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Archive for the ‘Stanegate Second Thoughts’ Category

Last summer, Tooey found and sampled almost all the ripe melons before we had a chance to harvest them. We just got used to eating around the bites she’d taken.

She’d pick one up, take it to a nice shady spot, and have a snack. If it it wasn’t quite ripe enough for her, she’d retrieve another.

Carlin got into the act, too. He liked cucumbers and lettuce.

So this year, when we replaced the old rotting raised beds with new sheet metal ones, we decided we’d build a fence around them to keep the dogs out. Or we hope it’ll keep them out anyway. They’re not particularly enterprising thieves. For example, they haven’t bothered to figure out how to open the cabinet where the kitchen garbage is kept, and they don’t counter surf (at least yet).

Once we get the gate installed (it wasn’t in yet at the time of the photos below), we hope the fence will be sufficient to keep them out.

But then we caught them casing the situation, so you never know what will happen once the scent of ripe cantaloupes and cucumbers starts floating through the air.

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Think large, raw link sausages. Thick, fully packed, almost to bursting. That’s how Tooey’s lower intestines looked on the X-ray.

I’d known she was feeling bad for a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. She was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, and sleeping just fine. But she didn’t quite run as fast as I thought she used to, and she just didn’t seem to enjoy the things she usually enjoyed. Like, she could hardly have cared less about finding her rat in a couple of Barn Hunt practices, and she totally didn’t care during the Barn Hunt trial in late March. When I took her out to a friend’s ranch, she didn’t critter at all, just kind of moped along as we walked.

Then I felt her abdomen, and one side felt enlarged and firm, in a soft sort of way. I had my friend Jan feel it too, and she said, “Take her to the vet tomorrow.”

So I did.

Honestly, I was afraid — I was afraid that Tooey had cancer. The vet listened to me and examined Tooey, and suggested X-rays to take a look at the soft tissue. So that’s what we did.

Turns out, Tooey’s intestines were so full of poop that the vet couldn’t see any organs at all. Tooey was constipated. Which is odd, since I’d been picking up poop every day.

So I fasted Tooey for 24 hours (oh, she hated that!), and took her back to the vet again the next day for new X-rays. This time things looked much better. Only about a 1/3 of her intestines were full, and the vet could see that her organs looked fine. The spleen she described as “prominent”, but not enlarged, so that’s worth watching, but nothing to worry about.

But Tooey still wasn’t feeling well. So the vet did another quick exam, and found a broken upper molar. It hadn’t been stopping Tooey from eating, but it must have hurt. It also could have been infected and abscessed. So I gave the go-ahead to have the tooth pulled.

While Tooey’s tooth was being extracted, the vet found two more broken teeth, another upper molar and a lower pre-molar. So those were pulled, too.

We went home with a prescription for pain pills, antibiotics, and direction for adding more blended veggies to Tooey’s diet.

I have to say, that after just few day, Tooey is much perkier. I even found her crittering in the woodpile. So I know she’s feeling much happier.

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It was a busy weekend with the dogs. Russ took Carlin out spanieling on Saturday, and on Sunday I took Tooey to Barn Hunt practice and Carlin to Scentwork practice.

Russ said Carlin did everything perfectly spaniel-wise. The grey, snowy weather didn’t trip him up, and he didn’t forget anything, even though he hadn’t been practicing spaniel work since last fall. He found his birds, sat after flushing them, stayed sitting while one flew away and the others were brought down, retrieved the downed ones, and delivered them to hand.

Apparently, Carlin’s work finding birds was better than Russ’s work bringing them down, but as I wasn’t there, so I can’t say.

Anyway, Sonya Holcomb took some photos, for which I am grateful.

Carlin waiting his turn to hunt — photo by Sonya Holcomb

Carlin staying steady in the field watching his flushed bird fly away — photo by Sonya Holcomb

Carlin delivering his bird — photo by Sonya Holcomb

There are no photos of Sunday’s practices, as there were no photographers to hand and I was busy handling my dogs.

