Tonka, Tatanka, Tonk-Ba-Donk, Donkey, Honky-Tonk.. The best boy ever!
As I've been packing, bathing and grooming dogs for ASCA Nationals 2019 in Bakersfield, I want to share my journey on how we got here.
When Bryce and I were in college, I wanted to get a puppy soooo bad. Like, SO BAD. But, Bryce being smart as he is, said that getting a puppy while we were in school wouldn't be fair for the dog. I agreed.
We pondered what kind of puppy we would end up getting after we graduate and get real jobs. My husband grew up with Aussies and he missed them. His Aunt bred Australian Shepherds and he said they were the best dogs that he ever had as a kid. I will be honest, I was nervous about an Aussie because of all the hair and hyper personality.
Then, on our wedding day my whole idea on Aussies completely changed. We were married at the Ranch on a nice summer afternoon. The wedding party was taking pictures along the side of the barn and that's when I saw him. K-aus. Bryce's Aunt Donna was a guest and she brought her little date, who was K-aus the Aussie. He sat so quietly next to her as she was talking to her brother (Bryce's dad). His beautiful red coat shimmered in the breeze and his sky blue eyes we bright and wise. He was the prettiest dog I have ever seen.
Bryce and I finished our photos and later on in the evening I sat with Donna and her handsome boy. He jumped right into my lap giving me kisses. I hugged him in my already filthy ranch wedding dress. I didn't care. I just loved this dog so much! I chatted with Donna for a few minutes until I was rushed to the next wedding activity on the agenda.
Donna with K-aus visiting with her brother, Craig at our wedding
A week or so later, I befriended Donna on Facebook and told her I couldn't stop thinking about K-aus and I was ready to get a puppy when she has a litter available. She responded telling me that she has the perfect puppy for me who is ready for a home now. I was so excited! I talked with Bryce, showed him photos and we decided we couldn't say no. She called him "Tonka" short for Tatanka from the movie "Dances With Wolves" because he looked like a baby buffalo. We loved his name so we decided to keep it that way. Below is our original conversation.
We met with Donna at a half way point (she lived about 6 hours north of us) in a Starbucks parking lot. We met Tonka for the first time and fell immediately in love with him. K-aus was there of course taking Tonka along him as we talked all about puppyhood with Donna. She also mentioned that I should consider competing with Tonka is dog sports like Agility, Rally, Conformation and more. I didn't think much about it at the time. I was just happy to have a fuzzy puppy in my arms.
The day we met Tonka and brought him home!
I started doing puppy classes with Tonka after work twice a week. He was a smart boy, but also the laziest boy. He did what he had to do for a treat. I thought taking him to herding classes woudl be fun so I could teach him on our cattle eventually. I went to maybe five lessons.. Tonka would get after the sheep a little and it would be a little exciting, he's nip at the wool! Then, he got bored. He had a favorite shady spot under some trees. When he was over it, he'd stroll to and lay down in that spot in the corral. The sheep would sniff him and he would sniff back. He didn't seem that into the herding gig. So, I tried him out in agility with an amazing trainer. He hated it, he basically protested when he peed on the A-frame. Twice. My trainer told me "Yeah, this isn't Tonka's thing.." So, yeah.. Tonka quit agility.
When Tonka was about 2 years old, I got the itch that maybe I could show Tonka He was so handsome like his daddy, and I used to show animals in 4H and FFA. I loved Showmanship. Tonka and I started off by entering an AKC match to see how the whole dog show thing works. A match is for beginners (human and/or dog) to gain experience and get the motions down for a real show. Tonka ended up winning Winner’s Dog, Best of Winners (the best out of winning dog and winning bitch), and Best of Breed! Wow! So we went onto Best in Match. Guess what? We won Best in Match! I was shocked and it was a huge confidence boost. Maybe being a handsome dog and prancing around would be Tonka’s thing.
Our Best in Match win.
