So I was listening to Rent while working today and there is Seasons of Love, 525, 600 minutes, and got thinking about how much time I was lucky to have with Hawke. She was in my life for 5053 days, approximately 7,276,500 minutes… SEVEN MILLION MINUTES!!! sure makes a short not quite 14 years seem longer.


It is still never enough, and a note to myself to make the days and weeks and minutes I have with Kestrel and Merlin count.

Getting back to the mantra of be more dog.

Live in the present, don’t be full of what was or what will be…
stay with what is

The New Normal

A month and a few days since Hawke went on ahead, and we are working on the new normal. Kestrel and/or Merlin do not like to be left alone, perhaps concerned the other isn’t coming back? So for a while, both of them will attend all competitions – even if along for the ride. I’ve stopped trying to fill a 3rd food bowl at meal time. I’m getting used to not having Hawke riding shotgun. The Lab Club of Greater Boston specialty last week was bittersweet. Last year Hawke competed in Veteran Obedience, and I missed her there. But having so many dog buddies who “get it” offer their condolences was very therapeutic.

People ask, are you getting a puppy? are you looking for a puppy? what will your next puppy be?

Not yet is the answer.  I still have much work to do with Kestrel and Merlin.  Kestrel is somewhat limited in what she can do; after 2 knee surgeries she is not much of a jumper.  But she can do CDSP obedience and WCRL rally, and she just finished her AKC Prenovice title (and her RATN from barnhunt)  she can probably do PreOpen in AKC, and all the NADAC classes without jumping… and she’s a dog who needs to work, so I will also work on tuning up her Utility and show her in CDSP.

Merlin too has much to do… Finish his CPE CT-ATCH (just a few runs to go)..  Work on finishing his PreOpen and Open AKC titles, and his RATO (2 legs on it) and polish utility.  He’s 8, but he’s not too old for utility, as a dear friend finished her UD on her dogs at 10 years each!

Kestrel and Merlin both carry on the therapy dog work — Kestrel at Haverhill Crossings, going back to work mid July, and Merlin at the library… go figure, nothing better in his mind than the undivided attention of a small child reading to him!

There will be a puppy, but not now… we have to get to the new normal, and the remaining Raptorz have a lot to do!

I hope all with Hawke’s blessing.

How do you say good bye?? you don’t…

How do you say goodbye to the dog that changed your life?

I went from being afraid of dogs, even afraid of the puppies in puppy class, to owning 3 dogs, becoming a Vet Tech, competing in 3 venues of rally, 3 venues of obedience, 5 venues of agility, becoming an obedience (CDSP) and rally (UKC, WCRL/APDT) judge, and working in the veterinary field; all because of one very special black lab.

July 15, 2000, we drove to Kingston and picked up our pup, with her little white spot on her chest and the adventure began. We’ve been to classes, many, many training classes, learned the basics, and learned agility. Hawke hated obedience but graced me with a CD at the age of 10, and in CDSP went on to do that 10 times over (CD-CCH3, 30 Novice legs). She took us to the CPE agility nationals and took 5th place in Games 20” Specialist. She loved nosework, and passed her ORT. Nosework trials were hard for her as there was so often a slippery gym floor involved. She did enjoy showing in veteran’s conformation, too. I think she liked the applause.

She LOVED kids. One of her early socialization exercises was a Girl Scout cookout in our yard. She stole hot dogs from every inattentive child. A year later they cooked up some one pot meal in the driveway, she happily did the pre-wash on the mess kits. In her role as an AKC Canine Ambassador, she visited many Daisy and Brownie troops to help them with their pet activities. Always a big hit, for the kids, for Hawke.

Hawke LOVED being a therapy dog. We visited nursing homes, and schools, and assisted livings and her favorite; libraries! Hawke the Reading dog had listened at 6 different libraries, and spoken at the NH State Library Conference. She has 342 visits to her credit. I can’t even count the lives she touched.

