After having Heffner for about a year, I went to the Rose City Classic to just check out the whole dog show thing. When we got Heffner, I had no interest in showing in conformation. I was hoping to do some performance events with him, but I had never done anything competitive with any of the previous family dogs, so I wasn't planning on necessarily being gun-ho about it. So I thought it would be fun to just go and check everything out. I was especially excited to see the danes in the ring.
I showed up ringside about an hour early because I wanted to make sure that I was able to sit right up close so that I wouldn't miss anything.:) When people started setting up crates and bringing their dogs in, I was like a kid in a candy store! I wanted to bounce in my seat and clap my hands I was so excited!! I sat and watched the entire competition. Granted I was a little confused about how things went. Which is understandable for someone on their first time who sees similar looking dogs and certain handlers on many different dogs. From there I was hooked! I decided that our next dane was going to be a show prospect.
Everyone will tell you, if your breeder is a reputable breeder, they will be your go to person for EVERYTHING related to your breed. So naturally, I emailed Heffner's breeder about my interests in showing in conformation and that we had decided to bring another dane into our house. It only seemed natural to go to the same person that I got the dog whom I loved so dearly. Basically what I was looking for was a mentor in the breed. Unfortunately, though I didn't realize it at the time, I was not looking the in right area. But I'll get there.
The breeder and I had stayed in touch because I periodically sent her emails about how Heffner was doing and what I was doing with him along with pictures. She seemed quite excited that I wanted to get into conformation and offered to let me "foster" one of her bitches in our house so that I could get some hands on practice in with a dog living with me until she had another litter and puppy for us. Until she figured out which bitch she was going to have stay with us, she asked me if I wanted to meet her for some handling classes with a particular instructor in our area. I was thrilled that she was not only going to let me take one of her dogs into our house to work with, but she was also going to give me the means to get some handling instruction and guidance. At this point I will say that it really was pretty great of her to offer all of this. She was paying for the handling classes and driving all the way out to my side of town with one of her dogs so that I could practice. She was also going to let me show whomever she was going to enter. To a newbie, that sounds fantastic! And I will agree that it started out as a pretty good way for me to gain experience. Though not QUITE the experience that I had originally planned on!
I was a die hard regular at our Tuesday night handling classes. This was before I had Heffner in agility, so it didn't conflict. If the breeder couldn't make it out with one of her dogs, then I took Heffner. And yes, that was pretty funny. Heffner is many things, but a conformation dog he is not. Thankfully he humored me and mostly behaved. Though he didn't quite understand why I kept fussing with his feet and walking and trotting him everywhere.
Finally the day came and the breeder emailed me to say that she was going to take back one of her harlequin bitches that had been staying with a friend of hers. Originally when she got the harl bitch as a puppy she thought she was too timid and sent her off with this friend of hers so that she could hopefully work with her and see how she developed. This bitch had been on the back burner because the breeder wasn't really sure that she wanted to show her. However, she had me interested in a dog to show, so why not? And so the fun with Trinity began.
Unfortunately the friend that Trinity was staying with had gone through a nasty little divorce and the woman hadn't really worked with her at all. And I do mean at all. As in, the dog didn't know what a collar was and would run and cower if you tried to put one on her. Leash broke? Pretty much only because she preferred to walk with you. You want to clip a leash to that collar that just took you a half hour to put on her? Be prepared to go through the whole collaring routine, but add in some screaming from Trinity when you tried to connect it to the collar. Yes, this bitch was going to be a lot of work! But I was willing and eager.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that she was afraid of men while inside? When she was outside, she was totally fine with them approaching her and would love up on them. Inside a house? Um, yeah, that's a whole different story. But I will get to that one.
For the first week that we had her, I was able to take the first week off of work. This was pretty perfect. I could get her settled in to our routine and get her more used to us and how we went about things. I could also get her used to a collar and leash and behaving herself when out and about.
One of the first activities that we did was spend a day at the beach! My friend Jenny came along with her great dane Marlie and we had a really nice day of it. Trinity had never been to the beach before, but she did seem to enjoy it.
I also took the dogs out to this wonderful HUGE off leash park out in the Gorge during this time. We met up with a few other dane people and it was a great time!
Adam and I took both of the dogs to one of the Bark in the Park events held at PGE park. There were a lot of noises and different things that she really wasn't used to, but she adapted.
