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Archive for the ‘Stanegate Second Thoughts’ Category

Ms Tooey is good bird dog, but she has always been a good critter dog, too. Critters are anything that loosely fall into the rodent category, ranging from field mice to porcupines. It doesn’t matter if they live in trees or underground; all are fair game for her.

Patrice has even put a Barn Hunt title on this girl because of her distinct talent for ferreting out rodents (appropriate verb even if she isn’t a weasel).

Currently, our new home in Boise has enough tree squirrels to keep both Tooey and Carlin busy and vigilant. They spend several hours everyday laying in wait underneath a lilac bush as a brace of squirrel predators. This lilac bush is strategically placed next to one our neighbor’s sheep pens where corn and other feed is bait for squirrels. From their hideout, the pups can scan the fence line and trees for any incoming marauders.

So it was a bit unusual when Tooey started sniffing the dirt at the back fence last night. She would not leave one specific area and then started digging at the base of the fence. She even got Carlin interested, and the two of them alternated pounding on the fence with digging at the base. She was so persistent that we had to drag her inside last night, as she would not leave the fence line or respond to a verbal recall. We were puzzled because on the back side of the fence is a neighbors’ decorative fountain, with no indication of rodents, just the sound of trickling water.

This morning she made a bee-line to the spot and started digging again.

Our neighbor decided to check out a small space between his fountain and the fence with a flashlight. He subsequently retrieved a fermenting squirrel that, based on rigor mortis, had only been there for less than 24 hours. Fortunately, his discovery saved Tooey the burden of ripping off fence boards and digging a trench. (She was told to “leave it”, yet she persisted.)

As soon as the critter was disposed of, and Tooey confirmed that there was nothing of interest behind the fence, she returned to her post under the lilac.

Barn Huntress Most Excellent . . .

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I worried about what I was planning to do for days ahead of time. I had bad dreams. My lower intestinal tract was worried, too. I knew there were good reasons for doing it, but I didn’t want to.

I don’t want to hurt or frighten my dogs, especially on purpose. But there are rattlesnakes around here. There are rattlesnakes right behind my employer’s building. People have seen them on roads out of town. Apparently this a bumper year for gophers, ground squirrels, and whistle pigs, so with all that food and the early hot weather, the rattlesnakes are out in force.

And what I might do to teach my dogs to avoid rattlesnakes would hurt them less than if they went on a summer hike or early season hunt trip, and got bitten by a rattlesnake.

So Russ and I took both dogs to the Rattlesnake Avoidance Training put on by the Idaho Humane Society and the Idaho Chukar Foundation.

We signed up for the earliest time they had. I hoped to avoid too many crowds and hot weather. But even so, there were lots and lots of people there. (It appears they had capacity for about 250 dogs, I’m guessing.) The photo below doesn’t begin to show how many people were at this beautiful park to teach their dogs about rattlesnakes.

They had 7 trainer stations where trainers met handler and their dogs, and talked with them about any exposure the dog might have had already with an e-collar, snakes, or previous training. They also explained how the training would be run.

They also explained that the dogs would be exposed to bull snakes on the course, which look and behave almost like a rattlesnake but don’t have rattles and are not venomous. When the dog looked at, stepped on, touched, or investigated a snake, the trainer would activate the e-collar to simulate the sharp pain of a snake bite.

Then one at a time, a trainer/handler/dog team went through the course to help the dog learn to recognize the sight, smell, and sound of a rattlesnake.

The course had 5 snake stations:

  • Stations 1, 2, and 3 had a bull snake. These would teach the dog about the sight and smell of a rattlesnake.
  • Station 4 had a bull snake and a sound maker to simulate the sound of a rattle rattling. These would introduce sound, along with the sight and smell.
  • Station 5 had a plastic snake and a sound maker to simulate the sound of a rattle rattling. This would remove the smell element, but keep sight and sound.

Each station also had a snake handler to keep the snakes safe. But even so, the snakes were being handled more than they’d like, and they were not happy about it. There was a lot of writhing, tail flicking, and lifting of heads.

Russ took Carlin through first. My photos did not turn out well — my shutter finger was way too slow. But then I took Tooey through, and Russ took photos. In the pictures below, Tooey had been through three stations already, and really begun to get that rattlesnakes are not our friends.

The snake is lying at the base of the tree, on the right side, along with the noise maker. The snake handler is peeking out from the left side.

We hadn’t even gotten that close to the snake, but Tooey, I think, had already gotten a whiff of it in the photo below.