So I gave it a whirl at my first ASCA show in Norco, hosted by the Ocean View Australian Shepherd Club. I brought our entire family to help cheer Tonka and I on. We went in the show ring for our first class against one other red merle male and Tonka completely collapsed when the judge put her hands on him. We had NO IDEA what we were doing. Just tried our best and took the advise Donna had given us into the ring. A nice lady came up to me after and told me "speed up a bit, he's a lovely dog."
First ASCA show we ever did together.
I found out quickly that the people in the Aussie community are very friendly, knowledgable and show great sportsmanship for the most part. I continued showing Tonka in conformation and we both got better and better as time went on with the help of so many individuals. I have befriended so many handlers, breeders and owners through out this journey so far. It's pretty amazing how encouraging some of them are.
Tonka and I ended up getting numerous Winner's Dog and Reserves. He was almost a champion. In dog show world, you need three majors and 15 points to become a Champion. Tonka and I had two majors and 8 points at the time. So all he needed was 7 more points and one more major win.
In 2015, I was pregnant with my first son. I ended up showing Tonka while pregnant, until I started having some complications around week 15.. I had to be bed ridden.. So, my superstar husband, Bryce took the show lead with Tonka and they became a team. they didn’t get points at that time. I wasn't able to show a lot that year. Therefore, we took a little break so I could recover and be ready for this baby. On November 5, 2016 Warren Wayne Fender was born. He was the cutest baby we ever laid eyes on. Tonka on the other hand... wasn't as excited. I remember anytime Warren would cry, Tonka jumped the fence and hid under my truck, shaking...
It took a few weeks, but Tonka came to terms that the little human isn't leaving, and that he might as well befriend the loud little guy.
Now, you'll see Tonka being used as a body pillow by both of my sons.
Tonka and Warren.
Backtracking a little....During the time I was bed ridden, I started thinking that I wanted to add another Aussie to our family. A female, to be Tonka's girlfriend. I bought books and read all about caring for a pregnant bitch and her puppies. I talked with Donna to get her scoop on the idea and she was on board. I health tested Tonka for his eyes, hips, elbows and DNA test to ensure he was capable of being a good, healthy stud dog. We began doing homework and talking to other breeders on upcoming litters and what would be a good fit for Tonka. After literally years of research and communication. We found our puppy girl, Critter.
Critter came from a local San Diego breeder who I am friends with through our local ASCA Club. Dayle had sent me pictures of all the puppies and one stood out to me. She was a black tri with a big white blaze, and big black spot around her nose. She looked like Snoopy from Charlie Brown. Dayle and Ron were so kind and let me check out puppies at their home to see if one of one of the tri girls would be a good fit for me. There was the Snoopy girl I was in love with when I saw the original picture. She was available along with two of her sisters who were also black. I went to visit the puppies numerous times with my husband and son and tried to see who we would want to take home. I couldn't stop thinking about the Snoopy girl so I picked her. She had my heart the moment I saw her picture. We decided to name her "Critter." I just liked the sound of the name. Also, my son loved the movie The Good Dinosaur and the little cave man boy was called "The Critter" and acted like a loyal dog. Kind of weird, but just go with it.
I was fantasizing all about Tonka/Critter puppies once Critter was old enough and health tested. Buuuuut, one day.... Things changed drastically.
Months go by.. One day, Bryce found blood drops in our house. I thought maybe Critter started her heat cycle but she hadn't. I check Tonka and found he had blood dripping from his prepuce. Shit. Off to work I go (I work at an animal hospital). Dr. Wood examined Tonka, collected urine to send to the lab and some antibiotics. Nothing came up abnormal with his urine, so we also sent a culture. Also normal. So, we did x-rays and there it was. his prostate was HUGE. I scheduled an ultrasound with a specialist and that Doctor told me, Tonka has BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) with two cysts on the prostate. Not painful, other than he may have had trouble defecating (which I did notice) since the prostate was so big. He said that Tonka is a bit young for this to happen (4 years old), but it is what it is. He recommended neutering him within a few months before it got worse. He mentioned that dogs with this condition can die unexpectedly and without warning. However, Tonka is in the early stages of the issue and maybe I could go talk to a reproduction specialist to see if there is anything else I could try. in the mean tone, antibiotics for three weeks. If not resolved, neuter him,
I WAS DEVASTATED. All that hard work, money, time, effort to get to this point... And now my boy is sick. I did my homework, called repro doctors, other veterinarians pulled out my vet tech books, read articles, talked to Donna every step of the way. I did everything I could to see what I can do for my Tonka. The repro doctor advised that I could have him collected (collect his semen and freeze it for later use.) I checked his semen at work and they were dead. Hardly moving in the microscope. Not worth spending the money to save sperm that is not viable. Tonka was bleeding intermittently the whole time. I came to the final decision to neuter him before he got worse.
