Archive for the ‘Obedience/Rally’ Category

I admit it. I’m like my dogs. I work for rewards.

Now, my rewards are different than my dogs’. Salmon jerky is all right, but it’s not enough to get me to go out and do one more practice, to set up another blind retrieve, to study Rally signs, or to travel to the spaniel club practice or scent work class.

I admit it’s shallow, but I like recognition. And I’ll work for it. Fortunately, my dogs will work for salmon jerky and dried liver, and they’ll mostly go along with whatever I need them to do to earn it. At some point, though, I usually forget the recognition thing, and mostly just do the work because it has become fun in and of itself.

But, there are those days. You know. Those days when the work just doesn’t sound that fun. When it’s too cold, or too hot, or the drive is too long, or you have to practice alone, or the equipment is just too hard to get out yet again. Those days, it’s the possibility of recognition that will get me out of my chair and working again.

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin have all given me the opportunity for a lot of work, a lot of fun, and more than my share of rewards.

Like Cooper and Tooey before him, Carlin just earned the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s (IWSCA) Quintessential Versatility Award. A beautiful glass medallion is given by the club to all dogs who earn this award.

An IWS is awarded this by earning titles in 5 different AKC sports. For Carlin, these were:

As you can see, we’ve been working on this award for a while now. And I am thrilled that Carlin also has been recognized for his work ethic, talent, and enthusiasm.

And it gets better!

Carlin, to my total shock and surprise, won the club’s Top IWS Scent Work 2018 trophy. The trophy is given to the IWS with the most points earned in AKC Scent Work for the previous calendar year. The IWSCA determines the points, but basically, the dog earns a certain number of points for each Scent Work title earned, with more advanced titles earning more points.

I knew Carlin had done well. I knew he’d be right up there. But I had been convinced that another dog had earned the award. So when I opened the package sent by the IWSCA Awards Committee, I about fell down, huge smile on my face. Totally blown away, was the only way I could describe it. I’d spent some energy trying to just feel good for the winner and not let my disappointment that Carlin hadn’t won get me down.

But then we won! We won!

I still can’t quite believe it. It still makes me smile. But you know, Carlin doesn’t care. He just loves the work. And the fact that he loves it and begs me to do it with him–that’s often all the recognition I need.

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Every dream turned into a goal involves a journey laden with setbacks, disappointments and milestones. There is joy in that journey. Guard that joy well so that in the end you rightly celebrate the accomplishment as well as the memories of the trip.

That’s from an article “The Joy Stealers” by Connie Cleveland. In the article, she talks about the comments we make that diminish another’s dream or accomplishment, whether out of thoughtlessness, misplaced kindness, or malice. And in one tiny sentence, she mentions that sometimes we can steal our own joy.

I think that’s what I’m doing in the back of my mind.

My first two Irish Water Spaniels were All-Around IWS. That’s an award given to Irish Water Spaniels that get titles in AKC retriever hunt tests, obedience, and conformation.  I worked hard for those titles, and fortunately, I had two dogs who agreed to go along with me (as well as a lot of help from other dog folks).

With Cooper, my first IWS, I wanted to achieve all that because I wanted to make his breeder proud of us, and because I could see that he had all the talent, work ethic, and beauty to achieve it. He loved retriever work, kind of got a kick out of obedience from time to time, and tolerated conformation because he loved me.

With Tooey, I thought I could do it again, and we did. She loved conformation, even though, being English, she didn’t look like the other American IWS girls. So that title took awhile. Retriever hunt tests took even longer — only when Russ decided to make it fun for her in the field, did she finally get that title. Obedience was OK, so long as the judge was a woman with a gentle touch, and not some big guy with a floppy coat.

So both of them got their All-Arounds. And now I have Carlin, who has all the beauty, brains, and work ethic that Cooper had, and he has a retriever title. So, all I need to get is the conformation championship and the obedience title, right?

Well, maybe not.

Carlin has issues. Ever since he was viciously attacked out of nowhere and injured by a dog twice his size, he has been deeply suspicious of other dogs he doesn’t know. Which, in a conformation ring or at an obedience trial, is just about every dog. He lunges and barks at them, and it raises my stress levels every time. I put a lot of effort and thought into keeping him safe, and those efforts are distracting when you’re trying to remember the Obedience rules or struggling to help your dog stay calm in the conformation ring. I’m sure some very intuitive person with excellent handling skills and a lot of dog knowledge could pull it off, but I don’t think I’m that person. And I haven’t found the person who can take him on without my sending Carlin away and spending a lot of money.

