As Gael gets ready in earnest this summer to enter obedience competition, I’m fussing more than usual with her equipment: which collar to show her in, which toy to get her focused on me outside the ring, which dumbbell size (especially to reduce her mouthing of it). After spending way too much money on a fancy leather martingale and cycling through numerous toys that Gael either destroys in one training session or could care less about, I discover that really, simple is best:

Gael equipment summer 2014 002

That’s it. A canvas puppy bumper, a choke chain, and the dumbbell I started her with (after trying all kinds of fancy custom sizes), with a string tied to it for mouthing. She’s nuts about that puppy bumper, and the chain seems to be a collar she respects, unlike many buckle collars. Soon Gael decided she needed to be in the picture too:

Gael equipment summer 2014 004

Gael is currently on a no-food-during-training diet, and the results have been promising and fascinating. This training “diet” will go on for another week, and while I’m not seeing the brightness I get when I train with food, I’m certainly seeing commitment to the task and willingness to keep going. We had one terrible training session at the outset where she was quite sullen and had to be corrected into working, but since them I’ve been happy with her response. Her favorite bumper is really helping…

Gael equipment summer 2014 001

A more ragged, dirty bumper is not in my toy bag, but this favorite sure helps keep Gael up and working. In the meantime, I’m learning a LOT about praising her for effort, inserting play for good work, and in general trying to make myself more interesting. In some ways, especially when we work on her dumbbell mouthing, she actually seems to be concentrating better on the task at hand, rather than getting agitated about when she’ll get her cookie. I begin to wonder if the food isn’t actually a distraction for her. A recent snapshot taken at class on Tuesday night shows her really pushing through her figure 8:

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I never went through this “diet” with the springers, but these 2 weeks are revealing a lot about how much I tend to use food as crutch, and with a dog like Gael, a lot, or at least some of that food might be unnecessary and even distracting. Things that make you go hmmm….

For some reason the semi-annual shows at the Puyallup fairgrounds have been very good to us in recent years. This surprises me as the building is not always considered friendly to obedience dogs; many people complain of the floor literally shaking (it’s on the second floor), and with large entries the spacing can get tight. However, my current generation of dogs has fared well here, often earning titles with good scores and placements. These June shows were particularly exciting: after a looooong dry spell, Reardon finally earned his first utility leg. Utility is considered the “graduate school” for dogs, and Reardon has struggled with working independently at the required distance away from me. (Details on this will be in a different post.) Roz earned her Rally Advanced title with placements, and Gael earned her first Beginner Novice leg on Sunday. While Gael won the class and earned a 189, and did a respectable job on the initial portion of the heeling, her figure 8 was quite out of control. After that, she keep going with very nice work for all the control exercises (a sit for exam, sit-stay and recall). The problems on the figure 8 have led us into a current no-cookies-during-training plan.

However, I have to be very pleased with the final results of all three dogs. Here they are with their ribbons:

Puyallup June 2014 004

July Freestyle

In July the Oregon club, Dogs Gone Dancin’, hosted a freestyle competition in Kent, WA.  This was my first foray into the Novice level with Reardon, and just for fun I also entered Gael in a non-titling, demo class called Innovation, and put Rozzie into an evening match.  While Reardon didn’t pass on Saturday, we only missed qualifying by 2/10s of a point.  Sunday we improved and earned our first Novice leg in this sport where I’ve never before gone beyond the Beginner phase.  Next is the WCFO National in Portland, OR in late October.    Below are some great pictures from the show by photographer Kathy Kolatski:

Gael danced to Bill Whelan's "Caracena," a piece from Riverdance.

Gael danced to Bill Whelan’s “Caracena,” a piece from Riverdance.


She astounded me by being quite attentive throughout her little routine.

She astounded me by being quite attentive throughout her little routine.

Naturally our routine had to show off Gael's natural exuberance.   Any other option would have spelled disaster.

Naturally our routine had to show off Gael’s natural exuberance. Any other option would have spelled disaster.


Roz danced in the evening fun match, so no costume other than her cute collar. We're working on a routine to The Nutcracker.

Roz danced in the evening fun match, so no costume other than her cute collar. We’re working on a routine to The Nutcracker.

Roz doin' her weaves!

Roz doin’ her weaves!

Last but not least is Reardon's routine to the theme from the movie Van Helsing by Alan Silvestri.

Last but not least is Reardon’s routine to the theme from the movie Van Helsing by Alan Silvestri.


This is my favorite shot of Reardon in motion.

This is my favorite shot of Reardon in motion.

More freestyle updates to come after the National in October!






Roz is back!

It’s been a rough summer for Rozzie: a surgical implant in June (not my decision, but her breeder’s), absorption of the puppies by July, a pyometra scare in early August and a course of antibiotics. I scheduled a spay as soon as she recovered, just in case we had any left-over problems. So Rozzie has spent a summer highly restricted and in discomfort. Thank goodness it’s all over now and Rozzie can just be a working girl. To celebrate, I’ve been trying to get her out doing what she loves most in the early fall weather: swimming and retrieving.

Today we were at Cherry Valley, and while the ponds were too low for any real swimming, Rozzie got to get down and dirty with her new love, a plastic orange bumper.


Gael got into the action too:

Things got a bit swampy at one point:


But the run back to the car was as merry as the run out.  It does my heart good seeing Rozzie back to herself.


I’m so pleased that Gael finished her Junior Hunter title today, with great scores and 3 finds. Her pointing keeps getting more stylish, and today she waited for me to start kicking up the bird before she broke. (Junior dogs have to establish point, but they don’t need to be steady to wing and shot.) For her previous leg, she received 1 “9” (out of 10) from each judge, and the rest 8’s; this time, both judges gave her 2 9’s and 2 8’s. It’s neat to see that improvement. The AKC apparently had confidence that we would get this 4th leg, as they erroneously sent us our certificate with the 3rd one.

Gael JH! 010

I’m not sure how much further we’ll go on in hunt tests; there are just so many other things I want to do with her. I do know she would enjoy the retrieving of Senior Hunter. We’ll see! Now on to rally and tracking!

no puppies

Last month Rozzie was bred to a field champion Melchris springer, and we’ve been waiting for today, the day of the ultrasound. She’s been off her feed a bit, a wee bit moody and lethargic, and to me just a bit full in the tummy. So we went to the vet’s quite expectantly.

But no puppies. The vet found four little blobs that are not developed, and appear to be re-absorbing into the uterus. She suspects that Rozzie’s uterus, being that of an older bitch, has too many “cystic changes” and so was unable to bring the puppies to term.

The heart is a strange creature, subject to erratic shifts and irrational dreams. When this adventure began, all at the behest of the breeder, I was apprehensive and reluctant, simply ready to get an obligation (a “litter back”) done and move on with our lives. But as the possibility of puppies grew, and as Rozzie showed signs, I began to resurrect an old hopeful dream about what Kani, and now Rozzie as her daughter, could bring into the springer world. Perhaps I would take a puppy from this litter. If not, Rozzie would now be “viable” and I could breed her to a sire of my choice next year. Perhaps I’d see Kani coming back to me in one of her grand-puppies.

Those dreams really do have to end. Rozzie needs to be spayed–mother nature is making that very clear. And I now realize what those resurrected dreams are really about. I just want Kani back. I want her to come back, and it’s not going to happen. At least not in this life. But that’s all I want. And I find myself right back in the grief of two months ago.

Rozzie summer 2013 007