Posts Tagged ‘conformation’

Carlin’s been in only a few conformation dog shows. I showed him when he was quite a young puppy, and again several months later. He has 1 point, won when Marty showed him up in Seattle a couple of months after that. But other than these, I haven’t shown him for two reasons: his skin/coat and his attitude.

The skin/coat issues started early. Carlin had no coat on his tail or throat when we got him, and then he suffered a series of skin infections that made his coat even worse. At one point, he had no coat at all on the back of his thighs, chest, stomach, throat and tail.

Now his chest and stomach coat, as well on his tail, is starting to come in. He still has little coat on his throat, and big bare patches on the backs of this thighs. Judges at three different shows have asked me about his coat, while today’s judge opined that Carlin must be bare on his thighs because “he’s been doing a little self grooming.” (The dog who won Winner’s Dog today, as well as Best of Breed, has a beautiful coat and was well handled by a pro.)

So. Coat not great.

But his attitude was good. He showed well, was friendly to the judge, didn’t do any hopping and leaping, and basically ignored the other dogs while they were in the ring. I was so pleased.


Carlin says hi to the judge


Carlin gaiting beautifully, nice reach and drive


Carlin showing off his butt


Coming back on the up and back

We made some smart moves that helped him, I think, and chance did us a favor as well.

Our show time was 8 AM, which is usually killer for Irish Water Spaniels. There is a lot of grooming to do, fluffing up the legs, doing last minute trimming, wiping down any unsavory accidents that may have occurred, etc. But 8 AM also means that the venue won’t be at it’s most crowded, so it’s more likely you can maneuver around enough to get in and out without having to come face to face with any other dogs.

Carlin has never loved that, coming face to face with another dog while he’s leashed. That was made much worse when, while Carlin was leashed and walking on a city sidewalk, he was ambushed by a Malamute twice Carlin’s size. The Malamute charged down a driveway and attacked Carlin, wounding him and scaring him half out his mind. With that, being leashed in the presence of other dogs became unbearable, and Carlin would lunge and growl at almost any oncoming dog. We sent Carlin off the the Academy of Canine Behavior last January to see if they could help him. While there, he improved quite a lot, and our management of situations while he’s leashed has also improved.

One trick we tried this weekend was giving Carlin a stuffed toy to hold while he’s leashed. I got that idea from a neighbor whose dog (named Chowder, god help us) carried around a stuffed animal on their walks. So today (and yesterday at the dog wash), Carlin held on to his own stuffed hedgehog until he went into the ring.


Carlin with his hedgehog

Once in there, he seemed to know just what to do (thank you, Marty and Kay), and he behaved himself beautifully. He won his class, but then didn’t get the point. That’s OK. I’ll take my successes where I can get them.

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It turned out exactly as I thought it would. Some boy Irish Water Spaniel would get Best of Breed, and Tooey, being the only girl in today’s ring, would get Best of Opposite Sex.

Not that I begrudge the dog who won BOB. He’s a handsome, spirited dog whose handler shows him skillfully to his best advantage. Tooey hasn’t been in the ring in years, so she’s out of practice. And she’s in season with a touch of attendant moodiness — she didn’t hold her head up as she ran around the ring, and she didn’t much like having that judge put his hands on her. And I’m out of practice, too. I forgot that she responds happily to squeaky toys — squeaking one as we went around the ring might have helped her lift her head and show some spark. (Kind of like she did when we got home and she spotted a squirrel.)

But still…

When the judge came up to us to examine Tooey, I told him that Tooey was in season and offered him a handkerchief if he needed it to wipe his hands. He told me he wouldn’t examine her rear, as he didn’t want to trouble all the dogs he had yet to judge that day.  So he looked at her teeth, and felt half way down her back, but didn’t examine her chest, or look at her face, or feel along her hips or back legs.

OK, I get why he didn’t want to touch her crotch. But in that instant, I realized the he’d already made his choice of Best of Breed, before he gave Tooey her full chance, or even the other boy dog in the ring.

So what do I think about that?

