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Archive for the ‘Stanegate Second Thoughts’ Category

Tooey turns 9 years old today. She didn’t get spiffed up as she would be for a show. She got her last bath on the day after Thanksgiving, and just a minor trim. She was probably last brushed about then, too.

Her muzzle is graying. Her coat, never a dark brown, has silvered a bit overall. She has slowed down a bit, but she still chases squirrels in the yard, even if Carlin gets there first.

And she still hunts for Russ, even if she’s gotten even more wilful about not returning when Russ calls her back. Her motto is: If the bird comes down, it must be retrieved, no matter what. Even if it has fallen on the other side of a river or a barbed wire fence.

She keeps us warm at night, retrieves the Sunday paper from the front end of the driveway in the morning, and patrols the property during the day.

And she’s the most beautiful Irish Water Spaniel I’ve ever seen.

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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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And the bed passed!

Let me explain. Russ and I have been sleeping in a queen size bed. And since we are the type of folks who allow the dogs on the furniture, we are often joined on the bed by one IWS. There’s room for only one IWS when both Russ and I are in it. Used to be that Tooey ruled that roost, but since we moved to Idaho, Carlin has been claiming that space. And amazingly enough, Tooey has let him do it.

But this last weekend, Russ finished building a beautiful new bed. And this one, given that we now have the room, is a king size bed. Totally big enough for two adults and two Irish Water Spaniels.

But still, Tooey hasn’t been willing to get on it while Carlin was up there.

In the middle of the night last night, though, we got lightning. Flashes of white that came through all the bedroom window blinds. And as usual, Tooey started barking at the lightning. I used to think that she was just mad and barked to tell the lightning off, like Cooper used to do. But last night, I thought, well, maybe she’s scared.

We have a thundershirt for her — a wrap that goes tightly around her chest and back. It has seemed to calm her in the past. But the thundershirt was stored away in an outbuilding, and I certainly didn’t want to wander outside in the middle of the night, in the middle of a lightning storm.

So I heaved Tooey up onto the bed next to me, and put my arm around her tightly, as if I were a human thundershirt. Thankfully, she stopped barking, letting out only a little growl or whine from time to time.

After a while, the lightning stopped. Tooey stayed alert for it for awhile. But finally, she stretched out and gave a long deep sigh, and we both joined Russ and Carlin in sleep.

So, it’s true, there’s plenty of room for two adults and two IWS to sleep comfortably on the beautiful new bed.

Now, if can just stop her from running through the flowers and dousing herself in pollen before bedtime…

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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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