Monday, May 19, 2014

Learning to play stick . . .

OK, puppy, this is what you do!

I'm ready!  I'm ready!  I'm ready!!!!!

The handoff . . .

Now, take it to Kristine!

Look, I got it!!!

Hey!!  Did you see what I just did?!!?


I spent a good amount of time this past weekend just observing Mr. Bandit.  I am amazed by him.  But I am also amazed by the degree to which I am amazed!

I have done a lot of really big-deal things with my dogs.  Speedy overcame extreme fear to eventually dance in front of audiences and love it.  Tessa went from being semi-feral to a beloved member of our household.  Dean has accomplished many things in spite of his noise phobia and severe anxiety.  Maddie overcame abandonment.

And even after all of that, I sit here and watch the puppy learn the littlest life things and I am absolutely fascinated!  This morning he went out all by himself with Dean and Tessa to do his business and it means as much to me as anything that any of my other dogs have accomplished.  I guess it's because he is such a baby and he is learning so much so fast, and most of it is just happening naturally.

I really do know now that everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.

And as every day goes by I love this little guy more and more.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

From a Breeder . . . From a Rescue . . . Why or Why Not?

Sammie was our first dog.  After Ben and I had been married a year, we went to the local SPCA and adopted a shelter mutt.

Almost a year later, we went to a breeder that Ben found in the newspaper and we purchased Speedy, a Border Collie puppy.  While both of his parents were actually well bred working Border Collies, I can't say we purchased him all that responsibly.  We showed up, fell in love with a puppy, bought him, and took him home.

Almost a year after that, we went on Petfinder and found Maddie in a private all-breed rescue.

Several years later, I carefully chose five Border Collies on the Glen Highland Farm (Border Collie rescue) website who met particular criteria and then Ben and I went, by appointment, and met all five.  We came home with Dean Dog.

Four years after that, I evaluated a shut down, highly fearful, stray dog (Border Collie?) who had been caught and taken to a shelter for Glen Highland Farm.  GHF decided to pull her and I was holding her for three weeks.  When we saw that she had fond some measure of safety in our home, we decided to adopt her and we named her Tessa.

In January I decided to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time.  I found a responsible working Border Collie breeder who was breeding her dogs specifically for a high level of working ability.  She proceeded to raise them extremely well and she prepared them carefully for their new homes.  Now Bandit, 11 weeks old, is with us.

All six of these dogs have been very different from one another.  Five of those six have had their fair share of baggage and challenges.  The rescues certainly brought leftover issues from their past lives.  But even Speedy, who never knew a day in his life without love, caused me a fair share of difficulty and frustration.

I can honestly say that there are things that I appreciate about getting a dog from a breeder and there are things that I appreciate about getting a rescue.

Breeder Dogs

The Gift of Provision

I treasure having the privilege of providing everything that my puppy from a breeder needs throughout his entire life.  I always thought it was incredibly sweet that Speedy had never known a day in his life without love and he didn't even have a concept of a life where good things didn't show up for him constantly.  Maybe he was just a tiny bit spoiled.  Why shouldn't he have been?  When I look back on his life now, I don't regret giving him a single good thing that I gave him.  I look forward to doing the same with Bandit.

Knowing Where He Came From

In some ways it may not matter whether I know my dog's lineage or not, but I think it is extremely interesting to look over the pedigree and see the names of my dog's ancestors.  Speedy and Bandit even have some key ancestors in common, just a few generations back!

I have even found pictures of some of these ancestors and I like to look at them and search their faces for similarities.  It's a fun thing to do, but it is also a connection to long-ago Border Collie heritage.

Desired Behaviors Preserved

Nobody has punished the dog's desire to play away.  Nobody has taught the dog never to put paws up on someone or something.  Nobody has instilled a fear of shouting or reprimands.  Nobody has taught the dog not to go through doorways or other such nonsense.

I can jump in and start training what I want to train without having to un-do previous-life things.

Longer Time Together

Years spent with another owner are years I missed.  With my breeder dogs, I get to spend every possible day, week, month, year with my dog.  Speedy was 12 years old and he spent all 12 years, minus his growing-up time, with me.  When Bandit is 18 weeks old, he will have spent half of his life with me.  This is time that I appreciate deeply.

