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Archive for May, 2016

Russ built this boat for Cooper. When we were choosing our dog, we wanted one who would love the water and who would go on our boat with us. It’s just that Cooper left us before the boat was finished. So the job of inaguarating our boat, the Spainnear Uisce, fell to Tooey and Carlin.

And they both reminded us today that we are novices at this whole dogs-and-boats thing.

First, we didn’t consider that some dogs aren’t always thrilled with the sounds of an outboard motor or the tippiness of boats. Tooey was fine, but Carlin was a touch nervous. But finally, when he realized that he could look out the window and sniff all the strange and wonderful scents off the water, he was fine.

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Our plan had been to start out by boating out to an island in the Columbia river and pull into a small marina that was adjacent to a park.

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There were some other folks there (not surprising on a holiday weekend), but that didn’t stop us from also following the middle part of our plan, which was to let the dogs out for a swim and a run-around. The dogs loved that part. They ran up and down the beach, Carlin mostly with a bumper in his mouth (I think he kept it there primarily to keep it away from Tooey, who did snatch it away from him once or twice). They swam and ran around, swam and ran around, drank some river water, and swam some more. Tooey is the real water hound — she loves to be in it whenever possible. And she loves to drink whatever she’s swimming in.

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We returned to the boat, got some pictures in, pulled some grass awns from the dogs’ feet, and enjoyed sitting around enjoying the scenery. Tooey was happy to star in a photo or two.

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But she really didn’t want to be in the cabin with us. She wanted out. Probably, we thought, just to run on the beach some more, and swim.

Finally, we decided it was time to execute the remaining part of our plan, which was to leisurely circumnavigate another island before turning back to return to the boat dock. It was early afternoon yet. We had lots of time.

The dogs, especially Tooey, seemed to be a bit agitated, but finally, they both relaxed and acted like they’d been in boats their whole lives.

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Here is where the next lesson came in. I’m not sure if this was simple naivete on our part, or some kind of plan by the Irish boat gods to remind us who is in charge. We had never really christened the boat except with a few meager drops of Scotch whiskey, and I think that must have been our undoing. Because apparently the aforesaid gods decided to use an Irish dog to teach us a lesson in properly anointing a boat given an Irish name.

We got underway, and were out in the middle of the navigation channel when Tooey started to moan. Uh oh. That was clear enough. She had to pee. So we turned immediately back toward the boat dock, figuring we’d make it in time. Tooey has been known to hold it all day and all night before, so we weren’t too worried. But then the moaning got louder and more insistent. We cranked up the speed.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to either of us to just let her out of the cabin and into the cockpit. That’s all just fiberglass back there. But we didn’t, and finally she couldn’t stand it anymore. She hopped into the farthest reaches of the boat she could get into and let go. And what was that space? The V-berth in the cuddy cabin, where someday soon we hope to sleep overnight in our new boat.

Poor Tooey. She was not at all happy with peeing indoors, and she just couldn’t help it. What’s a girl to do after having tried to drink half the Columbia River?

Fortunately, we’d covered the V-berth with an old flannel sheet, which soaked up quite a bit. But not all.

It’ll be all right. The mattress cover is removable and washable, and I had almost a whole gallon of Nature’s Miracle to spray on the mattress and the cover. And we learned a lesson. When the girl wants out, figure out a way to let her go. And make sure to find a way to christen your boat properly, or else.

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In a previous post, I remarked how nicely Tooey worked at a spaniel practice day. And so while she had some momentum, we entered her in one of the four days of spaniel tests held over the memorial day weekend at Scatter Creek, Washington. Saturday’s test was hosted by the Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club.

She did not disappoint.

Due to the large number of entries (44), the host club designed a long horseshoe shaped course to speed up the test. This meant as many as 6 dogs needed to be in the queue, following the working dog and staying calm while chukars flushed and were retrieved. This is as unnerving for the waiting handlers as it is the their dogs, but little time is lost moving from one dog to the next.