So. I may have to give up that dream. And the thought of Carlin’s not getting an All-Around like Cooper and Tooey fills me with regret.

And I think my own regret might be stealing at least some of the joy I could be feeling about Carlin’s considerable accomplishments:

  • A Master Hunter Upland Advanced title. It took 18 increasingly difficult spaniel hunt test passes and years of training to get that title.
  • A Rally Novice title. He loves doing the Rally exercises, but not the dog-filled environment. We got that title by concentrating on small shows with relatively few dogs and one ring. And he was on leash the whole time. And I kept him either busy or in the car, so he never had very many moments in a row to worry about other dogs.
  • A Coursing Ability title. That was not work — it was all fun. Just the joy of watching my dog run alone at top speed for 600 yards, and loving every second.
  • A retriever Junior Hunter title. That one was work, and a lot of training, and involved several failures. There were parts he loved (swimming and running), and parts he didn’t like so much (ducks). But we did it. When we passed that last test, I cried and hugged the judges. (They were very nice about it.)
  • A lot of very fast progress in Scentwork in just a few months. He loves the game, is very methodical in his searches for odor, and almost always finds it. If there’s a weak link, it’s me.

Really, when I look at that list, it’s kind of amazing. It’s a lot to rightly celebrate. And my trip with Carlin is not over yet.

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Carlin did his thing today, well, actually, several of his things. Early this morning, he ran around in a park, burning off energy (and I think generating more) as he ran. We’re lucky here in Boise. From November 1st to February 28th, many of the public parks are open to off-leash dogs. The theory is that the dogs will scare off the geese. And right now, the morning temperatures are in the mild mid-40s F, so the grass isn’t frozen and the ponds are not ice. So Carlin and Tooey both ran around to almost their hearts content, on green mowed grass, with nary a grass awn or goat head to bother anyone.

Then, off we went to meet an unofficial subset of a local hunting retriever club. I had met one of their members at the Treasure Valley dog shows several weeks ago, and hearing that we had Irish Water Spaniels who needed a group to train with, she invited us out to train this morning.

Russ was handling Carlin, so I stood out in the field and threw bumpers. I like that job — you can get a good view of all the dogs and how they work. There was quite a variety of breeds represented. Labs, of course, but also a Golden Retriever, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a Flat Coated Retriever, and today, and Irish Water Spaniel.

This is a retriever group, so we worked on marked retrieves and blinds. Fortunately, Carlin has not forgotten all his training during the long months while we were preparing to move, packing, actually  moving, and settling in. He stayed pretty steady at the line (with a reminder or two), and he did a great job of finding his 100 yard blind retrieve. He also did fine on the shorter marks, but got a bit lost on the 120 yard marks — we’ll have to work on those.

One of the fellows in the group brought his camera along, and got a great photo of Carlin running back with a bumper. You can see the kind of cover we were working in, the fact that it wasn’t raining, Carlin’s short field cut, and the intensity in his eyes.


Carlin returning with his bumper–photo by John Arrington

When everyone was done training, we came home for lunch, a shower, and a bit of re-grouping. Then Carlin and I headed out to the state fairgrounds for his third rally trial. It was a lovely small show put on by the Idaho Capital City Kennel Club. There was Obedience in the morning, with Rally Obedience starting in mid-afternoon. The novice classes always go last, so I didn’t actually have to be there until 3 PM or so. I watched the dogs working at the Excellent level, which is always a treat because you get to see such good work. (I was disappointed that yesterday’s exhibitor in a wheelchair didn’t compete today. Watching her and her dog do both Excellent and Advanced Rally really made my heart happy. They were such a great team, in wonderful harmony with each other.)

Today I hoped Carlin would do better than he did yesterday, and he did! Yesterday, during his second trial, he bested his first qualifying run of 83 with an 87. He was distracted yesterday by this horrible air conditioning system that screamed before it started blowing cool air, and then by a young dog who also screamed at something. Carlin has been a nervous competitor, and these distractions made yesterday’s run a real test of his concentration. He knocked over a sign and sat crooked at some of the Sits and Halts, but he also did a nice job with most of the 270 and 360 degree turns and the serpentines around the cones.

