Sunday, July 18, 2010

It All Began With Fooh Fooh - Our First Dog

We were strictly cat people until FoohFooh came along in 1999.  I'll never forget that fateful day when a neighbor crossed our path dragging a stray puppy to Adoption Day, and then on to the pound for likely euthenizing if it wasn't adopted.  I offered to see if  I could find it a good home among my Montessori preschoolers, HA, which turned out to be our home.  Our floppy eared little mutt, who turned out to be an American Dingo (Carolina Dog), enchanted us.  I was still working full time, living at my school so he lived there, too, playing with all the children at every recess.  He was the biggest hit ever in our school's history.  Everyone adored FoohFooh.

He was very boisterous, requiring a strong Alpha to manage him and I had to keep him leashed to my waist for the first year to keep him from eating everything in sight and knocking over all the furniture.  He put quite a few holes in the kids clothes!

But he caught on quickly to all the parlor tricks I taught him at night, which was great fun for me, and he settled down after a few years (though he never became fully socialized).

I remember being horrified when his ears began standing erect.  I had assumed they would stay floppy.  One day as Audrey and I walked him along the Mandeville harbor, someone yelled out their car window "Look, a dingo."  I came home and googled it, and sure enough, he's a dead ringer for the American Dingo (Carolina Dog)!  After that, I became quite proud of his erect ears, and better understood his wild behavior.

Fooh Fooh Fontenot von Fry

I was the strict one, John was his pal, and he came to prefer John to me.  He's a sweetie and loves doing tricks for me, but he never became the kind of dog we could take out in public.  Very skiddish, growls at strangers, etc.  He's gentle with us, though, learns tricks fast, and is a good guard dog.  We especially admired his bounding movements, authoritative demeanor, and statuesque poses. 

Fooh Fooh is now 11.5 years old, past his prime, graying and slowing down.  I always felt guilty that I didn't have spare time to train this bright and gifted canine to hunt or herd, and swore NEVER AGAIN would I do that to any dog of mine! And that's how, unbeknownst to me, my present involvement with dog training was born all those years back.

As I said, FoohFooh became John's dog.  They adored each other.  He'd sit in John's lap on the porch every day, and at night as we watched TV, while I sat there all by myself -- nobody to cuddle with.  That stunk!  Of course, I had cats, but they had migrated outside more and more with Fooh Fooh in the house chasing them around.  And I found myself increasingly drawn to dogs.  When we went on vacation, for example, I found I missed FoohFooh way more than my cats, I guess because cats are so much more independant.  Dogs need us more than cats do, and I respond to being needed.

After I retired, all I wanted was a soft furry little Papillon that would cuddle with me while we watched TV at night, while 50 lb Fooh Fooh spralled out on John's lap.   So, my husband bought me a Papillon puppy for Christmas 2007 (see next post). I was in heaven, but got way more than I bargained for when I realized 6 month old Maximillion, in addition to being a supreme cuddler with eyes-for-me-only, was also smart, agile and very eager to learn and show off. Within 3 tries, he caught on to every parlor trick I introduced, so we began entertaining visitors with roll-overs, turns, flips, jump thru my arms, dancing round and round, etc. We were limited only by what I knew to teach, so I began buying dog training books, watching Animal Planet, and before long, I saw an AKC Agility Competition on TV, Googled "dog agility" and found out Papillons excelled at it, then Googled "dog agility Baton Rouge", and up popped the local AKC dog club's website. We signed up for our first agility class with the Louisiana Capital City Obedience Club just 2 months after I got Max, with no idea how this would rearrange my time, redefine my social circle, and change my whole concept of "retirement".
Maxie on the Wabble Board, Noel and Rip in the background
Our first class was in February, and it was freezing cold. The leaves crackled underfoot and Max was trembling, but it didn't stop him from eagerly taking all his turns. Watching the other newbie dogs tentatively toe the wabble board and see-saw while Max just hopped onto the moving surfaces without fear, tail wagging, jumping for his treats, I figured "this dog must have it". I was the one so out of shape from 4 years of retirement, sitting in my computer chair, I figured I'd better get busy walking and exercising to keep up with this puppy, and the inspiration Maxie provides me since then has probably saved my life. For I was getting fat and feeling sluggish.

Within a few short sessions, I realized 1 hour of lessons per week would not be enough for us, so I spent the spring of 2008 building all my own agility equipment -- the A-frame was the hardest, then the dog walk and see saw. I bought a brand new tire jump and chute, 6 bar jumps and 12 stick-in-the-ground weave poles off of E-Bay, then realized I could make more bar jumps, the panel jump and broad jumps, and more weave poles myself using PVC pipe and/or wood. I invested in a 15' competition quality red tunnel -- my biggest expense other than gobbs of time. My back yard's clear space is about 40' x 75', and a side space about 40' x 25', not big enough for a regulation course set-up, but plenty of space for sequence training.

By spring we had joined the dog club, and at my 2nd meeting they announced the old web designer had left, their domain was way out of date and about to expire, and no one knew what to do. Reluctantly, I volunteered. This threw me into info-gathering/creative mode for the club, soliciting photos, interviewing officers, instructors and the most advanced competitors and senior members, visiting classes, taking pictures, and scraping together all the information I could find to build an informative website that would do our club proud. Somehow, I came into possession of all the club's newsletters from 35 years back, and this made me, in a way, the club's archivist. Thus, I became more involved in the club's business more quickly than most new members probably do, and nothing has been quite the same in my life ever since.

I'll continue with Maxie's agility career in the next post.

No comments: