There are times when an IWS comes along who is so special she cannot be denied. That she started as a pet (“Riley Peach”), was bred by two accomplished breeders, is co-owned both by a family new to the breed and the most successful IWS breeder of all time, and is handled by the world’s most genuinely nice professional handler all contribute to the legend. But all time BIS winning IWS BIS/BISS GCh. Whistlestop’s Riley on Fire is perfection, and everyone gathering for the IWSCA National Specialty in Farmington, Utah at the end of April knew it.
The Irish Water Spaniel is my breed–my sole breed–so I don’t have other nationals with which to compare. Lots of friends do, though, and it’s not uncommon to hear–long before the specialties themselves–predictions if not outright declarations of the winners, accompanied by the usual grousing. This year’s IWSCA national was no exception when it came to the projected Best in Specialty–though if there was any grousing, I certainly didn’t hear it. Riley’s that easy to love. And when judge Mrs. Mareth Kipp pointed to Rick Krieger and Riley, the applause, while not surprised, was genuine, sustained, and appreciative–everyone present knows they were privileged to see art in motion.
Riley’s triumph, followed by her sire Keegan’s (Multi BIS/BISS GCh. Poole’s Ide Got Water RN) Best of Opposite out of the Veteran dog class, Keegan’s son Ruckus’s (Stanegate It’s Showtime) Winner’s Dog, and his niece Page’s (Poole’s Ide Moving forward) WB/BOW were the culmination of five days’ worth of Irish water spaniels doing what they do best–using their exceptional noses, marking ability, retrieving and flushing drive, and athleticism–despite blowing wind for the tracking test on Friday with the addition of rain for the working certificates on Saturday.
The sole IWS tracking entry, Realta’s Limerick CD RA SH SHU completed the test with ease, adding TD to his impressive list of titles.
Saturday dawned wet and stayed wet–though the intrepid IWS field folks were undaunted–as were the ever-eager Irishers and a respectable gallery–most of whom were grateful to have a decent (not to mention warm and dry) view from their vehicles. Seven IWS earned their working certificates, with Whistlestop’s High Jinks Nessa JH RN the sole qualifier for the working certificate excellent. Despite the blowing wind and rain three IWS earned their upland certificates with three more earning their upland excellent titles. The talk of the day, though, was Ch. Whistlestop’s Mischievous Thought’s (Moss) run in the upland test. As it was wet, the birds weren’t eager to fly. His pheasant hen flushed low and the gunners didn’t fire. She disappeared over a knoll and so did Moss. Time passed. Suddenly, bounding over the hill with the pheasant came Moss. Moss was unanimously declared Gunner’s Choice–even though the gunners never fired a shot.
On to the Legacy Events Center in Farmington for Sunday’s agility. The Legacy Center http://legacyeventscenter.com/ is a “no frills” venue but one that’s accessible, versatile, and incredibly dog-friendly with numerous buildings of various sizes including a packed dirt arena, a spacious kitchen and dining area, generous and well-lighted grooming and crating area, and a sizeable indoor ring with concrete floor. In fair weather, the Center also offers well groomed lawns for outdoor rings. The large horse arena was the venue for the IWSCA agility trial; what the entry lacked in numbers, it made up for in quality and entertainment (Irish water spaniels invariably add their unique comic flair to everything they do). The sole qualifier for one of the three IWSCA sponsored agility awards of excellence was GCh. Chantico’s Spirit in the Surf JH RA CD OA OAJ NF out of the Excellent Standard class.
Monday brought sunshine alternately turning to wind-driven sleet and back to sun again–the backdrop of the mountains is breathtaking but the uncertainty of springtime weather made us happy to be indoors for the rally and obedience trial. Once again, the inimitable Irish flair proved entertaining (yes, and frustrating). High Combined from Rally was none other than the Gunners’ Choice from the upland test, Moss (Ch. Whistlestop’s Mischievous Thought) and Obedience High in Trail went to Whistlestop’s Conjuring up a Hooligan.
Tuesday (conformation day)dawned cool and clear. Sweepstakes commenced in the indoor ring under the eye of long-time IWS breeder Mrs. Betty Wathne from Maryland. Best in Sweeps was Whistlestop’s Maine Event RN RA with Best of Opposite going to Cat’s Sweet and Lovely. Mrs. Wathne’s Best Veteran in Sweeps was the venerable Keegan (GCh. Poole’s Ide Got Water RN WC WD–proudly boasting his two new club field titles earned on Saturday) with his sister Bonnie (GCh Poole’s Ide Bonnie Brook CD RN CGC) going Best of Opposite.
Best of Opposite Sex in Sweeps Cat’s Sweet and Lovely. Bred by Marian McLeod, owned by Marian McLeod and Cameron Henson
The junior handlers took the ring next to the delight of everyone present–what a treat to see three newcomers in the ring with their beautifully groomed and presented Irishers. Loren Ross took the honors out of the open senior Class with her Ch. Poole’s Ide American Idol RN.
Then it was time for the Queen Bee herself. What some might have believed would be an anti-climax was anything but. At nearly five, Riley has only hit her stride, and improves with every effortless trip around the ring. It’s been a privilege to watch her journey.
￼Best of Veteran in Sweeps, Best of opposite to Best of Breed, BIS/BISS GCh. Poole’s Ide Got Water RN WC WD. Bred by Greg Siner and Debbie Patterson, owned by Stacy Duncan, Cat Shelby, Colleen McDaniel, and Greg Siner
Winners Dog, Stanegate It’s Showtime, bred by Judith Carruthers, owned by Stacy Duncan
￼The Queen Bee herself, all-time record Best in Show winning IWS BIS BISS GCh. Whistlestop’s Riley on Fire. Bred by Colleen McDaniel and Stacy Duncan. Owned by Bethany and Tom urban and Greg Siner.
All Photos Provided and copyright by (Photos Copyrighted by Jeremy Kezer)