Archive for the ‘dog grooming’ Category

As Tooey has gotten older, her coat has become more woolly and difficult to comb through. So, I keep her coat mostly short. I pay for it if I don’t, and so does she.

And at the beginning of each summer, I clip her topknot and ears quite short–just a little longer than the rest of her coat. I know many IWS aficionados disapprove, but this is easier for me and for her.

And no matter how I groom her, Tooey is beautiful.

This time, I wondered if I should put her through the rigors of being clipped down. Every month since her cancer diagnosis in February, I have wondered if this month will be her last grooming, and maybe I should just comb her out and let her be in her long IWS coat.

But Tooey is still with us, it’s almost summer, and this weekend it’s going to be 100 degrees F. Not a time for a long coat. And who knows, Tooey could be with us for several more months.

So, I improvised. She can’t stand for very long. But as long as there were plenty of treats coming, she was happy to lie on her sides and be clipped. I scissored her front legs while she was lying down. I clipped the undersides and tops of her ear flaps while she was lying down. It was only when I needed to finish her head and ears that I needed her to sit up.

Which she did. I worked as quickly as I could and let her lie down for a rest when she needed to.

Finally we finished and she could lie down and recuperate, looking out at the sheep and the squirrels.

I think she’s beautiful in this short coat–it shows off her beautiful eyes. But to me, she has always been beautiful, no matter how she’s groomed, whether in full show coat or in ratty, thin post-puppy coat.

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Unlike Cooper and Carlin, Tooey has always had the perfect duck-hunter coat. So thick that when she leaps into the water to retrieve a bird, her skin barely gets wet, if it gets wet at all.

But as she has gotten older, Tooey’s coat, thick and fast-growing, has gotten wooly. It mats much more easily. It’s increasingly hard to comb through. And she’s able to stand on the grooming table for much shorter periods of time. All of this means it takes longer and requires more work to keep her coat clean, combed, and free of mats.

I asked a bunch of people who also have older IWS, and got a lot of suggestions that have helped. Things like: use a spray-on detangler spray to help the brush and comb slide through her coat more easily; lie Tooey on her side with a pillow under her head so she doesn’t have to stand; keep her coat shorter than the typical show coat. I got others I haven’t tried yet, like using a sling under her hips to help her stand.

But even after implementing these ideas, I realize that a big part of the problem is that, as Tooey has gotten older, so have I.

My hands can’t hold the comb as long as they used to. My arms and back get tired. And these days, I have a few extra responsibilities and a few less of the pleasures than I hoped for. Sometimes, by the time I’ve combed out all Tooey’s mats, I find myself in tears of exhaustion.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do. One idea, an expensive one, is to hire it out. But I actually like the bathing and the trimming. It’s just the weekly, heavy-going combing out that’s so exhausting. I could do it less often, but honestly, I think that more than doubles the difficulty when I eventually do the combing. That makes it harder on both Tooey and me.

So I think now the thing to do is just keep Tooey’s coat really, really short all the time. Instead of clipping her once every three or four months like I’ve been doing, do it every month. Never let it get long so it has less chance of getting too thick for me to handle.

It’s a pity because Tooey is such a beautiful dog. She’s beautiful in a short coat, but she’s stunning when she is in a carefully trimmed full coat.

But I think those days may be gone now. We don’t do duck hunting anymore. And I’m not as much a stunner as I was back in the day, either. So now us old ladies will just have to rely on knowing our inner beauty shines through, with a shorter coat for Tooey and not quite so much exhaustion for both of us.

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It was an all-dogs-all-the-time weekend. Often our weekends are that way, but this one was packed.


On Saturday morning, Russ took Carlin to beginning agility class. Apparently, Carlin is doing quite well and really enjoying it. I knew he would, and I’m very happy Russ has found a good instructor for it. Someday I’ll go watch, but I hear that they’re learning stuff in very small pieces.

