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Archive for July, 2016

Carlin’s been in only a few conformation dog shows. I showed him when he was quite a young puppy, and again several months later. He has 1 point, won when Marty showed him up in Seattle a couple of months after that. But other than these, I haven’t shown him for two reasons: his skin/coat and his attitude.

The skin/coat issues started early. Carlin had no coat on his tail or throat when we got him, and then he suffered a series of skin infections that made his coat even worse. At one point, he had no coat at all on the back of his thighs, chest, stomach, throat and tail.

Now his chest and stomach coat, as well on his tail, is starting to come in. He still has little coat on his throat, and big bare patches on the backs of this thighs. Judges at three different shows have asked me about his coat, while today’s judge opined that Carlin must be bare on his thighs because “he’s been doing a little self grooming.” (The dog who won Winner’s Dog today, as well as Best of Breed, has a beautiful coat and was well handled by a pro.)

So. Coat not great.

But his attitude was good. He showed well, was friendly to the judge, didn’t do any hopping and leaping, and basically ignored the other dogs while they were in the ring. I was so pleased.

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Carlin says hi to the judge

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Carlin gaiting beautifully, nice reach and drive

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Carlin showing off his butt

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Coming back on the up and back

We made some smart moves that helped him, I think, and chance did us a favor as well.

Our show time was 8 AM, which is usually killer for Irish Water Spaniels. There is a lot of grooming to do, fluffing up the legs, doing last minute trimming, wiping down any unsavory accidents that may have occurred, etc. But 8 AM also means that the venue won’t be at it’s most crowded, so it’s more likely you can maneuver around enough to get in and out without having to come face to face with any other dogs.

Carlin has never loved that, coming face to face with another dog while he’s leashed. That was made much worse when, while Carlin was leashed and walking on a city sidewalk, he was ambushed by a Malamute twice Carlin’s size. The Malamute charged down a driveway and attacked Carlin, wounding him and scaring him half out his mind. With that, being leashed in the presence of other dogs became unbearable, and Carlin would lunge and growl at almost any oncoming dog. We sent Carlin off the the Academy of Canine Behavior last January to see if they could help him. While there, he improved quite a lot, and our management of situations while he’s leashed has also improved.

One trick we tried this weekend was giving Carlin a stuffed toy to hold while he’s leashed. I got that idea from a neighbor whose dog (named Chowder, god help us) carried around a stuffed animal on their walks. So today (and yesterday at the dog wash), Carlin held on to his own stuffed hedgehog until he went into the ring.

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Carlin with his hedgehog

Once in there, he seemed to know just what to do (thank you, Marty and Kay), and he behaved himself beautifully. He won his class, but then didn’t get the point. That’s OK. I’ll take my successes where I can get them.

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The Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club hosted a “fun trial” today. Patrice entered Carlin and so off we went, anticipating a morning of low key training and tune up for our next hunt test.

Surprise! This club is a group of competitive field trialers and today’s event was exclusively a practice field trial and not a practice hunt test. (If we had read between the lines, we would have noticed that entry form said “trial,” not “test”.) This meant if we were to run, we had to run in a brace, or parallel with another working dog, and Carlin not only had to be steady to wing and shot for our birds, but he was going to have to be steady to wing and shot for the other dog’s birds as well. In addition, he couldn’t stray off his half of the course and poach any birds from the other dog’s side.

Irish Water Spaniels cannot compete in AKC spaniel field trials, but since we paid our entry and this was unofficial event, we just smiled and said, “Why not?”

Carlin was dog #3 and so we followed the first two dogs onto the coarse and watched as they ran in a brace. This way, he got twice the opportunity to see other dogs put up birds and get amped up before he was called up for his first run.

Standing by to run in a brace with an English Springer Spaniel

Standing by to run in a brace with an English Springer Spaniel

And when it was our turn, Carlin was ready to run (REALLY ready to run).

"hunt 'em up" and off he goes

“Hunt ’em up” and off he goes

On the first series, Carlin put up a pheasant, was steady to the flush and shot, as well as made a nice delivery to hand. Just as planned.

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Carlin is the brown spot in the grass in the lower left corner, having just flushed a pheasant while he sits as intended

When the Springer next to us put up a bird, Carlin’s butt went down. When the Springer was released for a retrieve, Carlin needed a better view of the action and so he moved about 20 feet to an area of shorter grass to watch. No attempt at poaching on his part, but moving was against the rules and so we were finished with the first series. Oh well.

On the second series under the other judge, the boy quartered nicely between the gunners, running a bit wide only once into the other course. He put up a bird which flew overhead and behind us before the gunner could get off a safe shot and bring it down. Because I was standing between the Carlin and his bird, he calmly waited until the judge tapped me on the shoulder, and I, in turn, verbally released him for the retrieve. He marked the fall, picked it up, and delivered it to hand. On to the next bird.

Carlin brings back his second bird

Carlin brings back his second bird

As he moved out and quartered, he flushed his third bird, sat with the flush (and whistle). He sat, but he seems to have a count down clock in his head. If I don’t release him for the retrieve by the count of (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) he self-releases (another rule violation).

Carlin, counting down or waiting for a release, which ever comes first.

Carlin, counting down or waiting for a release, which ever comes first.

So just as the judge was about to give us the signal to release, off Carlin went. This simple mark and retrieve took a while, because when the bird hit the ground, not being dead, it took off on foot. Carlin eventually found the errant pheasant and delivered the live bird to hand.

Carlin delivers his third bird as the Jan, the judge, stands by

Carlin delivers his third bird as the Jan, the judge, stands by

Because Carlin is not a Springer or Cocker spaniel, we will never have the opportunity to run a real spaniel field trial, but this fun trial was a great training opportunity to work in a brace. He held to his course, didn’t poach on the other dog, and found, flushed, and delivered three pheasants to hand. Other than breaking once and stepping out for a better view of the action, he did very well.

