I have had dogs for most of my adult life. Unlike so many of the friends I have made in the 2 ½ years since I joined the Club, I am no expert. Believe me. My contact with the Puppy Class a little over two years ago was my first real insight into the world of training and showing and I have learned so much. So I can’t talk about pedigrees or showing triumphs, just the dogs I have loved. Over the years I have been an enthusiastic and careful dog owner, (rather than skilled!) but I think most of all I have been incredibly lucky to find some fantastic dogs.
As a child, I was dog crazy, I begged for a dog every Christmas and birthday for years to no avail. I walked lots of the local dogs (for pleasure, not pocket money) but my father remained resolute, no dogs in his house! So the minute I had a home of my own the dog arrived practically before the furniture!
The Poodle years.. Zara & Zack
Zara was a black Standard Poodle. In every way a dream dog, she was beautiful and delicately built, she was one of those dogs that just wants to learn and please, training her was easy and instinctive on both sides. With hindsight I cannot believe how good she was with so little effort on my part. When my first baby came along, she was instantly his friend and protector. It seems odd to parents now, but back in the day it was standard practice to leave your pram and baby outside a shop. I knew that he was safe with Zara by his side and never had a moment’s worry.
Four years on, another baby and another dog. This time Zack, another black Standard Poodle, he was a big, big, big boy far too big for the breed standard! When we brought him home Zara knocked him from one end of the hall to the other pinned him down and washed him and from that day forward he was hers. She had found an outlet for her motherly instincts. We had been told that Zack would need eye-drops for his whole life as he had a small congenital deformity of the eye. No need, Zara simply washed his eyes night and morning and we never had any problems from that day on.
Zack died age 4, far too young, of bloat. It was a horrible situation which began with a carelessly discarded box of KFC. We couldn’t get him to the vets in time to save him. It’s a horrible painful, distressing end. My son, now aged 30 can still get emotional talking about it. We all missed his joyful, boisterous presence in our lives, but Zara most all. She never really recovered and died aged 8, a really old dog for her years.
Fast forward a couple of years, dog-less and divorced I visited the RSPCA in Blackpool for a pair of lurcher/whippet cross girls and came out with Greg. Some collie (without the cleverness!) and the rest goodness knows what – Greg was the sole survivor among a litter of puppies found in a bin-bag. He had a heart murmur a broken tail, not much in the way of a bottom jaw and was 6 months old with no training…. He also had the saddest eyes I had ever seen. I fell heavily for the sob story and those chocolate eyes and found myself at home with a challenging dog. House training was fun, he took months to really get the hang, he didn’t know how to play, and just shivered at the slightest raised voice. It took months of gentle, patient treatment to bring him round. But we got there and it was big love in both directions. He never left my side, my little shadow dog. His recall was impeccable and he was brilliant off lead. He simply never saw anything he liked or wanted more than me. It’s a special feeling – my special boy was beaten by a brain tumour age 13. Very hard to get over. It would take a very special and very different dog….
Now living in Ardgour with a house that clearly needs a dog, after much research we decided to take on a deerhound. Many of you will have seen Findlay at Dog Club and Lure Coursing – my over large, noisy, very stupid and enthusiastically affectionate 2 year old. What a shock to the system! What an adventure! By now I thought I was an instinctive and talented dog trainer…… wrong! I now know I was simply lucky and Zack (who might have been a handful) was clearly trained by Zara not me. So we have worked and worked and worked and we are still learning. A long way still to go! His recall is shocking and he is easily distracted by, well,….. anything! Puppy class (just) passed we progressed to Good Citizen but after an injury he developed an aversion to the hall that we are still working on. We would love to come back soon. In the meantime he is a daily joy and delight and I can’t imagine life without him.