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Archive for the ‘Realta Rosario Cooper’ Category

… to strike terror in one’s heart. I’ve had cancer; I have close family relatives who have had cancer and who have died of cancer; my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, died of lymphoma, a type of cancer.

And today I found out that Carlin’s sire died just last month of cancer. Harry was just short of 9 years old. Carlin’s dam died of cancer several years ago.

And on top of that, Tooey is going into the vet tomorrow to have tumor removed from the inside of her mouth. The vet took a sample and looked at it under a microscope. Not diagnostic, not definitive, but the cells in the center of the sample don’t look good. But, you know, maybe all those weird-looking cells aren’t really that bad. Or if they are, maybe they are encapsulated in the tumor and haven’t spread.

I try not to worry.

We did have a cancer scare with Tooey before. But those masses turned out to be benign. And she has several of these fatty tumors on her trunk, and they’re benign. So, let us hope, or pray if you do that. That Tooey is fine this time, like she was last time. And that both she and Carlin live long and happy lives for many years more.

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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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If you’ve studied an Irish Water Spaniel in slanted light, then you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve seen it in the afternoon when the sun has started to sink, but its light hasn’t yet turned golden. Or maybe you’ve seen it in the early morning, when the light still has a touch of blue.

It’s that glint of purple along the side of each brown curl in the coat of a dark Irish Water Spaniel. It’s the hint of purple that makes some people call an IWS coat “puce”.

It’s also the color the AKC chose to recognize Winners Dog in conformation shows.

This is what I wanted to capture in this memorial for Cooper. He’s my own curly brown winner of my heart dog.

The white sparkly bits are what’s left of Cooper’s physical self, his ashes. The picture doesn’t show how lively they look in the glass. How lively he always was in himself, and how he still is in my heart. These ashes transformed are not gray and somber — they float around the brown curls and within the purple swirls like stars, shiny and bright.

My many thanks to Mossyrock Designs of Emmett, Idaho for taking care of my Cooper this way, and to Jan for inspiring me with her own glass piece made by the same artist.

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I recently got an email from a woman whose dog has SLO:

Hi! I was so happy to come upon your site!! …I have an English Springer…, [we are] sure she has SLO. …We are having a really hard time getting her to take her supplements- I’ve tried multiple ways to get her to take her Omega – disguised in food, on her food, I bought filtered to decrease the odor- so many things-she just turns her nose up. She will eat cooked Salmon but that is it… She has a jaw that is tight and will not let you open and I really hate to force down her. I have left her food down and walked away and it stays that way…uneaten. …I love reading all you have written and so feel like I finally have another person who understands.

I looked back at this post Training Unawares, and I realized that I hadn’t said anything about how I actually trained Cooper to jump up onto his grooming table and take his many medicines. Here is an edited version of my reply to the woman who wrote me:

I am so sorry this is happening to your dog. It is indeed painful to watch.

I’m trying to remember how I trained Cooper to take supplements. It didn’t take long he was jumping up onto our grooming table without being asked in order to get them.

I’m pretty sure that I started out with the best, most yummiest treat ever. For Cooper, that was Yummy Chummies or Red Barn Beef Roll. Cooked or dried liver chunks worked well, too. I would show him a treat, get him onto the grooming table somehow, and then gave him the treat. He could also see and smell the pile of treats on the counter from up there.

That first treat made his mouth water, so it was easier to slip a pill or capsule down his throat. I soon learned that I had to stuff it way back into the back of his throat, or else he’d spit it out.

The thing I don’t quite remember is how I got him to open his mouth for the big fish oil capsule in the first place. I think I must have had a capsule between my thumb and first finger, while holding a treat against my palm with my other fingers. He’d open his mouth because he’d just gotten his favorite treat ever, and could smell the 2nd treat. Then, as soon as I got the capsule into the back of his throat, I gave him many, many treats – maybe even up to 10, one at a time. (They were cut into small pieces.) He soon realized he’d get a major payout for letting me stuff a pill down.

