Rivendell's Cato, UD,CAN.CD,WRD by Joachim J. Volhard reprinted from Newf Tide Spring 1981
The first time I saw Cato he was about two hours old. After observing the litter of five puppies for a few minutes. I pointed to Cato and said "that's going to be my next dog." That was on April 16. 1973. What I was looking for. of course. was my next obedience dog; specifically. I wanted an energetic. but trainable dog who was structurally sound. Those who know Eberhard Trumler's "Your Dog and You" are familiar with the factors considered in such early selections and that the first 48 hours of a puppy's life are the most telling. I was to repeat this selection process seven years later with what I expect will be equally good results.
Cato is out of Henna Von Schartenberg (known as Heidi) imported by us from Germany in 1967 and Basso Von Bottwartal. also a German import. Heidi was the first Landseer to earn the Utility Dog title and was the obedience winner of the 1970 National Specialty.
Basso, who was on the cover of the January 1978 issue of the Gazette. was the number one obedience Newf in the country in 1973. Both of these dogs were terrific in obedience and we were hoping that Cato would have the same trainability.
The first few months of Cato's life were quite unsettling since in June of 1973 we moved from Washington. D.C. to Syracuse. New York. First. we had to build a kennel for our six Newfs and then remodel an old farm house. With our energies being directed to more immediate needs. Cato's early training was sporadic. leaving a great deal to be desired. And, it was Basso's turn for his CDX. Even so, Cato was a precocious puppy with tremendous motor coordination who developed much more quickly than boy dogs normally do. Recognizing his potential, we decided to aim for the 1974 National Specialty in Allentown. Pa on April 27, and enter him in the Novice class.
His training began in earnest in the Spring of 1974 and by the time we went to the Specialty. we thought we had a chance of doing reasonably well. The competition was stiff with many top obedience Newfs competing, some from as far away as California. When our turn came. I was quite nervous since this was Cato's first time out and I did not know how all the excitement would affect him. As we got into the routine. however, I began to relax - Cato was absolutely fine and came through like an old trooper: he won the Novice B class with a score of 198 which turned out to be good enough for High in Trial. He was exactly one year and eleven days old. A few weeks later he had his CD, missing a Dog World Award of Canine Distinction by half a point.
We then started working on our advanced exercises, getting to know each other much better. Cato, although he learned very quickly. was not that easy to train. Sometimes I think that the more intelligent the dog, the more difficult he is to train for obedience routines. Cato is also mentally extremely sensitive and the slightest hint of disappointment, frustration or impatience would cause him to become apprehensive about his training. Being a very serious dog. he would worry about whether or not he was doing it right and his whole face would furrow, mirroring his concentration. But our motivational approach to training made him relax and he developed into an enthusiastic worker. In 1975 he obtained his CDX title, and in 1977 his Utility title. earning enough points in the process to become number one Newf in obedience for that year. (His litter sister. Cassandra. trained and handled by Wendy. was number one in 1975 when she earned her CD with three firsts, two High in Trial and a Dog World Award.)
During this time the instructing and training workshops I had started to give, and my judging, began to place such demands on my time that I could show Cato only sparingly. It was not until 1979 that he went back on the road, solely for therapeutic reasons. In early 1979. over the span of a few months. Cato lost both his mother Heidi. and his father Basso. which sent him into the deepest depression I have ever seen in a dog. With it came the recognition that he was expected to assume the responsibility of pack leader, a position previously occupied by his father. Having observed Cato during this period, I am convinced that a dog reacts to such a loss and that the prospect of pack leadership can be overwhelming. The only thing we could think of to get this dog back on an even keel was to return to the obedience ring - he was at home there. he liked it and he did well. Since my schedule did not permit me to show him. Wendy took over. She exhibited him in high combined. that is. the Open B and Utility B classes and with her expert handling. Cato became the first Newfoundland to earn Obedience Trial Championship points. And, for the second time, he was number one Newf in obedience (1979) under both the Delaney system (122 points) and the Shuman system (107 points). Needless to say. I am very proud of both of them.
For Cato. 1980 started with a bang - he had been bred to Seaward's Crest of the Wave. CD and the puppies. six of them. were born on January 3. Our first litter in seven years and Cato's first to raise, And raise them he did, As soon as they were old enough to be "fathered," he went to the task with all the skill and know-how he could muster. He was a magnificent teacher and a strict disciplinarian. The puppies quickly learned proper manners and the utmost respect for their daddy, Incidentally, we picked our next obedience dog the instant she was born - Seaward's C-Pink of Rivendell. Pinky, as she is called. finished her CD by the time she was eight months old with one High in Trial, with 183 dogs in competition, We are hopeful that in her obedience work she will take after Cato.
1980 brought other exciting events for Cato -water work. When Cato was a puppy, we took him swimming once or twice. but he did not seem to care much about water. When Wendy announced that she was going to work him in the water, I was skeptical, to say the least. Wendy can't swim and is afraid of the water and Cato, at the age of seven, did not seem to be a likely candidate for a new career. Well, they proved me wrong. Cato took to water like a duck and through him, Wendy learned to relax in the water. She still can't swim. but she is no longer afraid, at least not when Cato is with her. To make a long story short, on August 3. he passed the Junior test at the Central New York Water Test and three weeks later, on August 24, the Senior test in what I am told was a spectacular performance at the New-Pen-Del Water Test.
A few months later. Wendy took him to Canada for one of those marathon, three trial weekends where he earned his Canadian CD with one High in Trial and a Dog World Award.
As Cato approaches his eighth year, I look back at the good times and the hard times we have had together, To me. he represents many different things. A Newfoundland is, first and foremost, a working dog, meaning he must have the tractability and temperament that allows him to take direction. He must also be structurally sound and balanced so that he is physically able to do the required tasks. Finally, he must have "heart" and "desire" to be able to cope when the going gets rough.
Cato has all these qualities and I think he is one terrific dog. But above all, he is truly a wonderful companion.
About Joachim J. Volhard
Jack Volhard started training dogs when he was 12 and began exhibiting in 1968 with his first Landseer Newfoundland. Since then. he has titled five Newfoundlands. the first Utility Dogs in the history of the breed. the first Newfoundland with Obedience Trial Championship points (home bred) and a Yorkshire Terrier. He became a member of the National Association of Obedience Instructors in 1971 and has had a monthly column on obedience for five years appearing in six national publications. Jack has written articles for the "AKC Gazette" and "Off-Lead" magazine and is the recipient of four awards from the Dog Writers' Association of America. He authored the handbook. "Teaching You to Train Your Dog." and has made several films. including "Puppy Aptitude Testing" and "Puppy Training."
The approach used by Jack and his wife Wendy stresses techniques that can be used successfully by almost every owner. believing obedience can be fun for both dog and owner. For several years. they have had the No. 1 Newf in obedience. They were the guiding spirits behind the 1979 revision of the standard for the breed. He should be a familiar author to "Newf Tide" readers.
A dog is but a diamond in the rough who without the proper care. exercise and feeding will never reach his genetic potential, For that. I have Wendy to thank and her untiring efforts to ensure that all our dogs reach that potential. "