"You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," said Mindy Masch. It was during our Dog Daze training group several weeks ago. We get together at the crack of dawn on summer Sunday mornings. We know a shady park, and that's where we train.
Mindy was commenting on the absence of my nine-week-old border collie puppy, Presto! There was no way I was going to bring the little guy out to a city park and put him down on the ground.
That's the dilemma -- the Catch-22 -- we face with our young obedience-ring-bound puppies. We weigh the benefits to be derived from being in a competition obedience environment -- the ring, the handlers, a surrogate judge, the other dogs -- versus the threat of possible infection lurking there.
You hear a lot about parvo around here, particularly in the spring and fall. "It's so easy to transmit infection," says Chuck Toben, our vet for nearly a quarter of a century. "A parvo-infected dog can shed and another dog can pick up the disease from the hair that falls to the ground."
Fortunately, Presto!'s litter was super-socialized. Mike and Maureen Inman -- the people who are Wildfire -- saw to that. Maureen teaches competition obedience, and her students would pop in and play with the puppies. Mike told me he was staying home on his vacation to take care of (read play with) the puppies. Jessica, their nine-year-old daughter, had a steady stream of friends coming in and out. A couple of weeks before I picked up Presto! in Chicago Jessica hosted a sleepover. It's safe to say the puppies were the featured attraction.
Nevertheless, I didn't want Presto!'s socialization to end when he became part of our household.
Twice, Barbara has brought him to Dog Daze for cameo appearances lasting about 30 minutes. He has never touched the ground. When he wasn't in someone's arms, licking faces and being oohed and aahed over, he was in a crate which in turn was sitting on a thick rug.
And I've been inviting people -- friends and neighbors that I know come from infection-free environments -- to come to our house, meet Presto! and play with him. One brought her six-month-old (dog friendly) border collie puppy. We turned them loose in the backyard and for a few minutes it was gangbusters. Given that it was a 107-degree Sunday afternoon, we had to shut that little circus down after about five minutes. Which was okay: a tired border collie is a good border collie.
Presto! will get his third immunization shot on August 20. The following Sunday there's a match in Flagstaff. That'll be his coming out party. Not that he'll be going into the ring But he'll be fully present in a simulated trial environment for the first time. He'll walk around, visit, get petted. And he'll practice, outside the ring, a series of little puppy exercises that up until that time had been confined to the backyard.
At which point our Catch-22 will be history and it'll be time to run with the Big Dogs.