And I probably did not start out trying to stuff everything I had to give him all in the same session. But as time went on, and he was more willing, I reduced the number of treats, and upped the number of pills per session. But I always started with a treat and I always gave him a treat after every pill or capsule.

If your dog is really reluctant, you could start by giving him a treat for just letting you open his mouth a little bit. Then when he’s happy letting you do that (and that may take several sessions to teach), a treat for letting you open it little wider. Then a treat for letting you open it all the way.

Then after a couple of sessions of that, you could go to giving a treat, stuffing one small pill down, then giving many treats. And after several sessions of that, then do treat-small pill-many treats-larger pill-many treats, and etc. Gradually build up the number and size of pills you give over several sessions.

And you have to use the dog’s very favorite, very best treat. And, while you’re teaching this, I think he should get it only for letting you open his mouth and then later, stuffing pills down. The dog may change his mind about what he thinks the best treat is, and if that happens, you’ll have to change treats until you find the next very favorite.

Here’s another idea. Cooper has passed away, but my current dogs will do anything for green tripe. I can get them to eat almost anything if I have it mixed in green tripe. I buy a brand called Tripett, and it comes in cans. You might buy a can and see how your dog likes it. Then, if he really likes it, try mixing your supplement into some tripe. Start out with a little supplement and then gradually work up to the full amount. I will warn you, green tripe smells disgusting, but it’s good for the dogs. (Cleaned tripe or the tripe you can buy in the grocery stores for people food isn’t nearly so interesting to my dogs.)

Hope this helps. If not, I suggest you find a dog trainer to help you. Find one who is good at teaching dogs to do tricks using positive reinforcement. The process of teaching a dog to take pills is the same as teaching a dog to do tricks. You break the learning down into small easy chunks and reward the dog with whatever the dog thinks is rewarding. (Pardon me if you know this already.)

My best wishes,

I truly do hope it helps. Dealing with SLO is never easy, but sometimes there can be learning that makes life better.

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Day 2: same club and same location as yesterday, but different judges. Saturday’s judges knew Carlin, as we often practice together at Scatter Creek, Washington. Having a personal relationship didn’t hurt his cause. But the judges on Day 2 were relative strangers. They were known to have sharp pencils and had lots of experience running and judging accomplished dogs. So we were not expecting to be given any slack.

On Sunday, it was a good 10° cooler and since we now running as the 4th dog of the day, we got a cool start. Carlin put up his first bird at mid-course, and then sat while the gunner dropped it down further down the course.

Carllin quarters at full speed through tall grass

Carlin quarters at full speed through tall grass

The judges tapped my shoulder for a release, and upon my release to Carlin, he zoomed straight out and straight back with the bird delivered to my hand. Text book awesome.

Carlin heads out to pick up a pheasant

Carlin heads out to pick up a pheasant

We continued up the course where Carlin caught the scent of a bird near the edge of huge cluster of Scotch broom and blackberry brambles. He circled the cluster and then dove in to root out a bird.

The brown spot in the center is Carlin forcing out a pheasant from heavy cover

The brown spot in the center with a pink tongue is Carlin forcing out a pheasant from heavy cover

It flushed, the gunners missed, and I had no idea where Carlin was because I was on the other side of the cover. So were the judges. Was he steady? Apparently so. I called him in back, and as soon as I pulled broken-off pieces of blackberry vine out of his topknot, we were done with the land series.

Carlin takes a break while the judges record their scores for his last flush

Carlin takes a break while the judges record their scores for his last flush

For Sunday’s hunt dead test, we were the second dog to run. Only 4 out of 9 dogs running masters qualified on the land series and made it this far. (We were dumb struck by our good fortune.) A cross breeze had come up, and so I lined Carlin up downwind for this 5 minute test and he nailed the bird in under a minute. On to the water . . . .

Same scenario as yesterday, but now Carlin knew that there was not a bird across the river next to the bird handlers. I got him to focus on the bank directly across from us and I sent him with a “Back” command. He immediately cut left and ran the near bank and refused to enter the water.