Hawke was a philanthropist. Well if a dog can be such, she helped me give back to the community. Several Paws walks for the NHSPCA, and two years of On Course for Kids, to help kids at the Floating Hospital who had cancer, and their siblings. Check out one of her runs with her friend Jax on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpzsrIgd9D8 She also was my trainer for the Jimmy Fund walk for the Dana Farber. Hawke served to help the community.

Things she wouldn’t do? She never learned to retrieve; she’d pick up the object and huck it at me, or bring it to a judge.


She wouldn’t let me walk up the hill and out of the neighborhood if Mike wasn’t home. She wouldn’t pick up dead things. She’d bark at them, and in the case of chipmunks, dispatch them, but wouldn’t pick them up once dead. I learned this at our first Working Certificate. I knew just where the duck was from her barking, but she would not pick it up. She could be stubborn, and willful and preferred to work at her own pace, always.

She taught me so much. About dogs, about relationship, about how to go through this world. She even taught me about the best way to send a dog to the rainbow bridge to wait. I will miss her eternally, until we are reunited.

She changed me.. from a driven corporate type, on the way to total annihilation, so horrible to live with.. she taught me patience, and how to live in the moment, how to : Be. More. Dog .

So how do you say goodbye? You don’t, you say, Thank you!

Thank you for all you taught me. Thank you for all the time we shared. Thank you from everyone whose lives you touched. Thank you for all the good you showed to me.



342 Therapy Dog visits. 64 Titles in 3 venues of Rally, 2 venues of obedience and agility

World Cynosport Rally Limited/APDT Rally Top 20 Awards

#4 RLVX dog in 2010, #1 RLVX dog in 2011. ,#4 RLVX dog in 2012 ,#6 RLVX 2013, #18 Novice C dog CDSP 2013 AKA: “HawkerBlocker”, “the BIG dog”

2013 Dog year in Review

When summarizing 2012 I had set goals of

2013 plans:
Hawke RLVX14 or 15, CD-CCH3, lots more libraries! lots more walks
Kestrel: BN, some good Nov B runs, and finish that ARCHMX3..
Merlin: CDX, CD-CCH, CDX-CCH, close in on his CPE agility CT-ATCH, and finish that ARCHMX.
2013 was that and more!
Hawke completed her RLVX14 -18, CD-CCH3, and a UKC URO2.  She visited lots of libraries, and enjoys that a lot.  She likes to be the ride-along dog, and still competes in WCRally as a Vet and in CDSP obedience.  She dodged the cancer bullet in 2013 with a successful mast cell tumor removal.
Kestrel, finally a year of being mostly sound, as long as she doesn’t jump or slide on the basement floor, the chronic iliopsoas doesn’t bother her much. In 2013 she finished 18 titles, RLVX,2,3,4,5,6,7 RL1x7,8 RL2x7,8 RL3x5,6 ARCHMX3, 4 BN CDX-C RATI.  We didn’t even know about barn hunt when 2013 started!  She’s been volunteering at Haverhill Crossings, and was one of the therapy dogs to visit the Boston Marathon bombing memorial for support.  It was a great year for Kestrel.
And Merlin – he did finish that ARCHMX, and made progress on his CT-ATCH. He finished his level 1, 6, 7, and 8 and level 2, 5 and 6 in WCRally, his UKC URO2, his AKC GN and RAE (on the same day) got his RATI and RATN, and is 16 q’s from his catch.  We struggle still with the CDX but that will come.  And he qualified for the 2014 AKC Rally National Championship.
For 2014 – we have some goals.
For Hawke, getting up to her RLVX20, and finishing her CD-CCH4.  Seeing some libraries and enjoying her senior years.
For Kestrel, finish off that ARCHMX5, get up to an RLVX10, RATN, CD-CCH, CDX-CCH work towards it, and train for utility.  She’ll keep visiting Haverhill Crossings as well.
And for Merlin – hopefully getting into the AKC Rally National (they only take 100 RAE dogs), ARCHMX2, that elusive CDX, and U-CDX, URO3, finish his RATO, finish that CT-ATCH, and maybe do some AKC agility.
Ambitious, perhaps but having goals keeps me training, and they love training, for the 3 Raptor labs, its playing and training that is fun, putting up with the trialing, heh, they do that for me.