Going for a walk

While they were gone, Tooey and I went for an hour-long walk while it was still cool. There’s this neighborhood to the south of us that I hadn’t explored yet, so was took the long way through the adjacent park, and then wound our way among the houses and streets. That section was not laid out in a grid, and it was full of dead ends and cul de sacs. I never did exactly get lost (I caught sight of a busy road that I recognized several times), but it wasn’t a straightforward walk. Tooey enjoyed it though, especially that last bit when I let her swim in our neighborhood irrigation canal. She looked for the ducks that often live in the reeds that line the bank, but none were to be found.

Bathe and trim (part one)

When we got home, Tooey got a bath and trim. She was filthy. As in, the-water-turned-brown filthy. As in, why-have-I-been-letting-this-filthy-beast-sleep-on-the-bed filthy. By that time of the morning, the temperature had already reached the high 90s F, so blowing her dry was mostly a formality. Although it does get the loose hairs out of her coat, which means I don’t have to do quite as much brushing and combing. With a light trim, Tooey was looking and smelling beautiful again.

Bathe and trim (part two)

When Russ got home, Carlin got a bath and a clip-down. He was dirty, but not nearly as dirty as Tooey. (Perhaps that’s because of her swim in the irrigation canal?) I haven’t been clipping Carlin down because I had still been harboring this fantasy that I might show him in October, but I finally realized that that’s not going to happen. He doesn’t like judges touching him, he’s worried about being so close to other dogs, and I don’t handle all that very well. And plus, there’s unlikely to be any IWS in the Boise shows in October, so there’d be no point in showing him. (You conformation folks will get the pun, eh?)

So he got clipped. His topknot and ears went down to about ¾”, and the rest of him to 3/8”. He looks very handsome to me. Plus he and I are training for hunting now, and a short coat makes it easier to get out the burrs, seeds, and grass awns.

The First End

After about 3-1/2 hours, both Carlin and I were done grooming. I had Russ’s delicious soup for dinner, did a load of laundry, watched TV for a bit, and went to bed.

It all started again on Sunday morning.

Scent work

My scentwork group all came over to my house early in the morning to practice. We did several Interior Advanced hides, a couple of Exterior Advanced hides, one vehicle search (which is not part of AKC Scent Work, but is done in some other organizations’ searches), a Handler Discrimination Novice search, and an Advanced Container search with extra containers. Carlin did well on all of them except Containers.

In Containers, he could not concentrate. The containers were on his lawn, he ran last after all the other dogs, and all he could think about was sniffing the grass to learn more about all the other dogs. Finding odor was just not of any interest at all. OK, so I guess we go back to basics in Containers on grass. Normally, I practice Containers on concrete, but I’m going to have to change my ways. Somehow.

Spaniel training

After lunch, Carlin and I then trucked off to a friend’s property to practice water blinds and hunt deads. Since by that time it had gotten really hot, we decided to do water work first. My friend is an accomplished retriever person, and she set up some fun land-water-land-water-land blinds for Carlin. They weren’t long blinds, but it did mean that he had to resist stopping to hunt around on the island. He’s been through this scenario before, and I didn’t have to handle him very much. If this had been a retriever hunt test, it would not have met the standard—I let him get way off the straight line from me to the bumper, but my goal was to get him down wind from the bumper so he could find it on his own. Which he did just fine, several times in multiple locations.

Then came the hunt dead. Carlin has never failed a hunt dead in a spaniel test, but he’s gotten himself way off course many times. Enough to push time limit to the very nubbins. Enough to raise my stress level considerably, and enough to lower his score by quite a bit.

In a hunt dead, the handler knows only vaguely where the bird is. The judge will say, for example, that the bird is somewhere in the arc formed by that distant that tree out there to the left and that fence post out to the right, and about 65 yards out from the line. So basically, you try to make some kind of educated guess as to where the bird might be, and then send your dog straight out in a line to a spot downwind from that spot. Of course, you have to guess where downwind is out 65 yards away—sometimes that’s obvious, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the wind is moving differently out there. Or there may not be any breath of wind at all.

And in yesterday’s practice, Carlin did exactly right. We set it up so that Carlin would out into a cross breeze. I sent him in a line that would put him downwind of where I thought the bird was, he actually took that line, and then hooked a right when he winded the bird. Actually taking the line is what I was looking for. So, good boy!

