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Southeast Idaho has many opportunities for training dogs, but is lacking in an abundance of water. (An average year will have only 12″ of percipitation.) Plus, most ponds seem to be on private land, or on parks where dogs must be leashed. So we’ve had a hard time finding ponds where we can train our dogs for spaniel and retriever work.

And this is where an Idaho dog person steps in to assist. We have met an active trainer and handler in the world of retrievers. She is dedicated to the retriever sport, to the point that she lives on a nice spread (ranch) about an hour from Boise, so she can train dogs year round. She even hosts the occasional hunt test and field trial when other areas are flooded out. And as a ranch, she has her herds of cattle, horses, and even an abundance of bee hives for honey production.

She has really helped us out by inviting us to train with her in her pastures. A nearby river feeds numerous canals and irrigation ditches that supply her ponds, so that even with the limited rain and snow in this part of Idaho, she has year-round water.

We are getting ready to run Carlin in a Spaniel Hunt Test in a couple of weeks, and having an opportunity to do blind retrieves across some water might make all the difference in whether he passes or not. Patrice made this short video. It shows Carlin doing a blind retrieve of a pheasant hidden in the sage on the other side of a shallow pond.

If he passes and gets his Master Hunter Upland title later this month, it will be in large part to the training opportunities that our friend has provided us on her dog oasis in southeast Idaho.

Dog people are really good people.

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What is not to like about a blog put together by someone who is passionate about:

  • Hunting dogs
  • Hunting dog photography
  • Teaching photography

And someone who is an expert in their passion and is very competent at explaining and sharing their knowledge, photos, and insights.

(I know, another great dog blog besides The Cooper Project)

Craig Koshyk is a Canadian photographer, educator, author, and probably the world’s foremost expert on pointing dogs. In addition to authoring an amazing reference book on Pointing Dogs, Craig also maintains a blog on the topic that is eye candy for those who can’t get enough about gun dogs.

Craig Koshyk with one of his remarkable Weimaraners

Craig Koshyk with one of his Weimaraners

Check out this remarkable blog: Pointing Dog Blog

Craig has hunted and photographed over more breeds of dogs than I even knew existed (before I read his book). Every page reveals information about the real world hunting abilities of dozens of breeds. Warning: if you have dog hoarding tendencies, Do Not Read this book.

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I have recently had an email dialog with Craig about the hunting style of Irish Water Spaniels. He has been researching the origins of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel, which may have some IWS in its DNA. He noticed a video of Tooey doing her hesitation flush while pursuing pheasants and was curious about that specific tendency. Hopefully, next hunting season, we can venture to Manitoba with Tooey and Carlin, and let Craig hunt over yet one more breed of dog. Tooey would love to add another Canadian Provence to her bucket list as well.

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Cooper was a tough puppy. Impulsive, not particularly affectionate, easily distracted from tasks we wanted him to learn, single-minded when it came to retrieving. He pestered us constantly to throw the ball, throw the toy, throw the whatever — that was all he wanted from us. He could not seem to learn to walk nicely on a leash, and he couldn’t be trusted without one.

We’d never had a dog like this. Our previous dogs, Kayak and Cleo, both mixed-breeds, had been mellow and sweet. We didn’t know how to handle high-drive, highly distractable Cooper, and sometimes we didn’t know if we even wanted to.

So I called Rosemary, Cooper’s breeder, and asked her about it. I told her I wished Cooper could be more mellow and affectionate like his litter brother Mowgli. After a pause, she asked me, “Do you want me to ask Tammy if she’d be willing to trade dogs?”

Russ and I thought about it for a week. Talked about it. Discussed it. Wondered what it would be like. Mowgli was a handsome puppy in a more masculine way than Cooper. And he was affectionate — in my opinion, one of the main attractions of having a dog. Puppy Cooper just wasn’t. He didn’t appear to even know I was there unless I was throwing something or tussling with him.

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Mowgli — CH Realta’s Bear Necessities of Yo-Yo CD RE JH JHU WC WD CGC

But in the end, we said no. Talking to Rosemary again, we said that we’d decided the Cooper was ours. He was our responsibility, and we’d just have to figure out how to deal with it.

