I'm not sure I've mentioned it but I adore Cora. She is certainly a one of a kind Ridgeback in my house. She has inherited some of Leeloo's quirks and I sincerely appreciate the things about her that I can pinpoint as being from each of her parents. Her brown toenails are from her Daddy Boy, her giant ears too, but the shepherd's crook at the end of her tail and the indefinable weirdness is Leeloo all the way. Being goofy is from both parents that's for sure! But when I look at her siblings, and there are 18 of them, she doesn't look a single bit like any of them. I know who she looks like, I know where some of the things she does come from. I look at Cora and although I see her parents, there's something else in there, something that feels like a bit of a second chance, an opportunity to get it right. Something to do with Halo.
If you haven't been here long you might not know about Halo. She is my foundation bitch, Raimi's mom, and she was my first Ridgeback. Prior to getting Halo all my research about the breed told me it was tough, you had to be firm with them, you had to start early, be aware of their independence ... but no book prepared me for how sensitive they are. The breed is a strange combination of steel and marshmallow. With Halo I was firm from the start and I think I put too much pressure on her, in several ways, which prevented us from making a solid connection. I didn't understand until Raimi was born what the connection was supposed to be and didn't realize until then that with Halo it wasn't there. I have spoken to several Ridgeback owners about this and they admit that with their first RR, they too didn't realize the precarious balance that must be struck with this breed and also regret the type of training they used.
So when Halo had finished her litters and we moved to Nova Scotia and I realized in the first few months I didn't know what to do with her. I didn't feel the same way about Halo as I did about The Boy and Leeloo, or even Archer (who was just a puppy at the time). We didn't have the bond that is so important to a dog and that she so richly deserved. At 5 years old, I knew Halo needed a home that was not me. People question placing retired show dogs, some breeders criticized me for it (although not directly to me), but they are not here, they don't know and perhaps have never been in that situation. In short, Halo deserved better than me. Thankfully a wonderful home landed on my doorstep and Halo made her way to Quebec to live with Pia who has described Halo as the best dog she has ever owned (and she's owned other 'retired' Ridgebacks in the past from other breeders). It was the best thing I could do for Halo, she will be 9 in the New Year and I still hope to make it up to Quebec one day, perhaps to see her one last time. She doesn't look her age, that's for sure!
In some ways I feel like Cora is my redemption. And my penance. Because she is, bar none, the naughtiest and most challenging dog I've ever owned. I sometimes wonder, if I hadn't been such a strict trainer with Halo, if she wouldn't have been just like Cora is with me. I look into Cora's eyes and feel her soul.
And I'm sure she reads me like a book which is to my detriment. I won't lie though, I have probably been a bit too lenient with Cora and that has made her more naughty than average. She plays me all the time and I am sad to say I let her. It's hard to say no to this.
She is also very manipulative and strangely direct at times which is a hard thing to balance when you're a dog, but she does it easily.
Cora looks a lot like like Halo and as she matures I am seeing the kindness and shape of her eyes as a combination of Halo and Leeloo rather than just Leeloo. She has Halo's brains for opportunity and is basically an improved version of her. She also has Halo's athleticism which is something I hope to bank on in the New Year. She can leap a 4 foot fence from a stand still, easily clears an 8 foot creek and neither of her parents can touch her cornering skills. I am looking forward to the new adventures of Cora in the coming years and perhaps at last coming to terms with the better job I could have done with Halo.
I wasn't fair to Halo and she knew it. Everyone always told me how well trained she was and what a good job I did with her, but she and I knew the truth. I put too much pressure on her, I expected too much, I didn't understand and I regret my inexperience. In some ways I think she is channelling through her grand-daughter and making me pay for my mistakes - as we all must do. Still, thank you Halo for sending me Cora, she is a delight and a devil and even though you are a thousand miles away, you are still well represented in this house.