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  • Writer's pictureHeather Brendle

The thing about expectations...

I dreamt of getting my first purposely bred, performance dog for over a decade. Seriously.


When we bought Link in 2003, we had done what so many people do; we looked in the newspaper (now online) and found puppies that were AKC registered and ran to the ATM to get $400 in cash to buy our puppy. Looking back, there were so many red flags, but I knew nothing of these issues back then and I happily handed over our hard-earned money and left with our new puppy. We saw some things early on that were concerning behavior-wise, but we were also young and in love with our puppy. I started searching for support and landed on a forum (remember, this was 2003) that was the best thing that could have happened. I found a community of longtime owners, breeders, trainers, and new friends. That is when my education about ethical breeding, and so much more, began.


It was probably 2004 when I fully understood that we had made some errors in judgment when purchasing Link. We were in it and committed but we also knew we would do things differently in the future. 2004 is when I started to create expectations around my future puppy. We worked hard to help Link become the best dog he could be, based on the genetic material he had inherited. I took him to classes most of his life because he loved to learn, and I had fallen in love with training. He also needed the structure and the rules. He had some pretty severe dog reactivity/big feelings and we also worked on that since he was an extremely large dog. I was present and I worked my tail off, but to be honest, I also dreamt of a stable dog. I started following Rottweiler breeders. I started looking at pedigrees and following friends and their dogs. I learned about health clearances and temperament standards.


Link passed in 2010, at age 6 from osteosarcoma. It was sad and terrible and painful for all of us, but especially him. He taught me so many lessons in life and death that I took forward with me, and for that, I am so grateful (that is probably a blog all its own). At the time, I knew my dream of a purpose bred puppy was not in my near future. Our life was unstable, we had recently moved cross country, the economy was not good. I kept planning and learning, building relationships, and researching breeders. I knew I wanted to continue to have a Rottweiler in my life, I was absolutely enamored with the breed.


Enter Cash, adopted at the age of 9 months. To give Cash and our lives with him only a few sentences in this post feels completely wrong. He was such an important element of our lives together; he deserves his own blog entry (coming soon!). We were lucky enough to share our lives with Cash from early 2010 to fall 2017 and those years were fantastic. He made me fall in love with the Rottweiler breed all over again, in the most beautiful ways. Without Cash, there would be no Thiago (like I said, more on that later).


After more than 14 years of planning, in May of 2017, Thiago came home. I had researched, I had met so many Rottweilers, I had talked with so many breeders, I had consulted with so many friends. I felt so much joy and excitement about the future, I had so many expectations about what that future would look like for us. I had continued training other dogs that we owned over the years and enjoyed it very much. But I still waited for The One. The dog I had planned and thought about for so long. My heart dog. My soul dog.


Thiago is now 5 years old, and he is absolutely my heart and soul. And the life I thought we would share is completely different than I had expected. It has been a gift and it will continue to be one of the most significant and transformative times in my life with a dog. A time that has showed me so much about the person I was and the person I have become. I saw a future with a dog where we would accomplish title after title, a dog that I would accomplish so many highs alongside in our performance journey together. I have learned so much about why expectations can be a corner you paint yourself into for you and your dog. And I learned that I don't actually care that much about fancy titles and championships. Instead, I enjoy the training experience much more.


The future I had charted started changing when Thiago started limping before he turned a year. He was officially diagnosed with unilateral elbow dysplasia and had his first procedure for it at age 2. After years of back and forth and a laundry list of procedures, at 5 years and 9 months, he is sound. The last year has been the healthiest year of his life and it has taught me so much. As I look back at our time together so far, I think about all of the expectations I had for this dog. I think about how the only thing I have actually cared about for most of his life, is that he be well. I think about the fact that my favorite thing to do with Thiago is take long walks in the wilderness and how much he loves it too. That today, I would easily trade a Saturday of competition entries for a walk in Woods Canyon with him, without a thought. I think about the expectations I placed on him before he ever existed. The expectations I put on our team before we ever even trained one time together. I think about the lessons his bum elbow has taught me about cherishing the dog you have in front of you, regardless of the future you had planned. I think about how lucky I am to share my life with this incredible dog, that accepts my errors and my silly expectations.



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