The agility life of a complex collie...
One day Shellie Smith had a frantic phone call from a friend who knew how much she liked red collies. There was a little collie bitch who needed a home. She had been allocated to someone but had let the breeder down. At the time, Shellie owned the pup's half brother so she knew the line. What could go wrong? Ahhh… where to start.
In my head I was having a thousand thoughts... my partner needed an agility dog... I already had her half-brother. Not a problem.
I picked up what I thought was a confident little reddish brown pup and brought her home. Kodi strolled into the house of five other dogs with the attitude of 'I am here, gang. What's occurring?
Yep, I thought. She was going to be just fine. She had the right attitude to be an agility dog and, if she was anything like her half-brother who is a Ferrari of the collie world, my partner is going to have such fun. A little competitive streak might probably occur in the household but nothing we couldn't handle. How wrong could I have been?
When my partner started to training Kodi all went well. Then one day I was walking the dogs and it all changed. Kodi ran into the back of my collie. It was a pure accident, but my speed freak Riko ended up with a perforated disc in his spine and had to have surgery to put it right. Unfortunately this ended his career as an agility dog.
I was heartbroken as he was only four years old. It left me with my little terrier Marli who is actually an amazing little dog, but he is getting on in age. I started to panic a little, as between us, my partner and I had half a dozen dogs and didn't feel I could get another one. My agility world was rocked. At the same time, I wanted to support my partner in her agility career.
Kodi's initial training with my partner went really well. My lovely partner knew how much I wanted to run a collie at agility, however, and kindly passed her on to me. I was elated. Now I had a collie to train!
massive learning curve
I spent weeks trying to get her to socialise with the others, but she wasn't having any off it. I just couldn't understand why she was like this with me and not with my partner. Then it dawned on me. I was training with her brother up at the other end of the school, so she was happy. At least part of her pack was there.
I found that I had now had gone from Riko, a Mercedes of the collie world who sometimes drove me mad - if I gave him an inch he would take a mile and do what he pleased - to a complex, insecure and super sensitive girl. Three times I had to change my training techniques, and each time I learned something new that I could put into 'Agility Training Rucksack' and pull out when needed.
Kodi now has the ability to do every piece of equipment well. She isn't the fastest of dogs, but she has a fab wait which I never had with her brother. She got her contacts really quickly and she can jump full height Large, do tunnels and weave. Perfect you would think, wouldn't you?
People were constantly telling me not to worry about the speed. We could work on that and make it all better. Nope, not with Kodi. There are training nights when I literally can't get her to do three or four pieces of equipment in a row. We have even gone through the 'I can't possibly do a tunnel today as that's far too scary' stage. At the moment, she has a see saw issue despite the fact that we have done thousands of them. Right now she can't even go near it, so we are stripping it right back.
Why I can't tell you. There just isn't an answer. I try to be patient and work with what I get at that training session. The following week she can be a trouper and blast a course away. I can only stand there and think 'Why couldn't you do that last week?'
Last year at Dogs In Need she panicked and ran across four rings. No one could stop her. Somehow she managed to find my tent, jumped the 4 foot fence and put herself as far in the back of the van as she could possibly go. Up to that point she was running the course really well.
I now look for shows that are fenced even if they are not KC. Her first show was Bits 'n' Bobs where she ran two courses beautifully and then for whatever reason, she freaked in the third. I took her out and gave a huge cuddle. We then we went and had a play in the exercise area and went home. I was super pleased that she managed to do two lovely courses and would have got a clear round had it not been handler error, only picking up 5 faults.
What was I going to do?
This is what I did.
I learnt from her.
Yep, that little brown collie whom I thought I was teaching was actually teaching me. A really good friend of mine who trains horses and is in our training class has seen Kodi from the start. She seen her on both her good days and bad days. One night after a particularly challenging lesson, she sent me message as she knew I was feeling a little down about it. I will never forget these words and I will build on them.
This is what she said. 'We go and buy an animal and, of course, we write a lists of hopes, but it's often not as simple as that. We don't often end up with the animal we were after, but perhaps - for whatever reason that we don't understand - we get the one we need. They teach us things that we didn't know we needed to learn and it can be them that needed someone like us.
Kodi is a very sensitive girl. Handling her has taught me things that I otherwise would never have learnt especially about myself. And I like to think that Kodi needs someone like me. Another handler/owner might never get out of her what I do.
My message to anyone out there who has similar problems is to keep going. Go over that mountain instead of around it. No doubt the journey will be harder and can be challenging, but believe me it's so much more rewarding in the end.
She did her first dog activities with her terrier Marli, starting off with Obedience. Then she discovered Agility and Rally.
Dogs are her life and she is always up for learning about them and their behaviour. While not an expert, she is always keen to learn new things
First published 23 May 2017