Rescue Dogs

A Second Chance

Whether my rescue was a pet dog that didn't work out (Dean) or came from a situation where an actual "rescue" was needed (Tessa), I love giving a dog a second chance.  There is great satisfaction in taking a dog who was abandoned (Maddie) or on her own for no known reason or who was too wild and crazy for a family to handle and lavish him or her with every good thing life has to offer a dog!

When I think about Sammie and Maddie now it means a lot that I can say, "I gave both of them a GREAT life".


Rescue dogs know they have it good.  Tessa knew life on the streets, having to eke out her own existence, at risk of danger and starvation.  Dean knew the sorrow of being ripped from the family he knew and loved.  Maddie knew abandonment.  And Sammie knew long days in the shelter.

They all knew they had it good.  Not having it so good is there - someplace in their brains.  Sometimes I sit down on Tessa's sofa with her and I hold her in my arms and we snuggle and I know that she feels safe and loved by the expression on her face.

And while appreciate the sweet innocence of a dog who doesn't have any concept of any of that, I also appreciate the strength, the resilience, and the courage that my second-hand dogs have.  They all had it in them to love and trust again.  I admire that to the very core of my being.

The Past Made Them Individuals

Yes, rescue dogs come with "baggage".  But they also come into the household as unique individuals.  Not everything that a rescue dog brings in from his or her past is bad.  Much of it is good, actually.

Dean may have been left to run wild in his home, but he was left to run with children.  He still loves children and is awesome with them.  He got a level of socialization with children that I can't really provide to a dog.  On the rare occasions when children come to our house, Dean is always right there to play with them and entertain them.

Tessa knows how to bounce back from difficulty.  She's a survivor.  While I would never deliberately abandon a dog to teach him or her how to survive, the fact that Tessa has done so has given her a strength that is downright inspiring!  It is one of the things that I admire most about her!

And while I miss the years I didn't get to spend with my rescues, I do appreciate that they bring the selves that they were before they knew me into our relationships now.

And . . . bonding!

Notice, I didn't say that my breeder dogs bond with me more than my rescue dogs.  I have simply not found that to be the case.

I would say that the dog I have the strongest bond with is Tessa.

Speedy and I had something very special because I raised him, and I'm sure Bandit and I will have something like that, too.

But I have found that one of the greatest sources of bond-building has come through working with my rescues to help them overcome the not-so-great aspects of their pasts.

The capacity to bond is not rooted in whether or not I raised the dog.  It depends much more on who the dog is at heart.

I expect to enjoy raising my well-bred Border Collie puppy and I will always appreciate the lengths to which his breeder went to prepare him for his new life. 

On the other hand . . . I plan to rescue again.  Absolutely!

Busy, Busy, BUSY!!!

Between the new puppy and a big work project, I have been BUSY these last two weeks!!  But things have finally settled down and I have time for a bit of an update.

First, we changed our puppy's call name.  His "official" name is still Diego el Bandito (Diego the Bandit), but we are calling him Bandit now (Edit: The "Diego" part has since been dropped altogether and our full name for him is El Bandito del Ephraim).  I thought Diego would sound distinct enough from Dean if we put emphasis one the "e" sound, but Dean disagreed.  He was starting to turn away, looking stressed, when we said his name.  Ooops!! 

Aside from that, when Ben came home the first weekend, he said, "maybe he is a bandit!"  He does look like he's wearing a mask!

So, his call name is now Bandit!

He is settling in very well.  The first week was crazy.  When out of the crate, he moved nonstop and he put everything he could find in his mouth!  I realized that I didn't quite puppy-proof in the right way and I spent a lot of time picking up little pieces of fuzz and stuff off the floor!

But he also took to toy play like a pro!  By the end of the first week he was adept at tugging and now he can retrieve, although not quite to hand, his hollee roller!

By this week, he is much more settled in.  He still has puppy energy, but he is more selective about what he puts his mouth on (whew!) and he generally does stick with his toys.

