The very beginning ......wow. Chessie's quite bluntly are not for a inexperienced handler. They can be a handful of almost every bad trait in a dog and then add to that they do things like SMILE....yes SMILE (Show every tooth in their head when they are happy). Imagine a 75lb dog running straight at you with this smile on face and you have never met this dog before. I bet the majority of you are puckering at the very thought that you are about to get bitten! For folks that have been around them we LOVE that endearing trait!
This is from Wikipedia on Chessie's. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesapeake_Bay_Retriever
This is the link to the American Chesapeake Club. http://www.amchessieclub.org
Having been in the retriever world for quite some time and having seen first hand some of the many quirks of the breed....I wanted to see if I was a good enough trainer yet to take on a Chesapeake. I had a friend who had numerous Chessie's and not one of them were nice to anyone other than their owner. The Chessie she had at the time had left scar marks on every one of my labs...in fact all involved stitches but in spite of that I felt drawn to the breed. In the retriever world there are 2 old sayings that kind of bring the point home....."You tell a Labrador Retriever, You ask a Golden Retriever, and you negotiate with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever" or in more simple terms..."Labradors are generally like a good soldier, yes sir...no sir...how high sir, Golden's can be good soldiers but they would much rather be treated as a general, while Chesapeake's are more like the guys in the war department. Always thinking about counter attacks and what ifs! Truly I believe that a Chesapeake thinks 3 dimensional. I have also heard a Labrador being compared to a quarter horse, A Field Golden being compared to a Warm Blood Horse, and a Chesapeake being compared to a mule! These are overall generalizations not about specific dogs but you get the picture!
One day I was at a Field Trial Picnic (mock test) and I over heard one of the guys saying " I have 2 litters of Chessie pups on the ground, and everyone wants me to come down on the price.....I will give them away before I do that". Well I saddled up close to him and I said "Are you serious?" He replies, "Sure.....but why do you want one?" I replied,"well I want to see if I have gotten smart enough to train one!" "Well come on up and pick one out", he replied.
So the next weekend I drove up to Idaho to see these puppies. I don't remember for certain but it seems like there was 4 left to choose from. I played with all four. Doing some foundation stuff, temperament stuff, etc and ending up choosing the darkest brown in the litter. For those of you who have never bought a puppy from a true kennel environment, and for those of you who have never smelled their fur or felt the oil in their coat.....let's just say the lil guy was a bit odorous. In fact when we got in the car as the smell filled up I damn near gagged! Thank God I had friends that lived 3 miles down the road. Even though it was late winter in Idaho I drove with windows down and with him as close to the outside window as I could! I rushed him into my friends house by the nap of his neck and he got 2 baths with dawn dish soap, a dowsing of water and apple cider vinegar before he ever got truly held by me. What a way to start a relationship! I remember telling him....Look Dude...you and me are gonna get along fine as long as you remember 2 things........YOU CAN NEVER EVER GROWL AT A HUMAN BEING AND MEAN IT! YOU CAN NEVER EVER WALK TO OR BACK FROM A DOWNED BIRD! He looked at me! I also told him to get no ideas about staying permanently with me as he would go to Karen's as soon as he had manner's enough to be respectful to all. Again he just looked at me! We even stopped by Karen's on our way home so she could meet her future guy!
All of Bravo's litter mates had military themed names and I was ask to do the same. So I searched for the perfect name...Fetch Express Bravo Zula. Bravo Zula simply means WELL DONE!
Once home it became clear what a sense of humor Bravo had. His favorite game involved tennis balls. It always started with one tennis ball. He would bat it, swat it, chase it, retrieve it and then lay down to chew on it. At that point he would spy a 2nd ball, while holding the first one in his mouth he would start the bat, swat, chase game again. As he got bigger he got all the way up to 4 balls but when he tried for 5 all would roll out and the game would start again!
My friends Amy and Robert who are out of the box thinkers and trainers, had many many long talks about training a chessie! We all had heard the old age advise that in order to train a Chessie "You need a trash lid and a 2 by 4." None of us were inspired by that. One of of our ideas was that a chessie's sense of loyalty to it's family is awe inspiring but can turn very very protective. Chessie's are often what is called "resource guarders"! If they believe it to be their's....NO OTHER CREATURE (often humans as well) CAN HAVE IT. I don't remember how we got started on the idea but we came up with a weird plan to see if we could get Bravo to see the WHOLE WORLD as his, rather than just a person or a family. The plan was simple, we bounced him back and forth in between our homes. As soon as I saw him settling him and really wanting to "claim" me, I shipped him to Robert and Amy's. They continued on foundation work. We worked him intensely on body handling, obedience, socialization, and field work!
Also about the time I got him I was having a lot of health issues...all auto immune. One of the things they told me I was T2 diabetic! But do this and do that and it will all go away. That story is for another blog post though. So his being bounced back and forth between homes was also needed because of health issues.
By the time he was 1 he was already working as a therapy dog as a back up to my older Labrador named Cheveyo .
Lessons from Bravo.....first year! TAKE ON AS MANY CHALLENGES AS POSSIBLE AND WHEN YOU FINALLY HAVE A FULL BUCKET OF BALLS..DROP EM ALL AND LET THE GAME START OVER. FIND HUMOR AND JOY IN LIFE EVEN IN THE SMALL THINGS. GUARD ALL YOU LOVE WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE.....EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO LOVE MANY AT THE SAME TIME!!! LET PEOPLE THINK THAT THE CHOICE IS REALLY THEIR"S EVEN IF YOU KNOW THAT IT WASN'T. MAKE THE CHOICE TO LOVE THE WHOLE WORLD EVEN IF SOME OF THEM AREN"T WORTHY. ALWAYS TRY TO SMELL GOOD WHEN MEETING NEW PEOPLE!