Monday, August 31, 2009


OTCh., U-OTCh. Sunazie’s Black Diamond, UDX5, MX, MXJ

Aug. 26, 1994 - Aug. 31, 2009

I said good-bye to Connor this morning.

Honestly, I didn't think he would leave me this soon but he had a different idea. Figures. He always did think he was in charge. I was the luckiest person in the world to share 15 years with him. If you knew Connor in his glory days, please send me a memory. You can post it in the comments or e-mail me direct at

Connor was an accident. I had no intention of getting a puppy in the fall of 1994. I was showing my first sheltie Jess, who was 5 years old at the time, and getting a puppy was the last thing on my mind. I didn't even want another dog. Then I went to an Iowa City Shetland Sheepdog Club meeting and there he was: an adorable, obnoxious, HUGE, tri-color sheltie puppy, climbing out of the x-pen, stealing things out of purses and generally being a nuisance. I remember his breeder saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that one.” Connor came to live with me two weeks later.

Connor was the first dog I actually taught to heel with attention (this was during the golden era of Terri Arnold’s focused attention camps) but I can’t take much credit for it. He just plain loved to heel. When we trained, I often took breaks from working other exercises to do “recreational” heeling. I didn’t actually learn how to TEACH a dog to heel until Jamie and Phoenix came on the scene. And some days that was questionable.

Connor had a lot of "help" in training. That silly cat was always right in the middle of everything.

Connor taught me to listen to everyone’s advice but make up my own mind about things. Early in his obedience career I took a lesson from a very accomplished trainer. She told me Connor would never amount to anything because he paced instead of trotting. She was right. He did pace. He paced his way to his OTCh. with multiple perfect 40-point heeling scores, High In Trials, High Combineds and two trips to the AKC National Obedience Invitational.

I wish I'd counted all the run-offs we were in over the years. Connor loved them (more heeling!) and his enthusiasm eliminated any nerves I might have. We won more run-offs than we lost because for him, it was another chance to go back in the ring and do something he loved. He made me look good and covered for my awkward footwork more times than I can count.

He was my first Obedience Trial Champion and the journey to that title was worth every exciting, frustrating, soul-searching, disappointing, rewarding, intense, insane, beautiful step of the way. The day he finished, we left at 4 a.m. to drive to a trial in Illinois. While loading the van, I was thinking how crazy this was and how I could be asleep snug and warm in my bed instead of driving across two states in the cold and dark to show in an unheated fairground building against all those "good dogs from Chicago.” Then I saw a shooting star blaze across the sky and automatically made the wish I’d been wishing for the last year: “Connor’s OTCh.” Seven hours later he won a huge Utility class for 26 points, exactly one more point than we needed to finish.

He was my first agility dog, too, although he spent most of his agility career trying to figure out how to get back into heel position. I tracked with him a little and he enjoyed it immensely because it involved food. He was so pleased to find each bit of hot dog on the track. He would eat it, then spin around and pop into a front in hopes of getting another cookie.

Phoenix, Connor and Jamie, Oct. 2008

Connor was a big boy and we called him an “estate sheltie” or a “street sheltie.” He measured 18” at the withers and stewards sometimes had a hard time deciding what breed he was. At one trial, a steward came out to my group of handlers as we waited on the Long Sit and said anxiously, “Who has the border collie? The judge wants you come back right now.” We all looked at each other. There were no border collies in our group. “What’s it doing?” I asked. “Running back and forth across the ring, barking. No one can catch him,” the steward said. Yep, that was Connor.

He was all Sheltie: bossy, opinionated, impatient and all about the food. He barked occasionally in the obedience ring, frequently in the agility ring and ALL THE TIME around the house. He hated Jamie when I brought him home in the fall of ‘99. Eventually they became buddies although I think he was always waiting for me to send Jamie back. Strangely enough, he totally accepted and actually liked Phoenix when he arrived eight years later. Connor could walk up to Phoenix and take a bone away from him, something that probably would get any other dog killed on the spot.

He was an enthusiastic companion and soul mate, always ready to do whatever I asked. His vibrant energy made me very glad to be his partner both in and out of the ring. It's hard to confine his spirit to simple words. He will always be a part of my heart.

This picture is the very essence of Connor: ears up, eyes bright, smiling.

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” Cheryl Zuccaro

(Thanks, Barb B., I borrowed this from your post to Catherine when she lost Tessa. It is so perfect.)


  1. I'm sorry to hear that Connor has gone. The quote above is really great. I hope I have as many memories and as much healthy time with Jazz as you and Connor had.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear he was gone - I feel like I knew him reading what you just wrote here. You were blessed to have him.

  3. I am so sorry to read this. He sounds like a very special soul and when you see that next shooting star, you will know who it is. Take good care.

  4. I'm sorry for your loss. Connor was such a great and precious gift. What wonderful memories you have of his life with you.

  5. I am so sorry. Your heart must be breaking. I hope that your sorrow eases so you can remember the good times

  6. Melinda, just recently became a follower of this blog and am devastated to read you lost Connor. While I didn't know him in his glory days, I feel fortunate to have met him when you and Jamie were campaigning for that OTCH. I remember how bravely he battled and defeated cancer. What a dog. My deepest condolences.
    -Siouxsan Eisen
    Kearney, MO

  7. SO sorry for your loss. I have been there all too recently. Remember all the good times-it looks like there were many!