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Archive for the ‘Realta’s Carlin O’Whistlestop’ Category

One of my earliest memories of Carlin is his trying to get Cooper to play with him. He’d grab one of Cooper’s rubber balls, put it on the ground several feet away, and push it toward Cooper with his nose. He did that over and over, but it never worked.

It broke a place in my heart. Carlin so admired Cooper, but Cooper never would have anything pleasant to do with the upstart brat.

So, last night, years later, when Carlin started that game up with me, that little place in my heart started to heal.

For many years, I’ve been asking Carlin to give me his ball so I could throw it for him. I don’t demand it. It’s not the same thing as throwing a bumper. The bumpers are mine, and when I throw or hide them, Carlin must return them to me.

The many rubber and plastic balls, however, belong to Carlin. I never force him to give me his ball, but occasionally, if I find one near my feet, I’ll throw it.

Then about a week ago, I changed something. It used to be that when I came home, Carlin would run off to grab a ball to show me. He’d parade it around, prancing with his head and tail up, for all the world a sign that says “Look at what I have!”

Several days ago, I just started trotting after him, not trying to overtake him, or catch him, or take his ball — just follow him.

Eventually, after leading me around in circles and figure-8s around the furniture, he’d flop down on his dog bed and let the ball fall out of his mouth. Whereapon, I’d grab it up and toss it for him.

Then last night, I was sitting on the living room floor watching a new Netflix series, and Carlin put his ball on the ground, and nudged it toward me with his nose. I tossed it, he ran to get it, and then lay down on his bed again.

Then, a few minutes later, I saw the ball rolling toward me again.

This time, I stood up, asked him for a Twirl (move in a counter-clockwise circle), and then threw the ball.

Same routine again, except this time I asked him for a Spin (clockwise circle). And again with a Sit, again with a Down at a distance, and lastly with a Heel Backwards along the wall.

I have no idea if this game will go on, or whether it was a one-time fluke. But I had a fabulous time, and I think Carlin did, too.

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We have discovered, through our experience with Cooper, that male Irish Water Spaniels don’t fully mature until they are 4 years old. Today, Carlin is now a Man-Dog.

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His birthday portrait also resurrects another tradition that fell by the wayside, which is an annual portrait of our pups.

Compared to Cooper and Tooey, our photo attention towards Carlin has been limited to being in the field with just an iPhone. He has spent little time in the studio compared to Coop and Miss Tooey. The last studio shot I made of this boy was for his 1st birthday.

And here is his first formal portrait at 5 months.

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Carlin at age 5 months

So happy 4th birthday, Carlin. And many more returns of the day.

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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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The center of the universe last Sunday was a local Idaho state park. Carlin and his retriever training buddies use it regularly to train, alongside the walkers, trackers, disc golfers, horse riders, drone fliers, hay mowers, metal detectors, and other folks.

It’s a busy place, but on this weekend morning, Russ was able to capture a panorama of the field that made it look empty. Except for Carlin, who like all of us, is in the center of his own universe.

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The upland hunting season in Idaho wraps up in 3 days (December 31). So between snow storms and in freezing weather, Carlin and I went out for possibly the last time this year looking for some pheasants. With a few inches of snow on the ground left over from Christmas day, and the mercury slightly above 20°, we spent the morning along the Payette River in SW Idaho.

There was not much activity. As we were gradually heading back to where we were parked, I heard a rooster cackle several hundred yards away and saw it flush out of some cattails in front of another hunting party. The flush was so far out ahead of them and their dogs that they never took a shot.

Because it was out of range for the other hunting party and it was headed my way from my right, I stood by until it was past my left (fair game etiquette). It covered the distance quickly and zoomed in between Carlin and myself.

As the rooster cruised about 10 feet off the ground, I made a passing shot and watched it tumble across a small ditch of moving water and into some cover about 50 yards away. Carlin, however, was fixated on the other hunting party and never saw the bird or my shot.

I called him in to me and then sent him on a classic “dead bird” drill. He crossed the stream with a leap and up the bank toward the bird. With only one “over” cast from me, Carlin headed into the cover straight to the bird. On the return trip he hesitated at the creek (deciding to jump or wade), but with the bird in his mouth he wisely chose the latter. Moments later, he delivered the bird to hand.

And that is why we train our dogs.

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Carlin delivering his bird near the banks of the Payette River

 

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A sunny November day in Southwest Idaho is by definition a perfect day to go chasing pheasants with your dog. Today, Carlin was up for the task, so we headed to an area along the Payette River near the micro-town of New Plymouth. The area we hunted was along the flood plain of the river. It was laced with ponds, ditches, cattails, and other terrain that provides good cover for upland birds.

Carlin took about 20 minutes of covering ground when he got birdy. I watched him study an area of cover and then visually track something in the grasses. In he dove and out came a rooster pheasant.

Now one might assume that having observed Carlin’s behavior that I would have been ready with my gun. The bird came right at me and over my head, but I totally missed it with both shots. At least it got Carlin jazzed up about finding birds.

A short time later, he was out ahead of me walking a ditch line where he flushed up another rooster. This one didn’t have a chance, and I dropped it right back into the ditch. Carlin got his first water retrieve of the season with a gorgeous bird that will be on our dinner table within a day or two.

He was quite proud of the find and retrieve. He shows this pride by willing pose for the camera and waiting to hand off the bird until our short photo session was over.

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We’ve lived in Boise for a year now (already!), but we still haven’t done much exploring of the state. So yesterday, we took the opportunity to drive through the countryside and meet some new dog folks.

The trip to Council, Idaho took just over 2.5 hours. Council isn’t quite that far from Boise, but Ann and Gary live about a few miles from there, all on gravel roads. We took the I-84 route for speed, but if we’d had the time, I’d have preferred the route through New Plymouth and Payette, as it’s just plain prettier than the interstate.

But we got there, and met the folks, their guests, and their myriad dogs, mostly a collection of Cesky Fousek (Chess-key Foe-sek). These dogs, also known in the USA as Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, are a coarse-coated versatile hunting breed, developed in the Czech Republic. According to what we’ve read and people we’ve talked to, the Fouseks retrieve happily and love water, as well as point.

They certainly seem suited to Idaho, particularly with that wirehaired coat. Sure, they picked up a few seeds and cockle burrs as they roamed Ann and Gary’s property, but the debris just pulled right out, with very little effort.

Their dogs seemed just like descriptions of the breed that I’d read: friendly, happy, and very responsive to their people.

We brought Tooey and Carlin with us, and they, along with two Cesky Fousek and one Cairn Terrier, went for a nice long walk through the fields, into a pond, and then, to Tooey’s delight, to the Weiser River, where they all (except the Cairn) went swimming and retrieved sticks.

It was a great day. I know that because we were all tired when we got home, and ready for some hot tea and early bed. Of course, that was delayed for an hour or so, because unlike the Fouseks, the two IWS had to be brushed and combed to get all the debris out of their coats.

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