The Post Oak Lodge and Retreat, situated in the rolling hills of Northeastern Oklahoma, proved to be the perfect spot for a gathering of the “Rat Tail Spaniel” clan. The facility, which normally hosts corporate getaways and wedding receptions, offered breeders and exhibitors of the Irish Water Spaniel aka Rat Tail Spaniel a chance to remove their masks as the nation slowly re-emerged from a global shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The property’s verdant and rolling hills, replete with hiking trails and fresh water ponds, provided an ideal gathering place for exhibitors who’d been waiting patiently for more than a year for the reunion.
Co-Chairs Mark and Sondra Barker demonstrated their ability to get things done—with style, efficiency, and an exceptional attention to detail—by delivering on their promise of a single site, capable of accommodating the demands of a parent club in need of indoor/outdoor facilities for every conformation, companion, and performance event as well as a variety of meeting, lounging, and dining spaces. At the Post Oak, individual lodges allowed exhibitors to stay together in smaller groups, and the main lodge provided the perfect meeting place throughout the week for guests and their dogs to gather in greater numbers. The facility’s staff could not have been more professional and welcoming, and a few employees even showed up on their day off to watch the dogs run in the agility ring and retrieve birds just a few yards from the retreat’s front door.
A full week of events was scheduled to begin on May 10th with a Regional Specialty judged by Mr. Eugene Blake, who was accompanied to the afternoon show by Julie Mueller. Sunny skies and mild temperatures allowed the dogs to truly shine, as most were returning to the ring after a year-long hiatus. For those who couldn’t travel to attend this year’s events, IWSCA President Dana Louttit provided livestreaming throughout the week. On this day, Mark Crews kept things running smoothly as Steward in a ring set-up that was provided by the Mid-Continent Kennel Club. A “welcome” social was held that evening where exhibitors could feel comfortable enough to get reacquainted up close and in person. A greeting commonly extended was, “I’ve been vaccinated!”
Agility exhibitors awoke Tuesday morning to cooler temperatures and an unfortunately soggy field. Though a few runs did take place, it soon became apparent that conditions were unsafe for both the dogs and handlers. So, with the blessing of judge Pamela “Candy” Nettles and every exhibitor (and with approval from AKC), agility was postponed until the following afternoon. Later that evening, a scrumptious Italian dinner was enjoyed followed by my well-attended breed presentation titled, “The Irish Water Spaniel, 1834-Present: Observations from an Inquisitive American.”
On Wednesday, Rally Judge Ms. Dovie Ryan and Obedience Judge Ms. Helen Smith worked with the show committee, the exhibitors, and the AKC to adjust the day’s schedule to accommodate Agility. In the evening, a Parade of Rat Tail Spaniels proved a big draw in the main lodge’s Evergreen Room where Barry Rose and Tracy Turner stewarded. The waning light of day provided a bit of drama that carried through to Sweepstakes. Judge Betty Liitschwager-Rego enjoyed the company of six excitable puppies and nine experienced veterans. A loud and lively dinner followed in the Main Lodge’s Dining Room; a Cinco de Mayo fiesta in celebration of the day’s winners and qualifiers.
A Judges Education presentation was given by Linda Deckard on Thursday morning before the start of the long-awaited National. (Due to the pandemic, the club’s 2020 event was postponed until 2022.) Judge Ms. Pluis Davern made exhibitors and their dogs feel comfortable in her ring, despite the many sudden gusts of wind. Steward Lisa Bowers kept everyone organized and on schedule throughout the regular and non-regular classes. The IWSCA General Meeting was held afterwards in the Main Lodge, followed by a silent auction and an evening reception arranged outdoors under twinkling lights. “The Road to Oklahoma” gathering was sponsored by the Oklahoma Beef Council.
On Friday morning, Pluis Davern judged the Working Certificate (WC) test alongside fellow Judge Mr. Joe O’Brien at the lodge’s Sunset Ridge (land double) and Willow Pond (back-to-back water double). Three of the 15 IWS entered in the non-competitive test, designed to demonstrate the dogs’ natural retrieving abilities, passed. Later, with so many of the dogs fresh from their swim, a match was held on the property’s North Meadows where Laurel Baglia and I determined the winner of an informal Wet Dog Contest.
As the week-long Specialty drew to a close, friends old and new enjoyed another evening under the stars for an outdoor Cowboy Cookout, where Dana Loutitt presided over the Awards Banquet and the always entertaining Greg Siner raised funds for the club through his infamous Live Auction. Co-Chair Mark Barker spoke on behalf of his committee members who surely outdid themselves this year to make the “Oklahoma Specialty” a fun and informative week that certainly delivered on its promise.
As everyone said their goodbyes, many were wondering, “Can we come back to Tulsa and do this again?”
Rat Tail Spaniel Clan | Irish Water Spaniel