WTF? I pleaded with my whistle, hands, and because I was under the observation of 3 judges, I limited my verbal commands to skip the traditional 4 letter words. After about 3 minutes of running up and down bank ignoring my commands (a very bad thing), he jumped into the river, swam across, grabbed the bird, swam back, and handed it off like nothing unusual had taken place.

I leashed him up while the judges conferred, gesticulated, shrugged, etc. for several long moments. Finally, they said they would let me try for the water retrieve to see if he altered their opinion. No pressure. Carlin sat at my side, the bird went up, the shot report came across the river, the bird hit with a splash while Carlin calmly sat and watched. The judge tapped for a release, I sent Carlin, and off he went, straight out, straight back, bird to hand. More judges conferring, scribbling on their score sheets, gesturing. To be determined.

Well, once again, his stellar land work and marked water retrieve saved our asses and Carlin passed another Master test. Other than this water blind debacle, his scores were mostly 9s. We looked at the score sheets later, and noticed that the Trainability score for the water blind had been scribbled out and changed. Perhaps that change put his Trainability score just enough so we did not NQ.

To celebrate, three of us decided it was time to go swimming in the Luckiamute River. Both Tooey and Patrice were troopers in the heat and fully enjoyed Carlin’s Master passes from the cool of the water.

Back into the Luckiamute river for the love of water

Back into the Luckiamute river for the love of water

Patrice and Tooey washing away the tension of watching Carlin's first Master passes.

Patrice and Tooey washing away the tension of watching Carlin’s second Master pass

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Two Master ribbons

Life is good. And we do it all again in two weeks.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Carlin, his coming into our lives, about another choice I could have made, and what I might do next time (assuming I am blessed with a next time).

Cooper and Tooey were companions and friends. Together they were our two hunting dogs with different styles and different strengths (Cooper, the retriever; Tooey, the flushing spaniel).

Then we got Carlin. We weren’t really ready or looking for another dog. That’s a key point. We weren’t looking. We had two wonderful dogs who gave us what we wanted, and around whom we had constructed our lives. We didn’t need another.

But Carlin had a pedigree that I’d been hoping for — he came as close to being what a breeding between Cooper and Tooey would give us, I really like Harry (Carlin’s sire), and most of Carlin’s immediate ancestors have hunting test titles. So, even though we weren’t looking, we took Carlin on.

It was trouble from the start. Cooper hated Carlin, so we had to keep them separated. The whole situation was very stressful. And plus, having three large, active dogs was just a lot of work and coordination for two adults who still work full time and live in a tiny inner-city house.

And then Cooper died. “The mighty Coop,” as Russ calls him. We miss him every day, and remember how great he was. And that’s the second key point. As the days go by, we tend to forget how difficult he was in the beginning, how we wanted to trade him back into his breeder, how we sent him off for behavior training for six weeks to experienced trainers who also found him difficult, how it took YEARS to get him to do a nice heel, how we could never get him to be reliably steady to wing or shot, how impulsive he always was until the last weeks before his death. We remember what a great retriever he came to be, how he would bring Russ a matched pair of his shoes when it was time to go for a walk, how he was our hunting, performance, and photographic companion, and how he always brought back his birds no matter what.

Carlin has his own strengths. He’s very affectionate, he actually likes Obedience, and he’s willing to consider alternatives to his own plans. Before the age of 2, he completed both his junior and senior titles in Spaniel hunting tests, well before the age Cooper even started training, and almost a couple of years before Cooper entered those same tests. But he’s not Cooper or Tooey. Unlike Cooper, he’s not a dog who lives to retrieve. Unlike Tooey, he would prefer to just run around in the field rather than hunt (though once he gets his running-around jollies out, he does hunt pretty well). Unlike both, his delivery to hand has regressed, so now he’s dropping birds, and we haven’t figured out a solution.

So.

