30 years ago today, George Barth and I sat up all night watching really bad movies and waiting for my first PBGV to give birth to what would be her only litter of puppies. Dogs from that litter are behind many PBGV pedigrees today, but one puppy in particular was the dog who made me the person I am today.
Teddy, the puppy who came to live with me was a tri-colored male who had more color than most of us had seen on a PBGV at that time. That was the Gebeba “E” litter, so his full name was Gebeba’s E Street Shuffle, after the Bruce Springsteen album.
At the time, what I was looking for was a dog to show in the breed ring. I was close to aging out of juniors and working for a handler so I really didn’t give much thought to anything other than showing. I had chosen to keep a male because I knew breeding wasn’t really going to be an option over those next few years. Teddy did have a reasonably successful show career, finishing easily from bred-by and picking up some nice breed wins, but he looked nothing like the other dogs being shown at the time. In some ways he was ahead of his time, as I realize now that many of the qualities that seemed like a problem at the time, like size, color, and coat texture, were actually good things. At any rate, it made sense to retire Teddy from the show ring, which left me with a young energetic dog who needed to do something.
In the early 90s, obedience and tracking were really the only other options besides conformation. I lived in the city, so obedience it was. Eventually agility became more of a mainstream option and I moved to a place where tracking was feasible, but obedience was the starting point for my dog sport addiction. Over the years, we had some successes and many more failures- 22 shows to get a Companion Dog obedience title and 21 for a Novice Agility title. Training was really different in those days, but Teddy helped me to discover positive reinforcement based training. This didn’t happen for any great philosophical reason, but because he bit 2 instructors who used compulsion based techniques and I needed him to stop doing that. At that time, no one was particularly great at training dogs without the use of force, but training has come a long way in the last 30 years and I’m grateful that Teddy started me on that journey.
Yes, Teddy was a PBGV who bit people and who really didn’t like other dogs. No, this isn’t typical or acceptable, but like everything else, PBGV temperaments have improved a lot over the years. Teddy’s attitude definitely caused some issues and even resulted in my first experience with the dark side of dog club politics- turned out the little old ladies in the obedience club weren’t ready for a twenty-something with a weird breed of dog to tell them that clickers might be a better option than ear pinches. I wish I could say that was my only negative dog club experience, but well…anyway… This was a huge challenge for a lot of reasons, but I realize now that Teddy was exactly the dog I needed at that time in my life.
First off, Teddy is almost definitely the reason that I am a professional dog trainer today. Had he been easier, or even a little bit easy, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to learn, improve, and innovate to make things work with a dog who was so far outside of the mold of a what anyone thought a performance dog should be. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge that spite was sometimes part of the reason I worked so hard to get where I did with him, but a lot of canine and human students who came later have benefitted from the lessons that came from Teddy and my determination to do the things that I was told that I couldn’t or shouldn’t pursue.
Even more than our training relationship, Teddy was the dog who made sure I was always safe, or at least that I felt like I was. He was a part of my life through college, working for handlers, traveling long distances alone, and my first “real” job. Having a dog who was tougher than the average PBGV was not a bad thing at the time, even if that was a lot to put on a 30 pound dog. Teddy even killed the rats in my first apartment for me… too bad barn hunt wasn’t a thing at that time.
Over time, Teddy settled down and so did my life. As an older dog he had a lot more success in the agility ring as jump heights became more reasonable (in the early days he had to jump 16-18 inches). He did eventually get a CDX in obedience and we got to try tracking, making him the first PBGV with a Versatile Companion Dog title. Teddy was the ring bearer in my wedding and lived to be almost 16. He never liked other dogs, but had enough presence that he rarely had to get out of his cushy dog bed to take action- several generations of service dogs in training learned to respect small dogs because of Teddy.
CH Gebeba’s E Street Shuffle VCD2 RN AXP OJP CGC
September 3, 1992- June 10, 2008