Casper at 5 weeks

CASPER - A Grayt Spirit

He was whelped on July 3, 1985, one of two gray puppies in our "C" litter. His gray color brought to mind Colonel J.S. Mosby, the "Gray Ghost." But "Mosby" didn't fit in a "C" litter, so the Gray Ghost evolved into Casper, the friendly ghost. It didn't occur to us at the time that Casper, being a ghost, albeit a friendly one, would come back to haunt us.

Casper was one of our favorite puppies, always up for a game of chase the empty Clorox container, attack and subdue it, and bring it back to be tossed across the room again. After the litter had their ears cropped, he took a devilish delight in pouncing on the ears of the other puppies when they least expected it and then, with a grin on his face, watching them yelp. To protect the other puppies, Casper was banished to an exercise pen by himself. He thought this was just fine - a great privilege having his own private territory. And he almost drove his dam to distraction by refusing to roll over when she attempted to teach him to submit.

Casper at 8 weeks old

We tried to explain to the family that fell in love with Casper that he was not the right dog for them; that while he was loving, he also was extremely dominant. They absolutely had to have that puppy, so against our better judgment we let them take him home. We called the family often and were not surprised when our interpretation of what they were telling us indicated a young male puppy gaining the upper-hand. When he was four months old we begged them to return Casper. "No," they said, they "loved him."

All of a sudden, when Casper was eight months old, he came back. We asked the family to explain to us just what to expect from Casper now that we had him back home. The first thing his former owner told us was that "he had a mind of his own." Our response was that we expected a Bouvier to have a mind of his own, so would they please tell us exactly what the problem was.

"Well," she replied, "he mauled me." She relayed a story of trying to get Casper to come back home from the nearby lake when he didn't want to come and stated that he had bitten her 40 times! She said he bit her ten times on one leg, ten times on the other, ten times on her back and ten times on her arms.

I am sure we stared at her in absolute amazement because she looked remarkably healed for a woman who had recently been seriously attacked by an 80-pound dog and bitten 40 times. I was rapidly adjusting my mind to the idea of having the dog humanely destroyed when she continued her story.

Do you know what the strangest thing about the attack was?" she asked, and then continued with the exclamation, "I didn't even have a single bruise on me!" She went on to tell us that the dog was used to running loose, and that their neighborhood association had complained because he had been "protecting" the frequently rented vacation house next door from all the "strangers." They insisted that Casper's behavior was a little strange because instead of chasing cars he would plant himself in front of cars and stop them.

And so, Casper returned to haunt us.

I now found myself trying to leash break an 80-pound puppy with a neck like an oak tree. Casper, wearing a large link choke chain collar, would gleefully bound away until he abruptly hit the end of the leash, flip on his back, and come up grinning - just as he had done when he was a puppy and wanted me to throw the empty Clorox container once again. I would come home exhausted, feeling like I had been through the wringer of an old-time washtub, and Casper would have just had a grand time training me how to hold the leash so as to flip him on his back, just the way he liked it.

With the dog finally semi leash-broken, David decided to take him to an AHBA herding instinct test. To David's shock and dismay, the tester decided to test the Bouvier on ducks instead of sheep, informing David that ducks more closely approximated the way cattle move than do sheep. David began to consider just how to cook the ducks he probably was about to purchase. Once Casper and David were in the enclosure, the tester briefly instructed David and then told him to let the dog off leash. Casper trotted over to the ducks, as if he had been doing so all his life, put his nose to the ground, and began gently nudging them along.

Following his HIC title, Casper traveled to Florida to attend a private Schutzhund training seminar. As a young brat in search of amusement, he excelled at all three aspects of the training - obedience, tracking and bite work. Later, at a police dog training seminar, just after completing his AKC championship and still show groomed, he confounded the Dutch trainers. Their amused pronouncements as they pulled on their light, puppy sleeves that a "pretty dog" would not bite proved false, whereupon they donned their full suits for serious work with the silver-gray Bouvier.

Grinning all the way, Casper followed his conformation championship title with his Companion Dog title in three trials. He was the favorite in obedience classes as he invented new ways to do the open obedience exercises - like going over the broad jump, running across the practice ring to grab another dog's dumbbell, jumping over the other dog's high jump, then running back to David and presenting him with the dumbbell in a perfect front position.

The trickster in Casper delights in watching unsuspecting folks walking by his crate jump out of their skin as he suddenly explodes into his ferocious mean-dog act. This is the same dog in whose yard, when alerted by the sounds of angry birds, I found a baby bird on the ground, a little wet from being gently licked but otherwise unharmed. When he Finds them, the gray dog likes to pick up turtles and carry them while he walks, to be released unharmed when the walk is over. In the absence of any wildlife, he picks up whichever rock you kick for him and carries it proudly back to his yard.

Casper at 10 years old

By 1992, at age seven, Casper had been retired for quite awhile when an opportunity arose for him to go and have some fun. An agility training center near us was hosting try-outs for the television show "That's My Dog." We had never watched the program and all we knew was that this would be an opportunity for Casper to spend a lovely sunny day outdoors playing on agility equipment.

We went to the audition, enjoyed the day, laughed at Casper's antics when he took down the tire jump instead of jumping through it (someone had left a box of dog biscuits on top of the jump), and generally had a blast watching Casper clown around. To say that we were surprised two weeks later to receive a phone call inviting us to appear on the show is an understatement. We could only suppose that Casper was being invited as comic relief. Maybe he should  have been named "Court Jester" instead of Casper.

It was definitely time to watch the "That's My Dog" television show and find out what we had committed ourselves to. While acting silly wasn't my, or David's, forte, it definitely was a role that would fit Casper to a T. Amazingly enough, even though we were Competing against a well-trained Golden Retriever, Casper won! OF course he competed on his own terms and celebrated his win by trotting off to join the audience instead of waiting to have the gold medal placed around his neck.

As a result of his performance on "That's My Dog," and the accumulation of his many other experiences, in 1995, at ten years old, Ch Daelgardes Casper CD, HIC was awarded the American Bouvier des Flandres Club's Versatile Bouvier Excellent award.

All in all, as his spirit continues to glow in his eleventh year, I would have to say that this dog was named appropriately. Despite a partial possession by the devil, Casper is very much the friendly ghost, always grinning and ready for the next challenge. There are moments when we believe that this dog, who continues to beguile us with his irrepressible vitality and sense of humor, will surely always be here to haunt us. For the rest of our lives, we can look forward to being pleasantly revisited by those Casper memories about the Bouvier who was returned to us and for whom, for some unexplained reason, we were never able to find another home.

Published in the 1996 Hoflin Bouvier Des Flandres Annual 

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