So, with these two qualifying scores, today I was just hoping for something better than an 87. I’d have been happy with an 88, but Russ sent us out the door today, telling Carlin to get a 90.

He kept it together much better with the screaming air conditioner today (I am not exaggerating — I saw people jump every time it came on), and with fewer dogs in the show today, he seemed to be quite a bit calmer. He sat and downed much straighter, and he mentally stayed with me for most of the run. What a good boy — this is hard for him, and he really tried hard.

We beat the 90 Russ told us to get. We ended up with a yellow squeaky toy, a green ribbon for a score of 93, a 4th place ribbon, and an RN title ribbon! I am so proud of my boy, and pleased that we can work together.


When we were done, I got Carlin a vanilla ice cream cone, and then we headed home to dinner.

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Carlin did okay at the Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound’s regional specialty.


Carlin with his prizes for Reserve Winner’s Dog and a qualifying score in Rally Novice B (IWSCOPS Specialty), and another Reserve Winner’s Dog (Sammamish KC)

By the time we got to Bothell on Saturday, it had cooled off to a humid high-70s F. Not bad. Not nearly as bad as last Saturday’s hunt test. So that was a good start.

Our first event was Rally Novice. I’ve been in Rally ring many times, but not for a couple of years, but Carlin had seen a full course of rally signs only once, last Tuesday. The good thing was that this event was being held in the daycare building of the Academy of Canine Behavior, and Carlin had been in there working around other dogs last winter. So the space wasn’t strange. And many of the other people competing were trainers he’d worked with while at the Academy, so they were only mildly strange.

But still, I can be a worrier, so I worried. Carlin has not completely recovered from his being attacked, and he can become upset and afraid when he’s on a leash and being approached too close by another dog. There was lots of room, so I just kept him out of the way of the other dogs, and fed him lots of treats and praise and scratches under the chin when he paid attention to me and not to all the other dogs.

When it was our turn, I rushed him on a close leash into the ring, completed the course very quickly, and then rushed out. I don’t remember much about the run, except that I consciously decided not to repeat one station that I knew we’d done badly on, and that I had to pull Carlin’s attention back to me several times. I didn’t even have a sense of whether we’d qualified or not — I had to ask Kim later to check whether we had qualified. We did, with an 83, and he surprised and pleased me by doing a very polite job of sitting next to me while ribbons were handed out to the cluster of qualifiers.

Conformation was next, much later in the day. In the meantime, Colleen, bless her, transformed my rough grooming job in to a beautiful sculpture of an IWS. Carlin looked great. Once in the ring, he moved beautifully, but I couldn’t get him to stack well for the judge. Everyone could see that the judge seriously considered Carlin, but his unwillingness/inability to hold a stack for more than 2 seconds did us in. So instead of Winner’s Dog, Carlin took home second place, Reserve Winner’s Dog.

But I was honored and pleased that two well-respected IWS breeders asked to examine Carlin. They had heard, and then seen for themselves, how beautifully he moves, and I think both were impressed with his two recent master-level spaniel hunt test passes, too.

The next day at the Sammamish KC dog show, Carlin got another RWD. This was a tougher show for him. Way more strange dogs getting too close. I tried to keep him back and away from the other dogs, but one got that one inch too close, and Carlin growled loudly and got ready to lunge. I intercepted him in time, but not in time to prevent him from making a spectacle of himself. It was really remarkable, how all the people turned their backs to me after that. Perhaps they were just giving me some privacy; perhaps they were excluding me; or perhaps something in the middle.

So on top of that excitement, the ring was relatively small and the ground very uneven. Even though Carlin did a much better job of stacking this time, I couldn’t really get him into his most beautiful gait. And plus, I’d shown under this job before — she didn’t give the nod to Cooper, either, and Carlin is built much like Cooper was.

But still, there was improvement, so I was pleased. We hopped into the car, stopped briefly to have a nice lunch with Tammy and Steve, and then took the long drive home.