Riding in the car

While Carlin and I were gone, Russ took Tooey for a ride in the car, which is a good thing in and of itself. He was looking for a DMV where he could maneuver the boat and trailer, so both could be licensed and registered in Idaho. Since this was a reconnaissance mission, there were no worries about leaving Tooey in a hot car. Just a nice air-conditioned ride on a hot sunny day.

the now-registered Spainnear Uisce (the boat), Tooey, and Carlin

The Ending End

By the time we all got home, it was time for dinner, a little TV, another load of laundry (to wash the dog bath towels), and bed.

Like I said, all dogs, all the time.

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Back when I got my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, I had a lot of help learning to groom and trim the coat. Cooper was a wiggly puppy, not all that eager to be up on the grooming table at all, much less stand still while people were working with very sharp shears around all his tender spots.

One of my first teachers, Colleen, used to have me come to her house before dog shows so she could get my attempt at a trim into good shape.

Cooper and Colleen

When she got to trimming around his boy bits, I would hold them out of the way and cover them with my hands. I didn’t want him to be hurt, and I knew he’d never get up on the table again if he got cut back there. Colleen was very careful and always warned me when she was getting close.

“I don’t want to cut you,” she’d say.

“Better me than him,” I’d reply.

She never did cut me or him. As I observed and practiced, I got better, and since then, I’ve able to do a pretty good job without more than a minor nick on either myself or my dogs.

So, I was grooming Carlin yesterday. He doesn’t love standing still either. It was a nice day, so I had the door open. I had the shears out. One of my hands was shielding the hanging boy bits, and the other trimming nearby long coat.

And then something happened outside. Tooey jumped up and ran out into the back yard. Carlin jerked, and my finger got in the way of the tips of those very sharp shears just as they were closing. It was a small cut — I didn’t even notice it until later.

But the whole thing scared the crap out of me. He was fine, though, and my finger is already mostly healed.

Better me than him.

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We’ve lived in Boise for a year now (already!), but we still haven’t done much exploring of the state. So yesterday, we took the opportunity to drive through the countryside and meet some new dog folks.

The trip to Council, Idaho took just over 2.5 hours. Council isn’t quite that far from Boise, but Ann and Gary live about a few miles from there, all on gravel roads. We took the I-84 route for speed, but if we’d had the time, I’d have preferred the route through New Plymouth and Payette, as it’s just plain prettier than the interstate.

But we got there, and met the folks, their guests, and their myriad dogs, mostly a collection of Cesky Fousek (Chess-key Foe-sek). These dogs, also known in the USA as Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, are a coarse-coated versatile hunting breed, developed in the Czech Republic. According to what we’ve read and people we’ve talked to, the Fouseks retrieve happily and love water, as well as point.

They certainly seem suited to Idaho, particularly with that wirehaired coat. Sure, they picked up a few seeds and cockle burrs as they roamed Ann and Gary’s property, but the debris just pulled right out, with very little effort.

Their dogs seemed just like descriptions of the breed that I’d read: friendly, happy, and very responsive to their people.

We brought Tooey and Carlin with us, and they, along with two Cesky Fousek and one Cairn Terrier, went for a nice long walk through the fields, into a pond, and then, to Tooey’s delight, to the Weiser River, where they all (except the Cairn) went swimming and retrieved sticks.

It was a great day. I know that because we were all tired when we got home, and ready for some hot tea and early bed. Of course, that was delayed for an hour or so, because unlike the Fouseks, the two IWS had to be brushed and combed to get all the debris out of their coats.

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When I first arrived in Boise, I went out to find the local leash-free dog parks. I was very disappointed to learn that the city leash-free parks prohibit intact male dogs, so I went off to look for other alternatives.

Turns out that there is a large park called the Military Reserve that has a off-leash area and many off-leash trails. But when I arrived in the parking lot, two very friendly dog owners warned me about goat heads.

It’s a plant, apparently, with thorns that can push deep indents and even holes in shoes and dog feet. One of the dog owners showed me the bottom of her boots so I could see how deep the thorns go. Yikes!

