Friday, March 7, 2014

Jamie stories,Vol. 6: In the ring

This is the final chapter of the Jamie stories. I didn’t intentionally leave his obedience career until the last, there were just so many other things that came to mind when I thought about his life. Obedience was a big part of who Jamie was but it wasn’t the only part.

Cedar Rapids Kennel Association, Amana, IA, 2005

His Novice and Open careers were relatively unremarkable - placements here and there, solid work, the usual green-dog mistakes and problems. He had the misfortune to follow in Connor’s footsteps. Connor was my first OTCh. and he was some kind of Shetland obedience savant. Jamie did not work like Connor. There was a learning curve. At some point on that curve I realized I was working with The Most Patient Dog In The World. He was just patient. And sweet. And forgiving. And tolerant. What a gift.

Jamie’s Utility debut was so abysmal that I didn’t enter him again for nearly a year. When we went back in the ring, he finished his UD in three straight trials, including his final leg at the 2004 American Belgian Tervuren Club national specialty. I’d entered him in Open B that day, too, just for kicks, and he won the class. The score held for High In Trial and we came home with a new UD, his first UDX leg, an Open win, his first OTCh. points and a national specialty High In Trial.

2nd CD leg, 4th place, 2001 ABTC National Specialty, Kansas City, MO

When I look back on our OTCh. journey, it was full of all the usual stuff: delight, failure, joy, ecstatic wins, disappointing losses, soul searching, determination, strategy and that overwhelming wave of euphoria when the judge called our number for those final points. He won a run-off in Open with a 199+ to finish in June of 2005.

It would be incredibly arrogant to claim that Jamie had an impact on the world of obedience training, but in his own special way, he did. The best thing about his obedience career was that several people who are now friends and students told me that watching Jamie in the ring was what inspired them to do obedience with their own dogs. Reading friends’ comments in emails and on my Facebook page after his death made me realize he shared his gift of joy with others.

Back-to-back 199s in Open B and Utility B, 2005, Heart of Iowa Kennel Club, Marshalltown, IA

A friend wrote, “Jamie was the consummate picture of elegance and grace . . . I remember his heeling (did he always float, or did you teach him that?), his turn and send to the articles, and his swing finish; he was the first big dog I knew in AKC obedience, and he remains my yardstick.”

Another friend told me, “When I saw you in the ring, the two of you were always having so much fun together. I wanted to do that with my dog.”

Yet another friend texted, “I will always remember how you two danced . . .”

Years later, I think his greatest contribution was inspiring others to pick up a leash and explore a discipline that may seem very boring in comparison to the adrenaline rush that is integral to so many other dog sports.

Jamie was the ABTC’s #1 obedience dog in 2006 and was ranked in the top 10 for several years before and after that. We went to the NOI at Tampa, Fla., in 2006 and were invited again in 2007 but I decided not not to make the trek to Long Beach, Calif. He had two 200s from Open B. He has storage totes full of High In Trial and High Combined rosettes and a scrapbook full of titles in obedience, agility, tracking and rally.

When I look back on our show ring career, it’s not the ribbons I remember. It was his tail. He was always happy to go in the ring. Even if we had a bad run (my perception, clearly not his), he enjoyed it. At the 2006 NOI, we didn’t show well. Yet every single time I took him out of his crate to plow through the sea of people surrounding the rings, he wagged his tail and looked perfectly delighted to be a participant in a 12-hour obedience trial marathon.

He carried his sense of humor into the ring, as well. I will never forget the day he dropped behind me on the heeling pattern and when the judge called a halt, he poked me in the butt when I stopped. It was not accidental. His tail was wagging the whole time.

In spite of his physical size and stature, Jamie was a drama king. If he felt he’d been slighted, the world knew about it. He was also a firm believer in “pre-screaming” - making horrible blood curdling noises well in advance of anything he deemed unpleasant, like having his nails clipped. Other unpleasant things included being restrained at the vet’s office or being handled by anyone who was not “pre-approved.” I guess he thought if he was already screaming, maybe the anticipated horrible thing would not happen. This never really worked but that didn’t keep him from trying.