“I got neutered today...”
The only problem was, I never finished his championship. That hurt my heart, that was a big goal of mine. So many people helped me get to this point. I felt like it was all for nothing. However, in ASCA, you can show altered dogs in conformation. Points that were previously accumulated when the dog was intact are still valid. Bryce actually got a 5 point major during the whole BPH fiasco. Luckily, it was before Tonka was neutered. Tonka had 13 points. So he didn’t even need a major to finish. So, I just need to get 2 more points to finish Tonka's Championship. Okay Tonk, let's do it.
WOW.. Showing in altered is HARD. Not many dogs compete, so it is actually very hard to get just one point. Extremely rare to get a major for that matter. I found that the Aussie community really tries hard to pull the numbers when in need. As I got more immersed in the altered classes, something really awesome happened. People pulled it together to get dogs points and even majors. There were several shows we made that were 3 point majors! Shocking. Everyone competing in altered was over the moon to finally get points that matter. This is when "It takes a village" really hits home. Bryce got points on Tonka as well as a reserve on Critter when I was too pregnant too run around the ring (I had my second son a month after that show.)
Bryce and Tonka after a 5 point major win.
That’s not a food baby.... that is me 8 months pregnant with our second son!
I took a little time off to get the hang of taking care of my two boys and once I was able to show again my, I did. I was determined to finish Tonka. He ended up winning a few shows and finally finished. Better yet, he got a Best Of Breed the same day he finished his title! WOW, I was sure honored. So happy, I could cry!
I went online weeks later to see that ACH next to Tonka's registered name. I didnt't see it. What? Should be showing up by now along with his fancy pretty certificate from ASCA that should be arriving in the mail any minute. Wait, 14 points???.....
I goofed up.... I miscounted points. I was soooo embarrassed. I already posted all over Facebook that Tonka finally earned his Altered Champion title. I took points from a BOB win, not knowing I wasn't finished. Oh My God. So, I contacted the owners of the dogs Tonka beat that day and explained and apologized. Many of those people said "Oh, I've done that before. It happens." Thankful that everyone was so understanding.
So, Tonka and I started hunting for that final point.. Here we go again...
We won our REAL last point at a wonderful line up of Altered dogs and bitches. Tonka got Winners Dog and Best of Winners. He ended up taking home a 3 point major, which was a huge honor and a great way to officially finsih it off! Better yet, he won Best of Breed the second show that day. I did cry.. This whole journey has so many ups, downs, twists, tunrs, u-turns and crashes along the way. But, we finally did it and I got that official ASCA Altered Champion Certificate, too! FINALLY!
Best of Winners
Best of Breed
Officially official, my friend.
The crazy thing about it is Tonka actually boosted himself up to #21 dog in altered at the end of the year. Which meant, he was in the top 30. Which means, he is invited to ASCA Nationals 2019 in Bakersfield. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be at nationals with Tonka in Altered Conformation Finals. I'm still pinching myself that we made it this far. It's pretty amazing what hard work along with good people & dogs can accomplish. I'm so excited to make it to Bakersfield this week to show my heart out. So, wish me luck, and stay tuned.
Tonka! Tonka! Tonka! *cheer*
PS-- exhibitors reading this, I'm so excited to be there even though I'm only there for three days! Thank you everyone who has helped and mentored me along the way in the Dog Show World. An extra big special THANK YOU to Aunt Donna who believed in us every step of the way. You have been the best mentor and friend I could ever ask for. We love you!
Dog Shoe World. It's a weird world, but I dig the weird, the dogs and the people! Thank you!