The benefit of this kind of practice, is that it makes him better at real world hunting scenarios, especially when hunting with another dog.

I am really pleased that he did as well as he did, because in some circles, Carlin’s breed is often considered a sub-standard spaniel and not a real hunting dog. Had we totally screwed up, it would have reinforced that perception, but he did the breed proud.

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Carlin is getting familiar with the Interstate system. So far he has been to LA on I-5 for hunt tests. He has been to Montana twice (I-90) for hunting. And he just completed his second trip to Colorado on I-84.

Both trips to Colorado were for family events (humans). He got in a day of upland bird hunting last November, but this time he was mostly a tourist who got to supervise me doing some home maintenance on my late father’s house in Silverton, Colorado. While there, he got to hang out with some new dog buddies, but it was mostly just the two of us doing a road trip while the girls stayed home in Oregon.

Some photos from Carlin’s summer vacation to Colorado.

Our first stop was in Burley, Idaho, just as a passing thunder shower crossed a field of sugar beets.

Our first stop was in Burley, Idaho, just as a passing thunder shower crossed a field of sugar beets.

 

The second stop was in Grand Junction, Colorado and a romp in the desert

The second stop was in Grand Junction, Colorado and a romp in the desert

 

120 miles south of Grand Junction and 10 miles north of Silverton, we crossed Red Mountain Pass at over 11,000 ft elevation

120 miles south of Grand Junction and 10 miles north of Silverton, we crossed Red Mountain Pass at over 11,000 ft elevation

 

Car camping and road food still require a snood

Car camping and road food still require a snood

 

Our host (Russ's cousin Lou) included hanging out with a new 3 month puppy, Blue.

Staying with our host (Russ’s cousin Lou) included hanging out with a new 3-month puppy, Blue.

 

Carlin also to spend time with Olly, the resident dog at my dad's old house.

Carlin also got to spend time with Olly, the resident dog at my dad’s old house.

 

Once the fence was repaired and a few other real estate issues resolved, it was time to head back to Oregon

Once the fence was repaired and painted, plus a few other real estate issues resolved, it was time to head back to Oregon

 

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Carlin toughed it out for a 14 hour drive from Silverton, Colorado to Boise, Idaho. It was another 7 hours to Portland. As soon as we got into Oregon the next day, we stepped out at the edge of the Blue Mountains for this view across the wheat fields near Pendleton.

 

Portland Oregon to Silverton, Colorado (1200 miles one way). Red stars are where the photos where taken.

Portland Oregon to Silverton, Colorado (1200 miles one way). Red stars are where the photos where taken.

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As I was driving home from the NW Barn Dogs barn hunt trial today, it hit me. Barn hunt is the only dog sport in which Tooey pays no attention whatever to all the people in and outside of the testing area.

In Obedience and Rally, she was always a bit wary of that person who kept following us everywhere (aka, the Judge). In one Obedience trial, for example, she sort of did the heeling pattern, but she did it such that I was always between her and the judge. That meant that sometimes Tooey was on my left, as required, but sometimes she was on my right or behind me.

In retriever hunt tests, she would mark the fall of the bird just fine, but once she got out there in the field to retrieve it, she would eye the gunners and bird boys, hiding nearby in blinds, with a great deal of suspicion. At one test, she found the bird, but then, catching sight of the bird boy, she sat and looked back at Russ. You could see the thought bubble over her head: ‘Who are these guys, and what the heck are they doing out here?” Similarly, in many spaniel tests, she would make a point of staying away from the gunners, who walk either side of the course with the dog and handler, or she would study them carefully before going off looking for birds.

I think, maybe, Barn Hunt must be Tooey’s sport.

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We qualified in two Novice barn hunt trials today, earning Tooey her RATN title. But even better than the title was her performance.

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Tooey and I in the start box — photo by Joan Walker

The first trial she needed only about 1 minute 7 seconds. She found her her rat (which was held out of harm’s reach in an aerated tube) almost right away, pawing and digging at it — no way could I miss that find. I called “Rat!”, and then all I had to do was get Tooey to pass through the required tunnel and climb up on a bale. She didn’t really want to do either; she was intent on hunting for more rats. But finally, after my third request, she hopped up onto a bale and ran through the tunnel, almost all in one move. The whole time, I don’t think she even noticed the judge or the rat wrangler. This was her third pass, that that earned us her title.

Today’s second trial (her fourth “bonus” pass) took her only just over 39 seconds. She knew her job, and executed all three required elements, pretty much in the same order as the first time: rat, bale, tunnel.

It was a fun day, and I am so proud of my Irish Water Spaniel girl, who in her past life, must have been some kind of earthdog.

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NE Dunkley

About this time of year, just a few days after the Summer Solstice, the sun sets into the northwest here in Portland. The city is just above the 45th latitude line (halfway between the equator and the north pole). And in our neighborhood in North East Portland, there are few streets that do not follow the north-south grid so common in modern cities.

Alameda

The developer of the Alameda neighborhood (circa 1900) decided to throw a few streets off that axis by about 26 degrees. That is just the right amount, such that when the sun sets in late June, shadows go absolutely straight down the street. And if it is not raining, then the shadows are fun to watch as we walk our pups in the evening.

More than you probably wanted to know, but sometimes science and geography trivia mixed with dogs is what makes life fun. This is how we mark the beginning of summer without a calendar; when we can see Carlin’s shadow in the center of the sidewalk on NE Dunkley. The Druids and Stonehenge started this with rocks because the Irish Water Spaniel was still a few centuries away in the British Isles.

Previous topics on this mix of science and Irish Water Spaniels includes:

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