An Unlikely Performance Champion

Wally's World

The Golden Gorilla

Posted by shana on May 5, 2011 in Agility, Obedience with No Comments

This is Wally’s nickname, those that know him fully understand it. He’s only a bit more than 100 pounds, but when he puts his weight to full use, you would think a 600 pound gorilla was in his place.

Monday night, the Golden Gorilla was a maniac for our obedience drill team practice. Its amazing I didn’t face plant 100 times with him darting everywhere. He tried to kill a girls soccer ball – her own damn fault for coming over to meet him! Then he tried to kill me on accident as we attempted to move away from the truck – loose leash? What is that mom? I thought we were doing a weight pull? Thank goodness Bess the Great Dane wasn’t there, as she just went into season. I can’t imagine my sweet Gorilla would have been able to think for the few moments I was able to eek out of his tiny tiny Gorilla brain had Bessy been around. And as I complain about my Gorilla, I do need to keep things in perspective. In the past, during our drill team practices, I might get 15-30 seconds of work out of him at a time before I loose him again. This time, in a new place – Gabriel Park in SW Portland, full of grass, dogs walking by, people playing tennis and tennis balls flying all over the place, and skateboarders zipping past – he was really no worse than normal (which is an embarassing thought to express outloud) and he completed both sections of our routine at least once with both enthusiasm and a decent level of correctness. This is a vast improvement over the level of effort he has been able to pull together at any one time outside of the house in the past. The Golden Gorilla may frequently have a tiny, tiny brain, but even tiny brains are capable of a few moments of coherent thought on occasion.

Tiny brain attacked on Wednesday night as well, only this time I think it was due to shrinkage. You see, it is spring, and even in Oregon, in the spring, when it stops raining for a few days the temperature starts to rise and we had a high in the low 70′s. Wally is ok when its 66. He starts panting when its 67, and completely melts at 69. I’m not exaggerating here, my thermostat can confirm, as soon as the house temp goes from 66 (no panting) to 67, he starts panting. At 69 he is pacing and collapsing in various parts of the house, melting. He is a very melodramatic Golden Gorilla with a Tiny, Tiny Brain. The agility barn where we practice is very warm in the summer, and even on comfortable spring days, it gets a bit stuffy inside. The barn is in a rural location, and to keep the neighbors happy, and to legally have a dog business on farm use land, our trainer had to jump through hoops and build a barn fully insulated to keep noise inside, and can’t open a window or door during classes. Wally, er the Golden Gorilla, melted. He planted his butt, whined and panted and refused to eat chicken. Cheese was ok though, go figure. He paced, wouldn’t look at me, couldn’t muster an ounce of motivation. When I could get him up, he walked instead of running. Now again, I should temper my complaints with what he did right. While most of the 35 minutes (short class due to us all being able to work at the same time) he sat and panted and looked tortured, I was able to get a few moments of great engagement and slightly faster than a walk movement out of him as we practiced front crosses through jump standards. So yes, most of the class was a bust, but he had a few moments when he tried and had fun.

I’m hoping he will adjust some to the increasing temperature so we can continue classes until the real heat of summer hits. But we may need to take a hiatus from agility until the fall if he continues to melt when its over 69. I’m a bit disappointed, but perhaps he will surprise me and be more engaged when we are more active in class as we all progress. And there is always obedience work we can do this summer if in fact he can’t handle the heat.

My Golden Gorilla with a Tiny, Tiny Brain really is a good boy, a smart boy, but he’s also turning into a big boy Tibetan Mastiff, presenting me with all kinds of new challenges. I feel about 10 steps behind him in terms of training and where we need to be in order to tackle these challenges, but I wanted a challenge…right?

A Note From Shana:

This blog is a journal to record my progress in training a Tibetan Mastiff, known for their independent and untrainable nature, to compete at the highest levels of AKC Agility and Obedience. Succeed or fail, my hope is our journey is inspirational to my fellow TM owners, as well as a source of humor and humility for dog lovers everywhere.

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