We looked around at the reserve to see if we could see a sample of the actual plant, but I didn’t actually see one until I visited a friend’s house yesterday and found one growing in his back yard.

It’s a low growing plant that has seed pods with pairs I’d 1/8″ inch thorns.

You can see a green seed pod in the lower right quadrant of the photo below, just under the long brown tree seed.

The green ones are reportedly softer and not quite so painful. But here’s a dried one I just pulled out of my shoe.

So now, on top of the ticks I already knew about, and the cheat grass that I haven’t seen yet, now I have to worry about goat heads.

It looks like I’m going to have to clip my dogs even shorter than I thought, just so that I can examine them closely for all these small, but not insignificant, complications.

So far, I think Boise is beautiful. But it doesn’t offer the tick-, cheat grass-, goat head-free luxury I left behind in NW Oregon.

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We’re moving to Idaho soon. Boise, to be specific.


There are (gasp!) ticks in Idaho. I hate ticks. I’ve had ticks on me, and they are just gross. Makes me shudder just to think of it. So, even though we’ll use a tick preventive of some sort on our dogs, I’ll still need to check them regularly for ticks. Checking for ticks in a long IWS show coat is just not my idea of fun. I know many IWS folks live in tick country, so this may not be a particular problem for them, but like I said, I really hate ticks, and I want to make looking for them as quick and easy as possible.

Plus, you really need a long coat on an IWS only for conformation shows. There aren’t that many IWS in Idaho. There are a few, but I haven’t heard that they participate in conformation. The next shows in Idaho are in the middle of next month, but I don’t think we’re going to be settled enough for me to be able show Carlin, even if there were going to be other IWS to compete with.

And then there’s the fact that I’ll be moving to start my new job a couple of weeks to a month before Russ is able to move. That will leave him responsible for the weekly combing, not one of his favorite activities. Keeping the dogs fed, the poop picked up, and the nails trimmed will give him enough dog chores to do. Plus, he’ll be busy and distracted with sorting and packing up the house here in Oregon.

So I decided to cut both my dogs’ coats short. Short coats will just make life a lot easier.


Tooey’s coat was already pretty short (that’s her pre-trim length in the photo above), but Carlin had the long leg, long topknot, and long ear coat. Plus, he was looking a bit woolly after his week away at the boarding kennel while Russ and I were off on our boating trip.

So, off it came, down to about 5/8″ all over, with extra on the topknot and ears.


Both dogs were pretty patient with the whole procedure, Tooey more than Carlin. As long as let them off the table occasionally so that they could properly tell off the squirrels, the dogs were happy to cooperate with me.

Good dogs! On to the next adventure.

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It’s been so hot. Today it’s a humid 90 degrees F, and yesterday was worse. I had been growing Tooey’s coat for possibly showing her in the Veterans class at IWSCOPS Specialty in a couple of weeks, but then various things happened, and I decided I couldn’t deal with two dogs at the specialty. So, we decided Tooey would stay home with Russ.

And then we got this spike in the heat, and Tooey was clearly not liking it one bit. She has the coat of a duck hunting dog: a thick under coat along with a thick outer coat. Sometimes she can jump into and out of the water, and still be dry at the skin. Great when you’re in 40 degree F water. Not so great when you’re in hot, humid air.

So, I cut it off.

Tooey in her Sports Dog cut

She really perked up after I was done, so I guess I did the right thing.

And actually, I think she’s beautiful this way. Perhaps it’s just that she’s beautiful. But also, this is how she’s looked on most of our hunting trips, where she really shines. All her skill and talent comes out when looking for and retrieving birds for just the two of us. She’s in her element, and she’s beautiful.

So when I look at her today, with her silvering coat clipped short, all I can think is, “God, what a beautiful dog.”

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I did something today that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but didn’t have the conviction necessary to do it. Until today. This afternoon, I gave Carlin a very short “field dog” all over, including the topknot and ears. He looks like the other two did a month ago, and I hope he’s much more comfortable.