I guess I think that an experienced judge probably gets really good at quickly identifying the dogs and bitches that fit his or her interpretation of the breed standard. It’s like me when I was a teacher giving grades. After a while, I pretty much knew after just a few paragraphs which papers were likely to get an A. But that doesn’t mean that I stopped reading there — I read their papers to the end to give every student a chance. Sometimes, the middles and ends of papers held unexpected surprises.

So I also think that even if the judge thinks he or she knows who will get Best of Breed when the dogs first walk into the ring, every dog (just like every student) deserves the judge’s full attention for those few moments that the judge, dog, and exhibitor have together. The judge should watch the dog run all the way around the ring, and not turn away to the next dog before that. The judge should give every dog a full examination, and carefully compare all the dogs when they are stacked in a row.

Then, after every dog has had a full chance, then make it plain who the winner is.

Fortunately for me, I’ve had the experience of a judge who really looked. My dog didn’t win that day, either. But I knew that judge had really looked at my dog and saw his good points and faults. She paid full attention with an open mind, which is ultimately what we exhibitors are paying our hard-earned money for.

That’s what I think.

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This upcoming weekend isn’t going to turn out as I planned. Not that this will be bad. Just way, way different with a few unexpected challenges along the way.

Some back story: Several weeks ago, I realized I had a whole lot of options for this weekend. I could show my dogs in conformation at the Greater Clark County Kennel Club show. I could show them in Rally at the Sherwood Dog Training Club Rally Trials. Or I could enter them in a Barn Hunt RATI test.

Finally, I decided to enter Cooper in Rally on Saturday. He likes Rally, and Tooey doesn’t. I also decided to enter Tooey into the conformation show on Sunday. She likes it, and I wanted to get her back into practice with conformation shows so that when I take her to the IWSCA National Specialty in 2014, she’ll be prepared. Even though he’s only shown one dog once, Russ then very sweetly offered to show Cooper in conformation, and I could show Tooey in the same show.

Great! Sounded like a fun weekend. So I entered everything.

Then Tooey came into season — a whole month early. We revised our plans. After discussing all the do’s and don’ts of showing a bitch in season, Russ said he’d handle Tooey because she’d be easier. With Tooey in season, we both figured that Cooper would be a bit nuts, and I generally have somewhat better control.

But as the last couple of days progressed, it became apparent that Cooper has gone beyond “a bit” nuts. He’s a lot nuts. If he’s in his crate and Tooey is out, he keeps his eyes on her at all times, and he how-ow-ow-owls whenever she’s out of sight. When he’s out of his crate and Tooey is in hers, he’s obsessed with sniffing every surface she has touched. He eats only a little. It’s pathetic.

And it’s apparent that I probably wouldn’t have a good time showing him in conformation, and neither would Cooper. So instead Russ is going to take him hunting on Sunday, while us girls go to the show.

Going to the show means that Tooey has to have a bath. Not only does she stink, but she needs a bath to make her coat look good for the show. I had planned to take her to the local do-it-yourself dog wash as usual, but… The dog wash can be a crowded, slippery, busy place, and I lay awake all Wednesday night worrying about whether I was up to all those logistics, plus the added complications of Tooey’s being in season. No, I decided, I’m not. So she has to get her bath at home.

But I don’t have an indoor bathtub. I have a tiny indoor bathroom with a shower. I do have an outdoor portable bath, but last night it was 21 degrees F and windy. Much too cold for an outdoor bath (even for dogs who plunge into icy ponds to retrieve birds).

What to do?

Why, put the portable bath into the bathroom, with the drain hose snaking into the shower stall.

That’s me, standing in the shower and Tooey in the portable bath. I had to get all the shampoo and towels together first, then get into the shower, then Russ brought in the bathtub, and then he persuaded a skeptical Tooey to hop in, and lastly he brought me the hose, which was attached to the faucet in the adjacent kitchen.




It was a bit messy and very wet. If we do this again, we’ll spread lots of towels on the floor before the tub goes in. But she got nice and clean, and was ready to be dried off with my hair dryer while standing on the grooming table in the kitchen.