Things are also going well with Dean and Tessa.  At first they did not like the presence of this tiny, biting, interloper!  Tessa spent a lot of time laying around with her eyes closed, as if to say, "this is NOT happening!"  She was a lot like that when she first came to live with us!  Dean started to come around first.  Around the middle of last week, the puppy was capering around Dean and Dean put his entire muzzle over the puppy's snout and he gave a deep long snark.  Somehow, after that, his demeanor toward Bandit changed.  It was as if he had communicated something that needed to be said and now they could start to get to know each other.  I wouldn't say they are friends yet, but they are getting closer to being on the way to that.  Tessa is going to take even more time, but she is starting to come around, too.

At first I had thought that the puppy would change Dean and Tessa and liven them up a bit.  Now I see that they are teaching the puppy how to act appropriately in their world.  It makes sense and it's working out well.

I started just a little bit of training with our new boy.  I've never trained a puppy before and it is really interesting.  I went into his x-pen with him after he had eaten a bit and I used some of what was left of his food.  I lured a sit and he sat.  I lured a stand and he stood.  I lured another sit and he sat.  I lured a down and he got up and started chewing on the carpet!!  Puppy brain!!  Not much in the way of attention span!!

So far we have really only done that, plus a few hand touches, and a bit of doggie zen.  In real life he has learned a lot.  He responds to his name when you call him.  He is learning to release his toy on "give".  He knows to keep his feet on the floor while I am preparing his meal.  He is just kind of "getting" most of that!

We are starting training class on May 30!!!!  It is going to be crazy taking such a young puppy to class, but I'm eager to get started.  There will almost never have been a time when we weren't training together!

This is a puppy-growing crate.  Every time he sleeps in here,
he comes out just a bit bigger . . . !!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

The First Day

The puppies slept straight through until around 8:00 AM when I woke up on my own and took them out to potty.  I fed them, gave them a brief play period, and then they went back in the crate so I could sleep some more.  They seemed to understand the concept of going to sleep while I was sleeping and that was appreciated!

I got up later in the morning and we had more play time.  Reed was still with us and it was definitely busy keeping up with two young puppies!!  Dean and Tessa were very subdued.  Neither seemed happy about the tiny interlopers and neither would engage with either of them.

I realized quickly that I needed several things - a baby gate to block off the laundry room, some big plastic tubs to put small items into for future put-away, a proper sized collar for Diego, and a few other things.  So, after a good long playtime, I put the puppies in the crate for a nap (Ben was home) and I headed out to do some shopping.

I found Diego the cutest collar!  It's a lupine and the pattern is Candy Apple.  They only make it in the smaller dog patterns, so I am happy to be able to have one of these for him for a while.  It's adorable!

After I got back from shopping, Reed's owner came to get him.  We waited outside and I took some pictures of the two together.

Although the two of them were quite a lot to handle, I was glad to have Reed with us for a night and part of a day.  I think it helped Diego settle in better.  By the time Reed left Diego was familiar with us and our home and Dean Dog and Tessa.

Then we were on our own.  Picture time!

First Dandelion Photo:

This is a big yard to explore!

I love this photo!  Even though it is of his backside, somehow his personality comes through!

Settling in with a new dog is always strange, and having such a small puppy was completely unfamiliar territory.  But we did OK and spent the evening settling in with our new little guy.  We were both tired, but very happy to finally have Diego home with us.

Of course he doesn't take the place of the boys we lost this winter.  I still miss Sammie and Speedy.  Sometimes I still think, "Speedy was supposed to still be here!"

But in a way life hasn't been this right since January 11th.  We have something back now.  He is a totally different dog, but he has brought back a sense of joy and hope and looking forward.

I knew from the time Ben picked him up and he gave all of those kisses that it would be this way.

And in spite of the sadness and loss of this long, cold, horrendous, frozen winter, I do know now that everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be.


On the way home, Ben and I talked a lot about the puppy's name.  His name had been a point of contention for us almost since we decided to get a puppy!  It seemed that Ben disliked every name that I liked and I didn't like any of the names that he suggested.  This went on and on and on and on . . . for months!

At one point I really liked the name "Timber" and a friend suggested spelling it "Timbre" for a musical association.  I loved it and was all ready to name the puppy Timbre, or Timber.  Ben seemed open to it for a while and then he decided no, absolutely not!

