Posts Tagged ‘IWSCOPS’

Or at least he thinks he does:

I had had so much fun at last year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Seattle that I decided to do it again this year. Of course, no event is ever the same as the prior one. This year we had rain to go along with our clouds. That cut down on the number of Irish Water Spaniels (and their people) who decided to participate. It also reduced the number of spectators.

But, on the other hand, this year I had Russ and Cooper with me (they stayed home last year), so that made today’s parade extra fun. And Martha came along with Gromit, who pulled the magical Irish cart, and Pam came, too, to represent the East Coast. Plus several members of the Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound: Colleen, Walter, Pam, Mike, and Marsha.

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I had a lot of fun at the IWSCOPS Specialty this year. I loved working with Tooey during the Bird Dog seminar, and I was thrilled with how well she and I worked together in the Rally obedience ring.

But the Specialty also included conformation shows. Conformation is great if you win. Not quite so fun if you don’t. And it’s excruciating if you almost win.

That’s what happened to Tooey and me. In each of the three conformation rings this weekend, I knew the judges were choosing between Tooey and another bitch. I could see their eyes go back and forth, back and forth. But in the end, in every case, Tooey came in 2nd.

It’s not a matter of how beautiful Tooey is. She’s gorgeous, and I had a lot of help grooming her. (Thanks Stacy, Jayme, and Colleen.)

There are a lot of reasons that may explain why she didn’t win — the judge felt that the other bitch met the standard just a bit more closely, the other handler did a better job of handling, the fact that Tooey seemed bound and determined to stop and scratch, the phase of the moon — who knows?

I also showed Cooper in the Field Dog class. The Field Dog class is reserved for dogs who have hunting titles, and I was proud to show him off. (He looked great, too — thanks to Tammy.) Cooper was the only hunting dog with a hunting title being shown in the conformation ring, and the judge thanked me for bringing him.

In any case, Cooper and I shared the same sentiment about this weekend’s conformation ring:

Thank God that's done. Now let's go get ducks.

But I’m not done with conformation forever. I will keep showing Tooey in the conformation ring at dog shows until she gets her championship. Let’s just hope it’s soon. Then I can really say, and be, done.

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Irish Water Spaniels were bred to be working dogs, retrieving waterfowl and upland game birds. But just because that was their original work, that doesn’t mean that every modern IWS has the desire to go get birds. You have to test a dog to find out. And this weekend’s IWSCOPS Specialty gave me the chance to see if Tooey is “birdy.”

Every year, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound puts on a Specialty. This includes a set of competitions for Irish Water Spaniels only — conformation, obedience, and rally obedience. Just before the start of the Specialty, IWSCOPS puts on another event that gives IWS a chance to show whether they’re birdy or not  — and that’s the Bird Dog seminar.

Jim started it out with a short talk/demo, reminding us that a retrieve has three parts — going out to the bird, picking up and holding the bird, and bringing it back. Going out to the bird and picking it up is instinctual for most retrievers — holding it nicely without eating it, bringing it back, and giving it up to the handler all have to be taught.

(He also warned us, and I will now warn you, that live pigeons were going to be used for this event. This is understandably upsetting to many. Others may have thought of a solution, but I don’t know how to get around this — hunting dogs have to be willing to pick up real birds, hunting dog handlers have to mold their dogs’ natural prey drive to teach them to do this, and inexperienced retrievers sometimes have to see live prey in order to get excited about the idea. If you have a dog who chases live squirrels or thrown tennis balls, but merely sniffs ones that’s aren’t moving, then you can see the dilemma.)

Jim showed us a technique for some early stages of teaching Hold. Basically, you start by rolling your hand into your dog’s mouth and keep it there while saying “Hold.” One good thing about starting this with your hand is that your dog won’t bite your hand. That way, the dog begins to learn that “Hold” doesn’t mean “Bite.” That’s Jim demonstrating on Tooey in the picture below. Then you take your hand out while giving another command. Russ uses “thank you” for the give command, so that’s what I’ll use, too.

After we all got a chance to practice this maneuver, then we got to try out our dogs on birds. We first got the dogs excited by showing them some pigeons. Here’s Liz showing a pigeon to Tooey. Tooey was pretty revved up at the sight. A good sign for a potential hunting dog.

Most exciting was the actual test. Someone out in the field throws out a pigeon, you send your dog, wait until it grabs the bird, and then do whatever you can to get your dog to bring it back to you across the finish line. In this case, our line was between two folding chairs. As you can see, Tooey passed the test.

Thank you, Tooey!

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For the first time, I was able to march with an Irish Water Spaniel in Seattle’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was a celebration of all things Irish and Irish-wannabe. (Thanks to Bill Lord for the photos.)

Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound in Seattle's St. Patrick's Day parade

In addition to groups of pipers, troupes of dancers, marching bands, drill teams and drum squads, 4-part harmony singers, at least one cannon, the Seattle firefighters, a banner of St. Patrick, Irish heritage clubs and various dignitaries, a fleet of Deloreans, and lots of others I didn’t see, the parade included (at least) two groups of Irish dogs: Irish Water Spaniels and Irish Wolfhounds.

The parade was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and I was thinking it would be pretty fun. The weather cooperated, I enjoyed the walk, the dogs were mostly well-enough behaved, and nothing really tragic happened, even with all the crowds, noise, and other things dogs (and their people) get distracted by.

Tooey and Trice in the parade

One IWS puppy bolted and got loose when the cannon went off — that was frightening. I don’t think any of us, particularly the puppy, expected a cannon. But the puppy was retrieved, so hopefully all will be well there.

Another IWS, Gromit, dressed as a leprechaun, pulled a cart loaded with a (fake) pot of gold and a rainbow balloon. That was a highlight for spectators, especially the ones who got the gold chocolate coins we were handing out.

IWSCOPS members and dogs after the parade

And all the rest of us, the people and their dogs — show dogs, hunting dogs, pet dogs, puppies, old dogs, adult dogs, city dogs and country dogs, all got to show off and be a (momentary) center of attention.

And then Tooey and I, with Cameo and Tammy, got/had to walk all the way back to our cars. At least there was gelato along the way.

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No, not a real duck. But a very important duck (or pair of ducks) nonetheless.

The duck on the right has been Cooper’s favorite toy ever since he “won” it for participating in the bird dog match at his first IWSCOPS Specialty in August 2007. To be in the bird dog match, he’d had to qualify by first retrieving a pigeon and bringing it back. Going out to get the pigeon was easy. Bringing it back … well, not so much.

Being an untrained, wildman puppy, Cooper didn’t want to bring the pigeon back — he wanted to run around with it in his mouth and play keep away with the crowd of onlookers. So that’s what he did.

We called him, waved toys at him, and grabbed at him when he came within inches of our hands. None of that worked. Finally, a crowd of us all ran away from the finish line, enticing him to chase us across it. That was enough for Cooper to show in the bird dog match, and thus get the duck.

That duck has seen a lot of action. It’s been hidden and thrown all over the house for tracking and retrieving games. It’s been squeaked, pounced upon, and carried around for hours at a time. Eventually, the poor duck got some holes, which destroyed the squeak, but the duck stayed a favorite anyway. It appeared in Cooper’s New Year 2009 photo portrait, his in oil portrait last May, and another blog entry.

Then Tooey, Miss Destructo Dog, came to live at our house. She easily got the duck away from Gentleman Cooper, and chewed off one toe. The duck had to be put away to prevent total destruction.

So I went on a hunt, all over the Internet, to find a new duck.

On Christmas morning, Cooper was bored, lying head on feet next to the breakfast table, when Russ opened the package, reached in, and gave the duck a squeeze. Being a new duck, it squeaked.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that dog’s head whip up so fast. Russ gave the duck another squeeze, and Cooper temporarily reverted to his wildman self. He jumped up, with feet on the table, to get a closer look.

Ever since then, that duck has not left Cooper’s side, except at night, when we put it away in the toy drawer. (I don’t really care to listen to squeaking ducks at 3 in the morning.)

It’s not clear yet what we’ll do about the duck when Tooey comes back home. (Since she’s in season, Tooey is up at Colleen’s for another week or so.) We may have to put the duck away, and only take it out when Tooey is out of the house for walks or training. Or we might try to teach Tooey to leave the duck alone.

Yeah, right. Maybe I’d better get busy, and order another duck (Squeeze Meeze Mallard Duck, made by Premier).

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In the many moments of frustration with Cooper, the thought that I got the wrong dog has crossed my mind several times. But, I have to say, that I’m glad we got Cooper. This weekend provides a prime example of why.

Cooper and I competed in the Muddy Paw’s “Fun Fair All” flyball tournament this weekend in Salem, Oregon. Cooper did really well, earning his FDX title (more on that in another post). In addition, our team won 3rd place in our division. Both of these are better-than-I-hoped-for results.

It’s been a difficult and often discouraging experience training Cooper for flyball because he likes to go running off into the other lanes (which makes the team lose that heat, no matter how well the other dogs on the team have done).

But, this weekend, with the help of all my teammates, Cooper did really amazingly well.

And that gets to what I’m grateful for. With a less driven dog, I would have done what originally I expected I’d do with my water dog — go on hikes and walks, play fetch, go boating, have a companion, and generally hang out.

But with Cooper, I have been forced out of my shy shell and into (gasp!) a team sport.

I have never played team sports — never wanted to, never thought I’d be good enough for, never found any sport interesting enough, etc.

But here I am, on a team, playing a team sport.

Cooper and Patrice at the start of his run in a flyball heat

Cooper and Patrice at the start of his run in a flyball heat

Patrice and Cooper as he finishes his run

Patrice and Cooper as he finishes his run

And on top of that, I’ve joined several clubs — also amazing for me (I never join clubs) — X-Fidos flyball club, Cascade Dockdogs club, and IWSCOPS.

