and I could not ask for more…..

My wonderful 10 year old labrador did me proud today. A little background (some which I have mentioned here before) she is my first dog, and a very good dog. Stubborn, willful, known to “drop anchor” if she thinks she shouldn’t be going somewhere. To this day, if my husband is on a trip, Hawke won’t let me walk out of the neighborhood, she will lie down and not move and if I make her get up, she just drops anchor in front of me until I agree to walk back home. Its always been her job to keep us safe, she sleeps on the landing every night so no one can get up the stairs who shouldn’t.

She’s an awesome therapy dog, great with kids, great with old people. She’s very empathetic, and takes on the pain and sorrow of others, and tries to soothe their hurt. She encourages kids to read, and happily wags while they fill her head with stories of Biscuit and Fancy Nancy and Sam I Am.

She has always been hard to train, she suffered the learning curve of me learning to be consistient. I had to learn to ask clearly and cleanly what I need the dog to do, and it took her years to train me to be more consistient. Her younger siblings Kestrel and Merlin had the advantage of Hawke’s training, and zoomed past her in agility, rally, and obedience titles.

We first met Hawke 10 years ago, the weekend after the 4th of July when we went to visit a litter of labs in Kingston NH. I wanted the middle of the pack dog, not too shy, not too pushy, and the little black lab with the star on her chest was just perfect. Two weeks later, we brought her home, and I started to learn how to train a dog.

Five years ago, at the Kennelworth KC show in West Springfield MA, Hawke brought home our first real title , RN, Rally Novice. But over and over she made it clear she wasn’t going to do any obedience where I can’t talk to her. Kestrel and Merlin went on to get higher rally titles, but Hawke drew the line at obedience. From the first days she was ours, I really wanted to put a CD on Hawke. Last year, we went back to the AKC rally ring and finished her RA, and I promised she didn’t have to do any more AKC rally. She enjoys APDT rally and has amazed me by finishing her ARCHX! and she still has more in her. But that ever elusive obedience….. We worked a lot this year, trying to find a way that I can make obedience, which is mostly silent, fun and upbeat enough for Hawke. Her stand is fine, her recall is good (ok she’s lazy and sees no reason to stop in front, just save time, go right to heel), her onlead heeling not so dreadful, but off lead…ugh. But we got that first leg in April, and we’ve worked and trained and today…. it all came true.

She qualified on Wednesday 7/7 and that left one more leg to go. Would today be the day? It was, she qualified, and was the high scoring labrador in the Novice classes. Hawke got her CD, her offlead heeling was actually better than her onlead heeling. During the long sit, she worried me, she shifted onto her hip and looked like she was going to start a friendly conversation with the golden next door. During the long down, she looked around, and air scented, and I closed my eyes and tried to count to 180 in my head Finally, back to your dogs! and then the judge said the best words ever “you’ve all qualified”. We did it!!! as we were leaving the ring, one of the stewards said, “did you breathe at all during that down, you looked like you had stopped breathing”, I had, I was too busy counting and trusting my Hawke would stay put.

like the words from a Sara Evans song “and I could not ask for more”……

Is Hawke retired? from AKC obedience, YES. We may try St Huberts… or not. She’ll still do APDT rally, and nosework her favorites of course, and just a little agility as long as she is sound. And of course, all her work at the libraries – so many children – so many books yet to hear.

I could not ask for more than this time together
Could not ask for more than this time with you
And Every prayer has been answered,
Every dream I’ve had’s come true
I’ve found all I’ve waited for,
And I could not ask for more.

(words by Diane Warren)

A very good year

Its been a good year for all my dogs.  Kestrel got some APDT rally titles (ARCH, ARCHX, RL1X, RL2X), and is back training for obedience and rally, and earned her TDI certification.  Apparently she has found her niche, as she is a much happier dog than she has been in a long time. Therapy dog work, especially at the assisted living and memory unit serves her well, she enjoys it and the whole place is smiling when she is done.

Hawke earned her RA, after many many tries, and  APDT ARCH, RL1X, RL2X, RLV titles as well, she enjoyed some agility, and some therapy dog work.  We learned that working with the elderly is not for her, she is as drained by this work as Kestrel is energized.  Hawke’s calling is as a reading dog, having kids read to her!!! It energizes her.

Merlin was the dog of the year in our household.  Called to agility by the need to not lose entry fees when Kestrel was injured, Merlin was a good sport and really gave agility a good try – and exceeded my expectations by finishing his CTL-1 CPE title, his AKC NAP, and NJP titles, and even earning legs in USDAA agility!  He completed his CD in November, a great accomplishment for the dog that was formerly terrified to sit still with strange dogs around.  In APDT rally, he earned his ARCH, ARCHX, RL1X, RL2X, RL3.

We(I) have lots in mind for next year, Open agility and Open obedience for Kes and Merl, and maybe a CD for Hawke. (or maybe not) They’ll continue to tell me what works for them, and I’ll continue to enter them as long as we are all having fun.  There is far enough stress in my life that I don’t need to PAY for more stress, and there are so many ways of having fun with a dog, that if the game isn’t fun, we can go play something else!