Russ with Tooey, Carlin, and Cooper in their field dog cuts.

Carlin has been dealing with some health issue. We’re still not sure exactly what is going on (and we’ve been through many vets trying to figure it out), but one of its manifestations is that he feels hot all the time.

He doesn’t have a temperature, but his breath is hot, his skin is hot, and pads of his feet are hot. He radiates heat. He pants much more than the the other two dogs, dries himself out panting, and then drinks a lot of water. He seeks out the coolest places he can find, like the bathroom tile floor and the dirt under the deck. And to top all that off, now in Portland, the weather is hot (in the upper 80s and lower 90s F).

Poor dog.

So, I today I took his coat down to about 3/4″ all over. All that lovely leg, topknot, and ear coat is gone. I feel relieved for him — I hope it helps him stay a bit cooler. And just touching him now, as he lies next to me as I write, his body does feel a bit cooler.

But for myself, I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve let down the people who helped me over many months shape his coat into something that would impress a judge in the conformation ring. Soon I’m going to have to call his conformation handler, who had promised to show him in the big shows in August, and tell him that Carlin won’t be able to show. And I can’t forget what a more experienced IWS person told me many years ago when I wanted to clip Cooper. She said, “You have a coated dog, and there are certain responsibilities that go along with that.” So in cutting Carlin down, it almost feels like I’m letting the whole Irish Water Spaniel breed down.

Which is ridiculous. Lots of people keep their IWS cut short, and they don’t feel guilty. There is no logical reason why I can’t do so, too.

True, it will take a long time to grow out his topknot, ears, and leg coat. He for sure won’t be ready for the August shows, and he may not even be grown out enough for the January 2016 shows. But that’s OK. It will grow eventually.

But even so, it appears that I’ve internalized some standard that is lovely in the ideal and necessary for a show dog, but just isn’t the best thing for Carlin right now. And somehow or another, I’ll just have to reconcile myself to what is right in front of me, right now. And do what I need to do to keep my dog as happy and comfortable as possible.

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Clearly, the boy has talent. With a couple of months of weekly training with a pro, and a couple of weeks of daily training with Russ, Carlin has been able to mark the fall of birds and bumpers, go out, pick them up, bring them back, and deliver them to hand. Sometimes, he can even do short doubles — watching two bumpers go down, and then going out to get them one at a time. He’s picked up ducks, pigeons, chukars, quail, and pheasant. He’s even quartering a bit, trotting out in front of the handler, finding birds that have been planted in the field.

So he has some of the pieces that a gundog needs to know. Now it’s time for Carlin to put them all together in his head. So following in the footsteps of the other two dogs, Cooper and Tooey, Carlin is going off for several months to train with a pro. Starting today, Carlin will be living and working with Richard Matzke of Tuxedo Kennels.

Richard and Carlin with bird

Richard and Carlin with bird

Richard is best known for training pointers and spaniels. That will stand us in good stead because our first goal is to have a spaniel for upland hunting. Richard is a hunter himself, and a hunting guide, so he knows what an upland hunter needs in a working spaniel. Besides Carlin’s being a spaniel, though, we also want him to succeed in retriever hunt tests. Richard is also currently working with several other “exotic” retrievers, including a Standard Poodle and some Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. And he’s worked with Labrador Retrievers, for whom the retriever hunt test game was invented. Fortunately, Richard is close enough to us, and available to clients on Saturdays, so I’ll be able to go up once a week and train with him, too.

Now to one of my favorite (and well-worn) peeves. Carlin is currently in a long show coat. I’d like to clip him down to a field cut, like I did with Tooey. But I have plans to show him in conformation from time to time, and although winning a conformation show while in a field clip happens once in awhile, generally, an IWS has to have long coat on the legs, ears, and topknot to win and get those points. Mostly the long coat is OK — with proper bathing, combing, brushing, and coat conditioning, an IWS can run around out in the field with a long coat. But it does help if the dog can see, and sometimes that long topknot can get in the way. Hence, the ninja spaniel hairdo:

Carlin with topknot tied up

Carlin with topknot tied up

He’s been gone only a few hours, and already I miss the boy, and I suspect he’ll miss us, too. But while we were out training today, he was the soul of happiness.