We were the second Senior dog running, which had only one downside. We had to follow the first senior dog, which has a reputation for going crazy and clearing the field of birds and not responding to the handler. The last time Tooey followed this dog, it ran the field putting up all the birds, consuming 20 minutes while Tooey had to sit quietly watching this canine catastrophe. The spaniel (not an IWS) lived up to its reputation again this time. Fortunately, it found and retrieved one bird, but then promptly ran around, refusing to deliver the bird and avoiding all signals from the handler. Once the dog was corralled, the judges excused the team, and we were up next with only a minor delay.

Tooey put up a good hunt, quartering from gunner to gunner. She located her first bird, which she trapped without a flush. She delivered that to hand, but somewhat begrudgingly handed over the live bird. I was a bit nervous about her being sticky with the bird and how it might affect her scores. She was sent out to find her second bird, which flushed as intended, was brought down with a single shot, and landed about 50 yards away. She zoomed out, grabbed the bird, and delivered it with some kick still in it (still alive). She was a bit sticky on this one too, so I kept my cool while the judges made notes and conferred. (It’s rarely a good sign when the judges feel they have to confer on the course.)

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Judge watching Tooey scouring the cover, looking for chukars

But we were finished with the land and made it to the “hunt dead” segment of the test. Tooey was now the first Senior dog to follow 5 master dogs. This is not something we practice for, but I kept my game face on for the judges and brought Tooey to the line. I lined her up to the direction we were told the bird was hidden, but Tooey cut right and straight out to a tree about 45 degrees away from the intended area. I assume that this was because she had successfully pulled birds from this tree several years ago (she has an amazing memory). We later found out that this is where the stash of dead birds was kept for this part of the test and that most dogs also peeled off to go inspect. But I digress.

One thing I did not want to reveal to the judges is that Tooey in not good at taking long distance handling directions, and so rather than giving her whistle sits and hand signals which she would have been marked down for refusing to take direction, I chose to keep my mouth shut and hands down. Once Tooey determined that the tree was not what she was looking for, she stepped back and caught wind of the chukar about 40 yards to the south. Tooey beelined it to the bird and brought it back. We had five minutes to accomplish finding a hidden bird and probably did the whole thing in 60 seconds. This is not the only time it was prudent to keep my mouth shut. We were invited to the water series.

Tooey delivers "hunt dead" bird to hand

Tooey delivers “hunt dead” bird to hand

Now there are two known issues with Tooey and water work. One is that she loves it so much that she might break at the sound of the gun and seeing a bird splash. Senior level tests require a steady dog and handling a shotgun with nothing but verbal control over the dog. Cooper humbled me on this part of the test 3 different times.

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Tooey pretending that she’s going to stay steady

I called for the bird and Tooey jumped out about 8 feet. A quick verbal comment on my part and a heel command brought her back to the line. I gave her a long 5 second delay before sending her to prove to the judges that she was indeed under control. (For my next job, I might try poker). Anyway, she left on command and swam leaving no wake as though she was sneaking up on the bird. Now here is the second known issue for Tooey. As much as she loves water, she is not fond of soggy birds. We have failed at the water series before when she was testing as a Junior dog for this very reason. She got it to shore, dropped it in the water, looked at me and said, “this bird is wet!”. My response was “Fetch, here” That is what the judges heard me say. What the judges didn’t hear me say in my mind can’t be repeated even here on these blog pages, in case someone younger that 18 reads this post. But I digress again.

Tooey did pick up the wet bird and deliver it to hand (with one additional drop and dirty look).

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Tooey delivering, finally, the soggy bird to hand

So not only did she earn her first Senior pass at an AKC Spaniel Upland test (two previous failures) but this also qualified her for a Working Dog Excellent certificate from the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America. Now everyone loves their dogs, and everyone’s dog is above average. But reality has shown that while Tooey is probably one of the best real world IWS hunting dog in North America, she has a very poor record at succeeding at hunt tests. (Too many strangers, too many soggy birds, etc.) And so for her to get a senior pass and a WDX at her age (8), we are absolutely tickled. (Remember, Carlin earned his AKC SHU title before he was two years old.

Tooey, WDX

Tooey, WDX

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And we have the paper to prove it!

You can read about her CGC test in an earlier post. It was part of the 2016 IWSCA National Specialty fun, and we both did great.

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“Is she still asleep? I’m hungry.”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t smell awake. And she hasn’t stretched yet.”

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“Well, it’s 5:30 AM. Time to get up. Time to go out. Time for breakfast.”

