Quick (a.k.a. Pinkey)

One Hot Minute PT AX AXJ CGC            "Quicken" a.k.a. "Spanky" a.k.a. "Rabbit"

In 1996 I bought a house in which I would live alone with my existing BC rescue, Chessie. I decided some company for Chessie during the day would be in order, since I would be leaving him alone while I went to work. Kim Varian, the rescue coordinator at the time, "shopped" for quite a while to find the right dog for me-- I wanted a physically sound dog that could join Chessie and me in our running and 5K races, as well as compete in obedience, agility, and herding. I am also a 4-H leader, so a dog that is comfortable with kids was a must. There were several dogs that attracted me in Kim's "inventory", but each one she rejected for me for one reason or another-- "I don't like this one's rear-- not good enough for jumping." or "This one's not outgoing enough for you."

Weeks later she called to say she had two dogs she thought I might like, and drove almost an hour to my house to show them to me and check out my setup. One was too hyper, but the smoothcoat-- he seemed just right. He was structurally well-put-together, already neutered, about a year old, and seemed to be coping with this rescue scene in a robust nature. He had been picked up in Tacoma as a stray, no ID, and nobody came to claim him, so he would have been euthanized had there not been a rescue organization to take him. I suspect whomever had him before might have found him to be too much of a handful, and chose not to work too hard to recover him once he was lost. But, I bet their kids missed him, as he is an unparalleled kids' dog. Kim left him with me, with the agreement that I would have his hips x-rayed right away, and he would go back if he wasn't sound enough for competition. His hips were good to excellent for a prelim, so he stayed.

I was a little nervous about this whole venture, I had only a weekend to integrate him before he would be left alone for full days. The dogs have a dog door, free run of the house, and a fenced back yard--plenty of opportunity for trouble for a naughty dog left alone. After Kim left, I started to get a panicky feeling, wondering what I had gotten myself into. But, as it turned out, he was already housebroken, familiar with using a dog door, and even knew some simple commands and tricks. He seemed like he had always lived there. He chased my feral cat the first night, but after getting in trouble for that, never did it again. For a rescue, he had very few problematic habits, other than a scavenger nature that made him think eating off my dinner plate or scattering the garbage were all part of a day's work. I finally gave up trying to train this out of him, he just learned to be sneaky. Instead, I put child locks on the cabinet where the garbage is, and leave nothing in his reach. He did learn to quit begging, but stealing food is probably a habit he'll never lose. I think strays never forget days of being hungry.

When I got him, he had obviously been a stray for a while, and had roaming habits that were hard to change. He escaped several times in the first few months, and moved quickly, following kids on bikes. One particular episode, he traveled with some kids many miles on a nearby bike path before our search team could catch up with him. By that time, he was quite distraught, and didn't yet associate me with safety enough to come to me when I called, so a boy on a bike caught him and brought him to me under
his arm. The kids said he had chased horses, fallen into the river (from which they saved him as he wasn't swimming well), and had some near scrapes with cars. His pads were bloody and he was exhausted, slept for a full day. That was the last time he tried to escape. After several years of living with me, he finally understands that running loose is not part of our lifestyle. He now happily jumps out of the car and hurries to the front porch to go in the house, never thinking of the street as an option of travel, except when he's wearing a leash and we're going for a run. I can tell that he used to belong to a family with young boys, as his attraction to kids on bikes, kids with balls, or any kind of kids is still very strong. The crack of a
ball hitting a baseball bat will stop him in his tracks. When I got him, I wondered why his canine teeth were ground down square and flat, and finally figured out it was from rolling plastic soccer balls with his mouth open-- another favorite hobby somebody must have taught him. He is in no greater heaven than when rowdy neighbor boys come over and endlessly throw tennis balls, rough house, and tumble all over him, practically mauling him. He is infinitely patient and gentle with even the most pesky of kids, and never tries to herd them like my other rescue does. He also has that classic BC water obsession, and I have to lock him up when the sprinkler is on, or he'll hold his mouth over it to "control" the water, drinking gallons, and starving
my lawn. He herds waves in the ocean and streams too, and likes to splash with his feet so he can bite the waves with fervor. He also perks up at a certain sound of pickup truck, and tries to rush after it, although that reaction is fading almost to extinction now. These are the only glimpses I have into his past and all he learned there.

