I was wondering how it would feel to be a 'two dog mum'.
Skye and I have a very close bond, and I just couldn't imagine feeling so powerfully for another dog...ever.
As the years climbed and her body slowed slightly, I could see the minor signs of stiffness appearing, and was concerned about her work load, and enjoyment levels of all the 'jobs' she has. We are in search and rescue, she works sheep, she does competitive scentwork and sports trials, she is my demo dog, my business partner and my best friend.
I suppose I held off making the decision, because part of me wanted to pretend this beautiful creature will always be here at my side. Hoping that by some miracle, time will spare her for me to selfishly keep. Considering getting another dog made me feel like I was somehow preparing for her departure. That she was in some way redundant, and I was OK with that?!
I couldn't bare it. Didn't want to talk about it, brushed off other people's attempts to persuade me - what did they know about owning a dog this magnificent?! (love you all).
10 points for over thinking, as always!
I also was worried about not being able to love a new dog 'enough', and that Skye might feel pushed out.
On top of being intensely emotional, am a very practical person. After much discussion (literally 18 months) I had decided that another dog was essential for business. Thats the cold hard decision I made. I decided on breed and basic temperament based on our daily activities, and began my search.
My breed of choice was a Malinois. I didn't want to be that trainer with just Border Collies, and I value high drive and sensitivity, endurance and a keen work ethic. Having watched my close friends train for the best part of a year, and worked with several, I had a feel for the breed and knew it was right for me.
I also knew I needed a puppy, not a rescue dog *hides from missiles*.
I have such a long training journey to go on with any dog of mine. I have high expectations and definite requirements of adult behaviour, and I need to be there are the 'wiring up stage' to have all this.
I deal with problem behaviour for a living, and although raising a puppy is no less work, the focus is different, and the breed weaknesses can be thoroughly protected to bring out the best in that individual. I did look at several adult dogs, all of which confirmed my thoughts.
I began my search in the professional world, looking for a working/sporting pedigree who could also make a nice pet to fit into our family, but couldn't find the adult nature that I was looking for in any of the parents. So I decided to look in pet homes, and find working potential (which pretty much boils down to good confirmation, strong predatory response, foody, sociable, fast, resilient, focused and environmentally steady).
I assessed 53 puppies, and eventually found what I was searching for.
World meet Ash...
What has been so magical about this last three weeks that Ash has been part of our family is that I have realised that there is always enough love.
That my girls bring such different things to the table, the idea that they are somehow competing is ridiculous.
They are so similar in their gentleness, keenness to work and sensitivity but they also have glorious differences laid out in their breed traits and individual personalities - which I just didn't anticipate.
Ash is so physical. She wants to be touched and stroked and held, and seeks out a connection wherever possible. In her celebrations and activities she wants to have a physical connection with me. She is carefree and silly, a comedienne taking life in her stride.
After 9 years with my Skye, who is actually quite touch averse (If you think about it, this is perfectly understandable for a herder, if they are making physical contact with the sheep... something went wrong). Skye would be perfectly happy if we never ever made physical contact ever again save from the once a day cuddle she asks for.
Skye is a watcher. She observes and anticipates movement, positioning herself appropriately for the task. She is serious and sensible, a beautiful partner to have for working any task, and has always had wise old soul right from puppyhood.
This is such a tonic for me. I think as humans we have lost touch with this very basic, very primal need of a social species to be touched. It would be totally creepy to ask you best mate to lie down whilst you stroke their hair, and my husband and son will only tolerate this for a certain amount of time!
I can feel it lowering my heart rate, and snuffing out that anxiety which plagues us all on some level... and I didn't even realise it was missing from my life.
What's MOST beautiful about all of this, is that I can let me girls be who they want to be without forcing my own selfish needs on them.
Skye is visibly happier with the new arrangement. The way in which she enjoys her relationship with me has MASSIVELY increased, because all the touchy feely rubbish she tolerates for me can be inflicted on the baby!
There is more action, more fun, more stimulation, and she's loving being rewarded for things like a simple down stay, while baby learns something new, as well as having her usual one to one time training and working with me.
Skye is relaxed and happy, and desensitising nicely to the unexpected touch of an excited baby.
She is patient and tolerant, because I am able to give get lots of space and choice to participate and leave again.
On day 2 I allowed and supported Skye when she told the baby off. Her 'puppy squashing' ability is well honed. Firm and deliberate, without ever hurting "that's a no", and of course supervised by two very experienced handlers.
She laid out the ground rules of 'do not jump on me', and the baby now more careful in her interactions, warm and gentle around her. This allows both girls to feel safe and understand the playing field.
Their relationship is slowly developing into something beautiful as a result.
And strangely I actually feel as though I have more time for Skye, probably because I'm conscious of ensuring she still gets 'me' time. Quality time for my special girl to do the things she loves.
Full to the very brim of love today.
Love your dogs & celebrate their differences 💛
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