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Archive for the ‘water dog’ Category

One of our favorite training grounds is St. Louis Ponds, south of Portland, Oregon. In addition to the ponds and the hundreds of acres available to practice field work, there are a few extra delights this time of year. In the back corner of the park, we came across an old pear tree full of ripe fruit. After a hot morning of retrieving birds and swimming, a piece of juicy ripe fruit is just what an Irish Water Spaniel wants.

May I have another please?

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I will work for pears

A balanced diet is what is best for an active field dog. So after pears, maybe it’s time for an August blackberry dessert.

Yummmm.

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Blackberries for a second course

Also in this far corner of the park is a pond that brings back fond memories. This is where Cooper revealed his passion for water, jumping, and retrieving. The masthead banner of the Cooper Project (see top of this page) is Cooper leaping into this pond. I made this image on July 4, 2008. Here is the uncropped version:

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A young Cooper (17 months) doing what he loved

So here we were, 8 years and one month later, with our current IWS, Tooey and Carlin. From the very location where I shot the image of Cooper in 2008, I made this short slo-mo video of Tooey and Carlin making enthusiastic but less dramatic entries into the same pond, lowered several feet by the July and August heat.

Life is good.

 

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After a warm early morning of practicing steady to shot and steady to wing with Carlin, we decided to reward everybody with a nice swim and paddle in the river. We had a peaceful shady spot, with an easy calm current made by the ocean’s tide pushing against the river. The air was increasingly warm, but the water was cool. The photo below shows how beautiful it was, with me and the dogs only about 25 yards offshore at the edge of the channel, me in my 8-foot orange kayak, the dogs out swimming around with me.

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We’d been paddling around for a while, Tooey swimming steadily in her usual trolling-motor style and Carlin launching himself into the water from the shore. And then I saw the Sheriff, motoring toward us in his in his skiff. Uh oh. What were we doing wrong?

My first thought was that his issue was the dogs. I turned to Russ and asked if he wanted to put them up in the car. But they were out in the river happily swimming around in circles, and while I could paddle out and herd them in, I didn’t think I could do it before the Sheriff arrived. And besides, Russ said no — we had our permit, not to worry.

Slowly the Sheriff inched closer. He was being careful. By this time, there were several fishing boats trolling or anchored already out in the middle of the channel, filled with people trying to stay cool on what promised to be a day with temperatures in the triple-digits.

Finally, he got close enough to shout. I didn’t hear him, and both Russ and I cupped hands around our ears, and shouted back, “What?”

“How long is your boat?” he wanted to know. Boat? I thought. Oh…, boat! Not the dogs. Whew!

Now, spatial relations is not my strong suit. I’m the gal who bought nine bags of ice to fill a cooler that turned out to hold only three bags. So I guessed, “12 feet.” At the same time, Russ shouted, “8 feet.” Russ and I looked at each other. I clamped my mouth shut, and Russ said again, “8 feet.”

The Sheriff nodded, touched his hat, and motored away.

Turns out that he’d noticed we didn’t have a registration sticker on our kayak. That’s OK for 8 foot boats, but definitely not legal for 12 foot boats.

By then, the river was definitely getting crowded. We watched the Sheriff rescue one boat that seemed to be disabled. We noticed that the numbers of jet skis was increasing, as was the number of boats trailing fishing hooks and lines. Time to pack it up and go home.

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Russ built this boat for Cooper. When we were choosing our dog, we wanted one who would love the water and who would go on our boat with us. It’s just that Cooper left us before the boat was finished. So the job of inaguarating our boat, the Spainnear Uisce, fell to Tooey and Carlin.

And they both reminded us today that we are novices at this whole dogs-and-boats thing.

First, we didn’t consider that some dogs aren’t always thrilled with the sounds of an outboard motor or the tippiness of boats. Tooey was fine, but Carlin was a touch nervous. But finally, when he realized that he could look out the window and sniff all the strange and wonderful scents off the water, he was fine.

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Our plan had been to start out by boating out to an island in the Columbia river and pull into a small marina that was adjacent to a park.

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There were some other folks there (not surprising on a holiday weekend), but that didn’t stop us from also following the middle part of our plan, which was to let the dogs out for a swim and a run-around. The dogs loved that part. They ran up and down the beach, Carlin mostly with a bumper in his mouth (I think he kept it there primarily to keep it away from Tooey, who did snatch it away from him once or twice). They swam and ran around, swam and ran around, drank some river water, and swam some more. Tooey is the real water hound — she loves to be in it whenever possible. And she loves to drink whatever she’s swimming in.

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We returned to the boat, got some pictures in, pulled some grass awns from the dogs’ feet, and enjoyed sitting around enjoying the scenery. Tooey was happy to star in a photo or two.

