Thursday, January 28, 2010

Littermates

Because her brother, "Bear," belongs to a friend of mine, Bisou sees him at least once a week, when we carpool over snowy hills and woods to agility class.

You should know that Bisou's and Bear's papa is a nationally-acclaimed agility champion. When I was looking for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, this attracted me, not because I envisioned spending the rest of my life attending agility trials but because if a dog can run and jump and twist and race that well, he's got to have a really good heart. And hearts are the Achilles heel of the breed.

Bear and Bisou are attending beginning agility classes because agility gives puppies confidence and strengthens the bond with their owners. That said, my friend and I are not displeased when Bear and Bisou shine in the ring.

They shine, but they could not do so in more different ways. Born less than an hour apart, these two puppies came to earth from different planets. They look different: he is a "black-and-tan," she is a "ruby." He is more rugged, and she more refined, as befits their genders. But the real difference is in their personalities. This is so immediately striking that, on the first day of class, another dog owner took one look at them and asked the instructor whether it was usual for puppies from the same litter to be so entirely different.

What did this person see that made her ask this question? She saw Bear sitting composedly at his owner's feet, watching the proceedings, while Bisou wriggled and whined and strained at the end of the leash, wanting to get to Bear, wanting to greet the instructor, wanting to get inside the ring.

Two months later, nothing has changed. The puppies are leaping over jumps, walking on low teeter boards, rushing through tunnels and chutes, jumping on tables and then lying down. When it's Bear's turn to run through a course, he walks calmly into the ring, listens to directions, then goes through each obstacle with great deliberation and presence of mind, making few mistakes. Then he stalks out of the ring looking a lot like his champion father (also a black-and-tan).

While Bear is in the ring, his sister is quivering, whining and moaning on the sidelines, every red hair of hers screaming "my turn, my turn, my turn!" Even though she only weighs sixteen pounds, it's all I can do to hold on to her.

Eventually, after a looooooong wait, it's our turn. What is Bisou like in the ring? I have no idea, because all I can see is a red streak, very close to the ground, long ears flapping, going from jump to jump to table to chute with such speed that I can barely bark commands out in time, much less keep up with her. Every once in a while, I hear the other people in the class laugh. I never hear a sound out of Bear.

Despite their differences, Bear and Bisou adore each other. Put them in a room together and they instantly go up on their hind legs, arms around each other's neck, then fall to the ground, rolling over and over to the accompaniment of incessant growling from--you guessed it--Bisou. Bear never says a word. This can go on, literally, for over an hour, with no breaks, until my friend and I, our eyes sore from focusing on all that movement, pry them apart from each other.

For now, we let them have their fun, knowing that things will change soon. In the next month or two, Bisou will have her first heat, and Bear too will be swept by the hormonal tides. We will have to separate them, at least temporarily. (Although their two-headed puppies would be adorable, my friend and I, when we bought the dogs, signed agreements never to breed them.)

The thinking in veterinary circles these days is not to neuter females until they have had their first heat, males until they are fully grown. So we are in store for some Romeo and Juliet times in the coming months. I've already been warned by the vet that 95-pound neutered Wolfie may find Bisou very interesting when she goes into heat....Stay tuned.

3 comments :

  1. (not the heat part. the agility part.)

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  2. Posting from Lali's agility carpool friend.

    Yes agility is great fun! A real test of how tuned in our dogs are to us. The course can be very confusing for handlers as well as dogs. When leading dogs to each obstacle handlers have to be so mindful of body language. Even the slightest veer to one side or the other can cause a misscommunication.

    Bear and I have watched Bisou and Lali in action. Bisou has incredible enthusiasm. And does not just barely clear jumps - she leaps way over them. Last week I had to lower a jump Bisou had just cleared before running Bear.

    Would love to video tape Lali and Bisou - but I have my hands full running Bear AND my 8 year old Border Collie Toby. Only then would Lali appreciate how Bisou's eyes are glued to her. Their bond is special to watch.

    Posted by Joanne from Bear Mountain Farm in West Rupert, Vermont where it was -12 this morning...

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