Now I am thinking we should have waited to get a dog until Cooper had passed and we had finished grieving. Three dogs just doesn’t fit our life. And I suspect that we should not have gotten another Irish Water Spaniel. Comparing one dog to another dog is inevitable, but by getting another IWS, we made it too easy to compare Carlin to Cooper, too easy to expect Carlin to be like Cooper, and that’s just not fair to Carlin. No dog can be a replacement for another dog, the hole Cooper left is just too big, and darkness in that hole still obscures the light of Carlin’s unique self.

A friend of mine had a wonderful Standard Poodle named Trip. Trip was a very impressive hunting Poodle. He had a talent for hunting and did very advanced work. Then Trip died, and my friend got another Standard Poodle from working lines. But that dog is not Trip. It’s taken him longer to get not as far as Trip did in hunting. No doubt the dog has other fine talents and qualities, but he’s not Trip, and my friend said it took her years to get past that and just accept the new dog for who he is.

So if we do have a next time, this is what I’m thinking now (assuming our situation hasn’t changed significantly): Wait for a while after Carlin or Tooey dies before getting another dog. Get a different breed, probably a Sporting/Gundog dog breed, but maybe a pointer or flushing spaniel. Maybe branch into some different activity, something that Cooper never did, but something that the new dog loves.

Of course, if we do that, I’ll have to change the tagline on the blog. But I think I can deal with that.

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Yes, Tooey, that Tolman hat does look really good on you.

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And yes, our newly finished Tolman boat is named Spáinnéar Uisce. And yes, that means Water Spaniel.

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So who better, you ask, to go boating on the Spáinnéar Uisce than a Water Spaniel, such as yourself?

I know. You’re right. There is no one better.

All we need is a non-rainy weekend day, when neither Russ nor I are working or training, and no other guests are joining us. That day, we’ll take you boating.

We promise.

But for now, I’ll just abbreviate the story. The one about the dog who loved water, one who would go boating with us. We looked for that dog, and we found him, our Cooper. He went boating once, with us and a friend on her boat. I know he would have loved to go boating on ours. But he left us too soon.

So now it is up to Tooey and Carlin to take up their posts, and go boating on the Spáinnéar Uisce.

Soon.

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Going through the archives of our photos of Cooper brings back many fond memories. But of course, what we remember when we see the photos is an animated, happy dog, full of joy. But for the readers of The Cooper Project who never met the boy, just seeing a static photo limits comprehending the energy of that amazing dog.

Back in 2012, I made a short video of Cooper and Trice practicing staying steady at the line while she shoots at mythical ducks. This video pretty much sums up all the excitement Cooper exuded in life. And so today, I snagged a few seconds of that video and looped it into this animated image. See if you can count the number of tail wags and notice his wagging is in sync with his tongue.

One happy camper . . . .

Cooper-and-Trice

And when he was finally released and left the line, heading for the duck, he wasn’t going let a video camera stand in his way… Click the animated image to open the source video and see what I mean.

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With my having taken the Realta Boy II up to the Academy, Russ was combing through the archives today looking at photos of Realta Boy I.

He noticed a pattern.

Cooper and Russ_2007-2013

Russ and Cooper: 2007 and 2013

Over the years, both man and dog prefer the same wardrobe. Sure, there’s a little more fur on both, but still — black shirt, blue jeans, orange collar. What else could the boys need?

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Holiday 2015

In the photo that June, that one dog,
The one on the right, is slightly out of focus.
He’s on the same focal plane as the rest of us,
But forward, a little ahead, toward the light.
His nose is blurred, but his eyes are sharp,
Intent on the lens, lively and bright,
Still loving the camera as he always has.

That was June. This is December.
We are choosing photos for Christmas cards
For those who are left and still love us.
That was June. This is the end
Of the year that one dog left us
That June, our beloved.

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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.

04-03-2011_Mowgli

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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The night before Cooper died, I took him to the park and threw bumpers for him. It was a lovely, warm evening, filled with the orange light of sunset. Over the course of a couple of hours, I threw his bumper about 20 times. He ran to retrieve it, then came back and lay down to rest until he was ready for me to throw it again.

