When Sarah met Tombo, she was a quiet girl of 11, and he a shy, lanky puppy of just 8 weeks. Now, one year on, the pair glow with confidence and mutual adoration, as Sarah has, single-handedly, trained her fluffy white knight to an advanced level of performance obedience.
Ask any dog trainer, and they will tell you Maremmas are not made for obedience training. Or any training, for that matter. They’re just big, hairy dogs who bark a lot and flop about the sheep paddock… or the living room, as the case may be.
They’ll also tell you any dog needs to be trained by an adult.
And they’re wrong on both counts!
Twice his petite owner’s size and with a voice and set of teeth which could stop a rhino in it’s tracks… it is nothing but a joy to watch Tombo as he heels politely beside his girl, negotiating agility obstacles with quiet aplomb or sitting, dropping or standing at a single softly spoken word.
His stays leave other dogs for dead – or should that be the other way around? If Sarah tells him to stand, sit or drop on that spot, he will do so ad infinitum, no matter how far away she walks, or the distractions their instructor attempts to create around him.
Admittedly, being closely akin to a placid polar bear – Tombo does nothing in a hurry. Those stands and drops are a long way up and a long way down, even at age one. But what he lacks in speed he makes up for in precision, and when they bring in a slow-motion obedience trial, Tombo will take out first place.
And at the end of training, when a proud Sarah envelopes her hero in a rewarding hug, and he beams at her angelically with all those pearly teeth… one really can believe that fairytales come true.