Hello, and allow me an opportunity to introduce myself as well as my four-legged partner in crime. My name is Joe and this is Hoski Vom Evolution, call sign Cinder "Ella". Cinder was born October 19th 2016. And this is Cinder's story of her journey through Shutzhund training, injury and rehabilitation.
Raised in a household that always owned a German Shepherd it came natural for me to just carry on the tradition when I moved out on my own many years ago. In October 2016, I unfortunately lost my dog, "Faith" to her battle with Degenerative Spinal Myelopathy and she passed away Oct. 16th. At the time I knew I would again own a German Shepherd, but I was honestly not in a rush for just any dog. I promised myself that my next dog needed to be something special. A dog I could do anything with, go places with and be my true companion. I knew that this dog would find me and until then I would just wait.
It didn't take long and many of my friends and family would send me texts of pictures of puppies in an effort to push me in the direction of getting back on the horse and owning a dog. But none of them moved me. Then one day a text came through and it was just this photo. This was Hoski which I am told means star. When I looked it up for myself, I found out it also means independent strength, determination and reliability. Make no mistake all German Shepherd puppies are adorable but her, there was something about her face. Maybe the little white marks by her eyes looking like she had eyeshadow on. I'm not sure but I knew I needed to meet her.
Enter Vom Evolution
After seeing her face and knowing there was something about this dog, I contacted the breeder who was Nikki Banfield. Nikki and I spoke for an extensive amount of time. During our conversation she interviewed me, and I interviewed her. We both had vested interest in doing so. I want to make sure I am coming to see a healthy well-bred dog that I may want to purchase, and she wanted to make sure if that purchase happened her puppy would go to the proper home. I say proper and not good and believe me they aren't the same thing. These dogs are high drive working class dogs. While you may be a great care giver not knowing the work that can be involved could make all the difference.
My very first question to Nikki at the time was "is the purple collared female still available"? If she had been sold there would be no point in continuing since this is the dog that found me and only this one. But Nikki said as a matter of fact she is and I made arraignments to go visit, meet this puppy and meet Nikki.
The next day, checkbook in hand I set out to an hour and thirty-minute drive to Sweet Valley. If this dog was everything in person that she was in a photo I wouldn't leave without owning her. Upon arrival Nikki and I spoke a few more minutes and she asked if I was ready to meet the children. She walked me into her home and opened the whelping kennel and I was rushed by a herd of yipping, licking joy.
As expected, there she was Hoski and yes, she did the expected run over to me and love on my things we all expect with puppies. But after watching her for a few minutes I noticed she was more about herself. She did her own thing. She liked to play as all puppies do but she was fascinated more with her surroundings and the toys then her brothers and sisters or me. It didn't take long for me to decide that she was going to be my dog and I wasn't leaving there that day without making sure of it. I gave my deposit and would need to wait a few weeks since at the time they were still too young to be away from momma. I was excited and this was going to be a long few weeks.
House Breaking & Training
House breaking was a snap for me. At the time and still today I was working from home and every few hours it was easy for me to just take Hoski now named Cinder outside. To this day I still have the original box of training pads I bought for accidents. Still full and never used one of them. She just learned to go outside. She has actually never had an accident ever of any kind in the house. I know that sounds unbelievable, but it is true. She was fully house broken the day she came home which was the easy part.
A few weeks into our journey together I recognized she was no lumpy. Cinder was going to be a high drive female who would need to burn off constant energy. She would have extreme puppy crazies every night around 8:00 PM where she would just tear through the house, run into walls and knock anything over in her path. At times I would have to kennel her out of fear she would seriously hurt herself just until she would calm down. This dog was a worker and needed to start training as soon as possible.
Nikki came to my house and we spoke about some options as she evaluated the situation and she agreed that at only 3 months old Cinder needed to begin working. Basic obedience may not be enough for Cinder and Nikki suggested training in Shutzhund and I was both intrigued at the idea and concerned for the time commitment.
Every Sunday we would wake at 4:00 AM and get ready to drive 3 hours to New Jersey to work on certain aspects of Cinder's training. This was mainly done outside in the rain, snow, sleet and extremely hot temperatures. We froze, we got soaked and we worked. I would work all day come home pack up Cinders gear a second night and drive another hour and half for obedience training where we would work until 9:00 at night and drive home. We would do the same thing a third day as we progressed into Cinder's tracking schedule and again on a fourth day for 2-mile nature hikes every Saturday.
Shutzhund is not for the weak hearted, its time consuming and it's a commitment for both you and your dog. As Cinder grew, we were faced with a few roadblocks. At 6 months Cinder developed Pano and we needed to slow her training a bit allowing her time to heal through.
She Loves Swimming
You know what they say about all work and no play. In the winter following Cinder's second birthday I made the decision to slow training a bit for a few personal reasons, but I also felt that maybe I wasn't allowing Cinder to be a dog enough and wanted her to just enjoy some rest and relaxation time of her own through the winter months. When Spring arrived Cinder was scheduled to be Spayed and have a small Cyst removed from her back. While she recovered, we still continued to do everything together go places and just have some fun. I found out she loves to swim and loves water in general as you can see. We just enjoyed being together that entire summer.
Cinder turned three in October 2019 and I knew if I ever wanted to get her titled, we needed to return to training. Speaking to Nikki we decided to return that fall and I made the personal choice to make it less like work and more fun for Cinder, with only training one or two days a week. If she trained through the winter the hope was that in the spring trails, she may be ready for her BH.
In early 2020 the pandemic hit the world and at the time we were all unsure how this would impact trials, but we continued to prepare for an upcoming trail in May. Nikki felt confident in Cinder's progress and felt she would have no problem achieving her BH at that time.
In An Instant Everything Changed
In what I can remember as a beautiful spring like weekend in March 2020, Cinder and I had been enjoying some time playing in water with the garden hose and chasing balls around the backyard. Cinder was always a showboat and would dive through the air snatching balls in what I can only describe as aerobatic type moves. I remember throwing a ball for her and when she jumped in the air her body going nearly vertical and I thought at that moment she is going to land square on her back sending chills down my spine. But like a cat she contorted her entire body and somehow landed on her feet and went about running and playing as if saying to me no problem dad I got this.
The next morning, I woke to the sound of a slight whimper from Cinder staring at me from the floor at the bottom of my bed. I said to her that day like every morning she woke me this way, "Come on Up" telling her it was okay to jump up on the bed. But this morning she was different. She conducted a complete circle on the floor and almost in a reluctant way questioned her ability to perform this jump onto the bed. This coming from a dog that would at will from a standing position jump straight onto the kitchen Island when she was 9 months old. This was concerning……