Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy 12th, Jade!!

jade Today is the day we celebrate Jade’s birthday, and it hardly seems possible that our first dog is now twelve years old.  We met Jade a little over eleven years ago at a pet rescue adoption day.  We had just bought our first home, a move strongly driven by our desire to be able to have a dog, and had decided we wanted a black Labrador.  When we saw him in his crate at the adoption event, I think it took us about 30 seconds to decide we wanted him, and we picked him up a week later – the day after we moved in to our new place. 

Jade had boundless energy and drive, and we loved trying new things with him.  Our world began to revolve around finding fun things to do with him.  We began a journey together of learning and playing that led us to many great friends and new experiences – I always say he is the dog that changed our lives. 

Jade 40K_from Sue Jade’s true passion in life was flyball, and he was a fantastic flyball dog.  His fastest time was 3.9 seconds (not bad for a Lab), he was ranked in the top ten point-earning Labs in flyball, earned over 40K points in racing, and had he raced just a few months longer, would have received the new NAFA Iron Dog award.  What matters most though is how much fun we all had together.

Jade’s athleticism made him an extremely talented agility dog as well, but after an bad crash into the side of a closed tunnel in an early competition, he never enjoyed trialing as much.  Still, he was always up for a fun match or some backyard practice.

After breaking a toe in 2009 on the flyball box, Jade has been retired from competition, though he did try Rally Obedience this fall for the first time, and we hope to do more in the future.  He has been so happy to find a new “job” to do!

hiking This past year, Jade has begun to show his age more and more.  I still think most people would be shocked to know that he is twelve, but we see the signs of him slowing down.  He had surgery this summer after being diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis, and fortunately since then his quality of life has definitely increased.  Unfortunately, the condition also usually involves neuropathy in the rear legs, and he is beginning to lose some muscle mass and to get a little weaker and unstable.  He is pain-free though, and still gets around very well.  He walks at least a half hour every day, does strengthening exercises to keep as fit as he can, and is still happy to fetch the occasional ball in the back yard.  As much as I hate watching him age, I think he still has plenty of miles left in him.

Thanks for over a decade of great times, Jade!  We hope our journey still has many roads ahead!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Django Day

P1030464 Today is the eighth annual “Django Day” – when we celebrate bringing our beautiful red boy, Django, into our home eight years ago.

Django is known to many of our friends as “Mr. Perfect.”  He is the most honest dog I have ever known.  All he ever wants in life is to do the right thing.  Working with him always brings a smile to my face.  He is my heart dog, and I adore him.

This year brought us many more adventures together.  We attended Kay Laurence’s border collie workshop in Missouri, where we learned that he is much too polite to want to bother the nice sheep.  We toured the Upper Peninsula, hiking at Grand Island, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and the Porcupine Mountains.  I also had probably the worst 30 seconds of my life on a boat in Lake Superior during that trip, when during a severe thunderstorm I suddenly couldn’t locate Django on our pontoon boat after a wave had broken over the boat.  It makes me ill to even think of those seconds looking out at the turbulent waters, terrified that I had lost my precious guy to them.  Happily, I found he had somehow curled up to about the size of a house cat and was hiding under a bench seat, safe from the elements.  Upon hearing my panicked cries for him, he crawled back out, I’m sure wondering why he was being called from his safe little cubby hole to sit in the rain, but as always, willing to oblige because I’d asked.

CD_13059_119472_djangoSchmorrowZuckerman_m0165665 We competed at CPE Nationals, and he ran in top form all weekend, even getting a second place in Full House.  We had another great week at dog camp.  This fall, at the Michigan troop outing, he helped our troop win the friendly competition by showing off some of his favorite tricks, such as retrieving a dog biscuit and carrying a beer bottle for me.  Things I had even forgotten I had taught him years ago . . .  but he didn’t forget.

One memory I will treasure from this year was a reminder in how far Django and I have come together.  When we first adopted Django, he could be leash-aggressive and reactive towards other dogs, and we worked hard at modifying that behavior.  The process taught me a lot about dog training, and allowed us to build our relationship even more.  At the Kay Laurence workshop this spring, Kay wanted to demonstrate working on socialization and ignoring distractions for some of the younger BC pups present.  To do so, she needed some very stable, non-reactive, calm dogs who would stay focused on their handlers while the pups worked on their impulse control in their presence.  Kay looked at me and said “Bring in your chocolate guy.”  I paused for a second, about to say, “No, he’s too reactive . . . ", but then I realized – no, he’s not.  Not anymore.  He trusts me, he’s connected to me, and he only wants to make me happy.  I brought him in, beaming with pride the entire time to see the confident, happy dog he has become.  He is a long way from the underweight, sun-bleached, scraggly stray that was picked up in Detroit eight years ago. 

I’m enjoying every minute of our journey, Django.  I hope it continues for many more years to come.  Thank you for all that you have given and continue to give us.