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Sometimes the decisions judges make in the show ring make sense, and sometimes they don’t. When you lose in a ring where the judge’s choices don’t make sense, disappointment mixes with puzzlement to give the feeling of “So what am I supposed to do now?”

But when you win under a judge whose choice is puzzling, it’s still confusing, but much easier to take.

Winner's Bitch, Patrice, and Winner's Dog

That was my situation today. The judge picked both Cooper and Tooey to win. I’m happy about it, obviously, but sort of confused.

Cooper, Winner's Dog and Best of Winners, Stumptown Cluster, 2010

Cooper was the only dog in today’s show, so the judge had little choice but to give him Winner’s Dog. All by itself, there are no points in this situation because the dog had no other dog to compete against. A nice ribbon, but no points.

However, if a Winner’s Dog who has had no competition goes into the Best of Breed ring (in which the Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch compete against each other), and takes Best of Winners over a Winner’s Bitch who has had some competition, then… Then that lucky dog gets the same number of points that the Winner’s Bitch got.

Got it?

Tooey, Winner's Bitch and Best of Opposite Sex, Stumptown Cluster, 2010

That’s what happened to me today. Cooper got Winner’s Dog, and then Tooey got Winner’s Bitch. In the Best of Breed ring, the judge then awarded Cooper Best of Winners. And since Tooey had competed against two other bitches to win Winner’s Bitch, she got a point, and so did Cooper.

But here’s the confusing part. Cooper and Tooey are both Irish Water Spaniels, but other than that, they are not alike.

Cooper has fine, curly, dark chocolate fur; fine bones and smallish feet; slightly rounded brown eyes; a low topknot; a nice big chest; good body proportions; and a very athletic gait. (He also — still — acts like a dweeb in the ring, refusing to stand still in the classic “stacked” position that best shows off a dog’s shape. Not to mention that I temporarily lost my mind in the ring with Cooper, running 1-1/4 times around the ring instead of the required 3/4 way around.)

On the other hand, Tooey has very thick, medium brown fur with orange tinges; some wave in her curl; large bones and big feet; somewhat slanted more-golden eyes; a high forehead; sometimes appears slightly longer than preferred; and a lovely flowing gait.

In almost everything except that they each have beautiful gaits, Cooper and Tooey are entirely different. So, here’s the puzzle: If the judge liked dogs like Tooey, why did she choose Cooper to be Best of Winners? And if she prefers dogs like Cooper, why did she choose Tooey for Winner’s Bitch instead one of the other bitches, which resemble Cooper more closely than Tooey does?

It’s a real puzzle. Not that I’m giving the points back, of course. I’ve worked long and hard to get this far (with a lot of help from my friends), and I’ll take every point I can get.

There’s one more part of the puzzle that may have occurred to you. If I handle both Cooper and Tooey, how did they compete against each other in the Best of Breed ring?

Today Russ came along, and he got drafted for his very first time in the show ring. He handled Tooey (who already had today’s Winner’s Bitch point), and I handled Cooper. We were gambling that Cooper might win Best of Winner’s if I handled him. Amazingly, the gamble paid off.

And the picture above, taken in the ring, during the Best of Breed competition? Once a photographer, always a photographer. It’s like my sweet husband can’t help himself. And as he pointed out, the judge wasn’t  looking…

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Yesterday evening, warm with clear blue skies and white fluffy clouds, was the perfect time for the first outdoor X-Fido flyball practice of the year.

We set up on the lawn of the Garden Home Rec Center, including:

  • the fluorescent orange fencing (to keep the team dogs in and non-team members out),
  • two courses of bright white hurdles,
  • the two ball-launching boxes,
  • various flags,
  • several kinds of tennis balls (small, regular, squeaky, soft, etc.), and
  • a plastic tub for water.
(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

It was a good practice. We did:

  • a bunch of runbacks (where the dog runs only the last half of a run, from the box, over the hurdles, and to the finish line),
  • some practice box turns (where the dog practices getting all four feet onto the box in order to launch the tennis ball), and
  • a few full runs with 4-dog teams (from the start line passing a dog, over all the hurdles, to the box to grab the tennis ball, back over all the hurdles, and passing — with tennis ball — another dog at the finish line).

Experienced dogs first, then novice dogs. Cooper is a novice, and he got a turn at two full runs.

