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Archive for the ‘Realta Rosario Cooper’ Category

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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