A very DIY winter bath for a hot show girl.

Lucky Cooper doesn’t need a bath to go hunting.

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Ever since Cooper got his show championship, I’ve continued to show him in one class at one show every year: the Field Dogs class at the IWSCOPS Specialty.

I have never expected him to win Best of Anything, but I did want him to be recognized. He’s one of those relatively rare Irish Water Spaniels who have beautiful conformation, have earned obedience and hunt test titles, and who actually do what they were bred to do: hunt and retrieve birds for the table.

So every summer, I’ve been growing out his hunting coat, keeping it (and him) in good trim, and then begging my friends for grooming help.

This year I lucked out. Both Jayme and Colleen got their scissors and combs out, and turned my roughed-in trim into a beautiful boy.


Cooper rested in his crate while most of the judging went on. We waited while all the boys showed until Winner’s Dog was chosen, and then the girls for Winner’s Bitch. While the veterans showed, I went to get Cooper out of his crate and Russ went and hid (read the previous post to see why). And then it was the Field Dogs turn to strut their stuff.

As usual at IWSCOPS since I’ve been showing, Cooper was the only dog entered in Field Dogs, something that always amazes me. But it means that he got a first prize ribbon and a beautiful medallion. But my second-favorite award for entering this class this year was when the judge turned to the crowd and announced, “This is the only one here who earns his keep.”

Cooper limped a little at first while in the Field Dogs class, having broken a nail just 40 hours before. But then I got the hang of how to support him, and when we entered the ring again for the Best of Breed class, he floated around that ring with me, strong and beautiful, with grace and power.

As expected, he didn’t get Best of Anything. But I knew something was up when, after awarding Best of Breed, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite, Select Dog, and Select Bitch, the judge looked back and forth between Cooper and a veteran bitch several times, and then told us all to “stay put” while leaving the ring to go talk to the Show Superintendent.

When he came back into the ring a few moments later, he pointed to both the veteran bitch and Cooper, and awarded us both a Judge’s Award of Merit.


I thought my smile would split my face. So many people in and out of the ring turned to smile at me, give us a thumbs up, or clap their hands. They’ve seen me come back many years in a row, show my boy, and leave with a 1st place ribbon for being the only dog in the Field Dogs class. So maybe they realized how much this means to me, this JAM award. Or maybe they don’t.

But I treasure this award — finally someone has really seen my hunting dog pretty boy for the wonderful dog that he is, the one who earns his keep and warms my heart.


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It’s really true. Cooper’s a champion. And this week, we got the two pictures that tell the tale.

Cooper, Best of Winners and New Champion, Rose City Classic 2011
photo by Steven Ross

proof from the AKC website

Now that it’s official that Cooper got his championship, I don’t have to maintain a show coat any more, at all, ever. Unless I want to. Which is unlikely. If you listen hard enough, I’m sure you can hear me cheering.

After the next bath, we’ll get out the clippers and the scissors and give him a nice short field clip. I’ll leave a little on the topknot and some on the ears, just so he looks like an Irish Water Spaniel.

Let’s hope the new hairdo will put Cooper in mind to succeed during this 2011 hunt test season.

Go Team Cooper!

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Cooper at 14 weeks

We asked for a pet, and we got Cooper. Like other excited puppy “parents,” we sent lots and lots of pictures to Rosemary. When Cooper was about 14 weeks old, Rosemary sent us an email saying something like, I think we sent you a show dog.

Rosemary told me that Cooper would get his championship easily, Tammy said she would help, and I had a lot of encouragement from other friends and owners of Irish Water Spaniels. So I agreed to Cooper’s being shown and going for it.

It took 3 years, 4 months, and 29 days. If I had known how long getting Cooper’s championship would take or how hard it would be, I wonder — would I have started down that path?

