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One Year Later
By Debra M.Eldredge, DVM

BeepI write this with tear streaked eyes. It is one year since my beloved Beep died so acutely.  An incident the other night prompted me to write. A woman heard someone offer me condolences, realizing that we were approaching the one year anniversary of Beep’s passing. She asked who Beep was and my friend responded with his full name and titles – Group placing Am/Can UCDX CH Chiron’s Coyote Dreams UDT HIAs OA NAJ Can CD HS ASCA CD STDds AHBA HTD1s NADAC NGC NJC TDI W-JFD/HTM, Bronze BAR HTM.  The woman shook her head and replied, “Oh, not a pet then, just a trophy dog, a way to earn titles.”  My friend was stricken, and asked me to explain.

And my reply is the story of our partnership, my dearest Beep and I. Each of those letters represents fond memories of days spent training, time together, some triumphs, some disasters. We worked as a team, often a team of equals, choosing to spend time together, working and challenging ourselves and our relationship. The Championships were a funny start.  I had no experience with conformation showing or handling but I felt it was important that we try that together. Our start was auspicious but telling.  His first show, at 6 months and 1 week of age, Beep went RWD to a major.  As the judge gave me the ribbon, he told me “You actually have the best dog here, you just need more experience.”  As I asked with righteous indignation, why if we were the best we went reserve, Beep’s breeder quickly grabbed me by the arm, telling me it was an honor to give RWD to a mere puppy and to realize that the breed ring worked in mysterious ways.

Shortly thereafter he took back to back BOBs over specials and continued on to his AKC championship in fine style. Our group placements and pulls were always such a wonderful surprise to me, though Beep was always sure he should be BIS J.
 On the way, we trucked up to Canada for a large regional specialty.  I  now understood most of the letters such as WD and BOB, or at least thought I did.  I had with me my year and a half old son and my 3 ½ yr old daughter.  We put Tom in my car near ringside while I showed. Beep did extremely well, going BOW for a 5 point major.  The fact that I had chatted with the woman who had the WB and told her how nice it was that we got to go around together, just the two of us, probably to show off the up and coming dogs, only shows that I really hadn’t figured out all the letters yet. I am sure she was inwardly horrified that such an ignorant novice went BOW, but she was gracious.  And while the judging was going on, Tom would occasionally beep the horn plus he had the lights flashing and wipers going as well – to the delight of many spectators.
The judge handled it well when I asked her why they gave third in Canada and did she realize that I hadn’t made the cut of the specials?  I guess ignorance can be bliss.

And of course, there was the time I went to bed after carefully bathing and grooming him only to wake up and realize my husband had let Beep out later and he had been sprayed by a skunk.  I was desperately trying to remember the “deskunk” formula, got it wrong by substituting vinegar for hydrogen peroxide and now had a dog that smelled like pickles . I called a friend at 5:30 am to get the correct formula, did one more bath and flew to the show where we went BOB and qualified in utility!

Tracking was a piece of cake for Beep.  With 6 weeks total training he flew through his TD in less than 5 minutes- with me madly running down, across and up a huge hill after him.  We never did pass a TDX but we came close in Missouri, after leaving snow and cold temperatures to run at noon in the high 80s.  We had about 80 yards to go when the heat and humidity got to be too much and I pulled him after he stopped.  No title was worth risking my buddy.  But I was incredibly proud – no other dog even made it past the first turn that day.

The obedience titles come wrapped in wonderful memories too. Beep heeling with me as if we were dancing, only I don’t dance very well, but I looked good heeling with him. I would sometimes miss a judge’s command, we were so tuned into each other.

His CDX started off with an incredible day.  We did our individual exercises, zipped down to the breed ring where he went BOB, hurried back to do stays and he got his first leg with a third place. We had about 5 hours to kill before the Herding Group judging, so we went home and worked sheep in the snow.  We went back to the show and Beep took his first Group placement.

