Posts Tagged ‘Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’

A few posts ago, titled “Why we need Codes of Conduct,” I noted that the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America, of which I am a member, was preparing a new Code of Conduct to propose to the membership. I ended that post by saying that I hoped it would propose one that I could agree with. The club is planning to require members to agree and adhere to the Code of Conduct, and I’d really like to stay a member if I can.

Unfortunately, although much of the proposed code is well written and well thought out, there is a requirement I can’t agree with (although, so far, I have adhered to it).

I wrote a letter to my fellow members, asking that they reject the proposed code. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote:

Dear fellow club members:

I got my ballot yesterday, and with it, the printed proposed Code of Conduct and its Addendum. And I want to thank the committee for their very hard work on this. It can’t have been an easy task.

I love the Addendum to the Code of Conduct. It embodies everything I have tried to work toward in my own behavior in owning, caring for, competing with, and breeding my dogs.

I can agree with most of the Code of Conduct, but in my opinion, it has a serious flaw. My issue is with these sections:

“1.Breeding the purebred Irish Water Spaniel with a non-­‐purebred Irish Water Spaniel can jeopardize the continuance of the unique characteristics of the breed.”
combined with
“It is our desire that the Board of Directors take appropriate action against any member who does not uphold these basic tenets.”

It is true that, done irresponsibly, breeding an IWS with a non-IWS could potentially jeopardize the breed. But this section does not discuss only irresponsible mixed breeding. It implies an assumption that all mixed breeding is irresponsible, and therefore, sanctionable.

I had a wonderful IWS. He was my dear companion, beautiful, talented, and recognized for his many and varied achievements. He had the unique characteristics of the breed in both appearance and in behavior. But he also inherited propensities for health issues that significantly impacted his quality of life and shortened his lifespan.

He was not alone.

If you are on Facebook, or are otherwise following the many IWS around the world, you have seen how so many recently have died way too young of cancer, like my dog. Like my dog, a number of IWS have suffered through Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, which has recently been implicated in the same genes that regulate thyroid levels. I’m sure many of you could come up with many more examples of genetically involved health issues in our breed.

What I don’t want our club to do is make impossible a project like the The Dalmation Study: The Genetic Correction of Health Problems. In this project, concerned Dalmation breeders wanted to keep the characteristic Dalmation spots, but not the high uric acid levels that seem to come along with those spots. So, this project included a backcross of an English Pointer, which have the spots but not the high uric acid levels. It took planning and many generations, and a lot of discussion and disagreement, but these healthy Dalmations are now registered in the AKC as Dalmations.

Instead, I would like us to support breeders who responsibly mix IWS with non-purebred-IWS as part of a breeding program with the goal of creating physically and temperamentally healthier IWS. If we really feel it’s necessary, we can sanction those members who do it just to sell “designer” puppies or who mis-represent their puppies.

You might be one of those people who think, “Well, I’m not a breeder, so this doesn’t apply to me.” But it does apply to you if you want IWS who are as healthy as they are beautiful, now and into the future.

You might also be thinking, “Well, how do we define the difference between responsible and irresponsible mixed breeding?” Or you might be dreading the inevitable disagreements that would come with that discussion. Or possibly you are thinking that if everyone would just get on with this and agree with the Code of Conduct, then this would all just be over and done with, and we don’t have to think about this anymore.

Well, I think about it. I don’t want any more IWS to suffer like my beloved Cooper did. And if we as a club can support efforts to prevent that, then I think that’s what we should do.

Please vote no on this Code of Conduct. Let’s try again.


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One of my (many) fondest memories with Cooper is the one Rally trial where he and I were totally in sync. He was with me every step of the way, and it showed in the fact that we earned both Rally High in Trial and Rally High Combined.

His other RAE scores mostly good, in the low 90s and high 80s, and I think a couple were (somewhat embarrassingly) in the 70s.

But one thing that made getting his RAE remarkable was that he got 9 out of the 10 required legs all in one year.

This turned out to be the most of any IWS for 2014. Thank you to the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America for recognizing our achievement with this certificate:

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Often email contains stuff you just don’t want to read until you have to. But not today. Today, I received my e-copy of Rat Tails, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s newsletter. Opening that email was a special delight because it features Russ’s photography and includes my article.

It’s fun to see one’s work in print! And I get to tell Cooper and Tooey that once again, they are famous. First the Tooey graced the center spread of the June 2013 issue of Gun Dog Magazine, and now Cooper is featured on the cover of Rat Tails!

Click the image below to open a PDF that includes the full size cover and my article:

Rat_Tails _Sept-Oct_cover


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Good news! Tooey’s a chick. (Well, we knew that.) To be less cute about it, Tooey has a CHIC number.