Cooper and Tammy (middle)

Cooper’s first conformation show was the 2007 IWSCOPS Specialty when he was just 6 months old. Tammy groomed and showed him. (His armband number was 13 — that should have told us something.) He did 2nd in his puppy class. That wasn’t so bad. And all Russ and I had to do was watch. (We also had to hide so that Cooper wouldn’t see us and be distracted).

Jayme, Cooper, and Patrice

It took 10 months of showing for him to get any points. He got his first two points, having been groomed by Tammy again and shown by a professional handler, at the Canby dog show in June, 2008.

Since then, Cooper’s record has been mixed. He came in dead last a couple of times and placed reasonably well other times. He even got Reserve Winners Dog at an IWSCOPS Specialty.

But sometimes he behaved like a twit who couldn’t stand still, or jerked his way around the ring. A couple of times he even jumped over the ring gates and out of the ring. Once he broke a borrowed show lead trying to get away. Another time he pissed on my skirt while waiting at ringside. Sometimes his coat was thin and lifeless, or the winning dog had bigger bone, a squarer muzzle, or just presented better.

Patrice and Cooper, photo by Liz Liddle

But other times, he won. His coat wasn’t always long, having been cut down for field work, but when it was curly, lush, and glossy, and he moved beautifully — then he’d be eye catching, showing off all the drive and reach needed by a dog who needs to swim powerfully to do his work as a water retriever.

On the negative side, I discovered new depths of stage fright. When I get into the show ring, I stop breathing, my mouth dries up, my heart pounds, I get tunnel vision. And while I got to be able to groom my Irish Water Spaniels reasonably well, I have never figured out how to bring out Cooper’s best features. The best I could do was to get him pretty close, and then find someone to do the finishing touches. And having to find that someone and ask for that favor was always a source of sleep-destroying stress that kept me awake many a night.

Cooper and Colleen

Cooper and Rebecca

On the plus side, I had a LOT of help. Tammy and Jayme both helped me with advice and training. Tammy, Colleen, Jayme, and Rebecca were often willing to groom Cooper to his best advantage. Tammy always made at least some time for Cooper while she was getting her two IWS ready for the ring. A couple of times, Jayme had Cooper live with her for several weeks so that she could train him, groom him, and then show him for me. Colleen made herself available more times than I can remember. And then when I decided to show him myself, I got a lot of free (and welcome) advice from people who had been doing it a lot longer than I have.

Fortune comes into this, too. Cooper was born within 3 days of the current #1 Irish Water Spaniel in America. Since we live in the same region as that dog, we showed against him many times. Cooper never won those competitions. It’s a hard thing to do, to go into a dog show knowing you’re probably going to lose. But as I’ve discovered, dog shows and dog show judges are not predictable — sometimes you lose when you’re certain yours is the better dog, and sometimes you win when you think you have no chance.

Chance did come into it again, and changed everything. With such historically mixed results, I had just about decided to quit. But then Colleen asked if I’d send Cooper down to California to create a major.

I knew that Mowgli, Cooper’s littermate, was going and needed a major. Tammy had been such a help to me that I wanted to return the favor. But if Cooper was going to California, I wasn’t going to send him down — I thought I’d go for a fun road trip with my friends, take Cooper and Tooey, and show them myself. Cooper’s coat was in a very short field clip, but a “point fodder” dog doesn’t need to look good. He just has to be there. So we went, and Mowgli did indeed take the major the first two days.

Cooper, after his first major win, photo by Holloway

And then it happened. Cooper took the 3rd day’s major. I was so shocked my mouth fell open. Literally. I was completely unprepared for this development. Because, damn. With one major and 11 points, we had to keep going. All he needed was one more major and 4 more points.

Saturday, when Cooper won Winners Dog and Best of Winners, winning the 2nd major he needed to get his championship, I started to cry. The judge even asked me if was OK. I could hardly wait to call Russ and Rosemary and hug Tammy. The honor his win gives to Cooper’s dam (Rosemary’s Nova) and his sire (Tammy’s Balloo) pleases me very much. Cooper has always been my Pretty Boy, a dog with great reach and drive, and I am so happy that he had the title that recognizes that: Champion.

