2014 Year in Review

For 2014 – we had 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.  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. “
Some came true… some didn’t.
Hawke retired in late 2013, but did get one more honor, posthumously: Her THDX, Therapy Dog Excellent
Kestrel: (14) PCD, CD-CCH, URO3, CGCA, RLVX8 thru 11,ARCHMX5, RL1x9, RL2x9, RL3x7, RATN, RATO, THD, TDIA
Merlin: (11) RAE2, a trip to the AKC Rally Nationals, CGCA, RL1x9,RL 2×7-8, RL3x5, RLV, ARCHMX2, His UKC ALCH and URO3, and RATO
Great year, Merlin’s one jackpot from his CT-ATCH in CPE agility,
Goals for 2015 (I always set goals.. keeps me moving forward)
Kestrel: CDX-CCH and her CDSP Versatility title, PCDX, RLVX12-15, ARCHMX6, RATS
Lets see if we can make it happen… off to go train!

Merlin Does IT!!!

Merlin Earns his ARCHMX2, along with trial chair Chris Argento and Judge Rachel Brostrom

Merlin Earns his ARCHMX2, along with trial chair Chris Argento and Judge Rachel Brostrom

ARCHMX2 – His WCRL/APDT Rally Master title, Again! another 10 triple q’s level 1, 2, 3 with scores of 195 or higher.

What did I learn from this, perseverance and training pay off!!!  Heel like you’re going somewhere and the dog will join you.
Keep my face in my space, make him responsible for his part of the teamwork!

She’s Back and Thank you AKC

Last Sunday the 31st, Kestrel went back into the AKC open ring, 4 years to the weekend of when she last competed in open. Four years ago, she refused a jump, people ringside said Proof your Dog, I called my vet. When Kestrel refuses a jump, there’s a problem. Her issue turned out to be the long plaguing iliopsoas strain.

Kestrel went on to compete in venues where she could have a lower jump height as jumping seems to aggravate the issue. She does WCRL/APDT rally with a jump height mod, and CDSP Obedience with a jump height mod.

The AKC started the pre classes. For some, the advantage in novice and open is no group stays, the long sit and the long down. Kestrel views the advantage as the 1/2 height jump height. She can manage one 10″ jump without issue. And this past Sunday, Kestrel did so.

She was so happy, and so was I. She heeled, albeit with a bit of nose rubbing and dancing around, she figure 8’d, she dropped on recall like she slammed on the breaks. Sure she forgot that you aren’t supposed to autofinish on every return, she retrieved on the flat, and retrieved over that little high jump and leapt with joy over the broad jump. Happy dog, Happy handler!!! Great fun.

Thanks AKC for this class, that is so great, and tailor made for Kestrel!

NEROE is history, and history repeats!

So this past weekend was the NEROE (New England Rally Obedience Enthusiasts) WCRL/APDT Rally Trial at All Dog’s Gym.  In past years we have made a good showing.  In 2011, Hawke was the #3 vet overall earned and RLVX6, and Kestrel got her ARCHMX2.  In 2012, Kestrel was on the DL, Hawke earned an RLVX12 and Merlin an RL1x5. In 2013, Kestrel was #2 Vet and Hawke was #5, and Kestrel won the cash tournament.

This year, once again 2 Raptorz were top Vets, #4 Vet was Kestrel and Merlin was the #5 vet overall.  Kestrel finished her ARCHMX5 and an RLVX9, and Merlin earned his RLV and an RL1X9.  The tradition of sound working older dogs continues, and I feel very blessed that they can keep on going   Kestrel is 11, and baby Merlin is 8.  I guess when you are old enough to compete in vets you aren’t really baby Merlin.


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.

2012 Dog Year in Review

2012 was a pretty good year now that it is in the rearview mirror. Hawke, at 12 1/2 has partially retired. She started the year with a partial cruciate tear, but due to her willingness to rest and rehab – dodged the surgeon’s knife. She came back quickly to complete her RLVX10, RLVX11, RLVX12, RLVX13! in APDT rally. In September she finished her APDT Rally ARCHEX! In CDSP (Companion Dog Sports Program) Obedience she earned her Novice championship TWICE, CD-CCH, CD-CCH2. She took a little time off at year’s end to recover from some minor surgery.

Kestrel had some accomplishments in 2012 despite spending much of the year laid up with an iliopsoas injury, another cruciate tear, more iliopsoas, and a bout of year end lameness. She was pulled from more trials than those in which she competed. She had a great November, taking a perfect 210, taking High Combined in a CDSP trial. She got halfway to a CD-CCH this year, and earned a CDX-C leg. 2013 promises to be a better year for Kes.

Merlin earned his CD-C and his 7th RAE leg. He completed his CDX-C. He’s been plagued by an inability to wait – but that’s been a benefit in his agility career.

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.

Tall order…. but its fun , and the training is as much fun as the competing.


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……