|Mr. Hot Shot himself|
Oken has been Klaus' understudy for 3 1/2 years now. He's a very sensitive and somewhat cautious boy, just like his Uncle Klaus was at his age. He seemed to just have reached his sexual maturity last year when his behavior began to change for the first time when the girls were in heat.
I've been holding Oken back. Or maybe it is more like holding my dear lead dog and loyal companion, Klaus, forward. He'll be nine years old in the fall. I've noticed signs of age creeping up on him. He appears a bit more stiff and hesitates to jump up on his dog house these days. Last winter, for the first time ever, I saw my once young and spry friend hold back and let his line slack. He didn't trudge through the deep snow and underlying slush and instead let Oken do the work during one of our mid winter runs. This was the only time it occurred during the winter but it was a noticeable and thought provoking shift.
The two boys, intact Oken and neutered Klaus, have been living together in relative harmony since Oken was a puppy. This is the longest I have been able to keep two males together and I knew there would come a day when I might have to consider separating them. Yesterday was that day. Nothing dramatic happened for the decision to have been made yesterday. It was just an accumulation of thoughts.
I need to continue to boost Oken's confidence as I did Klaus' at the same age and work with him alone. He needs to be able to search for his own answers to our challenging trail questions and not look to Klaus for clues.
Oken began agility class last night. He has been to obedience class but agility will be the ticket for his improved level of confidence before I begin to introduce him to new open country leader challenges this winter. I have always known that once I begin to do this and his confidence grows, combined with his new maturity level, the chances of a major conflict developing between he and Klaus would be great and I have been putting it off. I know this from experience. This happened to Klaus and Zulu when Klaus was Oken's age. I don't want to go into the kennel and find Oken with a death lock on Klaus' neck someday. Zulu came out of the situation unscathed but it could have been much worse. Yes, Oken and Klaus are very different dogs, Klaus having more of a nervous edge to him but I just won't risk it.
So my heart broke last night as I listened to Oken howl for his buddy Klaus who was spending the night in a kennel up near the house and out of Oken's sight. Today, to keep his mind busy, I put the puppies in with he and Journey. Klaus doesn't seem to care in the least that he no longer has a young studly kennel mate. As long as he knows where I am, life is good for Klaus.
Klaus is not retiring so I am not going to concern myself with this until it happens but just the thought that he is slowing down and has passed on all of the leader knowledge he can to Oken and Oken is now the "guy" means the end of an era for me and for Points Unknown kennel.