Cooper did one run 98% perfectly. The only thing not perfect was that he slowed slightly to look at the teammate dog passing him. The whole run, I had been yelling, “Yes, yes, yes!” Then, when he turned slightly to look at the other dog, I could see that his puppy brain was calculating the possibility of stopping to play. I boomed out a really loud, “NO!!!” That took his attention off the dog and toward me, and my running away, wildly waving the pink puppy toy, and again yelling, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Then, the other run… Instead of returning over our course of hurdles, Cooper ran over to the other course to chase a dog running over there. Nancy was closer, so she ran over to him, waved her arms, and yelled, “Cooper! No! What do you think you’re doing?”

Cooper stopped abruptly. Nancy said that his golden almond-shaped eyes got really big and round. Then he decided that running to me was the best possible idea. Good choice, Cooper.

He got a drink and then took a break in his crate, watching the other dogs run. Sigh… better luck next week.

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In Cooper’s first real dock diving event (Northwest Challenge Xtreme Air Dogs Competition during the Multnomah County Fair), he jumped his best recorded distance: 14.6 feet. As I had predicted, the real limitation is still my throws. I really need to give the chase toy a bit more loft, make it go straighter, and a little farther out. I also have to absolutely insist that Cooper WAIT at the start of the dock until I tell him it’s okay to run. He gets so excited that he cheats, and I get so rattled that I let him. Bad handler!

Tammy and Steve came out to the fair with Russ and me. Tammy took Cooper on a couple of jumps, so I could watch a master at work. Meanwhile, Steve and Russ both took some great photos.

Athlete and coach conferring

Athlete and Coach Tammy conferring

052409_0115052409_0117

And my favorite photo of the day, taken by Steve:

052409_0144

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The X-Fidos Flyball Club gave a rousing demo of flyball at the Multnomah County Fair at Oaks Park. Eager dogs and orange team shirts really radiated energy in the bright sunny day. We alternated on the field with a local dog agility team, both of us giving demonstrations of the fun you can have with your dog. We even staged a race, dog team vs. kids’ team. Of course the kids won.

Kristine Gunter, dog photographer, writer, trainer, and fellow X-Fido, took this photo of Cooper and me. Cooper looks very attentive. I was patting my chest, inviting him to jump up on me. What dogs don’t like jumping up on their people?

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

(c) 2009 Kristine Gunter

In between heats, Cooper and I went down the Willamette River to cool off. As far as Cooper is concerned, everything always goes better with swimming. And even better, we found the Northwest Air Dogs dock diving pool. Guess I know where we’re going tomorrow!

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At last year’s Northwest Pet & Companion Fair, Cooper refused to jump. NW Air Dogs had set up a pool and a dock for a charity event inside the Portland Expo Center. For quite awhile, Coop had been jumping into ponds and rivers from the bank, but he hadn’t jumped off a dock, and he certainly hadn’t jumped into a pool.

Human-made pools are strange. Everything’s all clear and blue. You can’t really see the bottom. So even if we admit that there is some water in there, there’s no way to tell how deep it is. Too deep? Too shallow? Who knows? Cooper decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and declined.

This year the light switched on. And Cooper jumped. Boy, did he jump. And jumped, and jumped, and jumped again. See for yourself:

At work, I’ve been writing recently about the importance of doing enough “pleasant activities” every day to keep one’s mood upbeat. This weekend, I overflowed with pleasant activities. The picture below shows how happy both Coop and I were after today’s dock diving. The ribbon is for a 14.5′ jump — 2nd place in the day’s friendly competition!

Hugs for a job well done!

Hugs for a job well done!

Thanks to my sweet husband for taking this bright, warm, sunny, perfect boat-building-weather morning off from working on the boat to come and take pictures!

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011609_waiting

I can’t say much about this show since I wasn’t at the Portland Expo Center on the one day when Cooper got points in this year’s Rose City Classic. Jayme made him beautiful (she’s got real talent) and showed him in the Open dogs class. He won Winner’s Dog, so he went on to the Best of Winners competition.

That was held in conjunction with the Best of Breed competition, in which Jayme showed her husband’s dog, Orion. I never did catch the name of the woman who showed Cooper, where he won Best of Winners. (If anyone out there knows who she was, I’d love to hear so I can thank her.) Cooper finished the day with another 2 points.

Sadly, Rose City this year wasn’t a major. To become a champion, a dog has to win 2 majors, which are competitions in which more dogs compete — how many dogs are required for a major is determined by the AKC by region. Oregon is in Division 8, which currently requires at least 8 dogs for a 3-point major for IWS.

Later in the weekend, Cooper won Reserve Winner’s Dog. Nice, but pointless (so to speak).

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