So, I’m taking an online class on VIN on the topic of Mindfulness Meditation. The idea is that if you can be mindful, and in the minute, your mind is clear to make better decisions. For DVM’s the concept is better diagnosis by being present, and totally attentive and aware with a patient. We spend so much time doing partial attention to many tasks, that we don’t bring our mental best to the game.

I was thinking about this, and part of the reason I enjoy training my dogs so much is its the dog and me, and once i get focused we are having fun together, giving each other 100%. I’d like to do this in more areas of my life, like my work, or my competition.  A lot of my work, I have to really pay attention and make sure everything is edited perfectly… me I tend to get snowblind and not see the errors.

One assignment for this week was to try doing a simple task, like eating or taking a shower in a mindful way. Shower! I can do that, its not complicated, I can totally focus. Ha!

Yes, feel the water, its nice and hot, and I wonder how that afghan would look knit up in the Kuryeon in the basement, oh a thought, supposed to ignore it, don’t judge it… back to the shower, or maybe I could start that scarf while I watch a video, oops…. back to mindful.. and I have to remember to send that kid an email, and I wonder if the MSPCA would like the dog’s old collars they’re still in good shape, oops.. mindfulness. This mindfulness will be so good for me, like when we’re in the ring, and I really should work articles today with Merlin, and I have to remember to pack the rally signs, oops…..  I feel like Dug the dog in Up!, thinking along then “Squirrel!”…

This mindfulness is going to take some practice……

another retirement

Hawke has been retired, and un-retired so many times I can’t keep track… but this weekend she did me proud and now is retired from one thing.

She only does APDT Veterans anymore, no regular rally, no UKC, no AKC.. No obedience but CDSP which she loves

This weekend Hawke earned her ARCHEX – APDT rally champion extraordinaire… 10 double q’s , qualifying in both level 2 and 3 at the same trial, score over 195, 10 times.. this has taken 2 1/2 years to achieve.  Mostly because the 4 minute limit , for Hawke, in level 3 is hard.  As is drop on recall, signals, and backing up be it at my side or in front of me.  But on September 16th, she did it, finished her ARCHEX with a 204 and a 204, good scores, not squeekers!!

I am so proud, so pleased, as I said when she got her CD, “I could not ask for more” –   She’s never been an obedience dog, she’s like Sinatra “I did it my way”, all the time, but what a good dog, what a willing to please dog she has been.  “Ok, my mom likes this rally game, and really , the treats are pretty good”, ” i guess i could do it for mom”

Well thank you Hawke, Miss LadyHawke, Burri’s LOFTY LadyHawke, URO-1, ARCHEX ,CD,BN, RE,THD, CD-CCH,TDIRVA,RLVX12,RL1X4,RL2X5,RL3X,CSL-1,CSL3-F CGC,CC

She is a pretty amazing labrador…. the titles don’t tell it all, ask any kid who has read to her… ask any of her repeat readers….

or just ask me, I can go on and on and on about her all day… My Hawker Blocker..


Rally is us.

This will be interesting.  APDT Rally is going to USDAA.   World Cynosport APDT Rally for a transitional name.  An interesting mix, as USDAA has the highest level of agility competition, and some competitors who to my mind take it all waaaaay too seriously.  APDT rally is in my opinion the higher form of rally, not that its more competitive, but there are longer behavior chains involved, and trickier tasks to accomplish. Anyone who knows me, knows its my favorite flavor of Rally Obedience.

There are concerns already in cyberland, that USDAA is uber competitive and they’ll ruin APDT Rally.  “THEY” can’t ruin “it” because “It” is US!.  Much of what APDT rally is, is the camaraderie and spirit of the rally competitors.  Some folks worry that Rally will be competitive.  For some of us it is already.  I love having the top Veteran in the country, I’m proud of her.  Am I disappointed when we don’t succeed? only if it was my fault, that I missed a sign, or I cued her wrong.  Its never her fault.  Even when she stops to bow and stretch before sitting.  That’s who she is.

