Adding a new dog to your family can turn everything upside down, even with the best planning. We made the plunge in the spring of 2016 and got a puppy that should have been the sweetest, most loving therapy Golden in the world. After all, Shelby is the best dog in the world – a gentle spirit that enjoys her therapy job. This bundle of puppy energy comes from the same genetics, so it should be a piece of cake.
I WAS MISTAKEN. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade Kalli for any dog in the world after 20 months of living with her, but she is different. I should have known when she ran down that turkey chick at 12 weeks that she wasn’t ever going “to be Shelby.” Or when she ran through and then on top of the agility tunnel at full speed at 6 months. Or when she does her zoomies in the house, joyfully leaving a trial of mayhem.
Come, leave it, LEAVE it, LEAVE IT. Were you talking to me? Let me check my calendar and see if I can fit you in. This was her attitude from about 7 to 13 months. ARGH, I’d read all the books. Enriched her environment with toys, games, and classes. Where did I go wrong? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HER?
I realized we needed help. I needed to know how to control her energy.
Luckily, I found support for positive, motivational training with a kind and insightful trainer. Slowly, I realized that Kalli was destined for other things – active stuff like field work, tracking, and agility. I’d have to abandon many of the “obedience rules” I learned. Obedience isn’t top-down; the dog is an active participant and you have to earn their respect. Dogs don’t automatically agree with everything you ask of them, let them choose. Heeling isn’t some passive activity and don’t stare or loom over them. My body language is as important as hers. It’s been hard work.
Kalli has learned a lot in the past year – she can sit, stay, heel, and come, is learning her whistle commands, and how to “handle” from a distance. I can’t make Kalli be calm; her energy just squirts out if you try to contain her too much. She’s never going to be a wallflower; Kalli needs to be at the center of the action! Kalli will always be aware of other dogs, kids, people, and the spot on the floor, but is learning impulse control. We are learning to be a team.
The best thing about Kalli is that she always wants to play (and training is play). The worst thing about Kalli is that she always wants to play. And so, we play often – sometimes formal training, sometimes just goofiness like dancing together in the kitchen. She has helped me learn new things, see life from a different perspective, and get up and move because that is how she lives her life. Every day she gets a day older and I hope that I get a bit wiser, but we are both learning more about each other. We’ve managed to pass her first retriever test. Both she and Shelby have their Rally Novice title. (Yes, Kalli has even gotten Shelby excited about learning again or was that jealousy?) and Kalli is closing in on her first obedience title. All milestones that I thought were unattainable a year ago. Beyond competition, Kalli is learning to be the dog that helps when I need help getting up, picking up things I drop, or letting me know when our kitty needs in. Her energy has purpose.
No, Kalli isn’t Shelby, but she is my sweet and loving Golden. The dog that pushes me to do more than I ever believed I could. Maybe someday in the future (in a galaxy far, far away), she will be a therapy dog. For now, we’ll just enjoy Kalli for the joyful spirit she is and the new worlds she opens for us.
My wise sister says that you always get the puppy you need, not always the puppy that you want. Our puppy is Kalli. Enjoy yours.
– Joan, Shelby, & Kalli