Archive for January, 2016

Three weeks ago, I took Carlin up to the Academy. January 9th, it was. A Saturday. I left him there, and I came home.

When I left him, I hoped they could succeed where I had been failing — helping Carlin feel comfortable while he’s on leash. I wanted (and want) him to not have to worry about being attacked out of the blue. And if he does start to see and then react to something that worries him, I hoped that he would have a quiver of other behaviors that I could ask him to do instead of worrying.

You see, about four months prior, Carlin was viciously attacked by a Malamute, a big dog, twice his weight and at least half again his height. Physically, Carlin was wounded, but not badly. But mentally, he began to worry every time I took him out on a leash. When I took him to Obedience lessons, he worried about the other dog in the room. And if another dog got too close on a walk or in the obedience building, Carlin would lunge and bark.

Carlin was obviously scared on our walks, and I was scared too. Left untreated, behavior like this can be (or at least become) very dangerous. To Carlin, because lunging and barking could incite another dog to attack. To me, because I could get pulled over.

So I sent Carlin to the Academy, where they have a controlled environment, experienced trainers, and a wide variety of dogs to practice around.

Friday was my first visit with Carlin since I left him at the Academy. It reminded me very much of our second visit to Cooper during his stay at the Academy almost 7 years ago.

I sat quietly on a couch in one of their training spaces, while Amanda took Carlin through his paces. I got to watch, but she asked me to sit still and not speak. I’m a good student, so I did my part, while I observed Carlin ace a variety of commands: sit, down, wait, stay, let’s go, and right here. Carlin did a great job following all those commands, even though he was in a confined space with a string of other dogs working around him.

Then the tough test: Off. He made the wrong choice on this at first. He was led over to me, told to sit, and then I was asked to say, “Good sit.” At the sound of my voice, Carlin lost his self control. All he wanted to do was throw himself into my arms. This was so like Cooper in that long-ago visit. Cooper shook so hard with his attempt to follow the sit command. He really tried, but finally, just like Carlin, he couldn’t help himself.

Finally, after several corrections and reminders to “Off” and “Sit”, Carlin regained control of himself and sat. After just a few seconds, Amanda released him, and I stood up and gave the command he really wanted to hear: “Hugs!” Carlin threw his whole body into my arms, back legs scrabbling on my thighs, front leg wrapped around my neck, tongue licking my face (and glasses), ears, neck, and hair, and back to my face.

We were both so happy to see each other.

Then we went outside, where a bunch of other dogs “just happened” to be, and I put him through all the exercises that Amanda had demonstrated. I made my share of mistakes — the biggest one was using the leash correction on him while repeating the command rather than using the correction together with the “No” that should precede the repeated command. I have homework this week to help me train my reactions to time that stuff correctly. But the thing that made me happiest, was that Carlin did not seem to resent the corrections when I gave them correctly. He seemed to react as if my corrections were reminders rather than any sort of punishment.

After we were done with my practice session, we went inside again, and I was told to put Carlin in a down-stay for about 10 minutes while the trainers took a break and did some paper work. In the picture below, you can see him nested up against my legs, staying in his down-stay. A few minutes after this photo, he turned over onto his side in the shelter of my legs, and went to sleep.


So this week, I have my homework and I know Carlin will have his. I’ll get to see and work with him again next weekend.

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Last January, almost exactly a year ago, I enjoyed an outing with Cooper to the Delta. We found a quiet place on the river where I could throw a bumper not quite as many times as Cooper wanted me to. But in the end, I could see he was shivering, so we we left to run in the sun and dry out.

I was thinking about that today, as I was on an outing with Tooey. Carlin is still off at the Academy, and Tooey has been having much less fun than usual, so I decided to take her out somewhere that she would love.

So she and I hiked out to some ponds, where I knew she would swim if given half a chance. Cooper loved to jump into the water to retrieve anything out of almost any water. Unlike Cooper, Tooey will retrieve, but her joy is in the swimming, with retrieving just an excuse to swim. Truly, the “water” in Irish Water Spaniel was designed for Tooey.

We found several small ponds, less shallow than usual because of the steady rains we’ve been having, and Tooey tried all but the one that was choked with downed trees. The weather wasn’t cold — probably in the mid 40s F. And it was cloudy but dry with no breeze. After I was done watching Tooey swim, we took a slow meandering hike back to the car in the noontime sun that was just starting to break. What could be more perfect than that?

I miss Cooper. I haven’t been out to the Delta since he died. And I can’t quite make myself go, even though Tooey would love to go with me. It’s the spot I loved when Cooper was with me. So I was glad to find another spot that Tooey and I might be able to go from time to time, where the ponds will not be dried up until July, where I can make new memories to love with Tooey.

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Dog lost

No, it’s not my dog that’s lost. Tooey is home safe with us. Carlin is safe at the Academy.

But one of my Facebook friends, another Irish Water Spaniel owner from the UK, has lost a dog, named Ree.

Ree went missing from a shoot 5 days ago. In the cold weather, winter rain, early nights, and late mornings. Chris is still looking, and he has an army of fellow IWS owners doing everything they can think of to help find Ree. They’ve called and emailed nearby vets, the staffs of near-by kennels and golf clubs, TV and radio stations, schools. They’ve passed out posters, shared Facebook posts far and wide, tweeted, and used other social media. They’ve even talked to an animal communicator.

I’m in the United States, so I can’t do much more than alert my friends in the UK about this missing dog. You can see more about the dog here, on a UK site called DogLost.