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Having written this blog for many years makes it possible for me to go back and remember my life with Irish Water Spaniels quite clearly. I’ll look at the current month, but one, two, three, or more years ago. So today, when I looked at October 2011, an entry titled “Another dog show anxiety dream” came up in my search. In that post, I recorded a dream in which I was panicked because I was very late to an obedience trial that Cooper and I were entered in.

Sometimes, in going back and reading the blog, I can make links between something that happened in the past and something that is happening now. Like that post and this weekend.

This Sunday, I stewarded at an obedience trial. Carlin is not ready to show in obedience yet, and I like stewarding. I like helping out and staying connected with other folks. I like watching other dogs’ successes. And I am comforted by witnessing in other dogs’ performances the fact that my dog is not the only one to lose a lot of points for poor heeling, get distracted by loud noises or dogs barking, or forget to sit at the finish of an exercise.

We were about half way through the Utility class, and dog #406 hadn’t checked in yet. But just as dog #405 was just finishing, and the gate steward was lifting her hand to mark #406 absent, dog #406’s handler walked into the building.

The judge had already decided not to take dogs out of order since, as a one-ring trial, there would be no ring conflicts. So if the handler and her dog were going to run, they had to do it right then. The gate steward saw her and called to the handler to say that she was next in the ring, while I went over to get her dumbbell from her. Of course, the handler was shocked. She said we must have started early, but we hadn’t. She’d just gotten her times mixed up. But she pulled herself together, put her dog on a leash, and into the ring they walked.

Several of us stewards were all pulling for her. We speculated that maybe arriving at the last moment had not given her time to develop ring nerves. We wanted her and her dog to succeed, to triumph over adversity.

But they failed. The dog just did not meet the requirements to qualify. Who knows why. Perhaps it was that neither handler nor dog was warmed up and ready to run. Or maybe they would have failed in any case.

I knew the panic that poor handler was feeling, because I’d felt it in my dream. I admired her for choosing to run anyway, for giving it a shot. And like I did when I woke up from my dream four years ago and again yesterday, I bet she vowed never to be late to a trial again.

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One of my (many) fondest memories with Cooper is the one Rally trial where he and I were totally in sync. He was with me every step of the way, and it showed in the fact that we earned both Rally High in Trial and Rally High Combined.

His other RAE scores mostly good, in the low 90s and high 80s, and I think a couple were (somewhat embarrassingly) in the 70s.

But one thing that made getting his RAE remarkable was that he got 9 out of the 10 required legs all in one year.

This turned out to be the most of any IWS for 2014. Thank you to the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America for recognizing our achievement with this certificate:

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The AKC sent me an email. Either one or two people (it’s not clear if the email is from Steve or Lisa — but no matter) in the AKC Companion Events department sent me an email. It’s an invitation. And even though I can’t accept the invitation, I am still thrilled to get it.


If you go to the website in their email, you can navigate to the Eligibility Information to see what Cooper had to have achieved in order to get this invitation to compete in the Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) class. During the qualification period (12/1/2013 to 11/30/2014), Cooper had to have earned:

  • A confirmed Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) title (He did that on 10/26/2014.)
  • Three scores of 95 or more points (He actually got five scores of 95 or more.)
  • At least five double qualifying scores from the Advanced B and Excellent B rally classes (He got nine double qualifying scores during the qualification period.)

What a dog my Cooper is, and what a team we made.

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Last Saturday, I played judge for a Rally match at my dog obedience training club. It was fun. I enjoyed choosing and setting up the courses, running the people and their dogs through them, watching for errors where I might take off points if I were a real judge at a real trial, all to help my fellow club members improve their and their dog’s performance.

I discovered that I naturally see certain things, like inefficient or incorrect footwork on the part of the person, or the dog’s sitting at an angle at the Halts, rather than sitting parallel to the person. I saw incorrectly done stations and missed stations. But I realized later that I  hadn’t really noticed out-of-position heeling — as long as the dog was not really lagging for forging, as going along pretty much next to the person, I didn’t really see if the dog’s neck was right next to the person’s pants seam or not. Interesting…

But what I did gain was a pronounced appreciation for real judges. For their ability to stay focused, observe closely, treat every body with respect and kindness, all while standing on hard floors, for hours.

Thank you, judges.

I didn’t judge the whole time. In each of the courses, I took a few moments to run one of my dogs: Cooper in Excellent, Tooey in Advanced, and Carlin in Novice (sort of).

