Can Ch Rogene's Sean Lord Derry CD TD Can CD
Derry was my first dog and my first Sheltie. I had no intention at all of getting into dog shows, though I did think obedience might be fun. (All I had ever seen about it was an article on dog shows in the National Geographic sometime in the 50's, and my family had cats, never dogs.) I'd decided I wanted a small dog bred to do something, not a toy breed, and I'd narrowed the breeds down to a Shetland Sheepdog or a West Highland White Terrier. (What I did not know about breed temperament characteristics at the time would fill several encyclopedias!) I had two Siamese cats, and Dusty was the kind to do her best to kill a puppy. (She had tried to get rid of her own son, until he grew bigger than she was.) When she died, late in the summer of 1975, I went looking for a Shetland Sheepdog in the Yellow Pages.
I was lucky enough to find a boarding and grooming kennel in Fairbanks that bred Shetland Sheepdogs, and telephoned the owner. Did she have any puppies for sale? No, but she had just bred two bitches and should have puppies in the fall. However, she wouldn't sell her puppies to just anyone - she'd have to meet me and have me fill out a questionaire. Could I come out and see her dogs, then? So I found out that Shelties, as they were called, came in golden sable, mahogany sable, blue merle and tricolor, that their noses seemed awfully long and narrow, and that dogs could actually be taught to go into their kennel runs on command. A couple of the dogs seemed to have fuller muzzles than the others, which I liked, and I also liked the contrast of the mahogany sables (which I would have thought would be tricolors - they were, after all, three colors and looked just like Lassie in Lassie-Come-Home, who was called a tricolor in the book, though the watercolor illustrations in my copy were of a mahogany sable.) I didn't have a fenced yard, which was a bit of a problem (well, it had a fence, but it was a board fence, designed to keep horses in. I was renting a small house at a riding stable.) On the plus side, I definitely intended to train any dog I got - having horses makes you very aware of how dangerous an untrained animal can be. So I became the fifth person on Norene's waiting list, with a mahogany sable as first choice and a tricolor as last, with golden sable and merle in between. As one breeding was mahogany sable to mahogany sable and the other was blue to blue, a wide variety of colors was expected.
Norene had sent me home with a reading list - no, not Sheltie Talk, that wasn't published yet. But I had already bought a little paperback book on Shelties that included a photograph of Ch Mountaineer O'Page's Hill ROM (still my ideal of an elegant Sheltie) and on her advice I got The Pearsall Guide to Successful Dog Training, Pfaffenberger's The New Knowledge of Dog Gehavior, and the first edition (then just published) of Maxwell Riddle's New Shetland Sheepdog.
Not all breedings produce puppies. When I phoned back at about the time the puppies were due I found out that the blue merle Birdie (who I later trained and showed to her CD after she was retired from the whelping box) had missed, and Birdie's granddaughter Tavia had only a single healthy puppy. No puppy for me this fall, it seemed, but I asked if I could come over and see what the newborn puppy looked like anyway. He sprawled across a very small part of my lap, fat and warm and sound asleep. I knew from Pfaffenberger's book that puppies showed dramatic behavioral changes at around three weeks of age, so I asked to come back and see the puppy again at that age, still thinking that with five people lined up for one puppy, he wasn't very likely to become mine.
Norene, however, was worried about the fact that this puppy was a singleton. She thought he was a show prospect, but knew that puppies needed interaction with their littermates to develop properly. I don't know if it was my definite interest in obedience, or the fact that I was interested enough to come by twice to visit, but on that second visit she offered to sell Derry to me on a co-ownership. (Remember that I was emphatically NOT interested in getting into dog shows or breeding!) She would retain the right to breed from him and show him if I didn't want to, though she obviously hoped I'd get interested in conformation as well as obedience. She wouldn't actually let him go until he was at least 7 weeks old, but I could come and visit twice a week until then. And wouldn't I like to go to the fall dog show with her the next weekend? Breed on Saturday and Obedience on Sunday?
I don't even remember whether I attended the conformation show, but the obedience left me open mouthed, especially the Utility (though not a single dog qualified - at that time there were two people in a thousand mile radius who had dogs that might get a qualifying score, and a third whose dog wasn't quite ready but did have a CDX so she would show her, knowing she would not qualify, so that if either of the others passed they would get a leg toward their UD.) I'd grown up with cats, and the off-lead heeling was enough to impress me mightily.
For the next month, Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings were Derry's. With no competition for milk, he looked more like a little guinea pig than a puppy. I made him toys of bits of fake sheepskin on a string, scented with vanilla extract or oregano to teach him to use his nose. It's a wonder I never had a problem with him refusing to give things up, because he would grip that sheepskin so hard that if I lifted the sheepskin, I could lift Derry with it. By the time he was six weeks old he would begin screaming to be let out of the puppy room as soon as he heard my knock at the door.Derry came home with me on Christmas day, 1975, the first and only time Norene let a puppy go to a new home on Christmas. For me, though, with no family in Alaska and a four-day holiday from work, it was an ideal time. She loaned me an exercise pen which I floored with newspapers and left Derry in when I went back to work. (Remember, this is Alaska in December, and tiny puppies just about have to be paper trained - you can't take an 8-week old puppy out for long at 40 below.) Derry had never been outdoors, but when I took him out and put down a piece of used newspaper to give him the idea, he decided at once that outdoors was the place! From then on he did his best to hold it until I got home, and by three months his papers stayed clean. In fact, our only housebreaking problem came in spring, when the snow melted. He would run around hunting for the fading patches of snow, and for a while I worried (and I think he did as well) about what he would do once all the snow was gone. By then he was in puppy kindergarten.