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Monday, April 30, 2012

Elton, Elli's brother, was a hard-to-part-with puppy

Recently we heard from Jim J. whose eleven-year-old Elton is a litter mate to Elli. As you know Elli passed in January due to congestive heart failure.

"Hello John and Jolanta,

I just found out from looking at your web site that Elli passed away. Just wanted express how saddened and sorry we are for your loss. Reading the blog about Elli and seeing the pictures of both Ellie and Elton and Erik brings back a flood of good memories, and of course emotions.

Elton is doing well, he is slowing down now but he still wants to go out and do all the things he always has done. Interesting that you mentioned Elli as your "personal companion, constant presence". That certainly describes Elton, He doesn't want to take his eyes off me for fear  I might go somewhere without him, like the next room! He has always been this way, but is even more clingy now that he is older.  Here are some pictures of Elton 6-26-2011, he had been enjoying chasing Snowshoe Rabbits, and it was raining so his coat is a little wet."

Elton last year, when he was ten years old.

I remember Elton very well as a young puppy as I had a very hard time parting with him. Actually when Elton was six months old I asked my two friends who are also breeders for advice. The letters are edited to keep this post shorter than otherwise it would be.

Jolanta wrote:
I am writing this to you two because I know I can count on some good insights from you. You have bred enough to be able to relate to my dilemma and maybe you could give me your perspective.

Once in a while a special puppy comes along - the pup does not have to be the best looking or most promising pup at all. But you can feel this special bond, which is so rare. Do you go through something like this? At present I have a 6-month-old male, Elton, who is this "special puppy".  He is a confident and proud male, gentle with others, affectionate, with a very engaging personality. It is hard to articulate why, but he is very special to me. But...and there are many buts. He is a male and we have already four males and was not planning to keep another one. I know that we don't have much use for him in my breeding program - he will be on a big side, he is smooth etc etc. . We have already decided to keep Elton's sister Elli, whose conformation is very good. On the other side - he is a precocious hunter and will make a very good blood tracker. He started running rabbits and he opens up. He has a tremendous hunting drive.

Now my dilemma. A fabulous home came along where he would have a great life. His potential new owner wrote: "I have been bowhunting  for about twenty years. I have used dogs to find hard to trail Elk. Any dog I have is a house dog and part of the family. And we love the outdoors, hunting and fishing, we live in the country". Elton would be an only dog. He would have 4 fenced-in acres to get exercise. He would track and retrieve, he would be used for what he was bred for. He would get more attention that I could could give him.

Yet, I find it almost impossible to let him go. Do you go through this kind of dilemmas? How do you deal with it? One drawback of being a breeder is that one has to keep many dogs. I miss this special relationship with individual dogs. We are basically down to 12 dogs and I know we should not be keeping Elton. But I am afraid that I will have regrets for a long time to come if I let him go.

Do you have any insights?

Elton at six months
Friend #1 responded:
I understand your dilemma all too well! When it comes to my dogs, I far too often wear my heart on my sleeve! Yes, as breeders we must look to the dogs that will add to our breeding programs, and we must unfortunately always keep an eye to our numbers and what we can "do right by". However, I feel that ultimately these dogs are our companions, and when all the hunts have been hunted, and all the titles have been won, it is the special bond that we feel with those special dogs that is good for our soul. It isn't enough to have our dogs do well at the tasks we undertake, whether it is hunting, field trialing or other competitions, but rather to have that "ultimate pleasure" that we share with just a few dogs, although we respect and love them all.

Good homes are precious to come by. But so are those special dogs that you connect with on another level from the others - those dogs that are true companions with a reciprocal bond to you.

The home looking for a tracking dog will wait another few months for a puppy that you feel less of a connection with. Or another perfect home will come along when you have a dog that needs it. Sometimes I think we too often ignore our gut instincts and try to apply too much logic to our choices. Sometimes our heart knows the reason for choices our brain just can't put a finger on! Two of the dogs that I "couldn't live without" are neutered males who never contributed anything to my breeding program. I would rather give you my left arm than to part with either one of those two neutered males. They have given me a great deal of satisfaction in their field work, but beyond that they are PART of me. We understand each other, work well together, respect each other, and as emotional as it sounds, we nurture each other. It is a give and take relationship different than I have with most of my other dogs.