He wanted to call the puppy "Dango".  This had a connection to Speedy.  When Speedy was a puppy, I could always tell when he was getting ready to go to the bathroom in the house because he kind of "danced" around.  I called that his Dango Dango Dance, and we started saying that Speedy had to Dango Dango.  To this day the phrase means "time to go out to the bathroom" to our dogs.  Ummmmmmm . . . no!

I gave up Timber so Ben would give up Dango.  So, we both gave up our favorite name choices.

We thought of lots of names, and a lot of people suggested names, but nothing really resonated.

About a week before we went to get our puppy, Ben suggested Diego.  I was open to that.  It was much, much better than Dango.

Once we met him, we also did consider keeping the name Alder, but by the time we were on the drive home, Ben had decided he didn't want to.

So, while looking for a place to eat dinner along I-80 in New Jersey, we talked about Diego.  Ben had decided that he really wanted to choose a name that had a connection to a Saint.  But he didn't want to pick a name that was a common human male first name (you know, like Dean or Sammie . . . go figure!).  For some reason he came up with Diego.  It has a connection to Saint Juan Diego and it is also a Spanish rendition of James.

I liked the connection to Saint Juan Diego because he is connected to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness of the Americas.

I asked him to remind me more about Saint Juan Diego.  Apparently he was quite determined.  He used to walk 15 miles to go to Mass.  And when commissioned with the task, he graciously and artfully asked his Bishop to build a chapel in honor of the Blessed Mother.  When the Bishop wanted a sign to show that this was an authentic request, he was given Castilian Roses to present.  This isn't the whole story, but the parts that stood out to me as Ben and I talked.

I liked these connections.  I hope that my puppy will be strong and bold and tenacious, yet artful and gracious.  I like the association with the roses.

Ben was more drawn to the idea of Saint James the Younger, so there was a double association there.

So, I agreed.  His name would be Diego.

Incidentally, we found out a couple of days later that Saturday, the day we picked Diego up, was the feast of Saints Philip and James . . . James the Younger!  Affirmation!

He is going to have a gazillion nicknames, of course!!  Digo, Little Jimmie, and last night he picked up the nickname Zorro because apparently that is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega in the story.

That's fun!

So, Diego it is!  I am already staring to enjoy saying his name in a sing-song tone, "Dyeeego!"

Oh, and less than a week at our house, he answers to it and comes running when his name is called!!

Diego on his first day home . . .


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Our Big Diego Adventure - Part 2

So, we finally got to the home of the breeder, several hours past the time we had originally planned.  Of course, I had called her to let her know what was happening, so it was all good.

When we got there, the breeder let all of the remaining puppies and Juniper, the litter mom, out in her backyard and we went out there to get acquainted.

Now, we had been matched with one of the puppies, the one the breeder was calling Alder.  But we had found out just the day before that we were actually going to have a choice because something had fallen through with one of the buyers and another puppy, Hawthorn, was also available.

Neither puppy took to us right away.  In fact, the only one who came up to greet us happily was the one that the breeder was planning to keep!  Super friendly little pup!

Alder, our match, stayed right next to the breeder, hiding behind her when we made any approach.  Hawthorn hung out but didn't come close.  As it turned out, all of the puppies were in a fear period and the only one who had come out of it was Oak, the one the breeder was keeping.

So, we hung out and talked and just let them get used to us.  After a while the breeder put everyone away except the puppy Hawthorn so we could interact with him a bit.  He came around and let us hold him and he warmed up enough for us to get acquainted.  He was a nice puppy.  He was friendly and very, very huggable.  He was a pretty mellow guy.

And that was the thing - earlier that morning Ben and I had been talking and I had said that Dean and Tessa, as a pair, were so mellow.  I was hoping that the puppy would add the "spark" that we had lost when we lost Speedy.  Not that I expect the puppy to be Speedy, of course.  But I was hoping for that quality.

Hawthorn, nice as he was, didn't seem to have it.

So, after a while, the breeder put Hawthorn in and Alder came out.  Alder came up to Ben and he picked Alder up and Alder gave him a million little puppy kisses.

I knew that was it!  I knew that in that second Alder had won Ben over completely and that he was going to be the one!  After Ben spent some time with him, I took him and I enjoyed that same puppy treat!