Carlin airborne

Carlin airborne

Now that we’re home, I can see that Cooper is thrilled to have that Twerp out of the way. Tooey looks worried. But not to worry girlie. All the dogs get sent off to camp or the spa from time to time, but none are given away.

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Russ took Carlin for a bath. This is payback.

Russ_CarlinPoor boys.

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My friend Kay was working hard to keep Carlin still on the grooming table. He was getting antsy and just couldn’t keep himself in a steady stand. Sit, twist, squirm, attempt to lie down, try to jump off, sit again, squirm, twist, anything but stand still.

That makes it tough for a person to practice giving a show groom to an Irish Water Spaniel. Admittedly, he’d been on the table for a while, and I could see he was bored and tired. Treats weren’t doing it. So while I was trying to figure out something that would help keep Carlin’s mind occupied, it came to me: practice holding birds.

So I got out a frozen chukar, which I just happened to have handy in my freezer, put it into Carlin’s mouth, and told him to Hold!

Huh... am I a show dog or a bird dog?

Huh… am I a show dog or a bird dog?

All of a sudden he stopped moving. You could see the wheels in his head grind to a slow stop: being groomed and holding birds do not belong together, so, ah, what is happening here? And as his mind slowed, so did his body. He quieted down, held the bird, and stayed still. He held the bird. He didn’t drop it, or squirm, or twist. He just held the bird.

Then he started whining. I could see a new thought bloom in that head of his: I want to jump off this table with the bird, and take it away somewhere. But I can’t! But I want to! But I can’t! Whine. So I told him to drop the bird. He had to think about that one. He wanted to keep it.

He’s thinking, Could I actually jump off the table with the bird? No. Darn it. OK. I guess I’d better give it up. But with all that thinking, he stayed still. Good boy!

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I have consolidated the last three days of our pheasant quest primarily because as we traveled west, internet connections became scarce, and so it would have been hard, if not impossible, to update this blog.

Day 9: Near Corinne, Utah

The agricultural fields sandwiched in between the Wasatch mountains and the Great Salt Lake allowed us a morning to look for some Utah pheasants not far from I-84. The rain had been persistent prior to our arrival and consequently the hay fields were still un-mowed (tall and thick). The wheat grass along the edges was tall, but gave the birds some space to move around. While the morning was clear and crisp, the cover was still wet. Not ideal, as birds generally don’t want to fly with wet feathers. (Go figure.) But as we moved up the rows of tall wheat grass, the dogs successfully put up a total of 9 birds.

Two things of note. My shooting was improving quite a bit, so no dramatic shots or retrieves were required. Dog flushes bird, Russ shoots bird, dog retrieves bird, next. But out over the hay fields, two birds did get up in front of Norm, where he made a couple of successful long shots. The deceased birds glided into heavy wet alfalfa, a hundred-plus yards away. Scarlett, who stands just below the height of the hay, quartered out in front of Norm, and found both birds.

So after a couple of hours we had 8 more birds to add to the cooler.

If you are a photographer such as myself, or a serious bird hunter, it is inadvisable to wield both a camera and shotgun for reasons of safety, aesthetics, and only having two hands. I carry a small camera in my upland vest while hunting, but only use it when the shotgun is down and safe, hence no action photos when I have a gun. As such, the following image is one I made while resting at the end of a field, looking back east at the Wasatch mountains to give an visual reference to the hunting conditions.

Norm and Tooey near Corinne, Utah

Norm (carrying both shotguns) and Tooey near Corinne, Utah

After cleaning the birds, we snagged a lunch at Mollies in Snowville, Utah and headed into Idaho for the night.