Reading Chris’s frequent posts on Facebook is like reading a horror novel. It starts out wonderfully, with an outing out in the country to a shoot. Not exactly like the hunting trips that Russ and I take, but similar.

And then it turns bad. The dog bolts and disappears. The whole hunting party searches and calls, and finds nothing.

For just over five days, the dog has been missing. There have been a few sightings. The closest was when the dog apparently began to approach a child, and then at the last second, turned and ran away in the opposite direction, only to be “clipped by” a car. I don’t know if anyone knows what that means exactly. Was the dog just bumped? Was the dog injured? And if so, how badly?

I keep checking in on Facebook, hoping for a resolution. I hope they find the dog alive and well; or maybe, just alive; or maybe, just found.

And I think of my own dogs, how I would feel and what I would do if my dog were to disappear? Would I have an army to help me? Would I find my dog? And then I can’t think about that anymore. The thought is too terrifying to hold in my mind for very long. I’ve had dogs who died, but I think in a lot of ways, death would (maybe) be easier. In those cases, I knew the whys and whens and hows. I had their bodies. I could say goodbye.

So now I find myself switching between researching GPS collars, checking Facebook again, and thinking that my dog would never run off. But then, I’m sure a lot of owners of lost dogs think that.

Please, if you are in the UK, and if you know anything that can help Chris find Ree, please help. Check out Ree’s page on DogLost.

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With Carlin away at the Academy, it’s been a long, quiet week here at home.

Tooey has no one to play with, except Russ and I, and neither of us are very good at bitey face. True, we go for walks and to the park, but it’s not the same without the puppy boy running circles around us.

I have no one to go to obedience lessons with. I went once last week by myself, just to learn about signals, but it’s not the same without a dog. I guess I could take Tooey, but she’s not really happy to go into the obedience ring again, so…

Sleep is a lot more restful, if a little lonelier than usual. Tooey still sleeps down at the foot of the bed, but where is that soft bundle of warm curls who plops himself down on the pillows between our heads at 3 AM?

The new squeaky balls just lie in their toy box, not squeaking much at all, and definitely not being rolled toward my feet, pushed by a brown nose attached to the boy who wants to fetch.

The trainers tell me Carlin is doing well with his training. He’s gaining confidence. He’s been going to Home Depot to practice walking calmly in strange situations. He’s training in the same room as another dog, and paying attention. He’s walking past other dogs without lunging and barking. He’s getting a chance to play and chase balls, and lots of attention.

Pretty good for him. Except I bet (I hope) he misses us. I sure do miss him.

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Going through the archives of our photos of Cooper brings back many fond memories. But of course, what we remember when we see the photos is an animated, happy dog, full of joy. But for the readers of The Cooper Project who never met the boy, just seeing a static photo limits comprehending the energy of that amazing dog.

Back in 2012, I made a short video of Cooper and Trice practicing staying steady at the line while she shoots at mythical ducks. This video pretty much sums up all the excitement Cooper exuded in life. And so today, I snagged a few seconds of that video and looped it into this animated image. See if you can count the number of tail wags and notice his wagging is in sync with his tongue.

One happy camper . . . .


And when he was finally released and left the line, heading for the duck, he wasn’t going let a video camera stand in his way… Click the animated image to open the source video and see what I mean.

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With my having taken the Realta Boy II up to the Academy, Russ was combing through the archives today looking at photos of Realta Boy I.

He noticed a pattern.

Cooper and Russ_2007-2013

Russ and Cooper: 2007 and 2013

Over the years, both man and dog prefer the same wardrobe. Sure, there’s a little more fur on both, but still — black shirt, blue jeans, orange collar. What else could the boys need?

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Of course, the dogs are not allowed on the dining table or the counter tops. But somehow, Carlin decided that it’s perfectly OK to hang out on the grooming table, which, ours being a tiny house, is usually set up in the kitchen.


Tooey will happily get up there when asked for grooming. Cooper leapt up there every day to take his pills. But neither of these ever got up on the grooming table on their own, just for fun.

Carlin does it all the time:

  • When he comes in the back door and up the stairs into the kitchen, he hangs a quick turn to the right and levitates straight up onto the table.
  • He likes to sit up there and watch Russ cook or me prepare the dog food.
  • He jumps up there just to jump up there.
  • He jumps up there when he sees me get the training treats out, just in case we’ll be working on the table.
  • Of course he hops up there when I ask him to for grooming, but sometimes he does so without being asked, such as when Tooey is already up there. How he does that without falling off or pushing Tooey off, I don’t know.


Ever since Carlin was a baby puppy, we’ve rewarded him pretty heavily for being on the grooming table and letting us handle him. The handling is not always fun — sometimes we do nails or clean ears. But somewhere along the line, being up on the table became rewarding in itself. I’m sure there’s a lesson in dog training in that.

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While Russ and Tooey are off on their first hunting trip of the year, Carlin and I are having a romp in the snow. (Well, Carlin is having a romp. I’m just trying to stay upright.)


I was totally not expecting snow this morning. I had gotten out all my gear to go field training with Carlin and a Field Spaniel friend. But when I woke up, I found a dusting of powdery snow, and a sky filled with fat flakes that fell for several more hours.

Having grown up and lived at West Coast sea level my whole life, I’ve never gotten comfortable with driving in snow. I avoid it except when absolutely necessary. So, no driving out to the training field today.

On the other hand, most other folks weren’t driving either, so I was able to take Carlin over to a side street, and let him run around off leash. And I did get a bit of training in. We worked on distance whistle sits and recalls. And Carlin did great, so we both had a rewarding tromp through the snow.

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