Sunday, March 2, 2008
So after a few personal break downs and serious doubt about our decision we got to work trying to make a normal and structured life for Tali. We had lots of walks, stood, for what felt like hours, at the far side of our local park watching other dogs. We exposed her to as much as possible in a supportive and safe environment. As the summer went on we made some big and not so big break-throughs. We took off her gentle-leader, started leaving her training treats at home, and no longer ducked and ran when we saw another dog. She began playing with other dogs, she would listen to basic commands, and started to live a happy life. Not to say that she is now the perfect dog, but we can walk her without a leash, and know how she will respond in certain situations, and her basic obedience is now better than some other dogs we come across.
Because of her breed, which we now believe to be a mix of English Setter and Border Collie, Tali needs lots of exercise. We got her a Frisbee, which we doubted would draw any interest but thought it was worth a try. After a throw or two she became obsessed. Her drive to get the Frisbee, find the Frisbee, and never leave the Frisbee was almost alarming. As fall started we began to notice traits that might make her a good avalanche dog. What we saw was first and foremost a strong work ethic, a desire to please, loyalty, and a love to play. As the winter started my wife and I discussed the thought about seeing if she could make it as a working avalanche dog.
I talked to everyone in the dog program at work and they were all very encouraging and supportive about her starting the training. With that she was on her way to a potential new career.
A Little Bit on A Little Dog
Tali came to us from the Eagle County Humane Society. Like most mountain town humane societies Eagle is a no kill shelter. When they have room they take in animals for kill shelters around the state. Tali had been the youngest member of a feral pack in Mesa County when she was brought into the shelter. She and her brother were on the list to be put down when they got a free ride to Eagle. (Which I find ironic seeing as though the towns in Eagle County will buy a bus ticket for feral humans wandering their towns to ship them to other places.) We saw Tali’s picture on a web site and loaded up our older dog to make the drive to meet this little white puppy.
She was shy, timid, and quiet in clear opposition of her six-month-old puppy frame. She had been attacked by another dog and had a large bite wound on her muzzle. Because of this she spent her time in the shelter in quarantine. We took her out to play with our other dog Riddle and they got along, Riddle wasn’t quite sure what to do with her. My wife and I took Riddle on a long walk around the area, talked about this little white puppy, saw her one more time and that was that. We signed the paper work, loaded her into our car and we were now a two dog family.
We discussed names on the way home and Talus was our favorite. Our first night with her was a foreshadowing of the months to come. When it was time to take the dogs for their nightly walk it was snowing, (yes this was June) with 50mph winds and felt like total chaos. Tali was terrified and shook and refused to pee. So we made the decision that we would just have to clean up after her in the morning.
The weeks to come we learned what we were in for. Tali it turns out loves to talk, she barks at just about anything she can. She was terrified of any dog, car, person, tree, leaf, or shadow we came across on our walks. She was so petrified that she would hurl herself into the air in absolute hysterics anytime we came across another dog. Two full one on one dog training sessions later and weeks of constant obedience work, we weren’t sure if we could give this little puppy the home she needed. However, we made the commitment to take this dog in and we need to do what ever it took to make her happy.
(more to come)
Today I would like to introduce you to my dog Talus. Tali, as she is lovingly called, has just started in the Breckenridge Ski Patrol Avalanche Dog training program. This journey will take Tali and me on a two to three year quest that will hopefully end in our certification as a Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment Team.
In the coming days, weeks, months, and years I will bring you along with us in our extensive drills, games, ups, downs, and adventures. My goal with this blog is to track and share the progress we make as a team. I will share with you our training, the games we play, pictures, videos, and try to explain the process as we go through it.
As I post this it has been a little under three weeks already that Tali and I have been working together on the mountain. I will try to fill in the back story and keep up with our current events. I look forward to the coming months and please write with your questions, or come to Breckenridge Ski Area and say hello.