Alder had shed his shyness with us and it was clear that he was exactly the dog we were looking for.

The decision really was made in two ways.  When I had found out that we would actually have a choice of puppies, I told Ben that unless I saw any glaring red flags for performance (although unlikely), I would let him choose.

Ben is so good with Tessa.  Although she has come a long, long way with him, she still doesn't give her whole heart to him.  She likes for him to come over to her in a safe spot and pet her, but she doesn't ever go to him to solicit attention.  And he treats her like a little princess.  I know he would love it if she could let her guard down and just love him like she loves me, but she can't, he knows it, and he loves her anyway.

So, I wanted to give him the chance to say "this one!"

But I also had one little test of my own.  It was the same way that I decided on Dean.  I thought, "which of these dogs would I regret driving away without?"  The answer was clear - Alder!  As nice as Hawthorn was, I knew that I would miss Alder if we didn't take him home.

So, Alder it was!

After that, I went to the car and set up the crate and we packed up Alder and Reed, another puppy from the litter who would be riding as far as our house with us for another buyer, and off we went!

I couldn't believe we finally had our puppy, but I loved him already and I knew this was going to be a really good thing.

Alder was actually very quiet for most of the ride, but Reed did protest for a while.  Dean and Tessa were none to happy about the tiny interlopers, either, even though they had gotten a chance to meet both of them in the back yard first.  Unfortunately, they were far more interested in sniffing every inch of that back yard that they hardly paid attention to the puppies!

But they all settled before long.

Before we left the area, we stopped, again, at a Dunkin Donuts so Ben could get more coffee!

And we took a very long and rainy drive through Connecticut, north of New York City, into New Jersey, and finally back to Pennsylvania.  We went to the truck yard and got my car.  For the sake of simplicity I left the puppies with Ben since the crate was settled in his car, and I took Dean and Tessa with me.  I think they appreciated the chance to decompress a bit.

Due to stops and rain and having to get the car, we didn't get home until 2:30 AM!!!  Then we had to unload puppies, potty them, get the crate in, and get everyone settled.

Late as it was, we spent about an hour letting the puppies explore the fireplace room, which I blocked off with my new ex-pen, playing with the new toys I had gotten.

We got to bed around 4:00 AM!  The puppies wrestled in their crate for about 20 minutes and then they went to sleep, and we all got a little bit of rest.

A very, very, very long day.  But one of the best days ever!

On the way home!  This guy has TONS of personality!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Big Diego Adventure - Part 1

Dean, Tessa, Ben, and I all had quite the weekend, the high point of the adventure being bringing our new puppy home.

It started out after school on Friday when I rushed home and quickly finished packing.  I really wasn't thinking when I signed Tessa up for a Rally trial on the night before we were going to get our puppy, but in the end I am really glad that I did, even though it wasn't exactly a dream trial for us!

Once I had everything ready, Dean and Tessa and I were off!  They were excited because I had packed the car and then packed them up.  First stop - Bella Vista Training Center for two Level 1 World Cynosport Rally runs.

I was mentally spastic, and I know Tessa was reading that even though I tried to stay focused and normal.  In her first run she was just a little sniffy.  She managed to get through it, though.  We had one second cue, and she didn't move with me on a left pivot, so we got dinged for that, but we earned 5 of the 10 points of the bonus, which was the sidestep.  Sidestepping is not Tessa's strong point.  She earned a 197 on her first run and I was extremely happy with that!

We had to wait a bit for her second run, but I was rather excited for it.  It was the exact same course that we had run at Kamp Kitty and Tessa had done so well on it there.  Not this time!  She was completely and utterly fascinated with the judge and she kept stopping to stare at her!  It was not a fearful or nervous thing.  She was clearly in person watching la la land!  Still, she managed to get everything done, and her pivot was beautiful this time!  Her score was 202.

That is her Level 1 Title, and she earned an Award of Excellence for three scores over 190 in the A class!!

I'd like to do some Rally training this summer and do more of this with her.  She really will do better if we actually train it!

We finished up there around 9:00 and we headed out to meet Ben at the truck yard!  I was supposed to be there around 10:00 and was just a bit later than that.