So we didn’t get Mowgli. But he has always had a special place in my heart.

His whole life, with only one exception (after I’d barked at him for something), Mowgli was sweet to me. When I went to visit Tammy and Steve, he’d come up onto the couch or the chair, and lean on me, asking to be petted. In this regard, he was a lot like his and Cooper’s daddy, Balloo. Mowgli and Cooper seemed to hate each other, so we had to keep those two separated, but in a way, that gave me a few minutes to spend with just Mowgli, which was a rest for the soul. When we were together, he didn’t ask for anything other than to be loved. If I happened to throw a toy, that was good, but not necessary. He just asked to be loved, and so, I love him.

Mowgli wasn’t mine — he was Tammy’s through and through. But I am so fortunate to have shared his life. I went to multiple dog shows, watching Mowgli in the conformation ring. He was a beautiful dog, justly earning his show championship before Cooper did.

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Mowgli — Winner’s Dog — photo by Kit

I watched him succeed in the Obedience ring, and at the same time, heard stories of his leaving Tammy while doing the heeling exercises to go say hi to the judge. Cooper and I competed against Mowgli and Tammy in the Rally ring at the 2013 IWSCOPS Specialty, with Mowgli beating the pants off Cooper, taking High Combined.

Mowgli and Tammy joined Russ and me on a hunting trip, where Mowgli flushed and retrieved pheasants in the snow with style. And I had the great pleasure of watching Mowgli compete in retriever and spaniel hunting tests, and loving it.

Mowgli flush

Mowgli after a chukar

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Mowgli retrieving a duck

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Patrice, Tammy, and Mowgli after a hunting trip

Sharing our love of the two Realta brothers, Cooper and Mowgli, brought me the great good friendship I treasure now with Tammy.

A week and a half ago, it was discovered that Mowgli had developed a tumor in his nasal cavity, and it impinged on his brain. He had seizures and blocked breathing. And yesterday, his spirit left his body.

So now, like his brother Cooper, he is gone.

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On April 6th, 2007, this little guy came to join us in Portland, Oregon.

This look into the camera was an indicator of things to come.

The mighty Coop goes eye to eye with a camera

The mighty Coop goes eye to eye with a camera

8 years later, he still knows what to do when the camera comes out.

Patrice, Cooper, & Russ

Patrice, Cooper, & Russ

Photographer’s secret: how to get your pup to stare into the lens. “Where’s your duck?”

Cooper knows where his duck is at all times

Cooper knows where his duck is at all times

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The Internet is a wonderful thing sometimes. Today I was trying to find some corroboration of a news story a friend emailed me about, and what did I find? A news article that features Russ and his nameless Irish Water Spaniel, along with our friend Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett.

Russ and Norm, along with Cooper (Irish Water Spaniel) and Scarlett (Boykin), helped teach a pheasant hunting workshop last September, and the article was written by one of the students.

Here’s a link to the article on TDN.com, the web outlet for The Daily News Online, a local publication for the people of the lower Columbia River.

But the Internet being what it is, I can’t guarantee that that article will always be available, so I’m posting a PDF of it here. Click the image below to access the full article in PDF format.

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If you do something 4 years in a row, is that a tradition?

It seems that taking Tooey on a holiday hunt should be such a tradition. Once again, we met up with our hunting partners, Norm and Scarlett plus Norm’s son Kent. The three of us and the two dogs have gone out together every holiday season for the last 4 years*, and it always seems to start the year right. In fact, this is the same combination of hunters and dogs that was so successful last fall in Kansas**.

Today’s Oregon weather was stunningly perfect (for hunting with dogs). It was chilly in the high 20s, but bright and sunny with a lot of radiant warmth in spite on the low angle winter sun at this latitude. But with some rigorous walking, everyone was quite comfy looking for pheasants as the layers kept being removed.

Tooey and Scarlett hunted in tandem the whole day. Being only 12 inches high, Scarlett could really get into some tight cover to push out the roosters. Between the two pups, we probably flushed around 15 birds and brought home 10.

As a Christmas present for Tooey, I got her a (another) new gun. And of course she was so excited to give it try. I fired 11 rounds today and brought down 5 birds, so Tooey said it was a keeper, but we should go out more often because I need the practice.

While she was off on her last retrieve of the day, I put the gun down in the milo, reached for my camera so I could get at least one photo of her with a bird and her new gun. She returned with the rooster and, with wet muddy feet, delivered the bird while standing on her new gun. But since she had specifically wanted a gun with a synthetic (water proof) stock, muddy feet wouldn’t be an issue. Now that it has her foot prints on it, it is officially approved for field use.

Tooey with her newest shotgun

Tooey with her newest shotgun (can you see it?)

Perfect weather for January in Oregon

Perfect weather for January in Oregon (Photo by Kent Koshkarian)

*previous Holiday hunts

**the Kansas hunts

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We got our boys back yesterday! Even though the truck was not fixed yet, Russ drove the loaner car four hours up to Marysville, WA, to pick up Cooper and Carlin, and bring them home. Here they are, with Jayme, almost ready to load up.

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Cooper, Jayme, and Carlin

Carlin, as I predicted, wasn’t actually sure he wanted to come home. He had had such a wonderful time with Jayme and the Classy Canines pack, that he pretended that he didn’t know who Russ and I were for pretty much all last evening. This morning, he cuddled up to Russ on the bed, though, so perhaps he will soon remember us and our routine.

Cooper was thrilled to see Russ when he came to pick the boys up yesterday, and was so happy to be home, wagging his whole butt when he realized that all 5 of us were actually in the house at the same time. (Well… maybe the 4 of us. He doesn’t care so much whether puppy Carlin is there or not.)

I can’t thank Jayme enough. Russ came home with photos demonstrating Jayme’s doing a nice show stack with Carlin, and she also send me a video of her doing the 3 Steps Backwards exercise with Cooper. For the pre-scheduled 6 days, plus an emergency extra 5 days, my dogs got excellent care, training, and daily runs in the field. They both got baths, and Carlin even got trimmed for show. I got regular photos and reports, plus peace of mind. I wouldn’t hesitate to send my dogs back to Classy Canines.

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The pups back together again — Carlin, Tooey, and Cooper

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More photos of Cooper and Carlin, enjoying their runs with the Classy Canines pack.

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There’s something in that grass! — photo by Jayme Nelson

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Cooper enjoying himself — photo by Jayme Nelson

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Happy Carlin — photo by Jayme Nelson

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Pack in the woods — photo by Jayme Nelson

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Carlin Photobomber — photo by Jayme Nelson

We’re going to get our boys back soon, and I can’t wait to see them. But, oh, how I would love to have a place like this for them to run every day.

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While Russ and Tooey were off hunting, I took a short dog-free trip to visit my cousin in Marin County in California. So I sent Cooper and Carlin off to camp at Classy Canines.

Jayme, who owns Classy Canines, was the person who groomed, trained, and showed Cooper at the beginning of his show career, so I thought Carlin would benefit greatly from her attentions. She’s also a fabulous dog trainer — her dogs have Rally, Obedience, and Hunting Test titles, so she knows where we want to go with Carlin. And plus, I’m hoping she’ll help Cooper learn the elusive Three Steps Backwards exercise for Rally Excellent.

And last but definitely not least, her boarding dogs get to go for daily runs in a multi-acre open space, and I knew both Cooper and Carlin would love that.

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Carlin and Cooper running with the pack — photo by Jayme Nelson

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Carlin and Cooper running with the pack and Cooper’s Springer buddy, Stryker — photo by Jayme Nelson

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Cooper — photo by Jayme Nelson

Here are Carlin and the most of the pack practicing their Sit-Stay for the camera.

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Sit! Stay! Camera click! Good dogs! — photo by Jayme Nelson

Cooper, amazingly enough, is not in the picture. Usually he’s a real camera hog. But instead, he was apparently off with his English Springer buddy, Stryker. They had flushed a pheasant earlier in the walk, and were convinced that they could find another one. Good dogs!

