Archive for April, 2016

The recent Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s 2016 National Specialty was almost perfect for Tooey. She has competed in two previous National Specialties, one in 2010 and again in 2014. But in this show, she got to sit quietly in the grass, outside the ring, as a few dozen well-groomed IWS ran around in circles while she calmly scanned the horizon for ground squirrels.

When the show was over, we collected our picnic lunch and wandered over to the tables next to where the winner’s photos were being taken. While a number of IWS were in the queue to be photographed and while other folks were enjoying their lunch in the shade, Tooey became fixated on her most favorite thing in life.


A Chukar

This chukar was cruising under the picnic tables looking for a good source of food, oblivious to all the bird dogs in the immediate area. Just a mile away is the Prado Dog Recreation Park where sporting dogs are trained daily to go after game birds of all sorts. This is where we used ducks for the WC/WCX tests on Tuesday, and I am sure that this chukar was an escapee was from a Spaniel or Pointer test in the recent past.

Under the picnic table looking for chow

Under the picnic table looking for chow

Two things made this an amusing situation. First is that Tooey, who is often shy in crowds of dogs and people, locked onto this bird with laser focus and nothing else could distract her. The other odd thing, is that there were dozens of other IWS (aka bird dogs) who never saw, smelled, or became aware of this game bird at their feet and under their noses, literally.

Had I released Tooey, she would have bolted at full speed to try and make a capture of her favorite bird. But this being a very formal dog show with a significant number of non-hunters in the crowd, I subdued my urge to release the hound. But that is not to say we didn’t do some herding and tracking exercises.

A very taught leash is the only thing between this bird and lunch

A very taut leash is the only thing between this bird and Tooey

This county park in Chino Hills, while being the host site of the dog show, is not particularly friendly to off-leash dogs. There was a large lake next to the picnic area that does not allow swimming for the dogs. But because Tooey was good enough not to inhale the chukar in front of an audience, we took her down to the water and let her accidentally fall in and then swim down to a shallow area where she could easily get out of the water (and fall in again).


According to Tooey, this was one retrieve short of a perfect dog show.


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Many years ago, I went through the CGC test with Cooper. But I’ve been avoiding it with Tooey for years now because she often take an inexplicable dislike for some dogs. I know some of the kinds of dogs she doesn’t like: dogs with pushed-in faces and pushy bitches. But I can’t always predict which dogs she’ll like and which she won’t. So I’ve been avoiding CGC tests because participants can’t predict or control which kind of dog their dog will encounter during the test.

imageOn the other hand, the chairwoman of this year’s IWSCA National Specialty encouraged me to enter. And Tooey is usually on her best behavior at Irish Water Spaniel events. As another IWS person said, IWS know their own. So I entered, and we lucked out. The dog she tested with was the mellow, veteran IWS boy, Presley, whom she ignored and who politely ignored her. And because of that and her past training, Tooey earned her Canine Good Citizen ribbon.

If you’re not familiar with the test, here is a recap:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

Tooey sat politely when I asked her to, and stayed sitting while the evaluator, playing the “friendly stranger,” approached from the side. Tooey ignored her. Tooey was busy watching prairie dog holes, waiting for a rodent head to pop out.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

And she stayed sitting while the woman petted her topknot briefly. Tooey was still watching for prairie dogs.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

Tooey is quite practiced at this, having let many, many people brush her over the years. She just sat there and let her ears be looked at, a brush be run down her back, and her front feet picked up. She did briefly look at the evaluator to assess what was going on, but then went back to watching for prairie dogs.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

This one was easy. I gave Tooey the “right here” command (our version of a loose heel), and she walked right with me: forward, right turn, left turn, about turn, and stop.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

Tooey did this perfectly. She sat and downed just wonderfully. Then, I put her in a Sit and Wait, and walked the 20 feet away. When I turned around to come back, he was sitting there, straight and proud, just like the princess she is.

Test 7: Coming when called

I again put Tooey in a Sit and Wait and walked 10 feet away. I turned around to see that proud princess pose again, and when I called her, she trotted directly to me. Not into front position as in obedience competitions, but that’s not required. I think by now the prairie dogs were temporarily forgotten.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog

This is the exercise because of which I’ve been avoiding the test for Tooey. Walking in control around other dogs is not predictably easy. In this test, we had to walk up next to another person/dog team, then have Tooey sit and ignore both the other dog and the other person, me shake hands with the person, and then both teams walk on. Presley was very calm, as I expected. That probably calmed me down as well.

Normally, participants don’t get to pick their test dog, but Presley was handy, so I (strongly) suggested him. He was perfect. (Thank you, Jill, for volunteering for Tooey’s test.)

