I sometimes get questions about our dogs when I'm running a training class or during casual conversation. They usually center around if my dogs always behave, what titles they have and if I ever get upset that they don't do what I'm thinking they should do — and yet have failed to communicate my thoughts to them.
The answers to those questions, in order, are: Of course! Many in many venues, and never! OK, the real answers are not that simple.
Do they behave? Not always, though they always behave the way I expect them too in a given situation if I think about it, except when they are being naughty and trying to steal a cookie on Christmas Eve and when dragging their stocking around Christmas morning because there is a bone stuck in it.
Do they have titles? Yes they do. Some of our dogs excel at herding, some at agility and some at obedience. Several of them are good all around competitors, and others I only participate in activities where I can closely monitor them — or the urge to go visit someone may overcome them.
Do I ever get upset with them? No, not really. I do get upset at myself for not communicating correctly with them, but they are dogs so any communication breakdown belongs strictly to me.
At the beginning of any class, I always tell those in attendance that I believe it is never the dog's fault. I believe this to my core. Our furry, four-legged friends want nothing more, usually, than to please us. Sure the occasional piece of meat, a bowl of sloppy stuff or a small child's ice cream cone may sometimes draw our dog's attention to where they want that more than anything, but those urges don't last long.
I sometimes am asked how many dogs we have, and I usually preface my answer with, "at the moment..." because the number is always fluctuating. Sure we have our usual crew that is always around, but we also have a couple of rescues at any given moment.
We will help any dog in need, but we work with many herding and rare dog rescues, including: Border Collie rescue, Briard rescue, Aussie rescue, Sheltie rescue, Puli rescue, Komondor rescue and Yorkie rescue. Why those breeds in particular? Because those are the breeds we are most familiar with and have that extra-special place in our hearts.
Do we have any of those breeds? You bet we do. Our Briards are named Ditto and Bizzy. One is a copycat and the other is always busy. Our Border Collie is named Maxx, and he is a maximum BC. Scoop, our Sheltie, can stop the presses with his performances in the agility ring. And, little Manny, our Yorkie, has a desire to be an internet video star — hamming it up in front of the camera any chance he gets! We have had Pulik and Komondors in the past as well as others.
They are all different, and they are all love-bugs who want really to be lap dogs. Each has a personality all their own, but still want nothing more than to be with, and please, their people. If there is ever a misunderstanding, it was probably because I forgot to buy extra steaks or hotdogs — not because the decided to sneak off with one or two.
Sometimes we have two or three rescues, in varying stages of being ready for their forever home, and sometimes we only have our crew. Those times seem strange, because there are not as many paws pattering, tails wagging and cold noses lightly touching the back of your legs. When there are extra bowls with no food in them at meal times, I usually wonder how our fosters are doing in their new — and some not so new — homes.
We love getting photos of our fosters in their forever homes, and love hearing stories about what they are up too. Each still has a place in our hearts.
So, if you ever wonder how many dogs we have, I can only tell you that the number depends on when you ask. If you want to send chew bones and are looking for a specific number, I can tell you they will never go un-chewed.
Blake Ovard is a professional dog trainer and a top-three finalist in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org