By this photo, she’s heading off away from the snake.

At this point, my job was to run away from the snake with her, praising her for avoiding the snake. The trainer could see that she was reacting appropriately, and didn’t use the e-collar this time.

Carlin went through the training a second time. He’s usually quite soft, and those few times when we’ve used an e-collar on him, we haven’t needed to turn up the dial beyond the minimum. But in his first run through the training, he didn’t seem to get the point at all, so we ran him through again, this time using a higher setting.

You can see how close he got to the snake. Just before this photo, he looked at the snake and the trainer nicked him with the collar. He jumped away fast, and we both yelped. This snake was beginning to lift it’s head in a threatening posture. That scared me, adding to the reality of the simulation.

But the time we got to station 4, Carlin had figured it out like Tooey. He was already running away when I was just seeing it for the first time.

The trainers said that many dogs don’t need another session, that they get it after this training. But he also urged us to repeat the training on our own if (when?) we come across another snake. I hope that never happens. But we live in Idaho now, and rattlesnakes are our neighbors.

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Tooey is her own kind of bird dog. She knows how to get birds. She doesn’t need no stinking tests to prove that. She doesn’t need validation from the AKC (though she has it). She’s gotten birds in multiple states, including Montana, plus a Canadian province. And this recent trip to Montana just proved her out.

To keep her entertained on this trip, we entered Tooey at the Senior level at the two tests put on by the Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club. It’s just not fair to have to wait in the car the whole time while Carlin’s having all the fun.

So on Saturday, Russ took her out to the course set up for senior and master dogs. While the judges were giving instructions to Russ, Tooey was ignoring their comments and plotting out her own strategy. There are birds out there. They must be gotten, no matter what.

Tooey quartered methodically between the gunners, stopping and seriously inspecting every suspicious area where the wiley chukars might be hiding. She flushed her first chukar, which was out walking around in the low grass. That proved to be an easy shot and an easy retrieve. Pretty quickly, she got herself into some good cover.

And dove in to flush another bird.

Which was promptly shot at. It flew off, though, so Tooey needed to do a long retrieve. She needed no prompting, and off she went. And kept going. And kept going some more. She was gone so long that I thought the judge was going to call a “no bird”, but then we could all see Tooey in the distance, coming back in with a bird.

She handed the bird over to Russ, and the judges conferred a bit. Judges conferring is rarely a good thing, but they came to the conclusion that Tooey could keep going with the test. Apparently she came back just soon enough to not throw her out for not being under control.

And it was on to the hunt dead, which we seldom practice with Tooey. But she’s watched us work with Carlin, and she knew what to do. After all, it’s only about 45 yards away. Easy for a hunter like Tooey. She took the correct line, picked up the correct bird, and delivered it to hand.

So far, so good. Only one simple water retrieve left for her to do to get another Senior pass.

Well, at this point, her desire to play by the rules was waning. After all, rules can get in the way of efficient hunting and retrieving. Russ lined Tooey up on the bank of the slough, called for the bird. As soon as the bird hit the water, so did Tooey. Test over. Fail. Unfortunately, the rules require that a Senior dog stay steady at the water until sent. Tooey obviously thinks that this is a stupid rule. But she got her bird, and I don’t think it had even been in the water long enough to get very soggy.

The next day, I ran her. We didn’t think it could get too much worse. I guess, though, it depends on how you define “worse”.

She quartered very nicely, responding to my whistles quickly. She found and flushed her first bird, a chukar, in short order.

It flew, but the gunner missed. As the chuckar flew out of gun range, Tooey must have figured that if the gunner couldn’t do his job, she’d better go get that bird.

She ran off the course, and at some point, the judge told me “no bird”, so I attempted to whistle her back in. And I kept whistling as she disappeared hundreds of yards away and behind some trees. When she finally reappeared, she was carrying a chukar, which she delivered to hand.

I think at that point, the judges decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps being impressed by her long retrieve. So they gave us another chance at another bird.

Within just moments, she found and flushed a rooster pheasant. The same gunner who missed the chukar was unable to get a safe shot of the pheasant as it disappeared over the northeast horizon. The problem was that Tooey also disappeared over the northeast horizon in pursuit of the second get-away bird.

Again, another “no bird”. Again, Tooey did not respond to my whistles. We waited, but eventally, the judge politely excused me to go retrieve my dog so that they could continue the test for the next Senior dog.