Competition is not a bad word – if we didn’t care at all about competition, we wouldn’t enter dog shows and try and earn titles. Period.

But there is  a line, where it becomes all about competition, being the best, and being self involved in success rather than cheering everyone along that can be worrisome, and that might be the worry behind this announcement.  There is the ubercompetition perception of USDAA.  I don’t believe that the APDT rally world will become that way.  WE are rally, we aren’t going to wake up half way through the transition and stop being the happy bunch of rally competitors we’ve always been.  We’re still going to encourage the 1A folks, and cheer for the juniors and pre-juniors and have a heart smile watching those veterans.

And of course we’re competitive – just watch the fuss when the National Rankings come out, we love to see our friends in the rankings, we cheer on those top teams in New England, we good naturedly poke ourselves about being one spot higher or lower than a friend.  We just don’t take it all that seriously.  We keep dog competition in perspective.  Its fun we have with our canine best friends, with our human friends, and their canine best friends.

It’s a dog show, its not going to lower the price of gas or bring world peace.

I for one am glad APDT rally has a new home.  It will be the best home that we can make for it.  There is no “they” there is only us.

and WE are Rally!


Heeling whilst Healing

Waiting on the laser, should be here Tuesday.  Found our van ramp so no more jumping in and out of the Raptor Van.  Took Kestrel heeling Wednesday afternoon.  10 Minutes, she can walk for 10-12 min a day so we heeled instead.  She LOVED it, felt like she was back in the ring, like she was WORKING!!!

working: something for a busy dog to do besides pulling books off the bookshelves and destroying them.

Kestrel feels like she doesn’t get out much (It is true, she hasn’t) so she goes a little nuts when getting out, making chimpanzee noises, grunting and squeaking and greeting everyone.

This week, she got to heel, she went to school to be a “victim” for the first year students to demonstrate restraint for cephalic, jugular , or lateral saphenous venipuncture (no veins were actually punctured) ..  Then on Sunday Kestrel went to a rally trial, heeling is walking and Vets and Level 1 APDT have no jumps, so she did 3 classes, getting safely in and out of the van on her ramp.   Should I trial a dog with an injury???, ordinarily  NOT, but the tasks she had to complete were no more difficult than a PRECISE walk in the park, so we went for it.

No physical harm done, and for miss little “PICK ME’, “PICK ME”, this was an opportunity to be back in the old groove, no physical demands but GREAT mental satisfaction for dog and handler…..

I post with great trepidation, that others might think trialing is OK while healing.  Heeling while healing is often not ok, but if the tasks being asked are no harder than the prescribed activity, why not throw in a bit of a venue be it match, show and go, or venues where there can be modifications for disability… even a small training session WITHIN the bounds of prescribed treatment, can do a lot for a performance dog who is so used to trialing and training.

Keep them safe, but find stimulation for the rest of the dog.


Tough to spell, tough to heal!

It’s a muscle that has it’s origin in the spine and it’s insertion in the Ilium, the hip bone.  It basically attaches a dog’s spine to the femur.  In humans if you hurt this, its called a groin pull.  It is deep, under many other layers of muscle, and hard to heal.

Kestrel had her first iliospoas injury in Aug/Sep 2011.  She was coming back from a TPLO, doing lots of training, working up through progressive jump heights, entered an obedience trial at American K9 Country and refused the jump.   Many times, folks would say, go home and train your dog. proof your dog.  This dog was trained, proofed, loves to work , loves to jump – refusal to jump is an issue.  A physical issue in her.

