Monday, August 22, 2011

How important are you?

For the past few days I've been struggling with the death of friends. The first was Karen Kahler, fitness instructor extraordinare, beautiful, sunny, intelligent woman who was murdered by her estranged husband over Thanksgiving weekend 2009, along with her two daughters and her 91 year old Grandmother. Kraig Kahler's capital murder trial began last Monday, so the wound has been fresh.

Then this past weekend my long time friend Laura Hulke was killed by her husband, who then killed himself. Laura and I hadn't been in constant touch over the past few years, but I still considered her a close friend.

Such memories I have of Laura. We used to see each other all the time at various agility trials in the Kansas and Iowa area. She with Rocket, one of the first Top 20 agility Dobermans and me with Viva, Rocket's half sister. That was in the early 2000s and already seems so long ago. To me it was the exited anticipatory time of early agility days, when it was all fun and new. Occasionally we would share a hotel room, and I remember us each laying in our beds, giggling and whooping like 13 year olds over silly stories and our personal grades on handsome men (and ones who only thought they were handsome) in the Doberman world. The kind of laughter that leaves tears on your cheeks and an aching stomach. Laura had an incredible dry and deprecating sense of humor and her laugh was completely infectious. I'm just having a hard time thinking that she will no longer wander up to me at a show, give me a huge hug, and say, "So. What's goin' on." in that soft voice with its strong Minnesota accent.

Laura was like a lot of dog people. She adored her dogs, she was connected to her friends, and she helped where she could. I'm not sure anybody really knew how much she did until she was gone. Did you know she made me two fleece coats just for Viva and Cala and sent them to me for no other reason than because she wanted to? And she gave me an old copy of the William Sidney Schmitt Doberman book because she knew I loved the history of our breed. But beyond those personal kindnesses, Laura was very active in rescue in the Minnesota area, finding many dogs loving homes. She was Vice President of the United Doberman Club, and was helping get the UDC Focus (the club magazine) back on track after delays and mismanagement threatened to kill it all together.

Laura was like so many of us and some would say, a fairly ordinary dog person. But she was so important. And now, in the wake of this tragedy, everyone is scrambling. She had the Focus almost ready to go. Now it has come to me, and I am starting it over from scratch, because nobody can get to Laura's computer. Her own beloved dogs are being taken in by a wonderful agility family, the Hougs, who had shown Ava in breed and knew Laura well. The UDC is scrambling desperately to compensate for the hole she left. It's a small club. This is a huge blow.

So how important are you? I bet you are more important than you think. Laura certainly was. She touched hundreds of lives in and out of the dog world and she will be terribly missed.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Summer training

We are heading back into summer here in Missouri, which means high humidity and high temperatures. And this year, a massive invasion of periodic (13 year in this case) cicadas. I have thousands and thousands of them in my yard. Who knows, maybe hundreds of thousands. They coat every tree, reside on every branch, and are deafeningly loud. The dogs think they are candy.

All this coincides with my attempts to teach Prada to weave. At the beginning stages, I like to train weaves at least 5 times a week, preferably daily. And I have weaves right here at home. But they are mostly useless, covered in cicadas. So this morning I drove all the way across town, snapped all the weave wires on a set at the building, then trained her for about 3 minutes. Then took all the wires back off so the next person who might need the set wouldn't have to deal with it. And left. It took a lot longer to set up than to actually do the training; typical in agility. At least I have a building to go to!

I am aiming Prada for a debut in ASCA at the end of August. She's taking to agility like a duck to water and has a natural running contact (thank God!). She does far prefer rubber to non-rubber; I hope more clubs switch over soon. Our biggest challenge, as is common with Min Pins, is focus. In her case she's not quite as glued to the floor as Zipper is, but she IS very motion sensitive and thinks she is tougher than any dog out there. She does not want to fight with other dogs, but she does want to dash over to them, see who they are, and pose, all 9 pounds of her up on her teeny tiny tip toes, so they can see how superior she is. Problem is, she's gonna get hurt if she keeps it up. Her recall is coming very nicely, but I am hoping that once we really start more sequencing she will find that so self-rewarding she will quit looking around for other stuff to go see.

The DDGraphix store!