Sunday, December 6, 2009
There comes a time in every dog handlers life when you must say goodbye. Sometimes it is sudden, sometimes it is not.... but say goodbye you must. They give us so much... their heart, their dedication, their love, their work ethic.... they teach us so much.... and they are never around long enough. 3 years.... 13 years... it is never long enough. We ask them to do so much for us.... and they gladly do it... just show me how, they ask. And if you do your part, they do you proud. They want nothing more back from us than love, protection and care. From beginning to end.
She came to me at 6 weeks of age... I had watched her from the day she was born to the day I took her home... I was going to make her into a SEARCH DOG. I had been down the road before, and had made my mistakes. Now, I KNEW what I was doing. So she was going to be IT. At 6 weeks of age, we were up at 5 am playing ball, so she had play drive. We were doing puppy run aways at 8 weeks old to instill in her the work that I wanted from her - to make it second nature. I didn't inhibit any behavior so I could find out what would be HER alert. And I got... a jump alert that she added a bark to. I let her pick her reward, so I knew which paycheck she wanted - we went through a tennis ball (fantastic toy, but not the end all be all for her for search....) a soft frisbee - worked great until she some how injured her mouth and refused to touch it again.... finally she chose a kong. Actually, she stole a kong from the vet office from our 'forgotten toy' bin.... I still have it. And then from there we were set for adventure.....
Her first find was a set of keys. My friend had left them in the grass at softball field one evening and then they turned the lights out.... after many people searched for them, I brought her out and she took all of 5 minutes and she found them. Her first live human find was of an alzheimer's man that had walked away from his home in the city of Chico. They had been searching for him for hours before they finally called Butte SAR. We had been working only a short time when her head popped up and over the small rise she flew. Then she was coming back to me, but she kept looking over her shoulder. I could then see our missing person, continuing to walk from yard to yard and she was trying her darndest to keep him in sight, and still keep coming to me to tell me what she had found. Her most memorable find, for me, was of a suicidal subject that had hidden himself in a van, and passed out. The night was dark and I was so focused on my dog that when she alerted, I didn't understand what she was telling me. She kept taking me to a clump of grass... that was all I could see. And when I didn't understand what she was telling me she finally flung herself up against the back of the van that I was standing next to and never saw. I got the message then.
In her life, she was mission ready with CARDA, Tehama County, and Butte County. She was mission ready in Wilderness, Water, Cadaver and BUDD (Basic Urban Disaster). She made an impression everywhere she went, and her voice wasn't soon forgotten. Many a boat driver who had experienced her before cringed with they saw us coming because she never shut up on a boat... except when she was pin pointing scent. Any thing that remotely looked like it could be a search area, brought out the barking monster that I created. No trip was for 'pleasure'... there had to be a search at the stopping point..... just ask her, she told you.
When I thought I wanted to quell her barking, and discovered a veterinary behaviorist was conducting a research project on barking dogs and the best method to control the barking, right here in town, I jumped right up and said PLEASE pick me! Dr Yin did... and then, within a week, rejected her for the research project, saying she was too well behaved... she never barked for Dr Yin.
Time, age and infirmity caught up to Please. I can't say she live a short life. Who can complain about nearly 14 years? Her working life was cut short due to joint problems, but her life with me was long and full.
In the end, I had to give to her the respect she had given to me over all the years we had together. I had to allow her her dignity. I had to say goodbye and let her exit gracefully. I couldn't be selfish and keep her around for me, knowing she was uncomfortable and in pain.
So, on December 5, 2009, I said goodbye to Please. The search dog that showed me what a search dog should be. The search dog that taught ME more about search dogs than I ever taught her about being a search dog.