A year ago today, one female Saint Bernard (“Blossom”) gave birth to a litter or seven puppies and, at least for eight weeks, sacrificed her sanity so that I and six other lucky families could bring these beautiful, healthy puppies home. It’s hard to believe, now, that a year has passed.
This is Cuba’s litter when they were born. Five boys, two girls, all beautiful!
Eight weeks later, I got to meet Cuba and his four remaining littermates for the first time.
Together, the first of many great journeys together lie ahead, a cross-country flight from Oregon to New York! Since then, neither of us have stopped learning and having fun together. (And he definitely has not stopped growing, although the rate has slowed!) Ten months have passed since that day.
I admit, if I had blogged last year at this time, about where I thought we’d be in our training together now, I would have had grandiose predictions of already having points toward his championship. CGC, TDI, therapy visits, etc. The problem here would have been that then (and now), Cuba couldn’t read the blogs – he wasn’t aware of the agenda. We’re breaking all kinds of conformation taboos by not having started him yet, but socially he’s very immature and still not ready in terms of impulse control. Since Cuba can’t read my playbook, I have to read his and let him show me when he’s ready. I don’t have a champion show dog (yet), but what I do have is a delightfully silly beast with an unrestrained, exuberant enthusiasm for cuddling, belly scratches, and playing hard. I have an adolescent male that loves to learn, but sometimes, like human adolescent males (and many adults), still has a tendency to “think” with the brains between his legs instead of the ones in his head. In short, we have a lot of training to do.
Trainers always advocate for early and extensive puppy socialization, but I see that there is a real need for “continuing education” when it comes to dog raising. Adolescence is the hard part. Puppies are a lot of work and can occasionally drive you a bit crazy, but adolescence, when a dog has a nearly-adult sized body without the mental and emotional maturity to match it, can be a real challenge. Mokie was a very easy puppy and the adolescent stage was similarly easy. Monte came to live with us after he’d passed through that stage. Living with Cuba makes me think a lot about the type of services and support my clients need – there is a great need for adolescent training classes. It is a time for dogs to blow off recall (the doggy equivalent of breaking curfew), test their boundaries, bark at things, etc. For owners, it is a time when a sense of humor and patience are actually survival mechanisms. It’s a time to focus on combining impulse control work and play, which is what Cuba and I are concentrating on together now.
Where will we be next year? My goals will be a CGC and at least a point toward our championship. Wish us luck! Here’s Cuba last weekend, today we’re off for another swimming birthday adventure!