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Yesterday, Russ was noodling about, trying to design some demonstrations for the beginning Photoshop class he was preparing to teach that night. Something fun that also demonstrated the skills he was planning to teach.

He came up with these two “trading cards,” done in the style of comic book printing.

I am envisioning “stats” on the back:

  • Age (Cooper – 4.5 years; Tooey — 2.5 years)
  • Dam and Sire (Cooper — Nova x Balloo; Tooey — Dora x Woody)
  • Breeder (Cooper — Rosemary; Tooey — Judith)
  • Titles earned (Cooper — SHR, CH, JH, RN, FDX, CGC, WC; Tooey — CH, RN)
  • Relationship status (Cooper has a live-in girlfriend without “benefits”; Tooey has someone willing to be bossed around)
  • Favorite activity (Cooper — retrieving anything, specializing in ducks, bumpers, tennis balls, bath towels, and socks; Tooey — swimming)
  • Ambitions (Cooper — to get someone to throw something; Tooey — to get someone to take her swimming)
  • Current challenge (Cooper — to sit and stay even when things are being thrown; Tooey — to hold a bird without dropping it)
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The fact that I don’t know my right from my left is not usually a problem. Oh, yeah, I might say the wrong direction when giving driving instructions. Or I might put the dish in the right hand cabinet after being told to put it in the left cabinet. But anything like that can simply re-done. No big deal.

But as I discovered in last Sunday’s Obedience fun match, that is not so easily done in an Obedience competition.

Take a look at the performance in the YouTube video below:

In this video, you can hear the judge say “left turn” or “right turn,” and then see the dog and handler execute the specified turn perfectly and without hesitation. In fact, this performance won a perfect score of 200.

In contrast, during Team Cooper’s turn in the fun match on Sunday, the judge said “left turn.” I then stopped in my tracks for a couple of beats to try to figure out which way is left. Cooper then also stopped and sat, which is what the dog is supposed to do when the handler stops.

But really, neither of us was supposed to stop. We were supposed to keep going and turn left together. And more frustrating, this happened every single time the judge said either “left turn” or “right turn.”

If that had been in a real Obedience trial, I suspect we would have NQ’d (not qualified). Sigh…

I need to work on it, probably on my own without Cooper so I don’t confuse the boy. But after many several decades of not knowing my right from the left… I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll get Russ out there with me to play judge, and when I do it right, I get a treat. That’s it! Positive reinforcement might just work for the handler, too.

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You know how you can’t help yourself when something horrible is happening? You have to watch: car wrecks on the road, scenes of destruction, videos of natural disasters and violence. That’s how I felt last night.

Last night, we noticed that Cooper had begun licking and chewing on one of his toes. That can mean only one thing — another nail is broken or about to break. I got down on the floor to watch. After he was done with that session, I belatedly wished I had had a video camera. It was horrible, and I was fascinated.

A nail had indeed split. But the quick must have died awhile ago because his licking and chewing didn’t seem to hurt. He even let me touch the nail briefly. But what was really, horribly fascinating was that he was trying to pull the nail completely off. He’d grab it and pull, but since the nail wouldn’t let go, the nail would pull out of his mouth and his foot hit the carpet with a thud. He did this, over, and over, and over.

There’s no video, but Russ did take some pictures. The badly broken nail is on the index toe of his left front foot. You can also see the nail next to it is is hollow and chipped at the tip, splitting along the bottom, and with a gray crumbly quick.

left front index and 2nd toe, from the front

left front index and 2nd toe, from the inside

I hate this disease SLO. He’s been doing so well for several months. And now this.

But is Cooper upset? Or wanting to change his routine? Or putting off the joys of today? No.

Put that mouse down, and throw the ball!

He’s a real inspiration, that boy.

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I was so enamored when I saw the pictures of Cooper’s sisters, Darcy and Tosca. I just loved the way that Louise and Pepi have trimmed their topknots and ears. So easy to maintain. So practical for a field dog.

Darcy, photo by Louise Bailey

Tosca, photo © Pepi Barrington

So, I wanted to try it on Cooper. Colleen once again agreed to help me out. Actually, she did most all of the work. And I think it turned out pretty darn good.

Cooper with new hairdo

When I got home from Colleen’s, I asked Russ what he thought of it. Diplomat that he is, Russ just said, “Well, you’re the one who grooms him.”

Okay, I get it. Not Russ’s favorite. And I have to admit it was a shock looking at him for the first several days. It’s really different from how he looked for his birthday photo. But it’s growing on me. It’s really growing on me.

