Poppy is a two and a half year old border collie bitch. The Kennel Club list her as a Working Sheep Dog (WSD) as she has no registration papers. But she is Border Collie that's for sure! Her work drive is strong and if I didn't do agility with her and had sheep to work instead she'd have made a fine sheepdog, maybe not trialling standard (my limitations more than hers) but she would have been very helpful! A strong eye, intelligent, keen to work and keen to please she has it all.
Pop came from the RSPCA at West Hatch nr Chard in Somerset in September 2003. She had been found abandoned aged five months at some public conveniences and left overnight until a traffic warden found her. Advertised at an agility show, I went to see her the next day, had the home check and brought her back two weeks later. It is always difficult to know if you are doing the right thing when taking on a rescue dog but fuelled by my experiences with Henry and determined to do right by her we went for it. I have never regretted it. She is a beautiful dog. She loves to sleep with her head next to my foot. She is top dog in the pack (bitches that are as strong as she is, usually are) and she is great fun to have around.
Collies are smart dogs but it is true that they can just as quickly learn the wrong things and if you are not smart enough they will train you. So she keeps me on my toes and in agility we have a lot of laughs together.
Mindful of how hard it is to socialise collies the older they get, over a period of weeks and months I took her everywhere - always ensuring she would be safe of course and could be confident of my judgement. I have trained her, as all my dogs have been trained, to be confident but respectful around livestock. But the first time she saw donkeys in the New Forest was a steep learning curve - they were not horses in her view (horses were fine by then and so, eventually, were horses with people on them (another thing that had to be learned) - they were monsters from Outer Space to be scared of. So some confidence building there was needed!
She went on trains, to train stations, taxi ranks and bus stops,met different people of both genders, ages, height and clothing etc. We went into shops and streets at quiet and at busy times of day and night - with people and traffic.
Now I have a collie I can take anywhere. It was a gradual process giving her this level of confidence as she is very sensitive but it was worth every minute. I never stop doing this. She especially loves going to Great Western Camping in Dorchester. They love her in there and it is good to keep topping up her social skills by meeting other customers!
Pop learned the basics very quickly and loves to learn tricks - anything new in fact. It is one of my jobs to keep her stimulated even more that I do with the boys!
Needless to say she adores her agility.
Pop began in Novice as the boys had won me out of Starters forever. But in this her first competitive season (2005) she got her first clear round (10th in Open Jumping) , her next clear round was winning a Novice Jumping! And then in June after other jumping wins and agility high places she won a Novice Agility. So she became Senior!
This wasn't any old Novice Agility either, this was a qualifier for the Kennel Club Novice Agility semi finals that were to be held at Stoneleigh in September. Off we went to that full of nerves and she came Fourth
Pop is almost entirely a clicker trained dog and it shows in the way she tries to work things out and in the way she learns. She is inventive and thinks outside the box. Clickers encourage a dog to learn and think in progressive stages.
Now we are coming to the end of 2008 my beautiful crazy girl will be 6 next Spring. She has been beset with old injuries beyond our control and which I write more fully about on her achievements page and on the blog. She has been brave, putting up with intensive physiotherapy and acupuncture. But she still loves her gaility and she is still so fast on her contacts and across the ground she takes my breath away....her jumping 'style' is a medley but she is such fun to run. And so long as it is not detrimental to her overall health and she wants to do it, she can continue to play her favourite game
At the end of 2010, just as I was becoming nervous about Nellie and I going to Olympia, I noticed that oh-so-briefly Pop, who was 7 years old, seemed to be lame on her right fore as she got up from sleeping. The lameness was gone again in an instant. I noticed it twice in one evening. So off we went to the vet to investigate. I asked them to X- ray all her joints and was thrilled to find she was in tip top condition except for two tiny amounts of arthritis in two toe joints on one toe. I remember so well telling her she was in ‘such good shape’ and the relief. While I knew this would curb her agility at grade 7 level I was hopeful she would be able to do some at least and enjoy her walks and swimming. Olympia came and went and Christmas and as New Year loomed it was obvious that Pop wasn’t right. Lots of different things were happening. The most significant was the start of a slight cough. A number of vet visits throughout this period failed to come up with anything conclusive until I sat and googled the things we noticed and try as I might I could not get away from the word ‘cancer’ or ‘tumour’. I was desperate by this stage and asked them to review the x-rays that had made me so happy only a couple of weeks before and sure enough there were faint signs behind the strong images of bone of something grey and dark. It was obvious now that this was a tumour. Further x-rays revealed just how aggressive it was. We hoped against hope, booking her in to the small animal hospital at Langford, Bristol to see if it was removable. However, we had no choice but to let her go on the operating table because of the invasiveness of the tumour. Thankfully she was such a fit, strong dog that she was still able to trot along on her lead with the vet before she had the operation and enjoy walks right up to the end despite that. If you would like to know more about Pop you can follow the link to my blog below. I miss her (and Henry) every day.