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But she really didn’t want to be in the cabin with us. She wanted out. Probably, we thought, just to run on the beach some more, and swim.

Finally, we decided it was time to execute the remaining part of our plan, which was to leisurely circumnavigate another island before turning back to return to the boat dock. It was early afternoon yet. We had lots of time.

The dogs, especially Tooey, seemed to be a bit agitated, but finally, they both relaxed and acted like they’d been in boats their whole lives.

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Here is where the next lesson came in. I’m not sure if this was simple naivete on our part, or some kind of plan by the Irish boat gods to remind us who is in charge. We had never really christened the boat except with a few meager drops of Scotch whiskey, and I think that must have been our undoing. Because apparently the aforesaid gods decided to use an Irish dog to teach us a lesson in properly anointing a boat given an Irish name.

We got underway, and were out in the middle of the navigation channel when Tooey started to moan. Uh oh. That was clear enough. She had to pee. So we turned immediately back toward the boat dock, figuring we’d make it in time. Tooey has been known to hold it all day and all night before, so we weren’t too worried. But then the moaning got louder and more insistent. We cranked up the speed.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to either of us to just let her out of the cabin and into the cockpit. That’s all just fiberglass back there. But we didn’t, and finally she couldn’t stand it anymore. She hopped into the farthest reaches of the boat she could get into and let go. And what was that space? The V-berth in the cuddy cabin, where someday soon we hope to sleep overnight in our new boat.

Poor Tooey. She was not at all happy with peeing indoors, and she just couldn’t help it. What’s a girl to do after having tried to drink half the Columbia River?

Fortunately, we’d covered the V-berth with an old flannel sheet, which soaked up quite a bit. But not all.

It’ll be all right. The mattress cover is removable and washable, and I had almost a whole gallon of Nature’s Miracle to spray on the mattress and the cover. And we learned a lesson. When the girl wants out, figure out a way to let her go. And make sure to find a way to christen your boat properly, or else.

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On Sunday morning, just very briefly, there was a tiny break in the pouring rain. Portland, actually most of western Washington and Oregon, has been having more than a week of record-breaking rain. Just taking the dogs for a short potty run will get a person soaked through to the skin. Ponds and waterfalls have sprouted up where normally you wouldn’t see much water at all.

So anyway, Sunday. After all this time stuck in the house or out for relatively tame leashed walks on the city sidewalks, both dogs were ready for a run. So we ventured out to a dog park, even though we knew that many people would probably be taking advantage of the break in the weather to visit that same park.

There were. But fortunately, most people were trying to keep their dogs out the of the temporary ponds. Not us. We know better. We have Irish WATER Spaniels.

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The ball is up there!

We tried briefly to do some training, but cabin fever had struck both dogs and discipline went out the window. OK. Oh well. We’ll just chuck the ball and get the dogs some exercise.

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Happy 7th Birthday, Tooey!

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Tooey at 7

Today Tooey turns 7 years old. As you can see, she is still her beautiful self, still scanning tree branches for squirrels, still living enjoying her life with a quiet zest.

It’s been a relatively quiet year for Tooey. She’s no longer competing in any obedience, hunting, or conformation activities (although we may get that last Barn Hunt leg next year and possibly I may show her in the Veterans class at the next Specialty), so the training she does is in the living room, just for fun.

Tooey spent many days in the car and motel rooms traveling this year — Montana for hunting training and hunting, southern California to accompany Carlin to his hunt test, Colorado for a visit to family and day of hunting. She’s a very good traveler. Her only request is to go swimming whenever we’re near a river or pond. That was totally doable on day trips to the Willamette River or the Pacific ocean, in the Missouri and Marias Rivers on the trip to Montana, and in the ponds in southern California. But it’s not so fine when the Colorado River is many yards down a steep bank and behind a fence.

Tooey and Trice

She’s still our best hunter, finding birds in the field with no help from us and retrieving to hand the ones we bring down. She got birds in Montana this year, adding a new state to her list (California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, plus British Columbia). And along those lines, since she’s ever the beautiful photo model, another photo of Tooey (and Cooper) was published in December, just after her last birthday. The photo accompanied an article written by Russ (and translated into German) about hunting with spaniels in North America.

First page in the article about hunting with spaniels in North America

First page in the article about hunting with spaniels in North America

For 5 minutes every morning, before I get out of bed, we cuddle, her lying on my chest licking my face, me trying to breathe and stroking her head. She loves her daily walks and trips to the park, which for her are mostly sniffing and critter-finding expeditions — I mean, why rush? Mostly her day is spent keeping Carlin in line and playing with him when she feels like it (which is not that often now that he’s bigger and stronger).