He dived enthusiastically into training, loves working for treats, and is tireless at repetition and drilling. He is a little challenging to train in that he learns quickly, but also forgets quickly. He has surprised me more than once in the ring by being completely baffled by a command he has been solid on for months. I have to be careful to refresh his memory on old material, and always be very consistent in my commands, or I will confuse him. He is very insistent when he learns something I haven't intended to teach him, and it takes a lot of work to untrain mistakes in our communication. In about a year and a half from when I started training agility, he had already completed his AX and AXJ titles, and we're now working toward his MX and
MXJ, as well as trying to speed up enough to be MACH material. In obedience, he is mostly trained for Utility, but I have held him back from competition for a time because of his forgetfulness and distractibility with motion. We just completed two legs of his CD this summer, with one High In Trial already, and should have the third leg shortly. Once he obtains that title, he'll be eligible for his first level Versatility Certificate from the BCSA. If his jumping career is long enough, I think he should have no trouble finishing at least his UDX, if not an OTCH. He is a very talented dog who likes anything that earns a paycheck of food!

His first time out with sheep, I had an uncanny feeling that somebody had worked him before. Although he didn't yet even know his name, he gracefully picked up light Barbados sheep in a large pasture, and laid down on command. But, after a few months of herding, his greenness started to show through, and we had to work through gripping and tailgating problems. One night, herding after dark under some lights, he had the epiphany that although he was working 3 sheep in one arena, there were  50 more in the pasture next door. In a split second, he had scaled the fence and was sending sheep in all directions! He still didn't have a solid recall or know his name well, so it was a trick to catch him in the dark, then untangle all the sheep that had hung themselves up on fences trying to escape this wolf in the night! The fences were raised to prevent that from happening again!!! He is now a fairly solid herding dog, and earned his PT last summer. The judges were very pleased to see a rescue in the test, although he was a little rowdy for lack of practice. I'm working on getting my own sheep to add to my collection of ducks, so I can help him reach his full potential in herding with more frequent work. He has very strong desire that is sometimes hard to
harness, but also possesses a lot of power and raw talent that should take him far if we find enough time to practice.

My fiancee has sporting dogs, so our next venture is to learn to hunt upland birds. The hunting guys make fun of us, but we know that BCs can do anything! Most importantly, they can obey better than those naughty Pointers, don't try to run away with the
birds they retrieve to chew them up, and always come when they're called! Quicken likes to run through the fields and accidentally trip over birds that then flush for us. Of course, he doesn't yet understand the point since seeking birds is not instinctive for him, something we'll have to train him to do. We're working on retrieving them, but it's hard to fit a big pheasant in his mouth, though he tries! We practice in the kitchen with a pheasant we keep in the freezer just for that purpose. He is learning to "seek objectives" by searching for a pheasant-scented tennis ball hidden in heavy brush. His only problem is that is feet are more tender than sporting dogs', and walking through sharp brush is kinda hard, so he sticks to easier paths. To him, it's just another fun game to learn! Life seems to be full of fun games for him now, although always never enough-- he has endless energy, stamina, concentration, and enthusiasm for doing things, it doesn't matter what they are! Even after a hard day of training for several events, and nearing heat exhaustion, he always objects to stopping, as if to say, "Aw, do we have to quit ALREADY? We've only been working for 8 hours!" He is a dog that has to be stopped, or he would kill himself with activity, especially in the heat!

So, that's our long story, he is truly a neat dog and such a delight to work with. It took him a long time to adjust to his "second life," as it was apparently a big departure from his first one. The toughest thing for him to learn was to snuggle-- evidently nobody had ever taught him to lay down close in bed and enjoy being petted for a spell. For a long time, he would try it for a moment, then abruptly jump up out of discomfort with the situation and leave the room with a sort of guilty demeanor, like he felt he had done something wrong. After several years, he can finally relax and fall asleep next to me, although still sometimes wakes up suddenly with that same worried reaction. It's something strange about him and I can't quite figure what
might have caused it. Overall, he is clear evidence of how adaptable dogs are, in that they can completely transform their expectations in a new environment and become accustomed to different situations with ease. His is very robust, and has adeptly recovered from whatever stress he must have endured in his transition from the old life to the new. Sometimes I wish he could tell his story, or I wonder what he can remember from his past experiences. Somebody really lost a fantastic dog, and I always wonder if they looked for him as long or as much as he looked for them!


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Page last updated on 05/06/07 09:12 AM