Over this past two months since he left us, I have been so grateful to have overcome my inertia that evening and taken Cooper to the park. I knew that he loved to retrieve, almost anything, anywhere, and I wanted to make him happy.

At the time, I had no idea he would die the next day. But I knew it would be soon.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about that evening. And I’ve come to realize that it was much more than my making Cooper happy. He was making me happy, too.

When I look back at that evening, I can see that his rests between retrieves got longer as the sky darkened. Those retrieves took effort. For each one, he had to heave his fluid-filled body up off the ground, using back leg muscles that had already begun to weaken and whither. He’d trot out to the bumper, pick it up, come back, and lower himself slowly to the ground to rest.

I think Cooper was thinking, ‘She has always loved to throw those bumpers for me. I’ll retrieve them this one last time to make her happy.’

There we were, the two of us, making each other happy. One last time.

Now, one could think that this was just a woo-woo almost-ending to a sad story, but honestly, I think Cooper did quite a lot just to make me happy. All those years in the conformation ring – that he did just because I asked him to. There’s nothing inherently fun about running around in a circle for a minute and having some stranger come up and touch body parts. There is nothing to chase, nothing to retrieve. But he did it, and with some style, too. True, he was a bit goofy, turning to face whatever camera was being clicked at him. But he my beautiful Pretty Boy, and it made me happy to show him off and win his championship.

And then there was Obedience. That I know he did to make me happy, because there is no other reason on God’s green earth to walk around in an apparently random pattern, twice. And even less reason to sit and then lie down 40 feet away from the person who brought you to this shindig. But he did it, eventually, and together we earned his CD.

Now, Rally was a different story. There were many trials when I know he was enjoying himself. It was as if we were dancing together, using familiar moves in new patterns every time. I have pictures of Cooper and me looking at each other during Rally trials, partners in harmony. He kept agreeing to go into the ring, and I kept accepting his invented variations on the exercises. We made each other happy enough that we kept going all the way through his RAE title.

We were a partnership, Cooper and I, because we loved to make each other happy.

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Cooper was a reasonably well-known Irish Water Spaniel, mostly because of this blog, but also because I participate in many and various venues dedicated to Irish Water Spaniels and their exploits.

One of these is the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America, which puts out a newsletter every two months. The July/August 2015 issue published an “In Memoriam” article that I wrote about Cooper. If the image below is too small to read, click it to open a PDF that includes this months newsletter cover and my article.

In-Memoriam_Cooper_June-July_2015_Rattails

The page does include a few mistakes.

  • One is a typo on my part. (Let’s see if you can find it — it’s in the very first sentence).
  • Another one is my name being misspelled. (“Patricia” is a pretty common mistake for my name.)
  • And the last is in the list of titles in the photo caption. (Although Cooper tried a couple of times to get a WCX, he never did. He did get a WDX, though.)

But all that aside, I am gratified to see that article in print. It doesn’t bring Cooper back, but it does help to see him in print one last time.

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I feel that I killed my dog.

This is a public blog, and I generally don’t put the really private stuff up here.

But this feeling that I killed my heart dog is a quagmire in which I am stuck. Maybe writing about it will help extricate me.

Of course, I did arrange to help Cooper die. He was sick with lymphoma, and failing fast. On that last day, he came over to me as I sat on the edge of our low deck, put his head in my open hands, and looked up at me steadily. This was so unusual that I called Russ over, and together, looking at our dear Cooper, we knew it was time to help him leave this life.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is the feeling that still makes me cry, every day, even now – 32 days later. I can usually keep myself under control when others are around, but when I’m alone, I cry. Driving to work, taking a walk, sitting on the deck…

From the day I got Cooper, I knew that he needed to stay intact (not neutered). At first, this was to allow his bones and joints to grow properly. But later, after he was diagnosed with Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, I kept him intact to protect his health. SLO is an immune-mediated disorder, and even though his veterinarians assured me that neutering would have no impact on his SLO, I felt strongly that he needed all the hormones his testicles produced to support his whole system. This became even more important to me when he started treatment for low thyroid.