Basically, I started her on a crash course to socialization.:o) As the days ticked past and she got more and more comfortable in her new long term temporary home, more of her personality started to come through. As I said before, she was not fond of men while inside the house. This started to become an issue with Adam. As long as I was in her sight, she was mostly fine with him, but didn't like for him to approach her. It started to become an issue if I wasn't in her sight. For instance, if I was in the bathroom with the door shut. If Adam tried to come down the hallway, she would start growling and make it clear that he wasn't to come any closer. And I don't mean a kind of sort of warning growl. It escalated towards the end to the point, where Adam was seriously not comfortable being on the same floor of the house with her if I wasn't around. I have no doubt in my mind that she would have actually gone after him if we hadn't regulated her environment like we were having to.
I have to give Adam a lot of credit during this time. He never ONCE complained about it or brought up the topic of taking her back to the breeder. He just put up with having a dog in his house who was acting like she would kill him if I wasn't in sight. That's not an easy thing for anyone to deal with.
I continued to work with Trinity. We went to weekly handling classes, I did a fair amount of road working her to get her into better shape so that she had some actual stamina, and just worked on general socialization. As the weeks went on, she was just snippier and would challenge other dogs that we were hanging out with. When I picked her up the breeder had mentioned that she had just gotten out of season before coming down. What I now realize is that she was in a false pregnancy, which was part of the reason why she was being the real bitch that she was.
The handling class that we went to had a group of people there who were regulars. So some of these people got to see me as I switched dogs throughout the time and finally came to work with Trinity. As the weeks grew on and some of Trinity's less desirable traits came out, I'm feel bad admitting it, but I grew to like her less and less. As such, our relationship in handling class was suffering. I like to think that I can get along with most dogs that I'm asked to work with, but Trinity and I just were NOT meshing. I was becoming more frustrated with some of the things that she would pull and we were just totally out of sync. After a particularly frustrating class where I headed out to my truck just feeling incredibly defeated, one of the women in the class followed me out and was nice nice enough to chat with me. She kind of helped me to clear my head and told me that not every person is meant to mesh with every single dog. Some dogs have personalities that just don't work with certain people and vice verse. I was being pretty hard on myself at this point and it was incredibly heartwarming to hear someone say those words to me. It's something that I am still grateful for today.
On the drive home that night, I decided that I was going to email the breeder and just let her know that it wasn't working out and that Trinity just wasn't really meshing in our household. She was a dog that had many traits that I found undesirable, she acted like she was going to kill my husband half the time, and the crowning glory came later that night.
When bitches are going through a false pregnancy, they can exhibit all sorts of different behaviors. One of the ones Trinity had started exhibiting was toy hoarding, like they were her babies. I just thought of it as her being toy possessive or "aggressive" (I really hate that word). We made a habit of not having any toys left out on the ground because she had started doing some very low growls towards Heffner if she had a toy. Unfortunately, since she no longer had any "babies" to guard, she switched her possessiveness to other things. That night, it was a sock. Just as Heffner was in the process of laying down, not even looking at Trinity, she went after him. I mean, full on, momma bear attacking the threat, attack. Heffner didn't even know what hit him and was slow to respond. It was not a pretty sight. Trinity wanted to kill him for whatever perceived slight he had made. When I finally got the dogs separated and had been hollering for Adam to come and help me, we put Trinity down in her crate. I checked Heffner over first, and sure enough, she put a very long laceration into his ear. There were a few other scrapes here and there, but that was the biggy. She was completely unscathed. That night was the final straw. I had had enough of dealing with and trying to "make better" a dog that just was NOT going to change and was only going to create all sorts of havoc in our house.
I sent the breeder a long email because I wasn't able to reach her via phone. I explained the whole situation and wanted to know when the earliest was that I could drop Trinity off. The sooner she was out of my house the better. I had the notion that since she was the breeder's dog, she would just take her back right away and contact the woman who had been keeping her previously. Unfortunately the breeder didn't want Trinity back in her house because Trinity had attacked both of her bitches in the short period of time that she had been there. Yes, she was a bitch in every sense of the word!
Finally we figured things out and I met the woman who had her before and we did the hand off. I have never been so relieved to get a dog out of my house before! While I feel kind of bad saying that, at the same time it's entirely true.
After that the breeder asked me if I was still interested in showing in conformation. I most definitely still was, I just didn't have a dog to work with. She was going to think about it, but she thought that one of her puppies from her last litter, who had the same sire as Heffner, would be a good idea. I was pretty excited about taking on a puppy! And that's roughly where Part 2 ends.:o)
Yes, this is a bit of a long post. Which is why I wasn't able to write it last night. We got home REALLY late last night from a Rally practice and I was just beat! More on that later.;)