Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some things never change

There should be pictures with this, I just can't bring myself to take them. Probably because I am laughing so hard tears are streaming and I am shaking my head and rolling my eyes and wondering "How can something so simple go so wrong!"

Finding the perfect dumbbell. It's the bane of every advanced obedience trainer. No wonder some people never train beyond Novice. It has nothing to do with teaching a retrieve. It's because they can't find the perfect dumbbell. Or maybe it's just me and my pointy-nosed dogs.

I am the Queen Of Dumbbells (note I did not say Dumbbell Queen. I think that would be something different). I have bought more dumbbells in 30 years of obedience training than you can imagine. Thank God for the garage sale table at the ICDOC trial every spring because I have sold more dumbbells than you can imagine, too. I should probably have a Web site: The fact that I've managed to re-sell nearly 100% of my mistakes just confirms there are other people out there just like me who are always looking for a new (better?) dumbbell. Ha. So there.

How hard is it, really, to buy a dumbbell? Just go to J and J Dog Supplies or Max200 and order one already, for heaven's sake. They even have those crazy pink and green things at PetCo and PetsMart. Hell, the local feed store even has wooden dumbbells. I can't imagine there's much market for them in Iowa County but they carry them, nonetheless.

But we all know it's not that easy. It has to be the perfect fit. Perfect end size. Perfect bit diameter. Perfect bit width. The ideal measurements that will allow for clean and easy pick-ups with no fumbling or mouthing. Then there's the wood vs. plastic debate. Forget actually TRAINING the retrieve, finding the perfect dumbbell takes a ridiculous amount of time.

I honestly do not know how many dumbbells I have bought over the years. Granted, I've always had dogs with long, pointy muzzles and that makes it a little harder to get one that fits just right. Stock size dumbbells seem to be made for dogs with short, wide muzzles. Great if you have a golden or a rottweiler. Not so great if you have a sheltie or a terv. Not a problem, J&J is happy to make custom sizes. The problem is that what looks good on paper may not look so great four weeks later when the UPS man delivers the much anticipated package.

Somewhere along the line during Jamie's career, I ordered a custom-made dumbbell from a man named Joe Feist. Joe lives in Ohio and he used to make (I don't think he makes them any more) beautiful scent articles that were all the rage and were of such heirloom quality they were probably accounted for in trainers' wills and handed down from generation to generation. But he also made dumbbells, too, and he'd made the one Connor used throughout his OTCh. quest and afterward. So of course Jamie had to have one, too.

Well, Jamie's didn't really fit. The measurements were right but when it arrived, the proportions seemed all wrong. I put it in a drawer, got a custom-sized Invince-A-Bell from J&J and that was that.

Fast forward about seven years. Phoenix had learned to retrieve using a battered, gnawed old Invince-A-Bell and it was time to get him a "real" dumbbell for the Graduate Novice ring. I stumbled across Jamie's still brand new Joe Feist dumbbell and by some alignment of the planets, IT WAS A PERFECT FIT!

Hallelujah! I was freed from the curse of pursuing the perfect dumbbell. No more obsessing over 1/8" measurements and fussing about bit diameter and were the ends too big and was the bit too wide and OMG the future of my dog's entire obedience career is linked directly to whether or not his dumbbell is absolutely perfect.

We trained with that new/old dumbbell for about two weeks. Phoenix loved it. It was such a good fit. I was ecstatic. This was so simple. Surely we would breeze through Open. The gods were smiling on us. The planets were aligned. Life was good.

The dumbbell broke this morning.

I threw it in the house, on carpet, while doing some quick training before going to work. Phoenix retrieved it and as he fronted, I could see something was not right. I took it from him and one end, which had been dangling by a thread of plastic, fell off in my hand.


Oh, the agony of having to start all over again!

Since we're entered in Grad Novice at a trial in 3 weeks, I quickly ordered a stock size dumbbell from Max200 this morning. In the meantime, Phoenix can train with Jamie's dumbbell, which is a touch too small but he'll just have to deal. If the Max200 dumbbell doesn't work, I'll call up J&J and put them to work making us an Invince-A-Bell. We're not trialing through July and August so there will be plenty of time to tweak measurements.

I may single-handedly bring this country out of its recession by buying dumbbells. Don't laugh. You just think I'm joking.


  1. YEAH!!!! The recession is over!!! FYI - I have Robin's dumbbell... it would probably fit!

  2. Hum.....apparently the Invince-A-Bell...isn't so invincible!! Kind of reminds me of the bed you bought Jamie that was suppose to be indestructible?? Seems to be a trend with those Belgian dogs. You're probably worse than Meme is with TENTS!!! LOL

  3. Maybe you could just SPOONS of various sizes/textures to work on that retrieve. Sorry Phoenix, but I can see it coming!!!

  4. OOOPS - I meant - maybe you could just use spoons.