Gael, Robbie, Roz, Journey



Journey at 12 1/2


Rob and Roz, 8 and 12


So tough to get this pretty girl into the right light, but here is Gael at age 9.

Rozzie at 12

Best early Christmas present ever! 12-year-old Rozzie’s vet checkup went fine, and her labs came back looking great. She does have a wear a diaper at night now, but that is her only flaw.  I’m hoping for a lot more time with this precious girl. We’re going to play more in barnhunt next year, and this weekend we’ll start imprinting on odor for some scentwork.  I love my Roz to the moon and back. 

Roz at 12

It’s getting a bit late to post this, but I’ve tried to annually post fall photos of the dogs around the property with some pumpkins or other fall paraphernalia.   So here they are, with the warty pumpkins I grew this year.  Happy fall!


The best one.  Rozzie looking rather regal at 12. 


Gael and Robbie in the flower garden, now all stripped down for winter.  Gael is 9, Robbie 8.


Journey, almost 12 1/2, still hale and hearty.  


Reardon, no longer with us.  It’s a little eerie that his photo is the one blurry one, but I wanted to include him.   We will always remember him.  


Sometimes love wins.  I know this; I see it in my home everyday.  And so I don’t despair.

But other times even the greatest love can’t heal the ills of this world.

We both tried so hard, my good boy.


“Reardon”  Melchris Royal Bard, UD, TD, RN, FD (freestyle dog)
October 5, 2007 – November 11, 2019


A long time ago, one of my springers was chronically ill due to his liver’s portal shunt, which would at times send him into crisis.  He would become very weak, with vomiting and diarrhea, and his blood values would sky-rocket.  The vet would pump him full of antibiotics and prednizone, and he would slowly recover, only to have it happen again some months later.  Every time it happened, I would dread this would be the end, as he was very dear to me, and other than in these episodes, we had a wonderful life together.

Yeats 2


This particular time was the worst, and in the few hours while I waited for the vet appointment, I began to cry with him wrapped in my arms.  I wondered if he would come out of this episode.  It was not a good time in my life in other ways; I was living in a cheap rental home, just out of a marriage, and was feeling lost.  And so I found myself praying to a god I wasn’t sure existed at that time, a higher power, a universal goodness, a whatever that I hoped would hear me. I prayed for just a little more time with my Yeats, please give me just a little more time.  But his symptoms were bad, and so I cried all the way to the vet’s office.

But the next day, while I waited for the blood test results to tell us how to treat him, he woke up good as new, as if the episode never happened.  The vet called; she said his blood tests were fine. It’s as if the crash the day before had never happened.  I was completely mystified, but felt with great certainty that somehow, some way, my prayer had been answered.  I reasoned that perhaps the prayer was just humble enough, at a time when I was just destitute enough, to be granted. And I will say that mystical moment began a journey to believing in a personal God again.  Yeats went on to have several more wonderful years with me before he passed at age 9.

Now to present.  Robbie has struggled with health problems the past few years that has undermined our training and showing frequently.  You name it, he’s gotten it, poor guy.  Bacterial infection, valve disease, eye keratitis, and in March at his neuter/dental, testicular cancer and 6 bad teeth!  Not to mention chronic ear infections and bad lipfold dermatitis (fixed during the neuter).   Because many of these things started up and progressed for a while before discovery, we would train and show when he wasn’t feeling well, and I wouldn’t know until he fell apart while trialing.  I certainly think he developed a negative emotional response to shows, and I now feel much of what he “learned” in the past few years was through a veil of poor health.



I like to think we’re past all the yucky stuff now, and conditions still left are in maintenance.  But in August we hit another roadblock of poor health while I was training him for 3 sports: freestyle, Open obedience and tracking.  By the end of the month, I pretty much had to pull him from everything, signaled by his sudden refusal of the broad jump.

So we simply quit everything, and I spent some weeks depressed and disoriented, having lost the training relationship with my best buddy that I loved.  And he loved it too, when he felt good.    At some point, the “just a little more time” prayer occurred to me.  Could it work again?  Was it asking too much?  Was I fooling myself?  Didn’t God have better things to do?  And the more comic fears: if He granted it, would he expect me to become a missionary in the Amazon?

All I can say is, after saying the prayer quietly to myself, and after several weeks rest, all of sudden when I took him into the training building for some play-training so he wouldn’t feel left out, his tail wagged like it hadn’t in months, his movements were quick and alert, and he was enjoying every second.  On a whim, I put out the broad jump.  He sailed over it.

Hmmm.  So what had the intensive training in August caused?  Had I just been overtraining? (Possibly!)  Were the many treats making him nauseous? (Possibly, as his interest in treats would degrade during long sessions.)  Was his back hurting with several of the backing moves we were working on for freestyle? (Very likely, as I watched how he felt now after a break.)

So two months later, our plan is set: no more overtraining, no more piling on the sports.  No more freestyle, maybe ever, especially while I get over the resentment that the sport most likely hurt him.  Very careful with the treats, adding in some fruit and veg.  Obedience only, careful to build back up the jumping, and barnhunt, which he really loves.


And with that plan, maybe we can get just a little more time together.


Robbie and I at a happy time last November







Happy 9th birthday to Gael, my exuberant and beautiful Gordon Setter.  I can’t believe she is 9, and she certainly doesn’t act like it.  Gordons are known for aging well, and Gael exemplifies that youthfulness.   With the recent changes I’ve made in her training, I do have hopes we can get her Open and Utility titles before she retires to running in her pasture.  But we’re at a sticking point that I’m searching for answers.  What’s the problem?  Well, it’s not her retrieve:

Gael low res for Pictorial

And it’s not her drop on recall:

7_1_Pick Any 10!_WM1S1112web

It’s the standstay.  The plain old seemingly easy standstay.  With the new AKC rules, it comes up in the new Command Discrimination exercises, as well as at the very end of the Open exercises, where she waits in a standstay as I go outside the ring and get her leash.  Prior to this last standstay, Gael will have just completed an arousing exercise, the broad jump, and knows she is about to get her cookies.  Coming up with ways to calm her into a consistent standstay has been a bugaboo.  We do need this consistency for the utility signals, so it’s great that we’re addressing this issue now.  She is pretty consistent using a front foot platform and with a small PVC barrier, but take those away, and I still can get several steps.  One key I’ve learned from Deb Jones of the Fenzi Academy is to better mark her correct behavior and reward frequently at first before adding duration and distance.  It is a work in progress that will be getting tested in some fun matches coming up.

But for now, happy birthday to my Gael.  I hope for many more with her.

Journey retired at the end of 2018, still 27 points from her OTCH.  While  her heart was always there, her body just couldn’t jump or sit precisely any more.  She ended with a wonderful 2 days of passing Utility at the Whidbey Island Kennel Club shows, earning her Obedience Master 2 and placing both days.   I am forever grateful to this girl for the spectacular journey we shared together.

And so the obedience journey begins again, with Gael and Robbie currently training for Open.  We have some fun matches coming up and trials this summer.  Gael has progressed tremendously in her impulse control, thanks for wonderful online classes offered through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.  Taking classes through this Academy has pushed my training in very new, fascinating directions, but more on that later.  Robbie has struggled through some health issues that I think we’re finally on top of, and he is full of happiness and great attitude.  I’m looking forward to obedience trialing with them both, along with more freestyle for Robbie (and dabbling with Gael) and barnhunt for both of them.