That means that she’s taken all her pre-breeding health tests, and that that fact has been published by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). These tests are specified by the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America to help breeders make sure that the dogs and bitches they use for breeding are healthy.

Having a CHIC number does not mean that the dog is healthy enough to be bred. Take Cooper, for example, who also has a CHIC number. He’s had all the tests. But he also has a number of disqualifying health issues, like a cataract and mild elbow displaysia, not to mention SLO. So he won’t be bred. (Poor boy. He’d really like to be.)

Tooey, on the other hand, is beautifully healthy:

Next step: Deciding who the lucky dog will be.

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Cooper’s full name is now (drumroll, please) SHR Realta Rosario Cooper, CGC, FdX, JH, WC.

I can’t express how happy I am that Cooper passed his Working Certificate (WC) test this weekend, put on by the Northwest Flat-coated Retrievers Club in Monroe, Washington. I was also thrilled to be able to handle Cooper at the test. But before I go on, I want to thank Russ for doing all the hard work training up to this point, and for graciously encouraging me to do the handling on the WC this weekend.

It was a blast. First there was a land double. That means that two pheasants were tossed into the air, about 50 yards away, and over 90 degrees apart, where they landed in short mowed grass. Only after both birds hit the ground did the judge say, “Dog.” That was my signal to send Cooper out after the first pheasant.

The first pheasant was a bit difficult — the feathers kept coming out in Cooper’s mouth, so he’d drop the bird, spit out the feathers, and then fetch up the bird again. Not optimal — it would have been best if he’d simply grabbed the bird and brought it all the way back before spitting feathers. But this wasn’t disqualifying, so on to the 2nd pheasant.

The trick with a double is that the dog has to remember where the 2nd bird went down while he’s retrieving the 1st bird. Cooper went out straight to the 2nd bird, but then he hunted around a bit. Not sure what exactly he was doing out there. I suspect that he really did know where the 2nd bird fell, and just wanted to run around a bit before coming back. Also not optimal — if he’d gone over to hunt in the area where the 1st bird fell, that could have been disqualifying. But fortunately, he didn’t. After a couple of minutes of dinking around, he fetched up the 2nd pheasant and brought it back.

Then we rested, ate lunch, gave Cooper several opportunities to take care of his personal needs, and then, since Cooper passed the land series, we went on to the water series.

Getting Cooper out to the line is a challenge for me. He is so excited that he wants to pull me all the way out. He’s better for Russ, probably because Russ has worked with him so much more and has established some authority. (You can see in the top picture above that the leash is tight.) So by the time we got to the line for the water marks, which are Cooper’s favorite, he was wound up and pushing himself off my legs to get to the line quicker. The judges observed this, and make some comment about “those Irish Water Spaniels are so… mumble, mumble…”

But then, when they saw Cooper go after his first water mark (a duck), they changed their tune. “Wow!” one judge said, “That’s a photo op!” It certainly was — Russ clicked the camera just at the right second:

Cooper went out and got both ducks, swimming about 50 yards or so to each one. He’s a strong and fast swimmer, and brought both ducks straight back to me without running along any of the banks. Now, not “bank running” — that’s optimal.

Cooper got all 4 of his birds without making any disqualifying mistakes, earning his IWSCA Working Certificate. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have things to work on, like not spitting out birds, not dinking around hunting in the field, and walking calmly to the line.

But all in all, I had a wonderful time, we put a new title on Cooper, and Cooper got his birds.

(This same weekend, Russ ran Cooper in the more difficult Working Certificate Excellent (WCX) test. I’ll let Russ tell that story in another post.)

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If you’re reading this blog, it’s more likely that you have an Irish Water Spaniel.

If you have, or have ever had an Irish Water Spaniel, go to the Irish Water Spaniel Club of American website. Or start by clicking the big, green, round Click Here button.

The survey is for all Irish Water Spaniels, no matter whether they’re your beloved pet, a show dog, an performance dog, a hunting companion, or whatever. The club wants to know about the health of all IWS.

It’s anonymous, too. The survey will not ask for your name or your dog’s name. It will not collect any information from your computer. Take the survey once for each Irish Water Spaniel you’ve owned.

If you’re like me, when you take the survey, you might want to have handy your file or records about your dog’s healthcare. If you have your records out (or a really good memory), the survey should take only about 10-20 minutes per dog. But don’t worry — if you don’t have all the details, just try to be as accurate as you can.

The IWSCA will use the information they get to help breeders breed healthier dogs and to help the club determine where to spend it’s research money.

Please, take the survey. And thank you.

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