Day 10: East of Shoshone, Idaho

We spent the night in a ubiquitous Motel 6 in Twin Falls, Idaho. Then after a solid breakfast at a local place named Norm’s Cafe in Twin Falls, we headed north to Shoshone, then west on along the rail line until we found the Little Wood Ranch, which straddles the  Little Wood River. This was an area of hay and grain fields surrounded by sagebrush. Due the marvels of modern irrigation, when you mix water with Idaho desert soils, you get great farm land. (Yes, this is the source for your fried potatoes at McDonalds and Tater Tots from Ore-Ida foods, but I digress.) These fields held quite a few birds and due to the dogs’ week of daily hunting and our week of practice with our shotguns, the birds were easy to find, shoot, and retrieve.

While the hunting seemed like a slam-dunk pheasant shoot, it turned out to be a dunk only. Tooey followed a scent trail and disappeared into some tall cover next the the Little Wood River. I immediately knew this was not a good thing thing, because if Tooey finds water, she goes swimming for the sport of it. I quickly dropped my shotgun, ran to the river bank (a 4 foot drop), and saw Tooey swimming hard upstream but floating downstream in the swift current around the bend. This is not an image you want etched into your memory if this is the last you ever see of your dog. I ran a short distance downstream along the bank, and got Tooey to swim laterally until she could find some traction on bottom. She got to the edge, I lay down and grabbed her collar (and I have long arms) and pulled her up the bank.

Now with a wet (and happy) dog, I had to find my shotgun somewhere upstream. Dog, check. Shotgun, check. Okay, time to start hunting again. We crossed a small footbridge over the river and hunted a field on the north side. Norm shot a bird that glided into trees next to the river. (Oh Shit!! Not again.) Scarlett disappeared into the cover, and then into the water. But as providence would have it, the pheasant landed in a shallow eddy on this side of the river, and  Scarlett found an entry point that matched her 12″ height. Wet dog, wet pheasant delivered to hand. Heavy sigh.

Tooey, thinking about the Little Wood River on the other side of those trees

Tooey, thinking about the Little Wood River on the other side of those trees

The only other interesting note was that we bagged a couple of chukar in addition to the 8 pheasants. While this is a pretty location with birds, I am no longer inclined to hunt areas with swift moving rivers with steep banks.

A couple of hours to the west, we stopped to have dinner with a dog friend, Ryan, near Boise, Idaho. We met Ryan several years ago in Oregon where he was one of the founding members of the Lower Columbia Hunt Retriever Club. But his work took him, his family, and small fleet of Labrador Retrievers to Idaho. After a nice break catching up and having great Thai food (way off the Interstate), Norm and I headed back into Oregon and a night stop in Baker City.

Day 11: A great Oregon pheasant hunt

Back in our own state of Oregon, we wandered out north of Baker City to the Tucker Creek Ranch. Fortunately Tucker Creek, which runs through the heart of the ranch was about 2 feet wide and dry. But the fields and trees along the creek bed were ideal bird habitat. The weather was perfect, the landscape was eye candy, but the birds very elusive. Tooey put up two rooster pheasants that went into my hunting vest. Tooey put up a third rooster, but somehow my crack shooting and Norm’s long distance skills were no match, and it got off to live another day. Oh well. On our way back up the creek towards the car, a covey of about a dozen quail flew up out from the cover and upstream among the trees. But quail season does not open for another 5 days, so we just watched with delight as these birds reconvened into the cover (another reason to return to Tucker Creek).

Russ and Tooey with our matching vests at Tucker Creek Ranch

Russ and Tooey with our matching vests at Tucker Creek Ranch

As we poked around the stream bed, I frequently reminded Tooey to “go find the birds”, but in her excitement, she must have misheard me and instead thought I said, “go find the burrs”. Being a good dog, she complied and brought back plenty. In addition to the cockle burrs and the sand spurs, she added a new variety to her collection, Beggars Lice.

Tooey with the birds and burrs

Tooey with the birds and burrs

While we only came away with two birds today, it was the best hunting of the trip. The weather, topography, ranch owner were perfect. Maybe it’s an Oregon thing.

After nearly two weeks of Motel 6s, it was time to go home. We just packed the dogs, birds, and gear into the car and headed the last 300 miles home to Portland. Arrived dirty and dog tired. But happy.