So thank you, Tammy and Rosemary, for Cooper. He’s been my catalyst.

(And thanks to Laci for the pictures.)

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The call came mid-afternoon on Saturday. Jayme, who usually does the clipping and scissoring on Cooper, was sick. She wasn’t going to be able to make it to the Olympia Kennel Club show on Sunday to help get Cooper ready.

Panic! Fortunately, Colleen, who lives close by, came to the rescue. On Saturday evening, she shaped Cooper’s legs and trimmed his “jacket.” It looked good to me, but Colleen said that I should have “them” look at Cooper when I got to the 2009 IWSCA National Specialty on Monday. I wondered who “they” would be, but took it for granted that Colleen knew what she was talking about.

Cooper and Colleen

Cooper and Colleen

When we got to Olympia show on Sunday, and we were very happy to find Rebecca getting her Seamus ready. She graciously agreed to work on Cooper. She trimmed his jacket even more, shaped his topknot a bit, and rounded out his jacket. Must have worked — Cooper won Best of Winners in that small show.

Cooper and Rebecca

Cooper and Rebecca

On Sunday evening, we arrived at the Specialty site and were delighted to find that Jayme was feeling somewhat better. The next day, she took even more off Cooper’s jacket, clipped around his face, shaped the fur around his ears, and sculpted his legs. She said that all this is the easy part — the hard part, she said, is the combing and bathing.

Cooper and Jayme

Cooper and Jayme

Yeah, right. Combing and bathing is just labor. Clipping and scissoring for a conformation show is an art.

Now I know who “they” are, my artist friends: Colleen, Rebecca, and Jayme. Thank you for all your help.

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Here’s the problem: My flyball captain is of the opinion that Cooper’s long topknot unnerves the other dogs because they can’t see his eyes. And this is the weekend of the big The Ball is Out There flyball tournament — we can’t be freaking out the teammates.

Normally, I’d get out the scissors. But in a week we’re going up to the 2009 Irish Water Spaniel National Specialty, for which he has to look his best. His “best,” my friends in the breed inform me, includes the long, full, forward-growing topknot. “I know you’d like to trim it, Patrice,” Colleen says, “but the judges like it long.” Sigh…


prize winning hair-in-eyes

So, here’s today’s solution:


The flyball folks at first thought it looks like a muffin on his head, but then they settled on “samurai.” It goes along with the whole fighting-ninja-streak-down-the-flyball-course idea much better than a muffin.

And the good news is, Cooper got to run in a couple of races, and actually did it right once. Not bad for a non-border-collie first-timer, who’s only been training for a few months. I think he even got a point toward his “Flyball Dog” title. (I have no idea how many point he needs, or even exactly how many points he got today. Everything went so fast.)


Thanks to some other IWS folks who suggested the the use of the coated elastic. You can’t see it, but I put in an orange one — team colors, you know.

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The Coopman was extra beautiful this weekend. He’s a great looking dog anyway, and the extra time that Jayme Nelson (shown in the photo at top) spent training, grooming, and showing him made him even more a real Pretty Boy.

In this year’s Specialty sponsored by the Irish Water Spaniel of Puget Sound, Cooper came in 4th (out of 10) in the Open dog class on Friday and 2nd in the same class on Saturday. Because he came in 2nd on Saturday, he was able to compete for Reserve Winners Dog. We were thrilled that he won that! He got a nice bowl (on our mantel) and ribbon (on our refrigerator), but no points.

I’ve wondered about the many places a dog can get that earns him an award or ribbon of some sort, but no points. To earn a Championship (aka to be “finished”), a dog has to earn 15 points, and many of those points must be earned in large competitions, like this specialty. But only very few animals actually earn any points per competition, so I think awards, ribbons, and various places are given to keep people interested in competing. Also, I suppose, it’s a way of keeping track of who is up-and-coming and which bitch might be bred to which dog.

Everyone told us that we should be very pleased with how well Cooper did, despite the lackage of points. That 4th and 2nd, against that many other dogs, is really good. (And yes, we’re the folks who have made the occasional comment or two about the sense of participating in dog shows…)


The picture above shows Rosemary Sexton, Cooper’s breeder, “stacking” Cooper. We were very happy to see her again, and glad that she could make the trip out West from Minnesota.

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The first event at the 2007 IWSCOPS Specialty was a live bird retrieving seminar with Jim Brennan. Up to this point, Cooper has been an enthusiastic bumper retriever. This was his first taste of “live bird.”

The top photo shows us at the line as a wing clipped pigeon was released about 30 yards away. Cooper returned just up to the line with the bird proudly displayed. Then he proceeded to run a victory lap without actually crossing the line or releasing the bird to the humiliated handler. Eventually he did, with the crowd encouraging him on.

Well . . . at least it proves he has potential.

IWSCOPS: Irish Water Spaniel Club of Puget Sound (Seattle)

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