As almost all of my friends know, we lost our Rottweiler, Abby, suddenly almost a week ago. I wrote a little bit on my Facebook about her, but thought I’d collect my thoughts and expand on them a little bit here. Though she never ended up being a “sport” dog like I had hoped she would grow into she held a special spot in this house that ended up being way more important than any sport she could have ever done. And it was that skill that made her such a special dog that we’ll struggle to ever have that skill again in this house.
Abby came into our house because at the time Kalil was 3 years old and I wanted a companion for him. This was even before my wife or I were into dog sports as we are now. Not sure of the exact timing, but I either hadn’t started Kalil in agility or had just started, but the sport hadn’t hooked me yet. So, she was coming in just as another “pet” with nothing planned. When we started looking for another Rottweiler, the first rescue we went to turned us down because we lived “too far” away. Then we turned to Mid-American Rottweiler Rescue. We told them we were looking for a high drive, non-alpha female. Based on what they had, they said that Abby would be a good fit. So we took a drive up to Milwaukee in January of ’08 and she ended up coming home with us. Within 15 minutes of leaving her foster home, she let Kalil know that there was a new sheriff in town. It was a position he accepted with no questions asked. Apparently she was going to be an alpha dog. And over the years she showed that she wasn’t necessarily a high drive dog either. For what we wanted in a dog originally we ended up with the complete opposite. But, as often happens in life, things happen for a reason even if they weren’t expected.
Over the years we tried a few different activities with Abby, I first tried to get her into agility and was her initial trainer. However, from the beginning it was obvious agility was not going to be her thing as there wasn’t a lot of drive there to begin with. So, Alana decided to take over the training and just do it for fun. Over the years she tried quite a few times to run her in a trial environment, but every time she tried Abby would do about 3 or 4 obstacles and then try to leave the ring. It was incredibly frustrating for Alana as Abby would do well in a class setting, but the stress of the trial was just too much for her to handle. However, Alana persevered and in December of 2014 they achieved their first AKC Q in a jumpers run! In the beginning in between agility lessons we had Abby certified as a therapy dog and made a handful of visits to hospitals and nursing homes. She was always so gentle no matter the situation while doing these visits, but, just like agility, became highly stressed in these environments. So not wanting to continue to put her through that stress we stopped doing these visits. It wasn’t until Alana found canine nosework that they found their sport. Abby excelled at nosework and was, arguably, the best nosework dog in the house. Abby achieved her NW1 and NW2 titles on her first try for each. She had 2 opportunities for her NW3 title, but fell just short each time. She was entered in a NW3 trial in June where I’m absolutely sure she would have achieved her NW3 title. It was her love of nosework that really hooked Alana into the sport and now the 3 Malinois will carry on Abby’s legacy as they all work to achieve a NW3 title.
Where Abby excelled as a dog, though, was in her “dog” role. She was a true alpha. She was never over the top or improper in that role. A simple growl from her often would stop any or all of the dogs from continuing to engage in further shenanigans. Back in November of 2009 we temporarily fostered a young Rottweiler named Daisy. She was around 5 months old and only lived in our house for about 10 days before she found a permanent home. However, it was during those 10 days that Abby really opened my eyes to what type of dog she was. She allowed this young dog into our house and was completely proper with her when Daisy needed reminding that some behaviors were not proper around other dogs. I hope those lessons were remembered by Daisy when she went to her new home. On top of that, over the years Abby “raised” 3 Malinois puppies who I have to think turned out as well as they did in some way because of Abby’s lessons. One of my favorite stories I like to tell about Abby and her role as an alpha dog was the time she tried to put an ill mannered dog, twice her size, in its place. As anybody who ever met Abby will attest to she was the most calm, even keeled, non-aggressive dogs you would ever meet. With that said we were in a friend’s dog treat store one day when they were having some kind of event. There was this very large dog in there who decided to start carrying on when we entered by barking its head off and not shutting up. So we’re walking around the store while this dog and its owner are off to the side. By the time we got near the dog had the leash completely taut and was doing the whole raising off its front feet and barking routine. I’m giving the dog a bit of a wide berth, but the minute we were within distance of that dog Abby decided to lunge at the dog. Thankfully I had my leash shortened up so I was able to stop her before she got more than 3 feet from the dog. In the moment I thought Abby was being a bad dog and corrected her for the behavior, but looking back at the totality of her life and behavior I do not believe it was her being aggressive. I think she was simply, as an alpha dog, trying to stop that dog from behaving incorrectly. I don’t ever remember her being like that to another dog except when she caught another dog messing with her “baby” Luna. If you messed with Luna and Abby was around you suddenly had a bigger problem on your hands. Kalil learned pretty quickly that he had to be somewhat gentle around Luna when playing or Abby would have to come over and regulate. This role Abby filled in our house and life will be sorely missed and I doubt we will find another dog like that for a long time, if ever.
I’ll end this post with my favorite Abby story that I think perfectly demonstrates her love bug nature. One day we took Abby and Kalil to a local dog park. It’s a fairly large dog park and that day had a lot of dogs and people in it. As soon as we get into the fenced area we took the leashes off both dogs. They both took off running, though Kalil stayed pretty close. Abby was quickly lost in the crowd and we could not visually locate her. So we started walking to try and find her to make sure she wasn’t causing any trouble. As we’re walking along, we quickly found her up by where a lot of the dog owners had congregated. Abby had run off from us, found the first guy that was sitting on the ground, and promptly sat in his lap. So that was where we found her. Sitting between the legs of a guy that was a little shocked/surprised that a random Rottweiler had run up and made her home sitting between his legs. We quickly gathered her and apologized, but I couldn’t help laughing that that was she had done. That was Abby to a T. Loved everybody and would never hesitate to wiggle her butt for some affection from anybody.
RIP Abby. You will be greatly missed.