At the same time, I feel like a heavy burden has been lifted off my shoulders. Standing at ringside on Sunday, watching the other Irish Water Spaniels compete, I told Colleen, “I’m never going to do this again.”

She laughed. “Famous last words,” she said.

So, if I had known in the beginning that it would take this long, but that it would feel this good at the end, would I have started down that path? I still don’t know.

And will I do this again? I’d like to think not.

But I have discovered that what I think I will do and what I actually do are often not the same thing. So, who knows? (And as my friend Alan used to say, “Who is not telling.”)

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We did it!

Cooper, 1st in AOH class, Winners Dog, and Best of Winners, plus two Rally Novice qualifying scores, Rose City Classic, 2011

Yesterday, Cooper took 1st in the Amateur-Owner-Handler class (not hard, since he was the only one in that class). That turned out to provide a kind of a good omen. After we ran around the ring for the last time in that class, the judge pointed her finger at Cooper and said, “You are #1.” I thought (but didn’t say aloud), “Please, just keep that comment in mind …”

Then he went back into the ring to compete against the other dog, where he took Winners Dog. (Perhaps the judge read my mind.) After all the bitches were judged and the Winners Bitch chosen, we went back into the ring and took Best of Winners, winning over the Winner’s Bitch. And because he did that, he gets at least the number of points that the Winner’s Bitch got.

And (this is the best part), this was a major for bitches. Meaning that there were a significant number of bitches competing, enough to earn the winner 3 points.

To get a championship, a dog has to have a total of 15 points including 2 majors. Cooper got his first major down in California last October, and Saturday’s win gave him his 2nd major and his 15 point total.

All this means that Cooper is finished. He got his championship, and we never have to go into the conformation ring again.

Always a retriever

We also competed in Rally Novice B. That was fun. I like Rally — if you qualify with a passing score enough times, you get the title. You don’t have to compete against other dogs to win. We got a score of 94 (out of 100) on Saturday, which is really amazingly well, given that Cooper has practiced in a realistic practice ring only a couple of times. Mostly we’ve been practicing in the kitchen and living room.

Sunday in the Rally ring, he was goofy. Russ had come to watch, and Cooper knew that Russ was there. So Cooper kept losing his concentration on the task, looking for Russ as we moved around the Rally course. (And this is exactly why I asked Russ not to come on Saturday — I was afraid Cooper would lose his concentration in the conformation ring.)

We earned a score of 86 on Sunday, but he passed. So now we just need one more qualifying score for Cooper to earn his Rally Novice (RN) title.

Here’s a video of our second Rally run:

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When you write a blog, it’s always nice to have the photos right away, on or near the day events occurred. But with official dog show pictures, this is usually not possible. You have to wait until the show photographer has the time to print and send the photos to you.

So, just the other day I finally got the official show pictures from our lucky day at the Del Valle dog show, back on October 24.

Tooey, after her championship point, photo by Holloway Photos

Cooper, after his first major win, photo by Holloway Photos

These pictures are very traditional:

  • The judge holds the trophies and/or ribbons.
  • The handler stands next to the judge and holds the dog.
  • Both the judge and the handler ideally look at the dog, not the camera.
  • The dog stands in a stacked position. (Front legs should be straight and under the shoulder blades. Rear legs should be vertical from the hock down.)
  • There is a placard that shows the show name, what placement the dog won, whether it’s a major win, and the title earned, if any. Usually the photographer’s name is on there, too, and often a date.

In these pictures, you can also get a hint of how wet it was outside — see the rain water on my shoulders? and the judges’ raincoat?

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I guess it’s official now:

  1. This is the AKC page that shows the summary of points and titles that a dog has earned.
  2. Tooey’s registered name (Stanegate Second Thoughts) with her new titles (CH and RN).
  3. The show Champion section shows how many points, how many majors (wins worth 3 points or more), how many judges judged those majors, and how many judges total. 15 points and 2 majors are required for a show championship.
  4. The Rally section shows her rally title (Rally Novice), how many Rally judges she showed under, and how many qualifying scores she earned. 3 qualifying scores are needed for the title.