Don't miss the opportunity to let this special bond grow. While you may have other dogs now or in the future, they might just be dogs - but this one will be different than any of them if you have that "connection".
Friend #2:
Tough decision. It is so hard when your head fights with your heart. I have been there.

*If* the new home is fabulous, put him there, Jolanta. You may cry over it for three days. You may experience some regret for a long time. But in the long run, as a breeder, and multiple dog owner, you will be glad you let him go.

*If* they are worthy, (this may require more investigation?), let Elton's new people enjoy and love him for his confidence, pride, gentleness, affection, engaging personality, and hunting ability. You will delight in their delight. What a privilege!

Perhaps a few years from now, you will have another such very special young dog. And he will be of smaller size and have a wire coat. And there will be no dilemma about where he will spend the rest of his life.    :  )

Elton enjoying outdoors

In the end John and I decided to let Jim have Elton. It was very, very hard to do. I missed that dog terribly. But in the long run it was a right decision in this particular case. Elton's gift to bond deeply benefited Jim and his family. And Elton's new home was a right and indeed fabulous home for him. Few months after Elton had left us Jim wrote:

"Hello, thought I would let you know how things are going with Elton. He is doing very well, really a joy to have around. Elton is very obedient, as I told you before he is trained to come to two short whistle blasts. He comes even if he is hot on a trail, which is just about anytime he is allowed to run. As you know his nose is to the ground constantly. I've been training him once a week or two to blood trail. The last one today was great. The trail was 16 hrs old about half a mile. I am still having to use cow blood with small amount of deer urine in it, part of a thawed out Elk hide at the end. Elton is slowing down quite allot, giving me a chance to check the trail. I only used a small amount of blood, maybe 3 oz. Drop every 10 yards or so. He had no trouble finding the hide, even though there was a small skiff of snow on the ground (fell during the night). Elton gets about a cup of dried elk scraps at the hide and he loves to tear at the hide."

If we could only breed all our dachshunds to have talent and personality like Elton!

Elton with the elk he recovered

When I look at Elton's pictures I marvel how much he reminds me of our Bernie (FC Darin von Moosbach-Zuzelek), who is his nephew. Interestingly, with Bernie we made a completely opposite decision. He was returned to us when he was a year and a half old, and we decided to hold on to him. A right and fabulous new home for Bernie never materialized. There were some opportunities to let Bernie go, but it never felt right, and at the last moment I would always change my mind. Well, Bernie is here to stay. He was neutered early and was never used in breeding, but he has a significant role.  He is an uncle to puppies and young dogs, plays with them and disciplines them. His presence has a stabilizing effect on the pack, even though he certainly is not a top dog. His joy of swimming and his antics in the pond remind me to stop and smell the roses. His voice on rabbits gives me goosebumps, and his smile (yes, he can smile) brightens my mood. Our bond runs deep.

So two different but very similar dogs, two different decisions and two positive outcomes. In both cases the dogs' responsiveness and ability to bond deeply with people was responsible for the success. So often dachshunds are characterized as hardheaded, stubborn, following their own agenda. Well, not all of them are like that - some are like Elton, Elli, Bernie, Paika and Sky, to name just some. These are the dogs with soft eyes that are focused on you.


Lindsjö taxar said...

Nice reading. Elton seems to be a special one...We hade a dramatic
dogwalk this morning. Will write about it today.....

MTWaggin said...

Elton landed where he was supposed to be and you made the right decision and how wonderful you were able to find the courage to let him go share that special bond with his new family. Letting those special ones go is one of the main reasons I can't breed dogs! Have a hard enough time placing the rescues I foster. I feel your dilema for sure.

The Deer Tracker (810) 877 - 9927 said...

Great story. It is amazing the affect these little guys can have on your heart. It sounds like Elton found a great home and maybe he will generate that same bond with his new family. Maybe giving them the same wonderful feeling that you feel for him and giving them joy that they would have never had :)