We saw a veterinary specialist, diagnosis, iliopsoas strain.. we did PT, progressive training.  Went to a match in Jan 2012, she did her 2 jumps and a broad jump for open and couldn’t get back in the van…. could not jump….  sigh… lots of rest , PT, a jan/feb/march of falling down the stairs and getting reinjured… we carpeted the stairs, that helped

In Kestrel, it is subtle, she has a hitch in her gitalong when she gets up from a rest….  after PT sometimes she is 3 legged, quantity 8 of slow 4 inch jumps  in the backyard and she’s lame…. xrays, vet, vet, pt, back to the specialist, ILIOPSOAS… sigh..

talking to a PT, it takes 442 days to heal a human muscle strain (and no I don’t know how they figured that out) and dogs are quicker.. but not 3 or 4 months of rehab.

So Kestrel is on a plan…  home laser treatments for inflammation, (yeah, no Rimadyl)  and then slow strengthening.  There is a great article in Clean Run about these injuries but not a detailed treatment plan.  I am hoping through our successes and mistakes to add to the body of knowledge about these injuries…

Thing 1: we went too fast last time, and she’s reinjured.   Broad jumps, with that collection and explosion are particularly hard on this injury, stairs, jumping in and out of cars, on and off the bed,,,, all bad…

Thing 2: trust your dog…… sometimes when they can’t perform, it is not a training issue, it is a physical issue.  I’m really glad I recognized that pretty soon but I feel bad for the first round, I got her back in the game too soon.

Thing 3: injuries are not often dramatic.  Sure, the 3 legged dog from a torn cruciate, its obvious.  But some subtle gait changes, some folks wouldn’t notice them, but I knew my dog is off.. watch for the hitch in a git along…..

I will keep you posted on how she does and what we do to get there


Year End Review 2011

This year had many accomplishments for the raptorz.

Hawke, at age 11 1/2 earned her BN Beginner Novice, THD AKC therapy dog, CD-C Companion Dog Sport CD, URO1 UKC rally level 1, and a level 3 strategy title from CPE agility,   She also earned her RLVX5-9 (5th through 9th Veterans Championship in APDT Rally, and an RL2X3 and 4 and an RL3X.  Hawke also passed her ORT on birch. She would like to work on more veteran titles in 2012, and do some obedience, maybe a UKC CD if it pays well enough, and a little agility and some more nosework.  She also wants to keep going to libraries as  Hawke the Reading Dog, her favorite job !  She earned her 250 visit recognition TDIRVA, but she wants to keep on listening!

Kestrel now 8 1/2 Earned her APDT Rally ARCHMX, and ARCHMX2, RLV, CD-C and her UKC URO2.  A few championship levels in APDT as well; RL1X 3, 4,5; RL2X4,5,6; and RL3X2,3,4  She did a lot of Rally this year, not bad for a dog that sat out a good portion of the year with a knee strain and an iliospoas strain.  She’s ready for Open Obedience in 2012 and will hopefully get CDX titles in multiple venues in 2012.  Kestrel says LET’S WORK!!!!

Baby Merlin, hardly the baby, now 6, earned his APDT ARCHEX, his CPE CTL-2, level 2 agility title and level 3 for fun and strategy titles, his UKC URO1, and his WC! at the Lab Nationals.  He won the 2011 LRCGB Triple Crown.  He earned is RL1X3,4, RL2X3,4, and his RL3X3.  Merlin would like more agility and MORE DUCKS! in 2012 – so much as hunt tests are not my favorite thing, we’ll work on that.  It makes him so happy, I can handle a dirty duck or two.

It was a good year.  I cleaned up my handling a lot, I learned a lot more about training more effectively.  Little bits often instead of a lot all at once works well for all of us here.  I learned the value of videotaping training to see where things went well or not.  I got brave and entered a hunt test, all in all it was fun.  I got brave and became a judge in UKC rally, and CDSP obedience, that has turned out to be fun as well.  I took a great training class on Problem Solving with Pia Silvani, through Dogs of Course; I went to a Connie Cleveland seminar, I took another nosework seminar, these helped me meet my goal of learning more about dog training.

All in all 2011 was a good year – 2012 promises to be even better – a new beginning.