Anyone who showed in AKC or UKC obedience around the Midwest during the last 20 years will remember Kay Lowe. She passed away Dec. 25, 2009, and the sport lost a great supporter and tireless worker, as well as a kind and gentle woman who was a friend to all.
Kay shared her life with a variety of breeds, including goldens, shelties, pomeranians, samoyeds, American eskimos, border collies, a labrador, a brittany, a greyhound, an Australian shepherd and others. Many she trained and showed in the obedience ring. Some just hung out at home. All were beloved pets.
Most of Kay’s dogs came from rescue groups or animal shelters. She adopted dogs that had been thrown away by other people. Many times, these dogs went on to excel in obedience. That ability to see a diamond in the rough and turn it into reality was one of the things I admired about her most.
I met Kay in the early 1990s, when I was showing my first sheltie. We soon began traveling to matches, trials and seminars together, which provided no end of funny stories. Traveling with Kay was always an adventure.
Kay had absolutely no sense of direction and she freely admitted it. Of course, I had to learn that the hard way. The first time we traveled together, we were going to the UKC trials at Fort Dodge. I drove to her house and we loaded her van. When we were ready to leave, she told me I could drive. I soon found out why.
I had a pretty good idea of how to get to Fort Dodge from Springville, about a 3 hour trip, but Kay started giving directions (rather vague ones, but who was I to argue). An hour later, I realized we were still in Linn County. That’s when I got out a map and started ignoring her suggestions to “Turn here” and “Why don’t we see where this road goes?”
After that initial learning experience, we enjoyed many years of traveling together. I always drove, no matter whose vehicle we took. And I always plotted the route ahead of time. Our trips took us across Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota. Yeah, we got lost a few times but we always ended up in the right place eventually.
Kay was not into packing light. She brought everything you might need for a show weekend and more. We joked endlessly about her “subsidiary bags.” I teased her about taking so much stuff but if I ever needed any obscure item during the weekend she always had it.
Kay had one sheltie, Dreamer, who bore a striking resemblance to my Jess. He was a shaded sable with the same blazed face as Jess. He was a very pretty dog to look at. At one show, Kay was showing multiple dogs and asked me to take Dreamer in for Novice sits and downs. Of course I said yes. Dreamer reminded me so much of Jess. What could go wrong? We got through the sit just fine. When the judge told us to down our dogs, Dreamer looked at me with that beautiful, friendly, intelligent face and totally refused to lie down. I stood there, sweating buckets, giving every down command I could think of while the rest of the class waited, the judge stood there impatiently and Dreamer gazed at me and swished his tail and totally ignored me. It was a classic example of “IT’S NOT MY DOG!”
Kay was plagued with knee problems that reduced her mobility but never limited her enthusiasm for training, showing and teaching classes. She was a wonderful instructor and gave many newcomers to the sport an introduction to gentle, humane training methods. She taught for ICDOC, CRKA and 4RK9s. Kay used food liberally in her training and you could always count on her to have cheese to share. Her favorite line was “I suppose you want a piece that hasn’t been in my mouth.” She was one of the kindest, most patient trainers I have ever met.
I was so lucky to call her my friend. She was willing to help with whatever training problem you might be having and she would never give up on a dog or say it can't be done. When Connor and I were struggling with his jumping issues in Open, she offered constant encouragement and support.
Kay had a great sense of humor. On days when her dogs did not perform well in the ring, she would ask me, very seriously, “Is your van unlocked?” If I had a dollar for every time she threatened to put one of her dogs in my van, I would be rich. She also threatened routinely to put her misbehaving dogs on the raffle at a trial if one was offered.
Kay’s husband Kenny was a saint. Back in the good old days, Kenny drove Kay to all the local dog events. You could always see him carrying crates, pottying dogs and going to get whatever Kay needed. We were all so jealous and wanted our own “Kenny.”
I will miss Kay’s smile, her off-beat sense of humor and above all, her friendship.