Test 5: Walking through a crowd and Test 9: Reaction to distraction

For these tests, which were combined, there were four people: one in a wheelchair, one walking with a cane, one walking with a walker, and one walking around holding two stainless steel bowls. As they milled around, Tooey and I walked around in the group. She jumped just very slightly when the two bowls came crashing down, making a noise, but behaved quite calmly otherwise.

Test 10: Supervised separation

Tooey did this beautifully. I took her over to the volunteer, and told Tooey “Here’s a friend”, “Wait”, and “I’ll be back”. For years, whenever I have to leave the dogs, I’ve been saying, “I’ll be back”, and then, I always come back. So for this test, when I walked away out of sight, Tooey knew I’d be back. I had to stay out of her sight for 3 very long minutes. The volunteer told me that Tooey just sat there perfectly, not even moving a foot.

I showered Tooey with praise, and after picking up our ribbon, we ran off to get Tooey some treats. And then I let her take me on-leash prairie dog hunting again.

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About 16 months ago, Patrice and I received a query to see if we would be interested in organizing the field events at the 2016 National Specialty for the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America. The field events consist of a retriever test (Working Certificate and Working Cerficate Excellent) and possibly an upland test (Working Dog and Working Dog Excellent).

Before we accepted, there were several issues that we needed to ponder and reconcile. First is geography. The 2016 Specialty was to be held in Southern California and we live a 1000 miles north in Portland, Oregon. Second issue: we have run our dogs in plenty of tests, we have helped run tests, but we have never organized a test before. And that is probably why we said yes, because had we known what we were getting into, our first response would have been NO WAY! Hindsight is an amazing tool.

My first order of business was to find judges. For the retriever side of things, I have some contacts in our local retriever clubs, and found two folks from the Pacific Northwest who were able to commit these many months in advance to spend a day in southern California. Upland Spaniel judges proved to be scarce. And at the same time, while we had lots of interest in the retriever WC and WCX tests, we had interest from only one person for the upland WD and WDX tests. So we decided to hold only the retriever WC/WCX tests.

Second order of business was to scout out and secure the location where the hunt tests could be held. To travel 2000 miles round-trip just to look at some hunt test grounds didn’t pencil out, but I could do a reconnaissance trip while running my dog at a hunt test at this venue. So in November of 2015, I ventured south with my two pups for a bit of R & R to Chino Hills, California. Lots of phone conversations with the venue reserved a lovely test site with fields and ponds.

The third order of business was to find a source for birds in southern California, by phone. I contacted a number of retriever clubs in the area based on the contact info on their websites. No club responded, so that was a bust. I contacted a few clubs from links from the AKC and got lukewarm help, but no birds. Then we connected with the Labrador Retriever Club of Southern California and hit gold. They not only gave us their source in Idaho, they suggested we order our birds and have them shipped to California along with their birds, 10 days earlier than we needed them to coincide with an order their club was making.

Then the fourth problem to solve was how to keep a few dozen birds alive and healthy for 10 days from a 1000 miles away. Once more the Lab Club offered a solution — one of their members, Kelly, agreed to keep and care for our ducks for 10 days, and then transport them to the test site. And then, on top of that, they also offered to loan us all the hunt test equipment we needed and supply volunteers for test dogs, gunners, and bird wranglers.

All these problems were solved, but they took many months to arrange, some up to about two weeks before the test, and all by long distance. There was a lot of nail biting.

Fast forward to March, 2016. Patrice created the test premiums, took checks and entries, created the running order, notified participants, and designed and printed the catalogs. All that was left were some last minute texts to confirm that the ducks had arrived in southern California, and to check in with the club members who had volunteered to help, that they really could still help. Time to pack the car and head south.

Patrice and I arrived the night before the test, and the next morning, bright and early, we drove to the test site. When we checked in and paid for entry, however, we discovered that the office had no record of our reservation, and no grounds set aside for us. As we discussed this with the office manager, trucks-ful of dogs and trainers streamed past us into the park, taking many of the prime spots we had reserved by phone months prior. Finally, Wendy, from the Lab Club, again came to our rescue — she recommended a site for us and guided us down there.

The rest was logistics. Post signs so that participants could find the site. Get out all the chairs, tables, test equipment. Organize all the helpers and give white shirts (required by the WC/WCX rules) to all the ones who were going to work at the gunning stations. Get the two judges together so they could design a good test. Get all the participants together and organized. Drink some water. Tell everyone where they should and should not “air” their dogs and themselves. Get people to move their cars and park on the correct side of the road. Cheer when the guy with ducks showed up. Hand out ammunition to the gunners (reassuring one participant that the live ammunition was truly steel and not lead).

