It is unusual for me to write two blogs in one day, but I felt compelled to do so because each subject needed to be explored and addressed independent of each other. My last post was pretty much me-centric but with this post I want to talk about that person behind the scenes who does her best to hold the shit show that is my show career together while working her tail off so that I don’t embarrass myself in the quest for a fifty cent ribbon. Even though this is about my trainer, I am sure that this applies to all show trainers out there.
As you may or may not know, I am a real estate agent. My job is to sell houses. My job is not baby sitter, emotional counselor, fortune teller, or sorcerer capable of making people love your home, yet these are often the expectations…
I am pleased to announce that a new addition has joined my little family; meet Ayla, a Maremma/ Akbash cross.
She is a livestock guardian breed who’s job is to watch over the mini horses, and to eventually make sure that they don’t get eaten by bears or any passing cougars.
I have been thinking about getting a livestock guardian dog for a while now, as bears are a constant problem in our area, and it isn’t unusual to hear reports of cougars picking off smaller livestock. When a miniature horse from a farm about 15 minutes away from us was attacked by a cougar (thankfully the owner was outside at the time and was able to scare it off. The mini has now mostly recovered from his injuries), I started thinking more seriously into the prospect of getting a livestock guardian. I started doing oodles of research, and tried to find every scrap of information I could about them and with how to train them. Having previously never owner a dog of my own, the thought of having a puppy was a little daunting, but I felt like I was up to the challenge. Even though I have never had my own dog, I am not unfamiliar with dogs. My family and brothers have always had dogs, in fact, there has never been a time in my life where my family did not have a dog. However, this would be the very first time that I would be the sole owner, and main caretaker/ trainer of a dog. I was intrigued by the prospect, and did all the research I could to prepare myself.
A litter finally became available, and we set up a time to go and see them. We had to go to the Sunshine Coast, which is about a 2 hour drive, and a 40 minute ferry ride. I would consider myself an introvert, and I’m fairly unadventurous, so this would only the second time in my life that I had ever been on a ferry, despite living fairly close to the coast line, and having easy access to the nearby islands. This was going to be an adventure for me the moment we drove out our driveway, and headed to the city of North Vancouver to the Horseshoe Bay, having not been to that city in years.
It was a perfect day for the ferry ride, lovely and warm, without a cloud in the sky!
When we got to the farm, nine overly excited puppies bounced up to us and showered us in licks. I had already decided that I wanted a female, so the males were put in their kennel so that I could get a better look at the females. There was five to choose from, I quickly decided against one of them for being too shy, and then another one for being too interested in attention and needy. Another pup was a little too aloof for what I wanted, so that just left two to choose between. One was a very sleek coated pup, who seemed friendly but still reserved. The fifth pup who had been snoozing under a trailer got up and marched deliberately towards me, flopped down beside me, and leaned her head against me as she tilted her head up and looked up at me. With that, I knew which pup was mine.
She was perfect on the ride home, just super calm and relaxed. Even though we got to the ferry terminal early, there was still so much traffic left over from the long weekend that the ferry filled up, and we were forced to wait for the next one which wasn’t due for two more hours. We ended up wandering about until we found a nice shaded grass area to wait in.
She didn’t seem to mind at all, and was quite happily sniffing about, before she decided to flop down by my feet and go to sleep. When the next ferry finally arrived, we were one of the first to board. Unfortunately, however, we were parked on one of the downward ramps, which happened to be situated right next to the huge, rattling fans.
When we actually started moving we got out of the truck and moved to one of the windows that they have on the lower parking deck. Puppy seemed to enjoy looking out the window, and kept sniffing into the salty sea air as the spray from the water splashed onto the railing.
She was perfect on the final stretch of our journey on the drive home. She sat on my lap for part of the drive and peered out of the window, and was quite fascinated with watching other vehicles drive by. Eventually she went into her crate and snoozed on and off.
When we got home, I introduced her to everybody and the horses, and then put her in an x-pen beside the mini horses. Because she is a livestock guardian, she will be an outside dog, and with the puppies you are supposed to keep them in a separate, contained area in with or beside the livestock that they will be guarding so that they can start to bond with them. Eventually, when she gets a little bigger and more mature, she will be in the paddock with the horses, and will then also have free rein of the property. She seemed quite content to hang out near the horses, and was intrigued with watching them, although got a little concerned whenever them came right up to her fence. She soon got used to them however, and is now fine with them milling about beside her. While she settled into her new home, I started doing some more thinking for a name for her. I already had a list of potential names, but I didn’t want to decide on one until I picked out a pup. I went through the list and decided that Ayla was the one that suited her best. So now, puppy had a new home, and a new name.
The next day I started to get to know her more, and also gave her a bath, which she was surprisingly good for.
Afterwards she charged around the lawn, and I took the opportunity to take some pictures of her.
I have wanted my own dog for years now, and that wish finally came true. I’m immensely excited to start this new journey as a dog owner. Ayla is such a joy to have around, and quite the little love!
In celebration of Canada Day (and also just because I wanted to), Hope and I went on a trail ride. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Canada Day than to ride through some of trails that this beautiful country has to offer.
I went to the local equestrian park that I am very fortunate to be boarding right next to, literally. The park is directly across the street from the barn I am at, and one of the side entrances is just a minute road ride away, and since it is a very quiet street, with courteous and horse knowledgeable drivers, it isn’t a problem. As I’ve only been at this barn for a short period of time, I’ve only been to the park once before, and only for a quick 20 minute cool down. This time, I went for just over an hour to have an actual ride, and to be able to appreciate the park more and to see a greater extent of it.
For the most part, Hope was really good. She seemed to enjoy the change of scenery, and employed her time with looking at everything that she could. Apparently flowers are scary, as are downhill gradients. After we had been gone for about half an hour, she started to get a little anxious. Hope is a bit of a homebody (okay, a lot). It’s not that she’s herd bound, she just likes all of the comforts of home. She is very much so an urban loving horse, and very much so enjoys and appreciates all of the aspects of “modern” living. I am sure that she thinks forests and trail rides are simply too “uncivilized” for her. She is a princess, and much prefers the paved alleyways in and between barns to the more rustic trails (even though these trails are gorgeous, and wonderfully maintained).
Hope didn’t do anything stupid on our ride, but she wasn’t getting any more fond of it as time went on. Eventually I started working on our lateral work down the trails, just to give her something else to think about. She immediately gave a big sigh and began to settle down again. I think she was relieved to have something to do that was familiar to her, because, you know… those downhill slopes are very scary and foreign, and must be snorted at.
In true dressage fashion, we did half pass zigzags, shoulder-in, travers, and renvers as we continued on our ride.
I immensely enjoyed myself, and look forward to going again. I have no doubt that Hope will begin to get used to trail riding, although, I’m sure that she’ll always prefer her pristine arena, and manicured showgrounds to the trails.
I'm not a bragger, but I really do own the best mare in the entire world. Stay tuned for ramblings about our somewhat irresponsible and rocky start all the way up to her blossoming into the solid citizen I knew she could be.