Russ, Tooey, and I are all home now, but the boys are still with Jayme. It’s a long story involving a broken-down truck and expensive repairs, but when the truck is fixed, Russ will go get the truck and the dogs, and we’ll all be home together again.

I’m sure Coop and Carlin will be very happy to be home, but I bet they will really miss running with Jayme and her pack.

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The plan: Drive 3000 miles across 6 states with two dogs, and then find, flush, and retrieve a bazillion pheasants.

Day 1 is the rather boring but a necessary step of getting from Portland, Oregon to northwest Kansas, where we are going to start a western state hunting odyssey. We just have to get in a car and drive until our butts are numb.

Step 1 of Day 1 was to drive from Portland to Beavercreek, Oregon to pick up Norm and his Boykin Spaniel, Scarlett, the 28 lb. bird-finding machine.

Russ, Tooey, Norm, and Scarlett

Russ, Tooey, Norm, and Scarlett

Check.

Step 2: Load 2 dogs, six shotguns, and other misc. accessories into the car and then drive east to Burely, Idaho (about 600 miles).

I-84 from Portland to Burely in one day

I-84 from Portland to Burely in one day

Check.

Tomorrow should get us to eastern Wyoming or eastern Nebraska.

To be continued . . . .

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When I took this photo of Russ and the pups on June 27th,

conducting_canine_choir_2014-06-28I was reminded of this photo of Martyn Ford and his dogs, which I took on October 17, 2012. Martyn knows what he’s doing, having been for many years both an accomplished field trainer and a professional conductor.

IMG_0916ARuss does a pretty good Martyn Ford imitation, doesn’t he?

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While we are in the midst of the rainy season, I still planned a day of chasing pheasants, weather-be-damned. Cooper and I got lucky. The first day of Spring was delightful.

Photo by Norm Koshkarian

Photo by Norm Koshkarian

Between Norm and Scarlett, plus Cooper and myself, we managed to bring home 6 pheasants. And not to miss out on the nice weather, I promptly smoked the pheasants over hickory, pulled it from the bones, and added it to a curry with wild mushrooms and coconut milk. That and some cool porter in a glass is how we celebrate Spring.

pheasant blog

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Christmas is traditionally a time for gifts given and received. And this Christmas, I’ve been thinking about one particular gift — a changed life. And all it took was a series of kindnesses, topped off by the outsized personality of a dog those kindnesses led to.

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I’ve told the story of how I went to the Rose City Classic dog show and met a bunch of wonderful Irish Water Spaniel owners and handlers. And how one handed me some leashes and asked me to help bring her IWS into the show building, and how several more folks dragged me from one grooming table to another to show off their dogs. It was a busy, overwhelming hubbub.

Out of that hubbub came the first kindness. One of those people, Colleen R., invited me to her home to meet her two IWS, so that I could meet some outside of a show environment. She didn’t have to do that — it was simple kindness on her part. And with invitations from people you don’t know, it’s not always easy to tell whether the invitation is sincere or is just one of those nice things people say that they don’t expect anyone to actually take them up on.

But Colleen gave me her phone number, so when I was in her town visiting a friend of mine, I thought, “well, I’m here. Perhaps I should go meet those IWS.” And that’s where the second kindness came in.

I’m not always particularly brave around people I don’t know. I can get tongue tied and self-conscious. My friend, Valli, though, she’s always been brave this way. She’s willing to talk to almost anybody, anywhere. Like the time she went to some stranger’s door to ask them the species of plant they had lining their wall, or the time she asked three young guys in a dodgy neighborhood to help us when my car wouldn’t start.

So I asked her, would you go with me to this lady’s house to meet her dogs? I don’t know this lady at all, I cautioned her. Fortunately, Valli is brave and she loves dogs, so she said sure, she’d come with me.