We could not have done this without a lot of day-of help. Our judges, Misalyn Armstrong and Paul Hauck, designed really lovely tests. They gave every dog the best chance at success. We had Kelly, our duck wrangler, and Steve and Rod, our live bird gunners. And Rosemary, Jill, Annalies, Michael, and Paul handled the dead bird stations. We had a gallery of folks watching and supporting their fellow club members. Lunches were supplied by Ellen, signs were posted by Tim, and he brought the water as well. Dorothy rounded up chairs for the workers and gallery, as well as toys as gifts for all entrants. Liz organized the trophies, and Patrice organized the certificates and duck bands. Jack, plus Rod and Renae, supplied beautiful judges gifts, and Tim brought gift certificates for the live bird gunners. I’m sure there was much more help rendered that I have remembered here, and I apologize to anyone I have forgotten.

Out of the 12 entries, we had three qualifiers each in the WC and WCX. (Our Tooey was not one of them; more on this in another post.) I hope everyone left the test feeling that they had gotten their time and money’s worth.

The water series of the WCX test

The water series of the WCX test


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Apparently, it took about five days to get Carlin to the point you see in the video.

When he and Richard started this activity, Richard had to remind Carlin pretty constantly to sit still and to not grab at the chukars flying around his head. Today, as you saw in the video, Carlin got up only once and only partially, and Richard had to use his whistle to remind him to sit only a couple of times.

While I was in the coop capturing the video, chukars landed on my head and my hand. That’s why the video is shakier in spots than I would have liked.

But even so, I am pleased and impressed with Carlin’s progress in the face of many and constant temptation. Good work, guys!

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Of all the dogs, Tooey is the only one who ventures into the basement. Not all the time, mind you. Just on those few occasions when she thinks there might be some reward in it.

So, to wit:

A couple of winters ago, we had some really wet weather. Heavy downpours repeated over days and days. It rained so hard, we speculate, that the little mousies who usually sleep cozy in their burrows were flooded out. So, being smart mice, they looked for somewhere drier. And if that drier place could come with a larder, so much the better.

So, mice in the basement. We didn’t actually see (that many) mice, but we did see some droppings and some chewed corners on food containers in our basement pantry.

Tooey saw them, though, after she’d heard and smelled them. First she ran from heat vent to cool air return, sniffing madly. Finally, she concluded that the mice must be under the floor, so she ran down into the basement, sniffing along all the baseboards and up and down all the walls. For several days, it was Tooey on patrol. If we couldn’t find her upstairs, we knew to look downstairs.

Finally, her persistence paid off, and she brought us a dead mouse in the middle of the night, laying it lovingly on the floor just outside our bedroom door.

What a nice gift! Thank you Tooey.

Then today, I could deduce that Tooey had been down in the basement again.

Our laundry room in in the far corner of the basement. Basically, you have to walk past the etching press and the pantry to get to the laundry room. So, after loading a basketful of laundry into the washing machine, I was coming out of the laundry room and into the main area of the basement, right next to where the chest freezer is located. I almost stepped on it – a partially thawed raw pork neck bone, all by itself, in the middle of the basement floor.

Well, huh. That hadn’t been there 5 minutes before on my way into the laundry room. So I picked it up, carried it into the office where Russ was working, and asked, “Do you have any idea why a partially thawed pork neck bone might be lying on the basement floor?” And just then we heard crunching and went to find its source – Tooey, lying on her rug in the next room, contentedly chewing another pork neck bone, with a third one thawing out, lying next to it in reserve.

“Oh,” Russ said.

It turns out that when he came home from grocery shopping, he had too much food to fit in the downstairs freezer, so he took the almost empty box of pork neck bones out of the freezer and down onto the floor, put the new food into the freezer, and then, hearing his phone ring, ran upstairs to answer it.

Apparently it took Tooey no more than about 10 minutes to realize that she might have one of those occasions to go down into the basement. Once down there, she opened the box of still-frozen pork neck bones, pulled out all three pieces, and carried them about 5 feet away. Three was probably too many to hold, so she dropped one right there, and carried the remaining two upstairs, through the kitchen, into the dining room, and onto her rug.

Very enterprising, Tooey. And thank you for eating your prize on your rug, like a good girl. I hope you won’t mind that dinner will be a little smaller than usual tonight.

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Yes, Tooey, that Tolman hat does look really good on you.


And yes, our newly finished Tolman boat is named Spáinnéar Uisce. And yes, that means Water Spaniel.


So who better, you ask, to go boating on the Spáinnéar Uisce than a Water Spaniel, such as yourself?

I know. You’re right. There is no one better.

All we need is a non-rainy weekend day, when neither Russ nor I are working or training, and no other guests are joining us. That day, we’ll take you boating.

We promise.

But for now, I’ll just abbreviate the story. The one about the dog who loved water, one who would go boating with us. We looked for that dog, and we found him, our Cooper. He went boating once, with us and a friend on her boat. I know he would have loved to go boating on ours. But he left us too soon.

So now it is up to Tooey and Carlin to take up their posts, and go boating on the Spáinnéar Uisce.


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