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.
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.
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.
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.