A number of highlights of my choices and life with Kaffee stand out.
- He was always happy to do whatever I asked him to do with me starting as a very young puppy at 8 weeks old.
- He always tried hard to understand what I wanted him to do and if he did not understand offered alternate behaviors.
- He keeps me in his sight most of of the day when we are home and lays at my feet when I am working on the computer. He just seems to enjoy being nearby and I certainly enjoy this also.
- He seems to smile with happiness in the things we do.
- I try to keep him healthy by feeding him the very best food.
- I consult with a very excellent vet in New York that I have written about regarding supplements to address weaknesses in his system which have led to genetic allergies, now under control.
- I try to keep his mind active and healthy by always having something for him to learn (tricks or his balance disc work )
- I keep him fit with our frequent walks and hikes
- I continue to choose something for him that he enjoys –now this is herding.
- I continue to read and stay up-to-date on the latest information regarding health and immunizations for dogs.
I like to think that the choices I have made based on the above have helped me to HONOR KAFFEE and choose my decisions for this very special friend who has made me so happy and given me so much..
One such decision was in our obedience training. Kaffee’s journey in obedience was done later in his life after trying agility and herding. We always did some obedience work but did not seriously show until he was about 6 years old. When he received his OTCH in December of 2014, I had a long walk with him on our beautiful forested trails in northern Arizona and just tuned in to what we might do next that would be for him and not me. AND, what came to me was herding.
I put all of Kaffee’s started titles on him in herding but had trouble teaching him to drive. I stopped herding when I found that I was having to raise my voice to him and felt this was not fun for either of us. This time, I decided to let our special friend Dawna Sims handle him and we would go for lessons an hour away once a week with our other Border Collie Myst.
Kaffee had met Dawna when he was quite young and always seemed to remember her, greeting her with excitement and happiness. This was a wonderful decision to let Kaffee continue to learn, use his mind, stay active and yet do something he enjoyed…. Kaffee had given me his heart and all his effort in obedience, now it was his turn to enjoy.
As Kaffee approached senior years, I struggled with another decision - getting a new puppy. I wanted to get another Border Collie puppy to train, especially since Myst was 5 years old. My fear however was that with a new puppy one dog always seems to get less attention, and in some ways be replaced by the new puppy who soon thinks they own the house. I was afraid that I would have less time for Kaffee and all the things we continued to do and enjoy together.
Kaffee and Myst worked out in our doggie gym almost every day. They both enjoyed tugging with each other and at times playing together. I did not want to take this away from Kaffee since he still enjoyed this.
So I waited for a year. Kaffee was now 11, still herding, still doing all our hikes, staying very fit in his doggie gym but I sensed he was slowing down and would be OK with a puppy to take his place when Myst wanted to play with him other than their tugs. AND I was right.
After getting Beckett I tried so hard not to change much for Kaffee and certainly not to exclude him. I let him show me what he was OK with not playing with Myst. Kaffee has never been a fan of puppies at least not until they get to be about 5 months old and can tug with him. This happened with Myst and happily this has just happened with Beckett.
I feel I have HONORED Kaffee and have no regrets about any decisions I made for him and the time we spend together or how I keep him healthy.
I am always saddened when I see dogs in obedience, herding and agility that seem to have no joy in what they do. Especially in obedience it is so noticeable when dogs are like little robots and perform the exercises with little joy, happiness or enthusiasm. Watching them is not inspirational or enjoyable, but for me just sad that this dog seems to have become an object for their owners goals and personal rewards. Some of these dogs have been started in obedience training when they were just very small puppies. Some of them retire at very early ages since they have no joy left in showing and start to get lower scores or just not perform the exercise.
I remember the herding dogs that were training at very young ages for open field trials at age 1 ½. Many of these young dogs also were impressive to watch at their young ages, but it was not long before they started to show the effects of long and hard training. Even with the genetics bred into them for herding, their instinct and love of this sport was diminished.
In agility there are stories and personal experiences that we all know about where dogs are not only stressed on the start line, and exhibit behaviors showing their stress and fear but also so many agility dogs lives have been cut short due to injuries. These injuries are becoming more and more common with the challenging courses with speed and tight turns. What then happens to a dog that has been injured and can not longer do agility or run without pain at a young age?
And then, what about the people who buy dogs for a sport. The dog does not work out due to disappointment in their performance and often these dogs are sold.
Yes, everyone has a different use for dogs and their own way to view the relationship. I have chosen to keep my dogs forever and find what they are best suited for. I try very hard to keep learning and have found Susan Garrett to be one of my role models for dog training. Susan learns from each of her dogs and updates her training based on what she learns. Susan has often said that we are given a dog when we are ready for the lessons we can learn from them.
A dog might turn out to be a disappointment, but what can we learn from them? How can we honor them as part of our family and still provide a happy life for them?
I feel so honored to have Kaffee as a special friend that we have done so many fun journeys with and continue to do so. There is no better gift than being greeted with this joy and smile. THANK YOU KAFFEE for all you have given me with your heart and soul.