The biggest deal here is that I’m not supposed to claim anywhere (that the AKC can see) that she’s earned any titles until they’re official.

Looks pretty official to me. Hurray!

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Tomorrow is almost here. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for, for months. The day before which I really, really wanted to get Tooey’s show championship.

Tomorrow is the day Tooey leaves for three months to work with Butch Higgins of Parkdale Kennels. He will teach her the finer points of heeling and sitting politely at heel, fetching up a bumper or duck (or whatever she’s been directed to fetch), and holding it in her mouth until directed to give it to the handler.

She’ll also learn to watch for ducks or bumpers to fall out of the sky and retrieve them, to go out to find bumpers or ducks that she hasn’t seen fall, and myriad other tasks required for hunting retrievers.

In thinking about Tooey’s sojourn at “duck camp,” I long ago decided that Tooey’s show coat had to come off beforehand. Tooey’s show coat is too long, much thicker than Cooper’s, and velcro-like in the presence of burrs, brambles, stickers, seeds, twigs, thorns, and other botanical debris. Trying to maintain a long, flowing show coat in the field is a time consuming pain in the butt.

Thankfully, Tooey got her show championship a couple of weekends ago, and yesterday her breeder got to see her in all her show glory. So today, finally, there was no longer any reason to keep the show coat on.

This evening, the show coat came off. Tooey now has a short, very comfy, easier-to-care-for ‘do. Cooper approves completely.

Cooper observing, Tooey getting trimmed

And besides, concentrating on the the trimming has so far kept me from feeling sad. From realizing just how much I’m going to miss Tooey while she’s gone.

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The most amazing and dramatic of our show ring successes were Tooey’s finishing her championship and Cooper’s winning a major. Dramatic not just for the facts that Tooey and Cooper both won Winners on the same day, and that Tooey finished her championship, and that Cooper got his first major win. But also for the weather, which was pouring down rain and blowing gusts of wind.

Cathy Shelby sent some pictures. It’s often hard to see wind and rain in pictures, so I’m grateful for this first picture, which shows how pouring down it was:

rain at Del Valle dog show, Oct 24, 2010

The next picture shows the line-up in the Best of Breed ring. Here Cooper and Tooey are competing with each other to see who will win Best of Winners. At the right, Tooey is sort of hidden behind Tammy, and then Cooper and I, are at the end of the line-up. Since I couldn’t show both my dogs at the same time, Tammy took Tooey into the ring. In this picture, Tammy is taking Tooey’s number from me so she can put it on her arm. You can also see how our dresses and hair are flying in the wind.

Best of Breed ring, Del Valle show, Oct 24, 2010

The next picture is a close up of Cooper and Tooey standing “stacked” — that odd dog show posture that shows the judge how well the dog is put together. The judge is out of the picture, but is standing in the center of the ring, facing the dogs, who are all stacked as beautifully as their handlers can get them.

I can see from the picture (I didn’t see it that day) that Cooper’s front legs are too close together, but otherwise, both Tooey and Cooper look good. And thank God, Cooper decided to stand still — he doesn’t particularly like that stacked position, but did it for me that day anyway.

Cooper and Tooey, Best of Breed ring, Del Valle, Oct 24, 2010

I hope soon to get pictures from the official show photographer. They’re the ones that show the judge holding the ribbons, the handler holding the dog, the plaque that describes the dog’s win that day, and the dog, again in stacked position. I’ll post those pictures when I get them.

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We’re all tired. It’s been two weekends in a row of dog shows. First the 4-day Harvest Moon Cluster in California, and then this weekend’s Vancouver Kennel Club show. This is my three favorite mammals, just after our nap this afternoon:

But not to complain.

We had a great time, and a lot of success. I’ve already written about our wonderful luck at the Harvest Moon Cluster and Tooey’s qualifying in Rally Novice yesterday.

Today was another good day. Cooper won Winner’s Dog, giving him another point toward his championship, and Tooey took Best of Opposite Sex again today (on top of also winning it yesterday).

