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"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

(Roger Caras)

Brenden, a Shetland Sheepdog

Marshland Platinum, NAJ, CGC

Brenden, a Shetland Sheepdog

© 2000-2010 Ann Clayton Photography

It all happened so quickly. One moment I'm sobbing over my beloved Katie's relapse (lymphoma) and the next thing I know I'm in the middle of an 8 hour drive to Southern California to pick up a little Sheltie. Was I out of my mind? Did I really know what I was getting myself into? After all, I had 5 other dogs at home. Did I really need a sixth?

But Katie's time on this earth was drawing to a close and with her death not only would I lose my best friend, but I would lose my enthusiastic agility partner. Although all my dogs do agility, the others don't have Katie's drive, her love of the sport, her passion for working with me. Katie and I both live to do agility. A two year wait to find and train a puppy before I could enter competition seemed interminable.

So there I was, on the road with a splitting headache wondering if I was doing the right thing. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity. A two year old blue merle male Sheltie by the name of Brenden was looking for a working home. Although dearly loved by his present family, they felt he had more potential than they were able to develop and wanted a home for him where his abilities and energy would be put to good use. Was that home really mine?

He was adorable, there was no doubt about that. But I was numb with the shock of Katie's relapse. Would I be able to give him what this fiesty little fluff ball really needed? How would he fit into my existing pack? There was only one way to find out and soon we were on the road again.

Introductions to my five dogs at home went better than I had expected. In fact, no one took exception to his presence at all. My primary concern was how an 18 pounder would fare against 5 dogs all over 50 pounds each. But Brenden soon realized it was sometimes preferable to dive under tables and chairs when things got a bit busy and I simply controlled turn outs with an eye to his safety.

Although I've had a number of other herding breeds, Brenden is my first Sheltie. I was told that an adult Sheltie can take a few months to bond with a new owner. No one ever told Brenden and within 24 hours he was my constant companion, always at my feet. He was bright and eager to please. Within 48 hours he was sitting and downing on command. And he was a doll on lead.

But would he take to agility? I was fortunate in that I was able to enter a newly established agility class within a week of his coming. At first we often had to sit out the exercises because he did not have the knowledge and the training to keep up with the other dogs. Two months later we were again sitting out exercises, but this time it was because he was so far ahead of the class that they couldn't keep up with him. His family was right. This little boy really wants to work.

He honks, he spins, he digs at the bottom of his crate. He goes absolutely ballistic. I'm running another of my dogs on an agility course and Brenden just can't stand it. He's been dubbed "The Gremlin" because he turns into such a little monster if it's not his turn to run. Exactly the kind of drive I was looking for. He's got potential, this little boy in blue. And he's been a wonderful distraction at a time when I dearly need to be distracted. If and when we will ever enter competition is a question for which I do not yet have an answer. I know only that I've found a devoted companion and a good friend. Mr. B is home.

Update - 2001: Brenden made his competition debut in agility in early 2001. Much to my surprise and disappointment, although he is terrific on equipment and in class, Brenden is terrified of the judge and the crowds at a trial! After "freezing" in his first 3 agility trials, I pulled Brenden out of competition while I continued his training and tried to increase his self-confidence and lessen his fear of strangers.

Update - 2003: Two years after entering his first trial, Brenden earned his first agility title. It's been a long and rocky road and he's got a long way to go, but once he learned how to run a course in spite of his fears he earned that first title in 3 straight runs. However, shortly after earning his first title he reverted to his old behavior of freezing at the start line, so we are re-evaluating his training program.

I have no idea of what Brenden's future may hold when it comes to agility. That he loves the sport is beyond doubt. When training he will work a course again and again and again as long as I will allow it. That he is capable of earning an agility title gives me hope. But when it comes right down to it, the important thing is not that he has titles after his name - it's that he's by my side or in my lap.

Update - 2007: At 9 years of age, Brenden is retired from competition now. Although he no longer plays on the toys, he's still as cocky and personable as ever. Although weighing less than 20 pounds, he rules the household and few of the dogs have the courage to go past him when he places himself in the middle of a doorway.

Brenden, a Shetland Sheepdog

© 2000-2010 Ann Clayton Photography

Update - 2008: After repeated boutes of pneumonia throughout his life, Brenden ended up in intensive care over the Fourth of July weekend. After 3 months of treatment, all seemed well. However, what we didn't know was that although the infection had cleared his lungs, it had entered his heart. While I was out of town Brenden began to pant. Dom took him to the vet where they said they wanted to run tests, but that he could probably go home in a couple of hours. Ten minutes after Dom returned home the phone rang. Brenden has stopped breathing and efforts to resusitate had not been successful. Apparently the infection had settled in one of his heart values which failed.

Although I am very glad that his end was quick and painless, it breaks my heart that I was not there at the end to hold him and tell him how much he had been loved. My last memories of him are as his old fiesty self only 48 hours before his death, as he repeatedly charged my feet and jumped on the bed looking for treats.

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Last revised: 11/2009