One year ago, I was living in a studio apartment in Westchester County, NY, I had a really good full-time job as a community educator, and Shayne was my only companion (and other than work, she was pretty much with me all the time). For over a year and a half, I searched for the perfect puppy to add to my life. I needed both my life and the puppy to be just right. I needed a solid, well-paying job that still allowed me to have plenty of time to spend with the dogs. Eventually, I got the perfect job and so my year-long puppy search heightened. I wanted a pup no older than 4 months old, one who had the potential to be a sporting dog, either a border collie or a cattle dog (or a mix), and one who had the type of physical structure that would lend itself to sports. With Shayne’s issues with other dogs, I needed a puppy who was confident, super dog-social, and somewhat fearless.
It seemed like my search went on forever and I was frustrated because it seemed like I found a potential puppy almost weekly before I was able to adopt and once I had a job, the puppies were nowhere to be found. Finally, while on my daily petfinder search, I ran across a pair of Fox Terrier/Cattle Dog mix puppies. I opened up the pages for “Yule” and “Noel” to get more information. Both were extremely cute puppies but there was just something about Yule that piqued my interest. He was located about an hour and a half away in NJ. After a filling out an adoption application and exchanging a few amazing emails with his foster mom, I made the trip to NJ to meet him–but truth be told, I knew he was the dog I wanted.
So, on this day last year, after an extended visit with his foster family, I signed the papers to make “Yule” mine. On the way home Yule became, Rio and the rest is history.
Over the last twelve months Rio has grown up so fast… from this oddly shaped, wonky-eared, 4-month old ACD/Fox Terrier puppy…. into this funny shaped, HUGE-eared, almost adult ACD/Whippet. To say he was everything I could have hoped he’d be would be a massive understatement. This boy is just amazing in every sense of the word (and it seems fellow performance dog folks agree since this past weekend I had flyball people interested in him and some disc friends jokingly making offers to buy him!).
I could trust him off-leash to work in unfenced areas since he was about 4.5 months old. After about two-weeks in my house working some basics, I would take him to a local park and work with him dragging a leash (and Shayne practicing long down-stays). Even at this young age he was amazing off-leash while working. He astounded me with his focus and his work ethic–this puppy could work for long stretches of time easily. I started out with 60-120 second training sessions but he would stare and keep offering behaviors for quite some time. So even as a puppy he was doing 10-15 minute sessions (with short play breaks every 3 or 4 minutes).
Coupled with this awesome ability to focus, he is just an amazingly smart little dog. He picked up clicker training super fast and was doing multi-stepped tricks by the time he was five or six months old. I love that I’ve had the time to really get to know him and get to know how he thinks and how he approaches the world. Whereas Shayne is a “brute force” problem solver (using excess physical force to solve problems), Rio is one of the most dainty, “think it over,” methodical problem solvers. He looks at it, thinks about it and learns the process. It’s quite amazing to watch him approach problems like the Nina Ottosson toys.
At 7 months old Rio absolutely shocked me… I entered him in a frisbee competition that I was taking Shayne to. My main goal was just to expose him to disc-dog competitions and to try and keep him engaged with me on the field and not running to play with spectators or their dogs. MUCH to my surprise Rio never checked out and played with me the whole time. He didn’t so much as look like he was going to say hi to the 50+ spectators next to the field (which isn’t separated by fencing or anything). The icing on the cake was that he made, not one, but THREE catches in his very first frisbee round. At 7 months old he got third place in D/A novice (out of 4 or 5 dogs, but still!). He has continued to blow me away with his athleticism, drive, and focus for the sport. Though, not surprisngly, he is also starting to LOVE agility that he has been learning. He’s only been taking classes for about 6 weeks, but he is rocking it and able to do some advanced handling skills.
While he has shown his amazing aptitude for frisbee training, agility, and trick training, he has also earned his CGC because he is just such a gentleman. This was a very proud moment–we had worked hard on socializing and training and even in a strange situation (in a completely new place, after being snapped at by another dog) he passed with mostly flying colors!
This year has been amazing–more than I could have ever hoped for. Rio was the perfect match for Shayne, he loves to learn, lives to work, is an absolute goofball, has made some fantastic doggie friends, and is a rocking performance dog (really… he has shown such potential for disc and agility). Just looking back on all the things he’s done this year … it’s amazing–I feel like we’ve accomplished so much in this first year…and one of the highlights came just last night.
On the eve of Rio’s Gotcha Day, he returned home from the Arctic Air Games with quite a bit of hardware. He won Reserve Grand Champion in the Novice division (2nd place overall, out of about 15), 1st place distance/accuracy, 1st place dart board, 3rd place freestyle. So amazing! One year ago he was a little baby who just little potential ball of awesome… and 364 days later, he brought home 4 new frisbee ribbons (and now has quite a few new fans!). I cannot wait to see what the next year holds for him…. more frisbee? more agility? more…flyball?
All I know is that the sky is the limit with this amazing little dog!