And the real test will be next Sunday, when he’s out hunting for pheasant and chukar. I’m betting it will be much easier to get out all the debris and mats out of the new ‘do. I’ll let you know what I find out.

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It has been a dry couple of months for Cooper, with only land training since duck season closed at the end of January. Finally, temperatures are getting above 50 (it was in the 20s just 10 days ago), so it is suitable for water training.

Today, Cooper was looking photogenic in the sun and pretty proud of himself with a duck. So I made yet another photo of my boy.

Water training is really important, even when the dog has a solid retrieve on land. Dogs don’t generalize well, so just because he knows how to do something in one environment, doesn’t mean he’ll know to do the same thing in another environment.

For water retrieves, the dog has to be willing to jump into the water (even when cold or slimy), retrieve the duck, and swim back to the handler with it. Cooper has had water work before, so the basic concept is not completely new to him.

Tooey’s a different story. She loves the water and loves to swim, but she hasn’t had the discipline of having to go out into the water, retrieve, and come back consistently.

So in just a couple of days she’s going off to California (where it’s sunny and warm) with Butch to do some daily water work. All this in preparation for her first hunt test in just under a month.

We will miss seeing our girl every weekend, but it’ll be good experience for her.

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As of March 1st, 2011, the American Kennel Club will allow Irish Water Spaniels to compete in AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests. Up until last week, the only AKC-sanctioned hunt tests Cooper could compete in were the Retriever series. Now we have the best of both worlds.

Cooper in Retriever mode, waiting for a duck

Yesterday was a day of retriever training, and we passed a milestone for Cooper and myself. The scenario was a land triple-marked retrieve into moderate cover, averaging about 100 yards each. Then there was a cold blind retrieve. It was in line with the second land mark but with an additional 200 yards, including crossing a ditch with cover and running up a hill (300 yds total).

After Cooper ran the triple, I sent him on the blind. He shot out past the old fall and made it to the ditch, where I stopped him with a whistle sit because he was getting off line. With only one back-cast, he turned slightly to the left and went across the ditch and up the hill to find the bumper. Whoa . . . who trained this Spaniel to become a Retriever? As you may have read on this blog in the past, this has not been an easy skill for Cooper to absorb.

So now that he is becoming a proficient Retriever, it is time to train him to become a Spaniel on command. This morning I took him out, and we threw marks into some moderately heavy cover. No problem. Then we added some sit-to-flush drills. Again, no problem.

The next Spaniel drill was to hide bumpers with attached pheasant wings in the cover. I lined him up, pointing him in the general direction, but with the command of “dead hunt.” Off he went like on a blind retrieve, but when he got to area where a bumper was hidden, I called out “go find it.” The Spaniel gene kicked in, the nose went down, and he circled the cover until he came up with the prize. It was a hoot to watch him find, pause, rev the tail up, and lunge. If it had been a live bird, the flush would have been exciting.

Cooper in Spaniel mode, after finding a faux pheasant in the grass

In addition to getting ready for some Spaniel Hunt Tests, we are joining our Boykin friends in two weeks for a late season upland hunt in central Oregon. So we have two weeks to get him reved up to become a hunting Spaniel. And then the following Saturday, Cooper will compete in the season’s first AKC Retriever test (at the senior level). We will see if Cooper’s Spaniel/Retriever brain can keep it all sorted out. Fun will be had for sure, hopefully a few birds, and everything else will be a bonus.

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Team Cooper got more fan mail — a fun postcard of the Dogs of Ireland. And it has a mystery on it!

published by Bell'acards, Whitegate, Co. Clare

Note that the translation into Irish of “The Irish Water Spaniel” is “Spanner Uisce”.

“Irish” is not translated. These being dogs of Ireland, there’s no need to put “Irish” in there. (Now, those other water spaniels — of course, they would need the additional label. Of course. Ahem…)

Now, I’ve figured out that “uisce” means “water.” It also sounds like it’s related to “whiskey.” If you go to a site like this one, you can hear how it’s pronounced. To my uneducated American ears, “uisce” sounds kind of like “ishkeh,” which kind of sounds like “whiskey.” At least to me — this may be wishful thinking.

But, having searched around on Google, I can’t find this use of “spanner” anywhere. I used some translation engines to translate “water spaniel,’ and they just translate “spaniel” as “spaniel,” so I get “spaniel uisce.”

So what’s “spanner”? That’s the mystery. Anyone know?

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