Here’s me with Cooper, and Tammy with Tooey in the Best of Breed ring today. Tooey is being examined by the judge.

What you don’t see is Stacy with Keegan, who took Best of Breed and later Best in Show (he’d be to the right of Tooey), and Becky with Faethe, who took both Winners Bitch and Best of Winners (they would be to the left of Cooper). Congrats to them both!

So Tooey, who has her championship now, is done in the show ring as far as I’m concerned. She’s going to be going to the hunt training pro in just over a week. But Cooper — well, now he has a major and 11 points, so we can’t stop yet. We’ll probably keep going for awhile, pursuing a championship for him, too.


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It’s not official. I’m not supposed to actually make this claim on any entry form for any AKC event. So unofficially, just between us — Tooey is now Ch. Stanegate Second Thoughts. She took Winners Bitch at the Del Valle dog show today, which gives her that last point she needed to get her championship.

trophies and ribbons for Best of Winners, Winners Dog, Winner Bitch

I have several reactions to this:

  • Thank God.
  • Finally.
  • I am so relieved.
  • Hooray!!! Now we can clip off the show coat and go to Parkdale Kennels for hunting retriever training.

But wait, there’s more!

Cooper, my pretty boy hunting flyball dog, took Winners Dog and Best of Winners today for a 4 point major. This was a complete shock. I had entered him in this show just so that there would be enough dogs make up a major — that is, to get enough dogs to make the competition significant enough for a 3, 4, or 5 point win. Today’s show had enough dogs for a 4 point major, and today Cooper took it.

I didn’t expect Cooper to win. He has a short field clip — not the long coat generally preferred in the show ring. And his coat is kind of thin-ish — he’s going through some kind of coat change, and he doesn’t have the luxurious thick undercoat that Tooey and the other IWS in the ring have.

I have several reactions to this:

  • You must be joking.
  • Hooray!!!
  • OMG — now that he’s got a major, I have to keep showing him.

So far, this has been a great weekend for the Realta boys — on Thursday and Friday, Cooper’s littermate Mowgli took a major each day.

For this I have only one reaction:

  • Hooray!!!

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Three stories from this weekend at the Gig Harbor Kennel Club show in Shelton, Washington (told in reverse chronological order). It’s true: Good things can happen at dog shows.

“Did something just happen?” the judge asked

In the dog show ring today were two 14-point bitches and one other bitch that has a couple of points. This show was worth 1 point, and if one of those 14-point bitches won, that bitch would have the 15 points needed to “finish.” In other words, get her Champion title.

And indeed, after showing outside, in the rain, on slippery grass, one of the 14-point bitches won it. Kassie, the older one, the one who has been trying for many, many months to get that one last point, took her finishing point.

We three handlers erupted into cheers, smiles, pats on the back, and hurrahs. The judge, perhaps not very accustomed to losers being so happy, asked, “Did something just happen?” We all chimed in at once, “She just finished!” The judge smiled, and gesturing at the pouring rain, said, “Well, this is the perfect weather for finishing an Irish Water Spaniel. Congratulations.”

What was also strange is that this morning, when I woke up, I knew Kassie was going to win. I could see the judge giving Jill, Kassie’s handler, the ribbon. I tried very hard and several times to re-visualize this, to see myself running effortlessly around the ring, Tooey floating along side me, and the judge pointing at Tooey for the win. But no matter how many times I tried this, the vision always ended with Kassie getting the nod.

So, when Kassie actually did get it, I wasn’t particularly shocked. And I was happy — I have wanted this for Jill for awhile. Of course, I was disappointed that Tooey didn’t win — I would love to be finished.

But I can hold two contradictory ideas in my head at one time. And, as I have been told many times, Tooey’s championship will come.

