Sprout - Mini-Missile


 
As of this writing (Nov 2013), Sprout has only been with me for just over 4 months. People who watch him run agility are amazed when I tell them he came to me off the streets just back in July. It's hard for me to even believe that sometimes. I realize what a gift he is and am so grateful that the stars aligned so that he could become a member of the pack - the final one for a long time to come.
 
Sprout joined the family after ending up at ACCT in Philly during the week of the 4th of July after being picked up as a stray. That happens to be the busiest week of the year for
many shelters across the country and it certainly was for ACCT. They took in 900 animals that week. Yes, you read that correctly - 900! Even the largest city shelters don't have the space or resources to deal with that kind of onslaught. ACCT put out the word to the media and tried to find as many adopters, fosters, and rescue groups to take the pressure off. No shelter wants to euthanize animals quickly after they come through the door, but with space for only about 600 animals, they did not have much choice. MAJR was contacted by them in the hopes that they could take some jack russells and the cry went up for volunteers to foster. Since I just had a foster dog adopted into a permanent home, I had space for another. I had some options - the 3 MAJR was going to pull from ACCT and others from additional shelters. After hearing of this happy, goofy pup that thought being in the shelter was one big party and not scary at all, I requested him. The person from MAJR that pulled him and had him for a couple of days before passing him on to me, told me he was a complete dynamo and had the potential to be an agility dog, which piqued my interest even more. I'd been thinking about adopting another, but it had to be a really special dog. I wanted a male with high drive agility potential, but who was "easy" in all other ways. Up until now, I've always had "issue" dogs, in one way or another. They've taught me so much and made me a much better trainer/handler than I ever could have been without the challenges they've presented, but I was ready for something different. Something easy for a change. I didn't know if that really existed. Then along came Sprout.


Quite honestly, I wasn't sure if he was "THE ONE" at first. Even as a mini-dog person, at 10 3/4" tall and 8 1/2 lbs, I thought he was probably too small to be a serious agility dog. Plus I assessed his drive to merely be medium those first few days. And he had no interest in even passing between jump standards in my backyard. But my biggest hesitation came with Hokey's initial objection. They didn't get off to a great start. Hokey can be a bit of a bully and she had enjoyed ruling over Clark, my former foster. Clark had actually taken it in stride and was happy to defer to her and they would chase each other around the yard in complete bliss. When Sprout arrived, he and Poppy became instant playmates.
Best Friends

And wrestling partners


He and Ollie tried to eat each other initially, but Ollie got over it in a few hours and, a few days later, I even caught them playing together a little, something Ollie hadn't done with another dog for months due to the girls' roughness. (Sprout is now Ollie's biggest defender when Hokey picks on him). Hokey decided she was going to lay down the law right away and let Sprout know who was the ruler of the household. Clark had been perfectly happy to fall under her reign. In contrast, Sprout is 100% terrier. If someone gives him attitude, he's going to give it right back. This did not sit well with Hokey AT ALL. She spent the next week pouting with a perma-glare on her face. If lasers could have shot from her eyes, the entire earth would have been scorched to black ashes. Then, to make matters worse, a couple of days after he arrived, Sprout was running around the yard playing with Poppy and Hokey decided the happy frolicking needed to end. When she ran over and told them to stop, Poppy pinned her to the ground and drew blood. It was the first time in about a year that something like that had happened between the girls. This incident left me with very strong reservations about adopting Sprout permanently. I couldn't have the hard won, yet still tenuous, tolerance that had developed between the two girls dissolve; I
was afraid Hokey would end up getting hurt at some point if it did. Luckily, Hokey slowly started to come around. She discovered that Sprout would play with her and that they were a good match size-wise. They could play tug with each other and it never turned into anything more than a game between terriers. They can have loud in-your-face cursing
arguments with each other, but it never gets physical. Hokey's threshold for what behavior she'll accept from the other dogs seems to be a little higher for Sprout than the others. 

Only Sprout can get away with curling up this close to Hokey while she's sleeping

As Hokey was slowly coming around, so was I. All of my dogs are smart and quick learners, but Sprout is in a category all his own. He's a whip-smart genius that learns anything new in record time. The more I worked with him, the more I liked working with him. Not only that, it turns out he IS that "easy" dog. He doesn't really have any baggage. He's easy-going. Very busy but well-behaved. Eager to please and eager to learn. Crates well. Travels well. Loves to play. Is friendly with other people, but is completely and utterly devoted to me. Excellent focus and work-ethic. Always up, charged, and ready to go when there is work or play to be had, but a total snuggler when the off-switch is flipped. Is fanatical about both toys and laps. Basically the perfect dog in every way.
Too much sadness is expressed when my lap is already occupied

I was pretty sure he was going to stay when he chose his name. I'd been holding the same "Sprout" in reserve for a few years waiting for that special dog to come along and occupy it. Since I wasn't sure I was going to keep him and not wanting to give up the name Sprout to a foster, I chose 3 other names to consider for him. I tried them all out on him at various times, but he didn't seem crazy about any of them. Eventually I thought I had the name he liked best and was standing in my kitchen one morning and trying it out on him when, on a whim, I said "Sprout?". He seemed to perk up and respond. I went back and forth between the two names and finally gave him the choice. I held both my hands in front of him and said "Sprout" for one hand and the other name for the other hand. He seemed to think things through for a few seconds, looking from one hand and to the other considering the options. Then he decisively stepped forward and nose-touched the Sprout hand. He's been my little Sprouty ever since.

And then came his evolution with agility. The medium drive I saw in him those first few days has risen into turbo charge range. It seems like every time I work him now, the drivier and speedier he becomes. Those little legs can go pretty darn fast! More than one person has remarked that he looks like a little missile when running agility, so I've taken to calling him my mini-missile. Running agility seems to be pretty self-rewarding for him. He's the only one of my dogs that not only goes out in the yard and jumps all the jumps just for the heck of it, but has also done the weaves "just because" they are there. I almost never use food in his training. He has a ton of toy/tug drive (sometimes too much) and I put that to great use in reinforcing his training. After spending so much time working on building tug drive in the girls, without 100% success, it is refreshing to have a dog that is bonkers about it. He's picked up the agility stuff so much faster than any of my other dogs. People have told me it seems like we've been a team for years. I often have to remind myself that he's just a green baby-dog. We are still coming together as a team and as his speed and drive continue to increase and as we work on more difficult sequences, our timing and communication are still evolving together, but I have to say, I've never felt this kind of ease training another agility dog before. And I've never had so much fun training a dog. It is pure and simple joy!
My mini-missile

This little perfect dog is definitely a gift from the universe and I'm thankful that I get to share my life with him each and every day. I love him so much.

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