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

Agility

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.

map_portland_boise

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.

pretrim

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.

img_1224

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.

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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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