On Sunday morning, Tooey was a bit off on her rat hunting. I actually began to wonder if she was feeling well. She was way slower than normal — if the practice runs had been at a trial, she’d have qualified in only one run, which was just two seconds under the time limit (2 minutes 30 seconds for the Open level). And she did something she’s never done before — indicated a tube that didn’t have a rat in it. Very odd. She indicated that same tube (but not any other non-rat tube) in both runs 2 and 3. The woman playing judge said she thought Tooey was treating this non-rat tube differently from the tubes with a rat in them, but agreed that it was a subtle difference.

But in all three runs, she happily went through a longer-than-usual tunnel without being asked, and she was happy to climb the hay bales. So — not a total loss. I do wonder how she and I will perform in a couple weeks at the Valley Barn Hunt trials in Kuna, Idaho. I guess we’ll see, as Sunday’s practice was the last one before the trial.

Carlin did really, really well at his Sunday afternoon scentwork. He stayed mostly calm (except when a pug, dressed in a lumpy yellow coat with a floppy hood, walked by — obviously, this was an alien being that needed warning off). Staying calm around other dogs is his challenge, so I was happy with his demeanor overall.

I am often amazed at that dog’s nose. He found all his hidden odors — small containers of birch essential oil buried in the dirt, lying along the railroad tracks, tucked up high in a door jamb, behind an electric meter, and under a wooden pallet. He even found a container with clove essential oil, stuck up above his head on a fence post. I haven’t trained him to find clove, so he got rewarded big time when he found and indicated that one.

All in all, a very happy weekend. Both dogs ate their dinner and zonked out — Carlin curled up on the grass in the backyard kennel and Tooey inside on her dog bed.

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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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Tooey has long reigned supreme at the center of the universe, and finally now we have documented proof.

photo illustration by Russ Dodd

Of course, Russ did help reality along a bit with some creative photography and photoshop wizardry, but we won’t tell.

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Today we had the great good fortune to visit with Linda and one of Tooey’s puppies, Finn, the former Mr Green (Tooey x JJ). Finn is a delightful dog, very friendly and affectionate. Although… not with Tooey so much. He kept just barking at her until finally she showed her teeth and snapped at the air next to his face. Maybe kinda sorta like a mom would do with an unruly puppy.

Once that little bit of correction was in place, we were able to get a photo of Tooey and Finn together. And then, once Tooey was escorted to the car, we were able to get a shot of Finn himself.

Just for comparison, here’s a photo Linda sent us just over 4 years ago, just after getting Finn home.

Now, here are mother and son today.

And here’s the boy himself, years later.

I don’t think they look much alike, except for the widow’s peak at their foreheads, similarly shaped eyes, and their horizontal mutton chops (Tooey’s are currently clipped off). Their heads, coats, and body shape are quite different.

But Finn has something that Tooey doesn’t have. Something Tooey would dearly love to have. Finn has a cockatiel roommate. Whenever the bird chirped or squeaked (just like a squeaky toy), Tooey ran over to the bird’s cage and just stared at the bird, eyes shining. You could just see the speech bubble over her head: “A bird! They have a bird! Oh, I want a bird!”

Finally, we pulled ourselves away and drove home, us to be grateful to puppy people who invite us in for awhile, and Tooey to dream of birds.

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My faithful photographer was off training Carlin this morning, so the photos I have are sans dog. But these photos are two views of the Open-level Barn Hunt course that Tooey and I practiced on today.

The hardest part of today’s course was, as always, the tunnel. For the Open level, the tunnel is 4 hay bale widths long, and in the middle, it takes a right-angle turn. So going in, the dog sees no light at the end of said tunnel. Plus, the tunnels are only 1 hay bale width high, shorter than Tooey is tall.

Tooey had two runs. In both, she found her two rats with no trouble, and didn’t hesitate to jump up on the bales to see if the rats were hidden up there.

This is good. At last practice, she searched the ground, but didn’t seem to think that there would be any elevated rats. This time, she remembered that rats could be up off the ground.

But taking the tunnel is still not a sure thing. On her first run, she squeezed herself through so nicely that I thought she’d gotten the concept. On the second run, though, she’d stick her head in the entrance, but didn’t proceed.

So, the woman playing judge planted a tube with a rat in it right at the end of the tunnel. And when Tooey was in half way, I hurried to the other end with liver treats to reward her with. Plus praise. Lots and lots of praise.

So I call this a great practice. She’s not ready to compete yet, but we’re getting there.

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