Each dog had a different experience:

  • Cooper: “Hah! I already have my RAE title. I don’t have to do this anymore. Except the jumps. I like the jumps. Let’s do that jump again!”
  • Tooey: “You really want to do this? You do? Really? Oh… okay…. But there will be food in the ring, right?”
  • Carlin: “Wow! Look at all these dogs! Smell all those treats! What are all those cones and signs all over the floor? Oh, you want some heeling? Ok, I can give you three steps. 1, 2, … Oh! Look at that puppy over there! Let’s go say hi!”

We all came home tired and ready for a nap.

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The following list of the dates, clubs, and scores for Cooper’s successful RAE legs are also links to the blog posts that describe each trial. In each post, you’ll find course maps, photos, and commentary about how the trials went.

AKC Rally Regulations define the qualifications for an RAE this way:

Upon completion of the Rally Excellent title, qualifying scores may be accumulated from the Rally Advanced B class and the Rally Excellent B class to earn the Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) title. To earn a Rally Advanced Excellent title, the dog must have received qualifying scores in both Advanced B and Excellent B at 10 separate licensed or member rally trials.

  1. December 7, 2013 – Sherwood Dog Training Club (83/89)
  2. January 31, 2014 – Mt Hood Doberman Pinscher Club (96/100&1st  — High Combined Rally and Rally High in Trial!)
  3. March 15, 2014 – Mt Hood Keeshond Club (93&4th/94)
  4. March 29, 2014 – Washington State Obedience Training Club (72/77)
  5. April 28, 2014 – Irish Water Spaniel Club of America (75/95)
  6. June 7, 2014 – Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers (87/88)
  7. June 21, 2014 – Clackamas Kennel Club (91/95)
  8. June 22, 2014 – Clackamas Kennel Club (88/89 — 1st time he succeeded two days in a row!)
  9. October 25, 2014 – Vancouver Kennel Club (79/96)
  10. October 26, 2014 – Vancouver Kennel Club (89/93&4th — two days in a row again!)

We also had several unsuccessful runs. Sometimes we qualified on only one trial on a day, and sometimes we qualified on neither:

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Let’s just start out with the happy ending: Cooper earned his RAE title today at the Vancouver Kennel Club show at Ridgefield, Washington. Cooper has worked so hard for me for quite a while now, and I am thrilled to reach this goal at long last.

He earned leg 9 (out of 10 needed for the title) by qualifying at both the Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B levels yesterday. (For the RAE title, an exhibitor and her dog must earn qualifying scores in Advanced B and Excellent B classes at the same trial 10 times.)

photo by Jill Roman

unofficial photo by Jill Roman

The Excellent course had some tough sections to it. One of Cooper’s least favorite, for some reason, is the Send to Jump at station 9. I think that was at least partly my fault. For this exercise, your dog has to go out ahead of you to jump over a jump, while you stay behind the jump. There are ways to make your dog think that you are running with him, so that he’ll keep going, but I think I must not have done any of those. He got to the jump, stopped, looked at me, and then walked around it. Oh well, 10 points gone for that.

But beyond that, notice especially stations 11 through 14. At station 11, you take a left turn, then at station 12, start moving quickly for just a few yards. Then, you slow to a normal pace at station 13, but that normal pace lasts just a few feet before you all of a sudden have to put your dog into a stand-stay at station 14, while you keep moving. Essentially, your dog goes from a run to a sudden stand-stay, all within just a few yards.


As you can see from the legend and score sheet below, Cooper actually did this tricky part with no errors. What really got us was missing the jump, plus some slow sits, a bit of lagging, and some sniffing in the ring.

Even with the score of 79 in Excellent, Team Cooper got a 4th place in the class. A lot of teams were challenged by that course.



We did really well on the Advanced course, with a score of 96. Quite a few teams did that course really well. We tied with another team who also got a 96, and we were edged out of 4th place because that team did the course 15 seconds faster than we did.




When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel quite right. Seemed like I had to go to the bathroom way too often, and I couldn’t get down more than a cup of coffee and half a pancake. Nerves. Today might be the day that Cooper finally got that 10th leg, but I couldn’t expect it. Only once before has Cooper succeeded at two Rally trials, two days in a row. Chances were good-ish that we would reach the RAE title today, but not great.