When Phoenix was just starting his obedience career, I entered him in Pre-Novice at my club’s trial. I also entered Jamie in Veterans Novice. The same person was judging both classes and elected to merge the group exercises. I asked my friend Tracy to take Jamie in for the stays and she said she’d be happy to. What could possibly go wrong with taking a retired OTCh. dog into the ring for in-sight stays?

High In Trial, 2004 ABTC National Specialty, Delavan, WI

Okay, back up a few years. Jamie and I and Tracy and her PWD Syd had spent a tense hour in another friend’s basement while several tornadoes tore up the area one spring evening. Jamie was notoriously storm phobic and he was not amused by the situation. Tracy had spent the time sharing her bag of hot dogs (doesn’t everyone grab their hot dogs when they’re running from a training building to a basement ahead of an approaching twister?) with Jamie and Syd. After that, Jamie held her in sort of a revered light. Tracy had achieved She Who Shares Her Cookies status.

Obedience Trial Champion! June 2005 Hawkeye Kennel Club, Iowa City, IA

Back to the trial - Phoenix and I were sitting at the far end of the line-up of Pre-Novice dogs and Tracy was with Jamie at the other end with several other veterans. Half way through the long sit, I looked up to see Jamie trotting happily toward me, weaving his way through the leashes of the Pre-Novice dogs. The handlers were dropping their leashes to keep him from getting tangled up or pulling their dogs out of position. It could have become a rodeo in short order but the Pre-Novice dogs held their positions and Jamie reached me without any undue chaos.

When the sit was over, the judge told Tracy to go get her dog. I’m pretty sure Tracy pointed out Jamie was not her dog. She took him by the collar to lead him back across the ring. Jamie felt this was a great unjustice and cut loose with one of his drama king shrieks. The kind that made people in other rings stop and stare. Keep in mind he KNEW Tracy and she had never done anything mean to him in her life and wasn’t doing anything mean now. He didn’t care. He kept shrieking. Fortunately, Tracy is made of some pretty tough stuff and didn’t take it personally. She and I are still friends but I’m don’t think I’ll never get her back in the ring with another of my dogs for any reason.

Tracy remembered that day and wrote, “My favorite laughable Jamie moment was funnier for others than it was for us. I am sure you remember the veterans ‘stay.’  Poor Rogue (her current dog) doesn’t stand a chance because I can’t even get an OTCH dog to stay. It speaks volumes to Jamie’s presence as a dog that as he wove his way thru the leashes of the pre-novice dogs not a one considered going after him. . . Funny no one has asked me to handle their dog for stays since . . .”

Bye, Big Red Dog. My heart is full of your joy.


  1. Man, I just went into tears after the last sentence. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    1. Me too. I've loved all of your Jamie stories.

  2. Such a beautiful job of sharing a celebration of Jamie's life. You did him proud.

  3. Thanks for sharing the stories!

  4. I loved your stories your shared memories of Jamie. they made me cry cry from sadness at the loss of such a great dog but cry from the joy you had with him. What a wonderful dog and he will be very missed. Thank you for sharing him with all of us...

  5. I loved your tribute to Jamie. I really love your relationship; it's so easy to see even through the internet. I still think he'll be my favorite dog of yours for a long time.

  6. "Years later, I think his greatest contribution was inspiring others to pick up a leash and explore a discipline that may seem very boring in comparison to the adrenaline rush that is integral to so many other dog sports."

    I love this, so very very much.

    Your posts were a beautiful way to honor Jamie, I enjoyed every one of them, thank you!

  7. Thank you for sharing your Jamie stories. They were a beautiful tribute to your boy. I wish would have had the opportunity to watch you working in the ring.

  8. I have read your Jamie stories with tears, smiles, and chuckles. I am so grateful to have known both Jamie and you.