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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.

Patrice

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Cooper was a reasonably well-known Irish Water Spaniel, mostly because of this blog, but also because I participate in many and various venues dedicated to Irish Water Spaniels and their exploits.

One of these is the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America, which puts out a newsletter every two months. The July/August 2015 issue published an “In Memoriam” article that I wrote about Cooper. If the image below is too small to read, click it to open a PDF that includes this months newsletter cover and my article.

In-Memoriam_Cooper_June-July_2015_Rattails

The page does include a few mistakes.

  • One is a typo on my part. (Let’s see if you can find it — it’s in the very first sentence).
  • Another one is my name being misspelled. (“Patricia” is a pretty common mistake for my name.)
  • And the last is in the list of titles in the photo caption. (Although Cooper tried a couple of times to get a WCX, he never did. He did get a WDX, though.)

But all that aside, I am gratified to see that article in print. It doesn’t bring Cooper back, but it does help to see him in print one last time.

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Tooey has produced beautiful puppies. Her first litter, sired by Cork, has so far included three AKC show champions: Pax, Bold, and Sorcha.

In recognition of this, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America awards an “Outstanding Producer” certificate.

Thank you, IWSCA! (And Brenda, Julia, and Colleen — along with their various helpers, groomers, trainers, etc. —  for showing their pups!)

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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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Just when you think you know your dog, he likes to throw something fun your way. The WCX test this weekend had some known challenges for Cooper. Steady to the line off-lead is one. When going out on multiple marks, he has often stops and turns around to ask for help (popping), and when he is excited he resists pivoting at the line in the heel position to get a good look at additional birds going down into cover.

The land test for the WCX was a triple with pheasants (one a live flier). Cooper went to line off-lead and sat while scanning the horizon for the gunners. Because this test is run by field trial rules, the shooters are out in the field, wearing white jackets for visibility. After Cooper watched the first two pheasant go down, he turned and faced the live flier station. Upon his release, he bee-lined it for his first retrieve, delivered to hand, rotated to the next bird, ditto, and onto the third. Wow, that was easy. We walked back to the holding blinds off-lead and in the heel position. Is this Cooper?

Notice the loose leash. Is this Cooper?

The water test was a double retrieve, including one live flying duck. Our trip the line was again off-lead but with a noticeable increase in Cooper’s hyper drive. He resisted pivoting his heeling position to mark the ducks, but when the first shot went off, he spun, focused, and marked the fall. Unfortunately, the duck did not go down into the water and a “no-bird” was called. I put Cooper back on the lead and we returned to the holding blinds where we waited two more turns to try it again. Cooper sat in the blinds listing to gun shots and dog whistles, none of which helped him calm down.

The return to line was a bit tense on my end, keeping the boy in check with a lot of commands to “Heel” between the last blind and the line. But Cooper focused and it was two ducks up and into the water, and Cooper doing a double retrieve and delivery to hand. Woo Hoo!

The very last portion of the test is an “honor”: to step aside and sit calmly off-lead while the next dog runs the water series. Cooper started out well, watching two more ducks go up and into the water, sitting, butt glued to ground. So far so good. Then the working dog, a Flat-Coated Retriever, was sent to pick up his first bird, and that was the undoing of our WCX.

Just as the judge was coming over to say, “Honor dog released,” Cooper decided he could out-swim the Flat-Coat and get to the duck first. So off he went with another one of his dock-diving entries, breaking his honor.

Plus, the WCX rules state that once the action starts for the working dog, the honor dog’s handler cannot speak to the honor dog. I had to call Cooper back, but in doing so, I violated the rule of talking to my dog.

Working Certificate not-so-Excellent.

The photo shows Cooper in the final moments of his honor position, with me standing next to and at 90 degrees to him with my arms crossed, mouth shut. This is to distinguish my body language from my normal getting-ready-to-send-him-on-a-retrieve position. Mentally, I am shouting as loud as I can, “Sit!, Stay!, No Bird!” But if you look at Cooper’s expression, you can see that he is just licking his lips in anticipation of out-racing the Flat-Coat to what he thinks is his rightful bird.

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