At age 11, she has gradually been retired from all formal classes; herding, agility, then obedience and finally rally last year when I noticed she started sitting slowly.
I still work with her at home, in part because heeling (sit to stand) is actually very good exercise. But as I rush out the door to this class or that with the younger dogs, including her almost eight year old daughter, she still rushes to the door, just like she always has the last eight years or so since I got her. But now someone else always goes, and I pat her on the head and say with deep regret, "sorry, baby, not your turn"
Last night in honor of her birthday I took her along to Macy's agility class. In between and while the other dogs were working (and with a class full of interesting novice dogs, each dog can take a while )I'd put Mace away and bring Belle out to play.
It's funny how all of those things that we struggled so hard with over the years come so fluidly now that the skills are never really called for.
The velcro dog's distance work as I run her through some agility sequences is just lovely. I remember when sending her five feet to a tunnel seemed like an insurmountable task! Tonight she runs 20-30 feet laterally to me is if there is no other way. So what if the bars are only 8 inches off the ground?
The drop on recall we futzed with forever. The creeping. The anticipating. The time she forgot and left her butt stuck up on the air ("but my elbows are down!!!") All the finessing has finally paid off and tonight she drops anywhere, any time, and with the slightest provocation. With a tiny wave of my little finger she drops to the ground with a big grin on her face which I dutifully stuff with cooked chicken (I said she worked fluidly, I didn't say she worked cheap!! )
The back up we worked on for rally excellent which we never got to try due to her unexpected retirement following a slip on the ice after a run-in with a sprinting youngster? The best of any of my dogs. Of course. She is Belle. The Perfect Dog. I've always said that tongue in cheek, because no dog is perfect, but some are closer than others.
The down on the table we argued so much about it in agility over the years? She runs to the table to on her own and grins at me as she assumes the position. "I told you I would. Some day. On my own terms"
So she did.
The retrieve it took me four years to teach her??? Tonight when I inadvertantly drop one of my gloves she picks it up and returns it to me expectantly. "Was I good?"
"You're always good" I tell her with my eyes (and a handful of chicken - c'mon, let's keep it real )
Tonight she is Perfect. We're perfect. We're a team. A team it took most of her life time and an important part of mine to forge. And what we do together matters less than the time and mutual effort it took to understand each other to the point where we can now communicate effortlessly with few words but endless love.
Of course, tomorrow I'll work with Sybil or one of the other relationships in progress and I'll have moments when I want to tear out my hair in frustration wondering if I'll ever truly understand her and we'll ever communicate with that kind of effortless ease. And hopefully I'll remember that Belle and I also lost hair and what not in the process of our journey together, and that each challenge overcome brought us closer and made us both stronger. And hopefully I'll cut the upstarts and myself some slack and know that some day, if fate is kind, they will be "the old dog", my respite, my soulmate, my sigh of relief.
I love you Belle.
|What a beautiful tribute to Belle. Melody was the same way. A girl that could drive me nuts but now that she's gone, I find myself comparing my other dogs to her time & time again. "Why is it taking you so long to learn to sit (or retrieve or stay or come front)? Melody had it down pat in 3 trys!" I took Isaac (soon to be 11) along to the shows a couple of weeks ago. He never set foot on the show site, stayed at the breeders home the times we were at the show. But he was happy as a lark. He got to go for the long ride in the van while José & Mariah stayed home. Cathy trimmed up his feet & his butt for me. He thought that weekend he was as special as the girl I was showing. Actually he's more special to me than he knows! Sometimes, the quiet ones, you forget that they like to go as much as the others. They are always so good, not demanding any attention. So I try to remember to take them along even if it is for the ride in the van to class. Keep taking Belle now & then. She deserves it.|
|Awwwww, brought tears.
Lovely photo of devotion.
|how sweet, and true.|
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! for yesterday Belle
|What a wonderful tribute - it brought tears to my eyes as well....|
|That was incredibly moving.
What a great relationship and what a nice evening for both of you.
|Happy belated birthday and good going to Belle...
She's still got "IT" mom...
|Ahhh, give Belle a big hug for me. Knowing her, it is so true.
Just a thought - you should try and squeeze in a little time to do therapy visits with her. She would love it (of course the people she visits would!) and she would get the 1:1 time and special feeling of still doing meaningful work.
That is all Simon really does now too - and he is sooo recharged and happy for days afterwards.
Happy Birthday, perfect Belle!!!
|That's so sweet... and so true... we really don't realize how many years it took for them to become that "perfect dog" but in our eyes they really always are... the perfect puppy, the perfect adolescent (ok that may be stretching it a bit ) that wonderful mature dog who has finally figured it all out...
Or rather maybe it's just us that has finally figured them out...
|Happy belated birthday Belle and good work you made Kristine proud.|
|That was beautiful. So there is hope?! Brought tears to my eyes too. Hugs to Belle|
|Happy Birthday Belle! Beautiful Tribute.....|
|Wow Kristine, you really know how to put feeling to words. I envy that. Brought tears to my eyes.
Happy belated birthday Belle, you make your mama proud!!!
|What a beautiful tribute. I was in tears reading it.|
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