Today’s Excellent course was weird. Note the transition from station 2 to station 3. At station 2, you and your dog are facing at a diagonal to the ring. Then, station 3 (Spiral Left) requires you to heel for 5 steps or so, and then, just as you get to the first cone on station 3, take a sharp right onto the opposite diagonal, so that you can enter the spiral properly.

And later I got lost. After doing the 360* Left (station 13), I got myself all turned around and couldn’t figure out where station 14 was. I finally said, “I’m lost. Where’s 14?” The judge kindly pointed at it. And without thinking, I repeated station 13 (fortunately – the just told me later that we’d have lost 10 points if I hadn’t), and then went on to 14 and the Finish line.

But I will say this: this course was set up perfectly to allow Cooper to actually jump that Send to Jump (station 7), the exercise that confounded him yesterday. We had pretty much half the length of the ring to run toward the jump, and by the time I had to stop so that I wouldn’t go past the jump until Cooper had jumped and returned to me, Cooper was already mid-air and over the jump before he realized I wasn’t with him.


I was very pleased with our score of 89, which put us just below the 4th place exhibitor, who had a score of 90.

While waiting for our turn at the Advanced course, I did everything I could think of to stay calm. Slow, deep belly breaths. Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose. Reminders to self that Rally is fun. Picturing Cooper when I first got him, and reminding myself how much I care for him, no matter what happens.

All the same, I kept thinking: If we can just qualify one this one last course, Cooper will earn his RAE title.


But Cooper and I both kept it together in Advanced. He was very slow to sit at the Start line, and I almost lost him a couple of times when he got distracted by something outside the ring. But we didn’t miss any stations or make any horrible mistakes, and we got out of there with a 93 and another 4th place.


So with all of that, Team Cooper earned our 9th and 10th RAE legs. As soon as the AKC records the RAE, Cooper’s full name will be CH Realta Rosario Cooper CD RAE SH SHU.

I started on the RAE path to honor Cooper’s daddy, Balloo, who earned an RAE. I was so impressed, mostly because at the time I was really struggling just to get the initial Rally Novice title with Cooper. Cooper did it because he loves me.

I am so grateful to Russ, who went along with my Rally goals; to Joan Armstrong, my Rally instructor; and to Rosemary Sexton and Tammy Lewis Walker who trusted me with this wonderful dog.

Cooper RAE

official photo by Elaine

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Stewarding at an Obedience trial is usually straightforward. You take and return leashes, lay out the gloves for directed retrieve and articles for scent discrimination, raise and lower the jumps. You check exhibitors in and mark them off when they’ve finished competing. You follow the judge’s instructions. Best of all, you watch the dogs and handlers perform, sometimes with delight and sometimes with commiseration.

But sometimes, something disagreeable comes up. My first experience with this was almost a year ago, observing some double handling in an adjacent Obedience ring and collaborating to report it to that judge. But this weekend, I had to handle it myself.

Here’s what happened:

Exhibitor A comes up to me and says, “You’re stewarding, right?”


“Well,” she said, “I have to tell you something.”

“OK.” I’m thinking, Oh dear. This can’t be good.

She then went on to tell me that Exhibitor B approached her, and said that if A’s dog looks at B’s dog during the group stays, “there is going to be a blood bath.”

Oh God. Those two dogs, if entering the ring in catalog order (as called for in the rules) would be right next to one another for the group stays. How likely was it that A’s dog would not ever look at B’s dog during those many long minutes of the group stays? And if an attack were imminent, their handlers would be no where close enough to prevent it.

As soon as the exhibitor currently in the ring was finished, I called the judge aside and reported exactly what I was told. It put the judge in a tough spot because no actual aggression had actually occurred, so all the rules that she could otherwise use to excuse an aggressive dog could not be applied.

I don’t know exactly what happened (except through hearsay), but I observed that B, whose dog had not qualified in the individual exercises, was not in the lineup for the group stays. And A’s dog ended up qualifying and winning 1st place in the class.