But then we got Carlin, an energetic, impolite, untutored, and rambunctious puppy boy. Carlin wanted so badly to be friends with Cooper, but Cooper was having none of it. He made it clear that he wanted that puppy to go away, and as soon as possible. Cooper attacked Carlin several times, frightening all of us. And once Carlin grew stronger and bigger enough, he attacked Cooper, giving him puncture wounds on the neck.

We tried everything: talking to his breeders, getting the dogs checked out by their veterinarians, consulting two behaviorists several times, adding more discipline and impulse control exercises to their training, and even giving them flower essences and homeopathic remedies. We tried keeping the two dogs separated, but this made none of us happy. We also sent Carlin away to a trainer for a couple of months, hoping that he’d mature and things would calm down.

But nothing worked. Cooper wanted Carlin to go away. It came down to this choice: find Carlin a new home or get Cooper neutered.

Twice I called Carlin’s breeders to tell them that we needed to re-home Carlin. And twice I backed out. Carlin is an affectionate, friendly dog who actually shows some talent for obedience work. He’s beautiful. He’s not the compulsive retriever that Cooper was, and he’s not as good a bird-finder as Tooey, but he hunts and enjoys it, and will make a good hunting dog. I knew that Cooper, and then Tooey, would retire from hunting at some point, and now seemed to be the best time to get another dog ready to fill that role. I couldn’t give Carlin up.

So that left neutering Cooper. Just about everyone recommended it, and we didn’t know what else to try. So even though I knew in my heart that Cooper needed to stay intact to support his health, I had him neutered. I satisfied my own wants at the expense of Cooper’s needs. I brushed off the warnings in my own heart, and convinced myself that somehow I could have both.

Life is hardly ever like that, where you can have two contradictory things at once. You have to choose. I chose, and based on the depth of my grief and guilt, I can see I made the wrong choice. And I made the wrong choice because I didn’t clearly realize what was most important to me.

Carlin would have been happy in another home. I could have gotten another puppy later. But Cooper is my heart dog and cannot be replaced.

And now he is gone.

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One piece of advice I got after Cooper died was to start some new activities and traditions. Do something that will make me happy because it makes my dogs happy. Do something that doesn’t carry memories of when I used to do that or go there with Cooper.

Sounded like good advice. So, inspired by last Friday’s training day, I went and got an inexpensive, bright orange, kayak.

Sunday morning, before it got all hot, we all went to the Sauvie Island dog training area, hoping to find enough water to kayak in. It’s been very hot, and we didn’t get any of our usual June rains. So we weren’t surprised that the usual smaller training ponds were completely dry. But there is a larger lake inside the dog training area that we thought we’d try.

Too bad it didn’t occur to me to check out the name of that lake: Mud Lake.

Muddy and mucky it was. Even though I tried to pole they kayak out several yards to what I hoped were deeper waters, I never did get into waters where I could float, much less where the dogs could swim – in fact, they never got deeper than running through really muddy muck.

Then we tried another lake. It was a little deeper. I slogged several yards away from shore, pushing the kayak along, the muck almost sucking my sandals off my feet with every step. Finally, I hit some float-able water, but no matter how far away from shore I got, the dogs never did find anything deep enough to actually swim in. (Although they did get a mud pack beauty treatment.)

After just a few minutes, we packed up everything and left.

So disappointing.

And then Russ mentioned this spot he remembered where we might be able to find some deeper water. So we turned around and found a low bank where we could put into to the river. The river was definitely deeper. When we stayed in near shore, there was an eddy where I could paddle slowly and the dogs could swim. When we got out farther, the current was swift enough that it took some doing to not simply float away downstream.

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Trice in the kayak, Carlin and Tooey in the water

Trice and Tooey swimming in the river

Trice and Tooey

But even so, it was like heaven. Before last Friday, I hadn’t been on a boat for years, and that session was way too short. So on Sunday, floating on the water, watching my water-loving dogs play and swim, run around on the bank, and then jump back into the water — I loved every single second, and they did, too. They both slept soundly all the way home.

I hope we can do it again very soon.

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