Falling asleep holding “hands”

Tooey and I spent Saturday night on one of Jill’s very comfortable guest beds. Out in the country, where Jill lives, there is almost no light at night, and it’s very quiet. Both of us were ready for sleep. Showing in the dog show ring, getting groomed (again!), and running around playing ball with the other dogs had tired Tooey out. I was simply tired from having gotten up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare us both for the ring, and knew I’d be getting up the next morning at 5:30 again to do it all over again.

We were both lying on our sides, bellies facing each other, when Tooey pawed gently me a couple of times. I reached out to pet her and tell her good night, when she simply placed her paw in my hand. I laid my hand down on the bed, and her paw stayed cradled in my palm. I could feel the heat and the roughness of her pads. We feel asleep like that, paw in hand.

If this had been a movie, and my sleeping partner a human instead of a dog, it would have been one of those romantic “awww…” moments. As it was, it was simply sweet. It’ll be a memory I carry with me a long time.

Now a member of the 1-point club

The Gig Harbor Kennel Club dog show, like many weekend-long dog shows, is actually two shows. Tooey had gotten her 13th point just a week prior, at the Wenatchee show, and I had a chance to finish her this weekend if Tooey could win both shows.

The past week has been hell. I was stressed, I really wanted to finish, and none of the people who frequently help me groom were available. I’m not a great groomer, but I remembered Colleen telling me (to my shock) that it’s not unusual for person who’s going to show an Irish Water Spaniel to do a little grooming every night before a show. That gives the groomer the chance to see the effect after the dog has moved around and the fur has fallen into place.

So that’s what I did. I put poor Tooey up on the table for an hour every night last week. Each time, I asked Russ to help me see where it was uneven, or not matching from side to side, or too long, or the wrong shape, or … He’s not a groomer, either, but he’s got an artistic eye, and he’s watched some great IWS groomers do their stuff many times over. He caught a lot of areas that needed work, and I appreciate it.

Finally, about an hour before I had to leave to get to Jill’s house, where I was staying the night before the show, I just had to stop. I decided that Tooey looked good enough to show without my being humiliated.

And then the gods smiled on me. When I did get to Jill’s house, I found that Jayme, the groomer who has worked on both Cooper and Tooey in the past, was also staying at Jill’s house. And yes, she said she’d take a look at Tooey.

So up on the table Tooey went. Jayme studied her for a few minutes, and then looked up, and said, “You did this?” I nodded. Hard to know where a question phrased this way is coming from.

Jayme walked around the table and surveyed Tooey a bit more. Finally, she said, “You did a great job.” I let out a breath.

And truthfully, Jayme didn’t do a lot more. She took off some more fur along the belly, where I hadn’t been brave enough with my scissors, she shaped a bit around the back of the back legs, and touched up some uneven spots on the front legs. But basically, she told me that I could have easily taken Tooey into the ring without her help.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” Jayme asked, “if you finally got good at this just as you were finishing Tooey?”

Yeah. Funny.

Oh, and we did get the point on Saturday, bringing Tooey up to 14 points. Now she needs just 1 point, making her a member of the “1-Point Club.”

May Tooey’s membership be very short.

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Yesterday, Tooey got another point on her show championship. When Colleen texted me the news from Wenatchee, my response was an immediate “Yay!!!!”

My overwhelming response was delight, not at all colored by disappointment, sadness, or envy, even though I wasn’t the one who handled Tooey in the ring.

Here’s why that’s important: So many people have been telling me that I should put a championship on Tooey myself. That I would be disappointed if someone else did it. One person, who showed Tooey in Enumclaw last month (where there was a possibility that Tooey might have finished her championship without me), said that she was feeling a little sad for me.

Well, Tooey didn’t finish at Enumclaw, so up till yesterday there was no way to know how I’d feel. But now I have a better idea. If somebody else is Tooey’s handler on either of her two last points, it appears that I’m more than likely to be delighted.

Now, I will admit a preference — I’d like to be Tooey’s handler on her last point, but if I had to pick between her being finished sooner and my finishing her later, I’d pick the sooner.

So, now this is how it stands for Tooey: 12 points handled by me, and 1 point handled by the lovely Loren. Only 2 more points to go. And may they be bestowed soon.

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