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Mad Moment of Valgrays

Because he's worth it...

Two years ago Val Phillips posted a picture of a sad little dog called Chocky on Agilitynet FaceBook. Lou Cadman wasn't looking for another dog - and certainly not a Large one - but those eyes kept calling.  She just couldn't resist. Was it her mad moment?

After filling in the required forms we nipped to Surrey the following week to meet him. At approximately six months old he weighed around 8kg, and it was clear that he hadnít had the best start in life. He was a scrawny shell of a dog who wet himself when you so much as looked at him and he had abscesses and cuts on his face.

Val scooped him up in her arms and he lay there, knowing he was safe with her but wondering whom these two random people were staring at him. I was concerned that there wasn't anything to work with but, watching him interact with Val's dogs, it was apparent he spoke dog very well. He was much more relaxed with dogs than people and I began to wonder whether our other seven could help me help him.

We took a chance and bought him back with us on a trial basis. We were in the middle of TAG's week long August show so, after declaring his presence with the Show Secretary, his first three nights with us were spent camping. With hindsight, this gave us the best scenario to introduce him to the rest of the gang as it was 'neutral' territory. 

The hardest thing was getting him out of the crate as he hid at the back shaking. And under no circumstances was he allowed off a lead or long line. I had a feeling he could run very fast in the wrong direction.

It was very important to us that the others accepted him. They were there first! I did have reservations about introducing a slightly older dog to the gang and moreover one with a dubious background with potential problems caused by how he was treated. Secretly I was already smitten so when the others were fine with him, I was overjoyed. Chocky became Paddy, and he was staying.

Two years on and I've never looked back!
Paddy's biggest issue has been his lack of confidence in people. He isn't overly concerned about environmental factors such as noise but any movement towards him had to be carefully considered. It may seem strange but his looks often hindered him as people saw him and were compelled to try and give him a cuddle whether he wanted one or not. Asking people to stay out of his space and 'let him come to you' became much used phrases and a little tiresome! Why some people can't accept that maybe not all dogs like them for whatever reason is beyond me!

Fortunately the agility community know better than this and normally have treats which, of course, helped. I wouldn't normally encourage a dog to mug people in search of food but in Paddy's case I made an exception. To begin with he got treats for free and then, as his confidence grew, I asked that treats were withheld for a short period. We're now at the stage where he's allowed a treat if people can get their hands on him and, on the whole, he now actually welcomes this. Heís still sometimes wary of people he doesnít know especially men but who can blame him?!

Agility-wise, I've had to think outside the box
When I started back chaining his contacts, I made the mistake of instinctively offering him physical support as he moved his back end. Big mistake! He bolted.

I've learnt that if he perceives that heís under pressure or in a situation heís unhappy with, he wants to be as far away as possible from it. His interpretation of me offering him support was one of fear - maybe a distant reminder to an event in his early months that I will never understand. Itís a very hands-off slow approach, allowing him to work it out. The seesaw has been the last piece of contact equipment for him to be confident on but in the last couple of weeks, he has progressed to doing it on full height. One day we may even do one in a ring! There is no rush - he will be ready when he's ready.

We may never reach the dizzy heights of Champ status. Indeed Grade 4 may never happen! 

Does it matter?

No!

He is happy and confident enough to enter a Jumping ring and have a gallop round, normally completing at least 30 obstacles on a course - nothing like getting your moneyís worth! He loves camping and doing his best Tigger on speed impersonations around the garden.

There have been tears along the way - sometimes of frustration but mainly laughter, quite often at my expense! Now my little fuzzy man is a cuddle monster and a real clown. He still attracts a lot of attention due to his filmstar looks - think Gromit - and I am constantly being asked 'What is he?' My response? Something brown and hairy!

Heís also very talented and writes a monthly column in Dig It Dogs newsletter!

Iím so glad I saw his picture on the web that day. There are hundreds of people like Val and the crew at Valgrays involved in rescue up and down the country doing fantastic work. I canít imagine life without him and I feel so privileged to have been entrusted with him.

About the author...
Lou Cadman's
life before agility was all about her long-haired GSDs. She was part of a dog display team and loved performing in front of a crowd and promoting socially acceptable dog ownership.

In agility, she is associated with her terriers or Brown Rats as they are affectionately known. Poppy ( A Moment of Madness) started it all in 2008 when she was three and Twiggy (Another Mad Moment) arrived in 2009. Spot the theme! Lou has been lucky enough to have enjoyed international honours with both terriers and competed at Crufts and Olympia.

She also likes judging.

First published 25 August 2015