It’s also been a tough year for Tooey. She lost Cooper, a constant source of adoration and the friend who loved her more than anything (except possibly the opportunity to retrieve). She was sad about that for many weeks. And she had surgery to removed a mammary gland for a biopsy of what we were afraid was cancer. (It wasn’t.)

But even so, life is good, and we’re looking forward to many more happy years with Tooey.

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Cooper was the retriever of the family. He’d retrieve anything, anywhere, for as long as you’d throw something. He lived to retrieve. Even on his last evening, he was retrieving.

Tooey will retrieve, especially if she’s going after birds on a hunting trip, but she’s never really enjoyed retrieving for the fun of it. It’s part of her job as a hunting dog, but not something she would recommend one do for fun.

Unless we’re at the beach.

Today, while Russ and Carlin are out hunting birds in Montana, I took Tooey out west to the beach. This particular spot is divided by a river, with a long sandy beach along the ocean. It’s a beach Tooey knows, and was the spot where she first saw and swam in the ocean.

As soon as she hopped out of the car, she knew exactly where she was. Tooey does not usually pull on the leash, but today was an exception. This is the beach and it’s time to go swimming!

Tooey_LeapingGood thing I brought the wubba along. We got to the river bank first, and she started barking at me. Throw it! Throw it!

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After about 45 minutes of solid toss-retrieve, toss-retrieve, we moved on the the ocean with its waves and swells.

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There I threw that wubba for another solid 1-1/2 hours. She brought it to me, and then ran back out into the surf, waiting for me to throw it again. She loves the surf, and when particularly big waves came rolling in, she’d crash through them, grab the wubba, and then body surf her way back in to shore. People would stop to watch, ask me what kind of dog she is, and smile at her obvious joy.

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After about 2-1/2 hours of solid wubba-throwing, I was tired and hungry. Time to go get some lunch and then home for a bath before dark. But you can bet Tooey didn’t want to leave. If she could speak, I know she would have been channeling her inner Cooper, saying, “Oh, do we have to leave? Can’t you throw it one more time?”

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This morning turned out way better than yesterday morning.

Yesterday morning, we loaded up early to get out training before it hit 99 degrees F. Winger, birds, training bag, dogs all ready to head out to the St. Louis Ponds training grounds. We got there nice and early, only to discover that the place was crawling with dogs and their people for a retriever hunt test.

Oops. Can’t train there.

So we turned around and headed out to the training grounds on Sauvie Island. We had our dog training permit and parking pass along with us, so that seemed all good. It’s just that after an hour driving down to St. Louis Ponds, and an hour and a half back up to Sauvie Island, the temperature had zoomed up into the humid mid-80s.

We trained anyway. Tooey did a fine job doing her “hunt dead”, looking for a pheasant hidden about 45 yards out away from Russ. But poor Carlin, who really doesn’t handle heat very well, had a hard time keeping his mind on the job. On his second marked retrieve, he ran out just fine to pick up the bird, but rather than coming right back to me, he headed off across the field toward the bowl of water and the shade of the car. I coaxed him back to me, but it wasn’t pretty. That’s about all we got done before the temps hit the upper 80s and we decided to call it a day.

So, today, we left even earlier and headed straight to Sauvie Island. By the time we set up, it was in the mid-70s and humid again, so this time, I started Carlin in the shade, so that he’d want to come back to me with his bird. Russ threw two single retrieves. Carlin was nice and steady at the line, ran straight out, hunted around a bit, got each of his two birds, and brought them back to within about 5 feet of me before he sat, holding his bird. I called him to my side, and thankfully, he held onto his bird even while moving into heel position.

Tooey didn’t particularly want to do her hunt dead this morning. Way too many delectable cow pies to distract her from on her out to the bird. But with some help, she finally did it. And Carlin did a nice short sight blind, too.

So with that good work, we decided to reward ourselves with a trip to the river. We’d brought the kayak just in case, and sure enough, the spot we found a couple of weeks ago was open, just waiting for two panting dogs and their people. The tide was going out, and that made the current decidedly swift, so we stayed in the eddy that curled along the bank. Even so, the dogs got in lots of leaping, splashing, and swimming.

The sound on the video is odd. Because the video is in slow motion, the sound of my voice is distorted. It sounds to me like there is a monster advancing onto the innocent party of dogs. But even so, what a delight! Look at how beautifully Carlin drives off the edge of the bank and reaches way out on his way to the water’s surface. And Tooey, throwing herself with abandon into her favorite element, the water. At the beginning of the video, Carlin looks to Tooey, “wanna jump?” and at the end they look at each other, “wanna do it again?”

Yes. Yes we do.

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