Day 12: Dog Grooming

Even though an hour was spent last night grooming Tooey to get out the burrs and spurs acquired from Tucker Creek Ranch, another pass was required this morning before it was bath time. Trice will be returning from her vacation in a few hours, and Tooey will be clean, dry, curly, and smelling fresh when Trice walks in the door.

Sand Spurs and Beggars Lice (a burr the size of a lentil)

Sand Spurs and Beggars Lice (a burr the size of a lentil)

And so in the last 12 days:

  • 3000 miles driven
  • traveled through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas (and back again!)
  • 47 birds delivered to hand (45 pheasants, 2 chukar)
  • weather included hot sun, tornado warnings, flash floods, thunder storms, driving rain, and blue skies. Everything but hail and snow.

Tooey has been a trooper; sleeping all night on the beds in Motel 6s, logging 3000 miles in her car crate, protecting me from thunder, and covering miles on the ground looking for birds.

She is a Champion in the show world. She also has her titles in Obedience and Rally, Retriever and Upland Hunt Tests. She has earned the AKC All-Around IWS award and has qualified for the Quintessential Versatility Award. She is also a Top Producer in that she has produced three champion show dogs (aka puppies) located in the the USA, Canada, and Australia. And she is (as of now) one of only 5 Irish Water Spaniels to have done all of the above.

And now for the drum roll . . .

I have no data to prove this, but of the other 4 IWS that can match Tooey for the number and variety of titles and accomplishments, I venture that none of the others has ever produced as many birds in as many states as Tooey. So far to date, she has found and delivered waterfowl and/or upland birds in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho. (And next year’s plan includes the Dakotas and Canadian provinces!)

In my mind she is quite a Renaissance Dog. What’s not to love.


To be continued . . .

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And yes there are pheasants in Kansas.

Tooey and Scarlett had no problem finding and flushing Kansas pheasants this morning. I actually stopped counting, but maybe around 20. My shooting was not that impressive in the beginning, so there were quite a few opportunities for me to work with Tooey on being steady to flush and shot. But by the end of the morning, I settled into the shooting groove (4 roosters for me this morning), and Tooey retrieved a total of 6 birds, and Scarlett 2 others. (Norm and Kent brought down the other birds.)

Were you looking for this?

Were you looking for this?

We were hunting in alternating strips of milo and native grasses, with most of the pheasants holding up in the milo. After Tooey determined that the milo was source of the birds, she stayed in tight and just worked the crop, only going out into the grass for the retrieves. After 3 hours, the dogs were tired and warm, so we stopped at 11:00 a.m., and returned to where we are staying at Beaver Creek Ranch. I couldn’t be happier with Tooey’s performance on Kansas birds. And we have 2 more days at this pheasant paradise.

3 guys, 2 dogs, 9 birds

3 guys, 2 dogs, 9 birds

Beaver Creek Ranch

Beaver Creek Ranch

The only pernicious seeds that clung to the dog’s coat were sand burrs. About 1/4″ in diameter, they are the perfect nucleus for a matt. But as luck would have it, the ranch has a covered hot tub on the shady side of the house that matches the height of a grooming table. So it only took a few minutes with a very relaxed Tooey to extricate the burrs.

A Kansas grooming table and one tired puppy.

A Kansas grooming table and one successful IWS

To be continued . . .

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With the weather being a balmy 90 degrees, Patrice converted the back deck into a grooming spa for all three dogs.

A bath, blow dry, trim, and a pedicure for the fleet of pups.

Tooey admiring her nail trim

Tooey consulting on her foot trim

Carlin found his bath and blow dry strenuous enough that a nap was in order while he waiting in the queue for a nail trim.

Carlin, catching up on his sleep

Carlin says, “Wake me up when it’s my turn.”


Carlin, catching up on his sleep

Cooper relaxing after his turn

Surely a belly rub is included in the full spa treatment, is it not?

Ms Tooey, looking proud in her field cut

Ms Tooey, looking proud in her field cut

The three pups and their personal spa mistress.

The three clean pups and their personal spa mistress. Tooey, on the table, Carlin, in the lap, and Cooper, with one of his tennis balls

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