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Breed: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
From: Julie Reardon
Posted: Oct 29, 2009
THE PUPPY NOBODY WANTED
By Julie Reardon
She might have been one of the cutest puppies ever whelped here, but Panda seemed destined for bad luck from the start. She was born during a football playoff game in January of last year, the product of an accidental breeding that resulted from a young male's jailbreak and subsequent rape of his half sister. I priced the resulting nine pups inexpensively and they sold quickly, since the dam was a talented field dog and regally bred, with all health clearances including OFA Excellent, good hips, elbows and eyes. The sire was a young whippersnapper that at age 16 mos. hadn't had his hips xrayed, much less proven himself worthy of breeding except in his own mind.
Through a series of coincidences, two sales fell through on one of the pups, a quiet, ash gray female with big blue eyes, so I reduced her price to $400. From an ad on this website, a duck hunter north of Virginia agreed to buy her over the phone and sent a check. But, two days before he was to drive down and collect her, she got stepped on by a horse, nearly severing a toe. It was a bad injury--possibly a crippling one. Regretfully we sent his money back.
A week later, the game little doe eyed gray puppy hopped along with us to our big pond so we could admire the water retrieving prowess of her dam and two brothers. When her dam Jib swam out for an 80 yard retrieve, Panda followed. She was 10 weeks old, but all the pups had already been swimming since 7 weeks despite the chilly March water. At first, no one noticed Panda, til Jib had returned.
Out in the middle of the pond, Panda looked for something to retrieve, craning her head and neck up and paddling furiously with her front paws, including the waterlogged cast. We frantically called her and threw a bumper near her, but she struggled fruitlessly doing the vertical puppy paddle and making no forward progress. She began to tire and sink, so two friends jumped in the jonboat and rescued her just as her little nose was about to go under.
Not surprisingly, she was afraid of the water after that, but she was young, the water was cold and I wasn't worried. By the time it warmed up later last spring, she lost her fear and her toe healed, but she could not seem to figure out how to swim. We tried all the tricks to no avail, and I began to look for a nice pet home for her.
By the end of that summer, she finally learned to level out and swim like a real Chesapeake, with only occasional lapses. Most involved the excitement of fetching a real duck; she'd get excited and go vertical once she got near it. To the great amusement of my training buddies, twice I had to swim out and rescue her, including once at a large retriever club training session.
Panda loved birds and retrieving, and she was smart and eager to learn, but her training fell through the cracks because we had a devastating house fire last September. I had to cut down on dogs, so I sold two, including her sire, and continued unsuccessfully to try to find a nice pet home for Panda.
Early this spring, a friend and Labrador man, Mike Boulais, force fetched the gray puppy for me and she sailed through that, with only a few histrionics--she's a bit of a drama queen. We figured she might be saleable as a started dog. But Mike only had her four weeks before he took an out of town job. And her mother was tragically killed in a car accident, so Panda came home in April. Her first real water mark was at a local hunt test, which she did beautifully and earned a pass. She definitely showed flashes of talent, but she was woefully behind most pups her age.
This summer, she had a crash course in derby marks and manners at Alan Sandifer's in Mississippi. Alan was able to see the speed and enthusiasm in this green pup, and we decided to aim her for an all-Chesapeake field trial derby, the ACC Specialty, in Maine in 12 weeks. It was a lot to throw at the young dog in that short amount of time, but she and Alan developed a bond and a partnership and she took everything in stride.
In Maine this September, Panda more than held her own, hanging in against a tough and better trained derby field of 23 through all four series until the very last bird. She and Alan didn't get a ribbon, but we were bursting with pride. And scarcely a month later, she did in fact earn her first field trial ribbon, a Judge's Award of Merit (JAM) when I ran her at the Del Bay derby against a solid field of Labradors, Goldens and other Chesapeakes, all of whom had much more training than the puppy nobody wanted. She's also been on her first hunt, retrieving an enormous Canada goose to hand at first asking. We think we'll keep her.