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Lessons from a Parking Lot Puppy


July 8, 2012 by Julia

I created this blog with the idea that I would chronicle obedience training with my first Boxer, Xena. Sadly, she passed away before I had written my first post. We now have a new Boxer pup, Delta, and I plan to write about her training progress here. But first, I need to start at the beginning:

Lessons from a Parking Lot Puppy

Aaron and I bought Xena from a woman we arranged to meet in a parking lot. Later, as I learned about the Boxer breed – responsible breeding, health testing, conformation – I realized how uneducated we had been.

Aaron always came to Xena’s defense when I mentioned her spooky temperament or wry mouth. He didn’t understand that I was learning from her, not belittling her. At one point I commented on how far she had come and Aaron said “Pretty good for a parking lot puppy, huh?” Yes, in fact, “pretty good” is an understatement: on our way home from earning our first CDX leg this summer, Xena and I drove by that parking lot.

Xena taught us both so much – the things only your “first” dog can teach you.

Xena helped Aaron understand how dogs think and behave. He brought a lot of assumptions into our life with her and Xena broke them all down, often to Aaron’s dismay. When she was 6 months old and we were struggling with potty training, he thought she “should know better by now.” When she chewed his wallet, ID, and bank cards to pieces, she “shouldn’t get into things.” She helped him see what dogs understand and what you have to teach them. Most importantly, she taught him how much love a dog could bring. He would hold her close; breathe in her scent, and say “I never knew I could love a dog this much.”

Xena taught me about patience and partnership. She was an honest and willing worker. It often took me time to “hear” her, but she would tell me when my instructions or expectations were unclear. She was a sound-sensitive dog, which made obedience trials a challenge. At times I thought of her as soft or fragile, but I realized later it was the opposite – she was incredibly strong. She did her best to work with me even as she struggled with her fear.

This video of her first time in Graduate Novice has become my favorite:

… partway through, an extremely noisy heater turns on. In spite of it, Xena keeps working for me. You can’t see it on the video, but her little nub was wiggling so hard on that last finish! I walked out of that ring with such a huge grin on my face, people who weren’t watching thought we had qualified.

A friend once told me that we are given the dog we deserve. I am humbled that I deserved such a sweet and willing partner. My life is so much richer for having had her in it. When I was thinking about all that she had taught me, I originally said “without Xena, I wouldn’t have…” but then I realize I was approaching it all wrong. It’s not about “without” – it’s about our journey with each other.

With Xena…

I found a passion for canine competition and responsible breeding…

I met so many wonderful people who understand the relationship that we built together…

I developed a better relationship with my husband…

I learned more than I can ever capture in writing…

“Xena” Wynkyn’s More Princess Than CD GN RE CGC

March 10, 2003 – February 16, 2012


  1. Christen says:

    Thanks for sharing Julia. Having recently lost Bruce, I can relate to the special bond with that first boxer who teaches so much about the breed. The journey Aaron took learning and loving Xena are so similar to what Seth experienced. ~ Christen

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