(Written off-line aprox. May 12, 2008 )
After training Hannah today, I decided to take Mira out to the sheep and see if I could get the light to turn on. Since I have no experience starting a dog, I took her in on a line to keep things calm and under control. Mira is now 18 months old and should really be ready to work if it’s ever going to happen.
I took her into the small field with the 9 working sheep. As soon as she saw them, she alarm barked and put her hackles and tail up. The sheep ran away, and, clearly feeling her job was done (she made the scary things go away), Mira got down to the serious business of eating sheep cookies (sheep poo). She started scarfing down those droppings like she hadn’t eaten in a month.
The next five minutes were very bizarre. I walked around the paddock with Mira on a leash, moving her around the sheep. She sniffed the ground frantically, vacuuming up sheep cookies as fast as she could, stopping only occasionally to lunge and bark at the sheep in a high-pitched frantic screech.
I have to say it was the most disheartening experience I’ve around training a dog in a very long time. There is no reason this dog shouldn’t work – her father was a former UK national champion, and has sired many a working dog. Her mother has never trialed competitively, but does work for a living. So what’s wrong with their daughter?
Mira has come a long, long way over the last 6 months, but she started so far behind that despite all her progress, she’s still not even at the starting line yet. Will she ever get there? Tonight I was resigning myself to the possibility that she might not. At agility she shows me moments of talent, but overall a lack of interest in ‘working.’ Basically, if what we are doing is fun for her, then great. Otherwise she has no interest in doing it. She has the poorest work ethic I’ve encountered in a border collie since… well possibly ever. Am I going to be able to change that? It doesn’t help that Hannah is so incredibly talented and that we are working fabulously together these days (in agility she practically reads my mind), and Ross is just a blast to train with, full of clownish enthusiasm and a fabulous emotional connection. In contrast, working with Mira is about as much fun as going to the dentist.
I guess that’s my challenge. At this point I have three options that I can think of: 1) since both her temperament and her hips have substantially stabilized, I could probably successfully place her in an agility home; 2) I can give up on her and just keep her as a pet and let her enteratain herself permanently; or 3) I can keep struggling away and see if I can get her to start taking some interest in what we are doing.
For now I’ve decided to go with option three – I guess I just like running my head into a brick wall. I’ll give her another 6 months (until she turns 2) and if by then she’s not either working sheep or running well in agility, I’ll re-evaluate.
On a positive note, I had her in to the chiropractor last week for the first time in 3 months. This was her 4th adjustment since we started in November. At our first visit the chiropractor said that the imbalance in Mira’s muscle development suggested a strong possibility of serious hip dysplasia on the right side. Here we are 6 months later, and at this latest adjustment I was told there is no longer anything wrong with this dog. At least not anything that can be detected manually. Of course only an x-ray will reveal for certain what is going on underneath, but it seems that she is now sound. Good thing too as it’s long past time for this puppy to start earning her keep!