I Can’t Remember Before

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I’ve shared my life with my dream German Shepherd puppy for three months now. It’s hard to belive how fast the time goes by. In fact, I feel like I’ve never been without Quest. I just about cannot remember life before he bounced into it, full of floppy puppy ears, kisses, and giant awkward paws.

He brings so much joy to my life. Sometimes it’s just quiet friendship. Sometimes it really is simply looking at him. He’s magnficently beautiful canine perfection. Other times, it’s his sense of humor. His clownish happiness, and his cuddly affection would melt all but the hardest of hearts.

Tomorrow he turns five months old. It won’t be long before his career as a show dog starts. He’s excelling in every kind of training and bonding I have attempted with him. Every time I present him with a challenge, he nails it.

The other day he was incredible- fearless, gentle, and knowing with a group of adults with disabilities who wanted to meet him. Their loud vocalizations and erratic movements did not bother him in the slightest. He has sense. He’s discerning and soft, yet confident and bold.

Sure, we work and train. I could brag of the many things he knows, or the fact that his behavior in public is already effortlessly flawless. I could mention that I have yet to see him startle at, or worry about, anything. But there’s so much more this beautiful puppy than all of that.

I’m incredibly excited to see where our journey takes us, both in the show ring and in life. I waited nearly the life time of a healthy shepherd to bring home my dream puppy.

It was worth it.

I’ve also spent these months sharing my home with my best friend, and been through hell and back to keep us safe and help make these dreams come true. Here we are, shepherds by our sides, having and doing all the things we never imagined we ever, ever would or could. Sometimes it’s been brutal: a combination of the general hardship of life, and the sadness of having people who only want to see us fail, and would get pleasure out of that. It’s been waiting, hoping, planning, wishing, and finally doing.

It’s only made us stronger, and it was utterly worth it.

I can’t wait to see where we all go from here.

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A Cool Treat

Slurpee is my pick for a working partner and obedience dog from our current litter here at Windridge. Only time will tell if he “turns out” and stays long-term, but the prospect is surely exciting. There are many other puppies in the litter with one thing or another to offer, but this one has the look and the nature that I want. He is a real, old-fashioned Golden Retriever.

Here he is at a mere 3.5 weeks of age- fearless, sound, and (of course) adorable.

Adopt Don’t Shop, at Least Not With a Manicure

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I read an article today by another blogger. It stated, in typical sexist fashion, that only a “terrierman with dirt under his nails” is a real dogman, as opposed to “the¬†overweight matron with gold lacquer on her finger nails.”

I supposed that’s supposed to refer people like me, who show dogs and have vaginas, and like the original author, clearly don’t have a personal trainer.

Sexism aside, the rest of the post clearly implies that doing dog sports (such as lure coursing with my Whippets, as opposed to lamping with them) is “pretend” dogmanship, and also that such dogs who participate are worthless (or at least that their existence is pointless).

Well, since lamping on Clearwater Beach (where I grew up) isn’t super practical, I was quite happy to discover lure coursing. I had the luck to live somewhere where meeting another dog person, who just might give me a ride (as a child) to a dog event was not unusual. Thus, I was introduced to the world of dogs, sighthounds, and lure coursing. A similar course events lead to my introduction to dog shows, obedience training, and other dog sports.

My dogs have always been companions first, and they forever will be. The notion that being a pet, a friend, is a meaningless job that “any ol’ dog” can do is endlessly frustrating to me. The number of behavior specialists who have a job, and the number of dogs in shelters, clearly indicate that a large portion of ill-bred dogs cannot cut it as companions. A pet dog actually needs to be an even more stellar example, in some ways, than many dogs owned by professionals. A very savvy handler can manage or modify most annoying or difficult behaviors. A pet in a true pet home must be stable, easy going, biddable, healthy, easy to care for, and generally pretty flexible and pleasant to live with, even with a handler with a low skill set.

A show dog may belong to a more savvy than average handler, but he still needs more than a pretty face and a dose of flashy side movement. Show dogs need to be able to handle change, travel, multiple handlers, intensive grooming, loud noises, crowds, buildings, surfaces, speakers, and being touched by many different people. Being animated, out going, biddable, and very stable is paramount for a dog to have any real success in the ring, regardless of breed.

Both jobs are better suited to healthy, sound-minded, long-lived animals of quality. There’s also literally nothing wrong with owning dogs that one finds pleasant and beautiful to look at, for any reason.

I’ve long subscribed to the idea that doing anything legal, safe, and fun with one’s dog is a good thing. I have a hard time imagining discouraging any person from participating in a fun activity with his or her pet dog. After all, dogs love training, bonding, exercise, and time with their people. Getting out and socializing with other dog lovers is wonderful for the handlers, too (usually!).

This other blogger’s post ended with a flat out statement that anyone who isn’t working a dog on a real farm, hunting, or similar setting has no need to purchase a well-bred puppy of the breed they prefer, but should adopt a shelter dog. In his region of the country, and my own, that means a young adult, poorly bred pit bull terrier.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Every dog owner deserves the breed of dog they desire and which suits them best as a companion. It’s rather obtuse to imagine that working dog handlers don’t also live with their dogs as friends, too. Any purpose a dog has, his first job is as a companion, in most cases. If one’s ideal dog happens to be a poorly bred pit bull mix (which might excel at fly-ball or agility or weight pull, and can be a good, active pet for some households), then so be it.

The rest of us have no more obligation to clean up other peoples’ messes (that don’t suit our households) than does the working dogman who requires a specific breed and bloodline to do the job required.

Any dog’s job is as worthy as the next. I find these remarks from a so-called dogman especially ironic since this individual also loudly opposes Greyhound racing, a sport and industry where some of the last true dogmen in the world thrive, full of wisdom to pass on, along with a deep love and respect for their beautiful, athletic animals. Perhaps a terrierman who longs to own and work his dogs into the future might consider a more open-minded view of others who treasure their dogs, the breeding those dogs have, and the activities they enjoy sharing with those animals.

He may or may not change his views, but regardless, I’ll be painting my nails and getting ready for my next dog event.

 

Not Nothing

No one ever made me feel as small as you did
No one made me feel as cursed
I’d lie awake in bed just staring at the ceiling
Wondering if things would get worse

I was trapped under your thumb
Believing when you called it love

But I will forgive myself
And start to let it go
Accept that who you chose to be
Was out of my control
And though it might be hard
To begin again
I’ll write myself a brand new story
With a happy end
I survived
So tonight
I am taking back my life
And I’ll show you
That I am not nothing

I kept my head above the water
‘Til the moment when all the elements aligned
And I could fly away to heal my broken spirit
And leave my demons far behind
You always said that I was weak
But the bravest thing I did was leave

So I will forgive myself
And start to let it go
Accept that who you chose to be
Was out of my control
And though it might be hard
To begin again
I’ll write myself a brand new story
With a happy end
I survived
So tonight
I am taking back my life
And I’ll show you
That I am not nothing

Looking up at the sky
I think I see the start of a sunrise

And I will forgive myself
And start to let it go
Accept that who you chose to be
Was out of my control
And though it might be hard
To begin again
I’ll write myself a brand new story
With a happy end
I survived
So tonight
I am taking back my life
And I’ll show you
That I am not nothing
I’ll show you
That I am not nothing

– Beth Crowly
Neither of us are nothing.