Jason’s story is a poignant one for me, and one, which I would like to share.
Jason and I met in 1995, when he was eight months old. An acquaintance of mine wished to get involved in Frenchring, and decided to purchase Jason. As he was a young Malinois with no training, she was optimistic that they could both learn together. Jason was a very happy and social youngster, with an incredible retrieve drive, focus, and an ever-present eye contact. Whatever you threw, he would retrieve! But I had my reservations. Although I saw him as a very confident and outgoing dog, I also saw him as a very dominant dog. I felt that this dog might be too much for someone with no experience with this type of temperament, or the Malinois breed. He was…
Within the first month, he had turned her household upside down. Her children would tease Jason while being kenneled. Whatever he put in his mouth was history. When she took him for his daily walk, he would push and pull. She would correct him into proper heel position and he would in turn, turn around and bite her. On one of their daily excursions, she came to my house with her hands bruised and swollen. I offered to place Jason in a good home, and assist her in finding a Malinois more suited to her needs. I had his hip and elbow prelims done, which were diagnosed as excellent. As Jason had absolutely no training, I decided to put some basic obedience on him. Within a week, he was heeling, sitting, lying down, and recalling on command. Shortly thereafter, an international Schutzhund competitor phoned and asked me to bring him up for an assessment. As he had no bite training, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took him to the Schutzhund Club, whereby Jason challenged and tried to mount every individual he came in contact with! The bite work assessment on the sleeve was impressive. She immediately offered to purchase him. One of the Club members remarked that Jason would have to undergo an ‘attitude adjustment’ prior to the commencement of his Schutzhund training. This Club preferred a more compliant dog. Jason, as if understanding, then proceeded to lift his leg and mark on this individual! It was at that moment that I decided for myself, that dogs being good judges of character, perhaps Jason had what it took, and was worth a ‘another look’. You have to understand. Jason and I did not like each other from the very beginning. He tolerated me at best, and I couldn’t wait to place him. It was a constant battle of wills. He was jumping neighbouring fences; he took my stove out from my wall into the hallway; dishtowels were shredded; he refused to be put into a crate; when I did manage to put him into a crate, he proceeded to destroy it and would break out of it within five minutes; barked incessantly; shoes had gone missing; he tolerated children, but didn’t like them (I had four!)…And this was only the beginning! This was going to be a lot of work!!! Illogically, I declined the offer to purchase, and took him home.
Mike and I, who were independents at this time, began Jason’s ring training. Jason was an exceptional learner. Every week he mastered a new exercise. Within three months, he was jumping maximums on all the jumps with flawless technique. He showed no preference in targeting. He bit upper and lower with a natural full bite. The first year would be spent working on technique and building a solid foundation. But dominance was always a never-ending issue. We mistakenly sought and entrusted the assistance of his first owner, as we had limited knowledge and experience in Ring. We discovered that Jason, at seven weeks, challenged him; who proceeded to beat him, in order to force him to submit. His first owner was adamant that Jason would never be a ring dog as he was much too intelligent and dominant. Now, a year later, Jason challenged him again. As he was in the suit, he seized a piece of wood, and proceeded to beat Jason over the head with it, despite my pleas to stop! I was extremely upset, and was sure that Jason would never bite again. That individual ‘became history’, and we did not hear from him again. I became very protective of Jason. We became inseparable. He became my shadow. I had no desire to dominate Jason, but rather to guide him. This has never changed. Jason had by now become a ‘one handler dog’. We backed up in his training and started at the beginning. All our training was motivational and never forceful. After six months, we were back to where we left off prior to the incident. We persevered…He was loved, and ‘babied’, and encouraged. He always came out a ‘winner’. I knew that genetically, Jason was a very strong dog, whose ancestors consistently passed on his tough character. I hoped it was strong enough to overcome what had happened. It was.