But I couldn’t stop wondering about it:

  • Had A told me the truth about what B said?
  • If A had told me the literal truth, did she accurately convey the intent behind B’s comment? Was it simply a statement of fact?  Perhaps B’s dog hates A’s dog so much that an attack was likely. Or was it “merely” a threat of some kind to unnerve A, and an attack was actually not likely?
  • And even if A had accurately conveyed B’s intent, did intent matter in this case?
  • And why hadn’t B simply pulled her dog from the trial when she realized that A’s dog was there and that they would be right next to each other.

My first thought is that B had no business bringing her dog into the Obedience ring if she thought there was the slightest possibility of her dog attacking another dog.

But maybe B’s dog hates only A’s dog. Part of me thinks that if A is not there, and if B’s dog is OK with every other dog, then perhaps it’s OK to enter. It’s hard enough to find close-by Obedience trials that fits one’s schedule. Plus, once you’ve spent money to enter and traveled to the show site, it’s very difficult to just walk away. I would think it’s simple enough (although perhaps not easy or comfortable) to coordinate entries so as to keep these two dogs apart.

But then I think about all the innocent dogs whose show careers are derailed or ruined because another dog harassed or attacked them at a show, and that leads me back to my original thought: if you think your dog is at all dangerous to any other dog or person, keep it away from dog shows. And get help for the poor dog.

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About 3/4 of the way through this IWSCOPS specialty weekend, I had thought to begin this post by saying that this has been the kind of dog show where, when asked how it was, you’re supposed to say, “We had fun.” Deciphered, that often means that you didn’t do well at the show. Some people do actually mean that they had fun, but it’s often more like, when you feel like crap, and are asked “how are you?”, you say “fine.” So — we had fun.

But actually, by the time the show was over, discouragement turned to relief and happiness, and I realized that some things did go really well. So let’s start with that.

One of the puppies from Tooey’s first litter, Pax (the former Mr. Red), took Winner’s Dog in both the Friday and Saturday conformation shows (both major wins), under two different judges and with two different handlers. Next, Bold (the former Mr. Green) won Best of Opposite Sex on Saturday, against some stiff competition. He is well on his way to a Grand Championship, and I couldn’t be prouder of his 18-year-old handler.

And then we did actually have some fun, too. Like Cooper and Tooey before him, Carlin, at 5-1/2 months old, retrieved his pigeon (you can read about how that part of the event is run in the posts about Cooper and Tooey), so he got to compete in the Bird Dog conformation match on Friday. Carlin took second after his brother Decoy in the puppy class, but the best part was that he qualified to enter the match at all. To do that, he had to go out about 15 yards, pick up a pigeon and bring it back. He went out fine, found the pigeon right away, and poked it with his nose a few times. I started backing up and calling him, so he picked up his pigeon and ran back to me with it.

In Saturday’s Pee Wee Puppies conformation match, Carlin again took 2nd to his brother. In both events, I got some compliments on my dog and how he was groomed, the inevitable advice about how I should do this thing or that differently, and comments from several people saying that they would have given my dog the nod over his brother. Plus, Carlin wagged his tail the whole time while getting treats and running around in circles.

But the very best part of the Specialty this year was that Cooper’s brain came back into his head just in time to run in Team Rally. Even up to moments before we ran, I was urging the the team captain to use one of the alternates because Cooper had done so poorly in Rally both Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, he’d qualified in the Excellent run, but then NQ’d in the Advanced run because he refused to sit. Half the stations required sits, so there was no way we could qualify. Then on Saturday, he walked out of the ring in the middle of the Excellent run, and even though his body returned, his brain just didn’t. It was as if he was on an entirely different planet from me, so I pulled him from the Advanced run altogether.

I felt dispirited and discouraged, and in the light of Cooper’s troubles, Carlin’s taking 2nd in his two events just felt like defeats. And I was afraid that I would feel worse if Cooper couldn’t or wouldn’t do it in Team Rally. I just couldn’t face letting down the team, too.

Renae, however, refused to let me quit. As far as she was concerned, I had to enter, and I had to go in first and just do it.

So I did. And thanks to the saint of lost dog brains, so did Cooper.

All of a sudden, he was right with me. He sat briskly when asked, heeled right next to me. Came to front, went around, stayed when required, and just generally played the game with me like we were a team. I had my dog back!

