A week and a half ago, it was discovered that Mowgli had developed a tumor in his nasal cavity, and it impinged on his brain. He had seizures and blocked breathing. And yesterday, his spirit left his body.

So now, like his brother Cooper, he is gone.

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