So I called Colleen, and since she was home entertaining Amy, another IWS friend, she invited Valli and I to join in. When we got there, I was about as tongue-tied as I feared I would be. Valli picked up the slack, though, asking questions and talking about her own dogs, and gradually, I was able to participate in the conversation while falling in love with Colleen’s two IWS.

From that conversation came referrals to a breeder who had a puppy, and after many conversations and emails with the breeder, came Cooper.

But Cooper was in Minnesota. I live in Oregon. How was I going to get a puppy from Minnesota to Oregon? Well, that’s where the third kindness came in.

Tammy, who owned Cooper’s sire, was also getting a puppy, and Tammy’s parents live in Vancouver, right across the river from Portland. So since Tammy was flying to Minnesota to get her puppy, she offered to ship Cooper (and a third litter mate who was going to Amy) as freight on her return flight to the Portland airport. All Russ and I had to do was show up at Tammy’s parents’ house and pick up our puppy.

Those three kindnesses by those three wonderful women changed my entire life. I’ve often felt that in finding Cooper, and in seeing what I can do with him, I’ve found a focus for my life, goals to work toward, and people I want to associate with.

It’s almost impossible to describe how big a change this is if you didn’t know me before Cooper. Before, I was generally direction-less, living the first 53 years of my life doing whatever life threw at me or whatever other people wanted me to do, not really having any long-term goals of my own. Don’t get me wrong — I did a lot of good stuff: marriage to a great guy, travel, graduate school, a series of pretty good jobs. But after each of these, they all (except for the marriage) left me feeling, “so now what?”

But after Cooper, particularly after we could see how beautiful he is, and how driven to work with us, that’s when I started forming my own goals toward achievements I wanted to reach for myself. That focus has been a unifying force, bringing me into all new experiences with all new people. It’s been wonderful.

I am just about certain that if I were to ask Colleen, Valli, or Tammy about what they did for me, they would say that it was no big deal.

But it has turned out that their kindness made a tremendous difference in my life. So how does this relate to Christmas and gifts? Well, I’ve been thinking about where I can be kind to someone else. And examining those moments when I think I’m too tired or too busy to give someone a small kindness. And wondering if perhaps some small thing I do might be a part of changing someone else’s life for the better, forever.

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A while back, I learned about Dog Soup, a concoction of puréed vegetables added to dog food. I suppose many people do something like this, but I learned it from my friend Martyn, who also owns and breeds Irish Water Spaniels.

After I leaned about it, I decided to try it, too. The dogs loved it, and it seemed healthy, so I made it several times.

Finally, after a month or so, Russ mentioned to me that after the dog soup sat around for a few days, it began to smell, well…, not fresh.

Martyn makes a whole blender-full at a time, so that’s what I had been doing, too. But he has four or five dogs, and they go through it quickly. I have only two dogs.

So, a blender-full of puréed veggies can sit around for awhile at my house.

With one thing and another, I got out of the habit of making Dog Soup. But just recently, I noticed that Cooper was putting on weight. I needed to cut back his food, but when I did that, he seemed so hungry.

And then it hit me — Dog Soup would add bulk, as well as vitamins and minerals, and it might help him feel not quite so ravenous all the time. But how to get around the smell without having to make it up every day?

A trip to variety store provided the solution. Make it up, then freeze it into cubes, then thaw one or two per dog, and serve. Easy to make, easy to store, and easy to use. Perfect!

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Back six years ago, four Nova x Balloo puppies came to the 2007 IWSCOPS Specialty. This year three of those same pups were there together again: Cooper, Mowgli, and Maggie. The top photo shows them as they were, and the bottom shows them as they are now.

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Cooper, Mowgli, and Maggie, 2007 and 2013

Their people were there, too, proudly showing off their dogs:

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Patrice and Cooper, Tammy and Mowgli, Amy and Maggie

It was a pretty good specialty this year. Cooper took a Judge’s Award of Merit in the Saturday conformation show; Mowgli earned a leg on his RAE title each day on Friday and Saturday, plus High Combined Rally on Saturday; and Maggie did her best to delight all onlookers with her beautiful self.

Love these Realta dogs!

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