We met up and had to do quite a lot of car-item exchange because we were taking his car on the trip.  He had to remove stuff from his car to make room for the things we would need.  I needed to move what we needed to his car.  He stored his car stuff in my car.  That was . . . time consuming!  The dogs were wonderful, just waiting around for us to do what we needed to do.

We headed north from there.  The plan was to ride up to Scranton.  That was supposed to give us just about a 3 and 1/2 hour trip to Massachusetts.  We could sleep in a bit and take our time and enjoy the ride.

Even though it was late, the ride up was nice.  A bit of a nostalgic jaunt through the coal region.  We stopped at Sonic near Hazleton and the burger was delicious.  It hit the spot at ten minutes to midnight!

We made our way up to Clarks Summit, just above Scranton and stayed over at an Econo Lodge.  It wasn't exactly the Ritz, but it wasn't a bad place.  A little run-down, but it was very interesting.  It had obviously been something else at one time and it looked like it had actually been quite nice.  It was pretty quiet and there was lots of room to walk the dogs right near our room.  Potty breaks were super easy and that isn't always the case at hotels.  In the morning I walked them along the woods at the back of the parking lot and it was really nice.  Ben and I slept pretty well and we were rested and ready to go on Saturday morning.

But the trip didn't go quite as we had planned.

First, Ben realized that he had forgotten two essential items, so we found a Wal-Mart.  The place was HUGE!  I stayed in the car with the dogs, and he was in there for quite a while - probably waiting in line for most of it!  Then we needed to eat, so we went to Dunkin Donuts because Ben loves their coffee!  In the spirit of celebration, we got donut holes to share with the dogs!

Aside from being beside myself with excitement and anticipation over the puppy, I was also looking forward to the trip because we would be taking a road I had never been on before.  We would be taking Interstate 84 from Scranton over to New York, where we would take the New York Thruway up to the Masspike to our destination.

It was a pretty drive and we started off making good time.  And then we came to a stop.  And we sat.  And we sat.  And we sat . . .

There was road construction, but this was something more.  This wasn't creep and crawl - we literally sat and barely moved for over an hour!  It was excruciating!  Our new puppy was waiting and we were just . . . stuck!!!  It seemed so much longer than it really was.  Still, it was plenty long enough!

We talked, and I took a few pictures of the dogs.  Finally I got out the laptop and worked on a lesson video for one of my online classes.  And, at long, long last, we started moving again.  Now a full two hours behind our original arrival time!

Once we got through, it was a pretty drive through an area that had a lot of character.  We stopped in Port Jervis to go to Dunkin Donuts.  More coffee for Ben, sweet tea for me this time.  We had hoped to potty the dogs, but there was really no place for them to go.

Finally, we got to the Thruway and made our way north.  We could see the Catskills and that was interesting.  We stopped at a rest area and were able to potty the dogs.  We had been hoping to not stop again, but we got hungry and stopped just a bit west of the Massachusetts border for sandwiches.  Ah - real New York sandwiches!!  They were extra delicious!!  The dogs got plenty of tidbits off of them.

Then we really were on the last leg of our trip and the excitement was just crazy!  I couldn't believe we were really about to get our puppy.  I felt like I had been waiting for years!

I thought a lot about Speedy, and Ben said he did, too.  This whole thing was incredibly bittersweet.  And up until this moment, it had been far more bitter than sweet.

I had always hoped that after we lost Sammie, I would have at least a couple of years with Speedy, Dean, and Tessa as a trio before it would be Speedy's turn to go.  In a way I had never gotten over mourning the loss of that hope as much as I had mourned the loss of Speedy himself.

Everything was about to change.

Change of Name and Welcome!

You might notice that the name of this blog has changed slightly.  It is no longer "Tessa's Dancing and Training Adventures", but Tessa and Friends Dancing and Training Adventures".  Although Tessa has been the main focus of this blog, I have always included posts about my other dogs.  I was going to start a new blog for our new puppy, but I realize that I am never going to be able to keep track of two blogs.  So, as I begin to dive into many, many, many accounts of our new puppy, Diego, I am going to do so right here on this blog.

Now, with no further ado, allow me to introduce you to the newest member of our household - 9 week old Border Collie puppy, Diego!

We already love him!

More to come very soon!