“So, what do we do.”

“How about I hold her down, and you lick her.”

“Yeah, okay. That should work.”

“Probably. It worked yesterday.”

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Ch. Tabaka’s Tilt The Balance CDX WDX SH, “Trucker”, must have been a memorable dog. I haven’t found out much about him on the Web, but I do know that he was owned and bred by Ruth Tabaka of Washington state. Whelped in 1982, he was a versatile dog. He was the first show champion American Cocker Spaniel to earn a Senior Hunter title. On top of that, he has a CDX obedience title and a Working Dog Excellent certificate. There is a little info about him, plus the history of spaniel hunt tests, in Dusting Off History to Look at Cocker Hunting Tradition by Bobbie Kolehouse, published in the Spaniel Journal (accessed 5/15/2016).

I understand from my fellow Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association members that Ruth Tabaka was instrumental in getting spaniel tests going, likely a difficult task since they seem to have been resisted by AKC spaniel parent clubs and field trial clubs. And according to Kolehouse’s article, Ruth also “developed a introduction to gundog training as a guide for people interested in beginning fieldwork and judged field events.”

So why is this important to me, an Irish Water Spaniel person who is unlikely to ever own an American Cocker? Well, it’s because today, at the Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association training day, Carlin was awarded the club’s Trucker Memorial Field Challenge Trophy.

Carlin and trophy

Back in year 2000, Karyn and Steve Eby commissioned Karen Lee to paint a portrait of Trucker, and then presented it to the club as the Trucker Trophy, to be awarded each year to the club member’s dog that earns the most points from spaniel hunt test passes: Master=3 points, Senior or WDX=2 points, and Junior or WD=1 point. And in 2015, all his passes earned Carlin the most points and the trophy for that year.

Russ and I split the handling duties for those tests, and I am so pleased for all of us. And so for this upcoming year, Ruth Tabaka and her Trucker can serve as inspiration for our continuing (and not always this successful) work with Carlin.

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The Mount Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association held a training day this Sunday at Scatter Creek, Washington. We thought that it would be a good opportunity to run Carlin through his paces and see if he was ready to move up to Master level spaniel tests. In addition to all the skills he needed to get his Senior Upland title, he now needs to be steady to flush and shot, make a longer “hunt dead” blind retrieve, and also a water blind retrieve. Our primary concern was his being steady to the flush and shot.

We are getting closer. The land series was set up with two gunners and Carlin ran big, covering a lot of ground, with frequent whistle reminders to turn and return to the course. He found and flushed his birds, and was mostly steady (with a whistle reminder) with a bit of forward motion rather than a butt plant. Both birds that he flushed were missed by the gunners and so no retrieves on those birds. A clipped wing pigeon was rolled onto the course which he picked up and trotted back for a delivery.

Carlin return with a pigeon

Carlin returning with a pigeon

Because he wasn’t rock solid at being steady, we have decided that it is premature for him to be entered into Master level hunt tests. And so we didn’t even bother with practicing on the water work.

But Ms. Tooey, who has been retired from the hunt test world after a disappointing attempt at Senior work last August, was given a chance to run the land series because she has been so patient while we focus our training on Carlin. There were two birds on the course, with Tooey and me in the middle and flanked by two gunners. I simply said “hunt it up” and off she zoomed, turning without prompts at each gunner. She knew what to do and needed no encouragement or handling. She found and flushed both birds, stayed steady to the flush, and both birds were dropped by the gunners. Tooey did laser line retrieves, returned with the birds, swung into the heel position and handed off the birds with the “drop” command. In other words, a perfect run.

Ms Tooey ready to hand off the bird

Ms Tooey ready to hand off the bird

Now we had already resolved not enter Carlin in the upcoming Spaniel tests at the end of the month, but Patrice had the idea that maybe we should bring Tooey out of retirement for another go at Senior level hunt tests. So before we had second thoughts, we filled out the entry form, wrote a check, and it goes out in tomorrow’s mail. Not the results we expected from today’s practice, but these are Irish Water Spaniels after all and one must learn not to be surprised.

And of course, the results from Tooey’s next hunt test may continue to surprise us in ways we have yet to experience. Stand by for updates in a couple of weeks.

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