I was so happy that my brain temporarily left the building, and I missed one entire station. Fortunately, in Team Rally, missing a station just results in lost points. (If it had been regular Rally, I’d have NQ’d for that.) That mistake bumped us down to 3rd place instead of 2nd, but while my teammates were astonished at my error, no one was angry. And I was happy. I had my Cooper back and we were a team again.

Later, after I got home from the show, I got some more good news. Today, with his third show this weekend, Pax* got his AKC championship. This is especially wonderful because he’s the third of Tooey’s puppies to become champions, after Sorcha** (Ms. Yellow) and Bold*** (Mr. Green), making Tooey an Outstanding Producer. Pax did it under all different judges with different handlers, in a sweep of major wins in just a few short months — first in the IWSCA Specialty in Utah in April and then three shows in a row this weekend — two at the IWSCOPS specialty and a third at the Sammamish Kennel Club show.

What a weekend!


* Pax — Am CH/Can CH Whistle Stop’s Not Me, ‘Pax’ Did It RN

** Sorcha — Am CH/Aus CH Whistle Stop Mine to Keep at Tirriki

*** Bold — CH Whistle Stop’s Bring It On



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Two points makes a line, but perhaps not a trend.

Today’s was our — Cooper’s and mine — first successful second-day RAE leg. He’s gotten 7 previous RAE legs, but none of them were on the second day. Our two previous second days were confounding and humiliating, but up until today, not successful.

But today, Cooper kept both his body and his brain in the Rally ring for both the Excellent and Advanced runs. We came out of the Excellent ring with an 88, and Advanced with an 89. The scores today were not as high as yesterday’s. Cooper had to work harder at staying focused, and as one handler put it, today’s judge’s pencil was sharper than yesterday’s judge.

But who cares? Cooper did it, and I was, and am, so very pleased with having earned his 8th RAE leg (out of 10 required), and on a second day.




After ribbons were handed out, I packed up our stuff, loaded everything into the car, and took Cooper for a little celebratory swim in a nearby river. He chased bumpers into the water until he decided not to bring me the bumper anymore. (That’s quite a few — I stopped counting after 7.)

What a way to end the day. We both came home exhausted and happy.



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The fact that I had a colonoscopy yesterday might explain a few things about our rally runs today.

Like the fact that when reading the course map for Excellent before the walk through, I completely missed the fact that there was a Stand Dog, Leave Dog, Down Dog exercise (station 9).

Or that when we got to the Novice-level sign for Call Front Finish Right (station 17), Cooper did an extra sit. I wondered for a second why he did that, and only then realised that I’d given him a Sit command. We repeated the station.

Sheesh. The anaesthesiologist had promised on Friday that all the drugs would be out of my system by run time on Saturday.

With all that, we got a very generous 91 in Excellent.


Advanced mostly went well, too. Like several other dogs, Cooper got distracted at a sign near the door. Another handler speculated that stockyard scents were coming through from the nearby stables. (The rally trials were held in a barn at the Canby, Oregon fairgrounds.)

The only other thing was that the judge used that same Call Front Finish Right exercise in Advanced, and Cooper anticipated that I would give that extra sit command, so he sat. We repeated that exercise again, and got out of the Advanced rally ring with a 95.


I was very pleased. And it was warm and sunny, so I took Cooper for a short swim in the nearby Molalla River.

Wonder how we’ll do on Sunday?

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After yesterday’s successful RAE leg, I texted Russ about our successfully qualifying run, reported all our mistakes, and ended with: “I love Cooper.”

Today, I have to remind myself I said that. And try hard to remember why I said that and what he did right during today’s Excellent Rally run:

  • He jumped both jumps, even the Send to Jump exercise, which he failed yesterday.
  • He did not jump out of the ring, like he did at IWSCOPS Specialty last August.
  • He mostly stayed with me on the Serpentine.

That’s about it.

For the rest of the run, his brain was gone. Just gone. He was looking around, wandering away, not responding when I called him. No sense of teamwork at all.

He was distracted. I was humiliated. The judge gave us an NQ.

We didn’t even try the Advanced course.

I think I see a pattern here, though. So far, we have tried two-day RAE runs only twice, and both times, we qualified on the first day, but on the second day, Cooper’s brain left his body, and we failed.


We are entered for a two-day trial in a couple of weeks, and I’m not sure what we’ll do. Perhaps we’ll just go to the first day, see how it goes, and then decide.

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