As a result of being attacked by another Malinois as a youngster (on two separate occasions), resulted in Jason fence fighting. Unfortunately, in the process, he broke two incisors and an upper canine. I took him to a specialist, who performed three root canals, and requested that Jason not do any bitework for some months. As Jason turned two, we resumed with his advanced Ring training. I felt Jason needed time to mature, so for the next year we had to become very creative with our training scenarios, as he was such a quick learner; he became bored with the Ring exercises. During this time, I decided to incorporate some personal protection training. I felt that his ring training would not be compromised as Jason had an incredible amount of prey drive combined with aggression. It actually helped proof him in ring. He could turn it ‘off and on’, depending on the situation. He was a very balanced dog. For the next eighteen months we trained and continued to develop the foundation for the guard of an object exercise. Jason was now doing almost all the Ring III exercises, and I knew it was time to search out a club where he could experience ring in various locations and the opportunity to work with different decoys. Until now, this had not been an option.
Then the unforeseen occurred. One of my older, retired Malinois, escaped from his kennel and attacked Jason. By the time we separated them, Jason had all his upper incisors and the remaining canine broken; his palate was lacerated, and his right front leg had multiple compound fractures with bone protruding. He allowed me to assist him into the house where I cleaned his leg and rushed him to emergency. Once sedated and anaesthetized, they x-rayed the foreleg and then disclosed the dreadful news. I was given two options: To put him down, as they were doubtful that they could set the fracture successfully, even with surgery. And even if they were successful, it was doubtful that he would ever be able to run and jump, much less do Ring. Ring was no longer a consideration for Jason. He loved to work. I didn’t know what to do. He had become my best friend. He had always been there for me through all the trials and tribulations. I owed him one last ‘heroic’ effort. His leg was bandaged and put in a splint. As this was a Friday night, an orthopaedic surgeon would not be available at the Ontario Veterinary College until Monday. This meant keeping Jason on narcotics, antibiotics and keeping vigilance on the leg, which was swelling markedly. A combination of narcotics, and discomfort caused Jason to become extremely aggressive whereby no one could approach him. His aggression became directed at me as I tried to approach and administer his medication. Monday morning, he was muzzled and taken for orthopaedic surgery. He was assessed and a 3-hour surgery performed. I waited and took him home, as he by now wouldn’t allow anyone near him. For the next three months, our lives consisted of daily bandage changes, three weekly vet visits, monthly x-rays, and physiotherapy. Following this, Jason as well had to have root canals done on the remaining incisors and his upper canines capped. In February 1999, we were back in Ring training after the OK from the vets. They were amazed at the recovery and healing that had taken place. The only residual effect seemed to be a small cartilage irregularity in his right elbow, which will probably lead to some arthritic change in the future.
For the next six weeks we concentrated on conditioning, and trying to achieve his ever ‘elusive outs’! We had finally joined a Club, and with their assistance and support; in eighteen months we achieved Brevet through Ring III. During the course of the year, we had what I refer to as three ‘disastrous’ trials. Decoy incompetence, lack of technique, and arrogance, resulted in Jason being hit improperly on the head, neck, and spine. I wasn’t convinced that this wouldn’t have residual effects on him. I could only hope that it didn’t. It was time to modify our training techniques, and let genetics take care of the rest. With a renewed purpose, we trained and ‘played’. The NARA Championships would be the ultimate test. My faith in Jason was rewarded. He entered the field with presence and an almost ‘arrogant’ manner. His focus never waivered, as this was his day ‘to shine’. Yes, I knew that it was going to be very difficult to earn and maintain the points due to his powerful presence. But that was never an issue with me. I have, and always will sacrifice points in favour of exuberance, courage, hardness, and desire… It was a long journey, but one well worth taking; and one I would never hesitate to take again…
In September 2000, I decided to compete at the 2000 NARA Championships for our first time in Ring III. The judge was from France, as were two decoys. Seven dogs were entered in Ring III, many of which were trained and titled in France. Some were selectifs calibre. Jason deserved his Ring III. Whatever happened, I loved him regardless. He had nothing to prove to me…. He had already proven himself time after time…He had endured and prevailed over more than most dogs do in a lifetime.
On September 24, 2000, he would prove himself again. Jason became the NARA Ring III Champion…
Jason had enriched my life. He had something you cannot train for. Jason had HEART…the true measure of a dog. He had become my noble and loyal friend. I can only hope that I have done him justice.
By Brigita Brinac
If you would like to submit an article, please feel free to do so.
Send your attachment via e-mail, and upon approval, the article will be published!
All articles must be working dog related!