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Archive for the ‘Stanegate Second Thoughts’ Category

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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While Russ and Carlin were in one field practicing retriever work, Tooey and I went for a walk.

The snow is low, having melted and frozen multiple times over the last several days. So I put my yaktrax on my boots, and we set off.

Since we were at a state park, there are no guns or shooting allowed. And it’s not mourning dove season. Which is why, when Tooey flushed up a dove from the falling-over cattails along the path, I had to disappoint her. She just looked at me like, “Mom? I did my part. What up with you?”

I could only shrug. But it was a great walk in the bright sun and blue sky.

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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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