I hiked north towards Canada, whistling for my missing dog. About 400 yards out, she reappeared, holding the live pheasant gently in her mouth. She delivered it to me, panting, with a few loose pheasant feathers hanging from her tongue. The pheasant seemed unfazed as I carried it back to the judges. When I handed it to the judge, I said, “I know there’s no ribbons, but here’s your bird.” The gunner came up and apologized for missing both birds.

But you know, I wasn’t mad. Tooey got her birds. She’s a good hunter. If you ever really need to get your bird, Tooey’s your girl.

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We’ve been trying to keep up Carlin’s spaniel training as best we can. Some in our yard, some at a local state park, and some on private land. This last has a pond and some irrigation canals, much to our relief and delight, so we go out there to train (and help train the landowner’s dogs) whenever we are invited.

Today we were invited. Fortunately, it was cloudy and cool so we didn’t have to worry about Carlin’s over-heating. He got in a little bit of steady training (butt to ground whenever the bird or bumper is thrown), but soon he got too smart for us. He figured out really quickly that at least one of us had a bird in hand, so instead of quartering between us looking for birds he knew weren’t there, he decided to just sit and wait for somebody to throw something. Darn it! It looked like such a fun drill when we watched an English Springer Spaniel do it yesterday.

Plus he did well on a couple of a couple of water blinds. One was across a shallow pond into the sage brush, and another was across two channels of an irrigation canal with a small island in between them.

Tooey always travels with us, so today we thought we’d give her a few water retrieves, too.

It wasn’t deep enough to swim in, but it wasn’t shallow enough to run in either. More like lunging water, rather than swimming or running water. She did an okay job, but with Tooey, you never know which dog is going to show up. Today, she was less than pleased with the well-used pheasants. In my defense, I have to say that the pheasants weren’t rotten. I’d gutted them, filled the cavities with expanding foam, and froze and thawed them several times. But they had lost a lot of feathers, and there was more skin showing that she (or I, for that matter) prefer.

But she did a very nice blind land retrieve, once she figured out I had a hunk of liver that I was willing to trade for a pheasant to hand.

All in all, it was a delightful morning. (And we hope at least somewhat entertaining for the cows, which you can see in the photo.)

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32 years ago, when we got our first dog, we knew nothing at all about dogs. We had to learn about house training, leash walking, crate training, basic obedience. One of the things we didn’t know is that many dogs can’t be just left outdoors all day long while the people are gone working. They can get into all sorts of mischief. They can dig under or jump over fences and escape. And they can bark or whine or howl (as one very patient neighbor finally pointed out).

I didn’t know that then, but I know it now. And if you can’t just leave them outside, you have to do something so that they can relieve themselves during the day.

I work a full workday, every week day. Fortunately, Russ works at home most of the time, so he can let the dogs out. But every once in a while, he has to travel to work. In Portland, we had a dog walker who came over at least once a week. He also walked the dogs when both Russ and I had to be away from the house all day.

So when we moved to Boise, we had to find a dog walker. Fortunately, we found a great one: Jordi at The Dog Walkin’ Divas. She’s reliable, has taught Carlin a few more leash-walking manners, thinks Tooey is beautiful, works us into her schedule if we have a last-minute emergency, and charges a fair rate.

But she also does something we haven’t had before. She sends us a text after each walk with a couple of maps that show where they went. Here’s a sample from one run with Carlin:

She also sends us photos from time to time of our dogs while they’re out walking (or not walking).

All in all, I’ve had a great experience with Jordi. And I know the dogs like it, too.

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We got Tooey some snow boots. When we go running around in the snow, the poor girl quickly gets these huge snow balls between her pads and between her toes, and she feels she must get the snow out right now. That means she’ll run 20 yards, stop and lie down to chew out the snow balls, run 20 more yards, stop again, etc., etc. No fun at all, especially since Mr. Carlin Hotfoot just runs and runs and runs in zigs and zags all around her.

So, boots. The ones we got fit her feet, but the front ones kept slipping down. We determined that the front boots needed to be taller and have another strap that would tie around above the carpal pad. So, Russ bought some matching ripstop, and I did some sewing.

Not quite as professional looking as the original boots, but they seem to work okay.

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Now she’s comfortable enough to zig in the show to Carlin’s zag.

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I think in the last several years, all the sewing I’ve done has been for the dogs. Dog rugs, holding blinds, snow boots. What’s next? Hmmm…. maybe some camo waterproof crate pads, like fellow IWS person, Ruth, makes.

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christmas_2016

Love,

Russ, Tooey, Patrice, and Carlin

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