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Love conquers all

To most people in competition circles, Samantha Carter's Jack (Ajax Jester) will seem like just another spoilt pet dog that gets too much attention and fuss, while to others in pet dog circle he will seem like a competition dog that doesnít get enough. The truth is he is neither of these. He is a very special dog. His journey to where he is now has been long and difficult, but it is not yet over and I donít think it ever will be. This is Jack's story.

Jack's first few months will forever remain a mystery to me - or, at least, until he learns to talk in our language - but this is what I know. Jack was born on a farm out of a pedigree working collie bitch and a successful trialling dog. When he was eight weeks old, he was taken away from his mum, as most puppies are, and taken to another farm that was to be his home for the next seven or eight months. He lived in a barn, on the end of a chain and every day was taken out to be trained. He had a strong eye and the people werenít experienced with dogs of his ability and 'eye' so slowly he got trained less and less and spent more and more time in his corner of the barn.

He spent his day watching cars passing and practiced using his eye on them. He found out the wonders of football as he was tortured by the ball being kicked against the barn wall, but he could never get at it. Slowly he was thought of as useless and thoughts turned to getting rid of him. So he was sold to a lady, a nice lady who trained for Obedience and Sheepdog Trials. She also did a dog-training group and this was how I was to meet him, but Iím getting ahead of myself now.

Love at first sight
Jacquie, the lady who did dog training, was late one day and when she arrived she told us it was because she had been to pick up a new dog, Jack. I saw this dog, dirty, scrawny and thin covered in sheep muck and only able to stare around at the dogs in the class as he was left doing a down stay in the corner. I couldnít take my eyes off him all night. He was filthy and obviously hadnít been groomed for ages, but he had something about him, something in those big brown eyes that caught my heart - and I fell in love.

For about two months I didnít see or here about him and just as he was beginning to slip out of my mind, my mother got a mysterious phone call. She wouldnít tell me what it was about but I knew it had to do with dogs as I knew it was Jacquie. Eventually I got it out of my mum what was happening. Jacquie had rung my mum and told her that she was selling Jack. She knew that I wanted to get a collie when I had finished my GCSEs (the next June) and had thought of me, as she knew he would probably be destroyed if sold to a farm. He had developed a number of problems in his short life and many people thought it would be better to have had him put to sleep.

My Mum and I went to see him just before Christmas 1999. We sat with Jacquie and spoke about Jack. Then he was let in. He was still pretty dirty and smelly, with sheep muck in his coat and snow all over him (he had been playing outside) but I fell in love all over again. He came in and his big brown eyes looked at me, and I knew that yes we would have problems but, if we worked hard enough and trusted each other, we would be fine.

We took him home that night and introduced him to our Terrier, an old, stubborn but lovely lady who ruled the roost. She took one look at him and from then on completely ignored him, almost as if she knew that he would never challenge her so he would be fine.

Devil smileyJack's problems come to light
He was a wreck scared of everything including men, sticks and loud noises. In short, he was frightened of anything he didnít know or anything he thought would hurt him. He also chased cars, busses, lorries - in fact, anything that moved. Slowly we worked on these problems, but I was the only one he worked for. Neither my mum or my sister could control him when outside and that had to change, too.

Slowly after weeks of training, hours spent standing at roadsides while cars and busses drove passed training him to sit still, teaching him that it wasnít his job to bring them back, inching closer to the road day by day, he improved. We trained for Obedience in the cold dark nights after school, practising heelwork recalls and retrieves in the front room or in snowy fields.

All the work paid off and he got better. He can walk along a road now and ignore those dreaded cars even with my mum. He no longer tries to kill every dog before it kills him nor does he run away from every man who comes near - or tries to attack through fear. I can even carry a jump pole, and heíll walk to heel knowing heís safe and that Iím not about to beat him.

Agility training
In comparison, agility training was relatively easy as he was so keen to please. Jumps were no trouble he soon got the hang of them and was soon flying over full height hurdles. The tyre was more difficult, but again he was soon leaping through it at the strangest angles. The most difficult obstacle to train must have been the dogwalk. As heís a big dog, he was afraid to fall off but with me holding him he soon felt comfortable and was trotting happily over them.

But the training doesnít stop there. He no longer goes to that dog club. The instructors way of controlling his nervous aggression was to grab him by his ruff shake him and yell at him, so we left. So we trained alone, getting help from friends, from the YKC and from books, but mostly we learnt the difficult way.

Jack is a special dog
We may never win out of Novice in Agility or Obedience. Weíll never get anywhere in the show ring nor be fast enough to compete in Flyball or concentrated enough to get CDX in Working Trials, but as we drive away from another show empty handed, I look back at him and remember all those people who told me to have him destroyed as he was too far gone to ever be any good. 'Sell him, they would say, 'to someone more experienced so you can get a dog you can learn with.' No never. I know I wouldnít swap him for all the Ob/Ag/Sh or WT Champions in the world.

There are times when I see my friends winning with their pedigree dogs that they got as puppies and have hardly had any trouble with and I wish I could be that successful. Then I remember if I didnít have him where would my big man be - in a barn on a chain, in a back yard alone. Yes, he might have got the perfect home but chances are he would have been sent to Rainbow Bridge only without ever knowing true love.

About the author
Samantha (Sam) Carter was 18 on Wednesday, 28 August 2002! She was born in South Africa but has lived in the UK for six years now. She lives near Rotherham.

She competes in agility with her Terrier X, Lucky who is now 11 and with Jack. Next year she should be getting another dog and wants another Mini as she enjoys handling the smaller dogs.

She has belonged to the YKC for three years now and competes in Obedience, Agility and Biathlon (Obed and Agility) with the club.

At the moment she is studying agriculture at Bishop Burton College (near Hull) and wants to be an Agricultural Researcher or a nutritional advisor for dairy cows.


From Mandy Love...
Lovely story of how love can win through. It bought many a tear to my eye as I know how difficult Sally was when we got her and how she's slowly overcoming her fears. Well done Sam - don't ever let anyone tell you that you did the wrong thing.... you're wonderful.

From Debbie Martin (Ramsey DTC)...
Would someone please give Samantha the recognition she so deserves for the patience and devotion to her dog, Jack, featured in the article 'Love Conquers All.' Having also had rehomed dogs with similar problems and being told that one was so wild that no one would ever train him, it was thanks to this dog that I became involved in training at all. It has been hard enough as an adult to deal with so many difficulties, but I can only admire Samantha for her determination to do her best for Jack which she surely has done. She may not have won any prizes in the form of pieces of ribbon but in my book she is an all out winner and I wish them both well!


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