The day we finished his CDX, then ran to another building and took BOB over a large entry was also wonderful.  The herding group was coming up quickly and clearly I had no time to change his collar or lead or my clothes.  As I lamented this fact, a handler pointed out the judge to me and told me to just quick explain to her before we went in the ring. I zipped over and gave this woman my complete story (I was dressed in a nice sweater and nice slacks so I did look nice, but not your classic group showing outfit!)  The woman listened to the whole thing, then pointed to Beep and asked if he was the dog I was showing. I beamed with pride, but then she remarked, “Well, you won’t do very well in MY ring!”  The horror on my face must have been apparent because she then relented and pointed out that I was talking to the wrong woman - she was waiting to judge the sporting group and the herding group judge was next to her!  The laugh helped to relieve any tension and we got a pull in the group that day.

The Canadian CD ended with us winning a runoff at a specialty.  A dear friend and I were the only qualifiers with our intact male dogs and not such hot scores as the in heat bitches strolled by our ring repeatedly.  For the runoff, we had to go side by side. We were laughing hysterically knowing how lousy this was going to be as we lined up our dogs. The judge asked, “Are you ready?” We said yes and the judge pointed at me as the winner.  Apparently the other dog was sitting slightly off, so we won without even taking a step!

And the UD!  A utility title is a definite tribute to teamwork.  Beep enjoyed it as much as I did and started giving a quick “woof” in my ear as he landed his impressive flying, flip finish.  There are 7 finishes in utility – I learned this when one judge hit Beep a single point for each woof.  She told me that I should train it out of him.  I replied that his woof was his way of letting me know that in his opinion he had just nailed that exercise (didn’t matter if he had really nq’d – in Beep’s opinion he was always perfect J).  Everyone who ever watched him in obedience commented on his love of work and life.

With the UD came the fulfillment of one of my dearest goals – to have a CH UDT Belgian Tervuren. The American Belgian Tervuren Club has as its motto that “a well balanced Terv has a CH in front and a UDT behind”.  This was back from when those were the highest titles you could have in AKC. The club keeps a perpetual listing. Beep is there for posterity and long after I am also gone, his achievements will be remembered.
Agility.  What can you say about a dog who found sheer joy in running, leaping and flying over contacts? Even when we failed, his runs always made an impression.  There was his Open Jumpers run where I was totally lost after the 6th obstacle. Beep simply ran on, me calling “here” occasionally and trying to get my bearings. Somehow he knew and met me at the out gate with a huge grin.  When I asked a bystander if we had come anywhere close to actually doing the course, she laughed. “The run was incredible!  Nobody has even come close to that!”  And all weekend, people came up to compliment me on Beep’s incredible run of which I had no real recollection.

Storms were not one of his favorite things and I wondered what would happen the day we headed for the start line as black clouds built up and the wind was blowing hard.  As he took off over the first jump there was a huge clap of thunder and a big crack of lightning.  Rain poured down and Beep flew, surefooted and confident.  He won the class – which stopped after his run and didn’t resume until the rain stopped. 
The run when he was 9 years old running in jumpers was especially sweet. A woman went up to check the scores, commenting that she was sure she had won the class as her 2 yr old Border Collie was flying.  Her dismay when she realized she was second and a friend of mine pointed out that not only was she second, but the dog who beat her was a 9 year old Terv only reinforced how talented he was.

Of course, the herding titles.  Our true love, out in the fields, moving sheep, working as a team on our farm and at trials. It was harder to succeed here, as trial sheep only worked by Border Collies don’t react well to big, powerful male Tervs. Many arenas didn’t have enough room for Beep to keep the sheep calm. Still, we had  successes here too and many fond memories.
At trials in Canada, the course obstacles are moved around. In one trial, the “Y” chute was in the middle – a four foot high solid wood obstacle, with a 4 foot wide “stem” on the Y.  The sheep were clever and kept sneaking around the Y chute and dashing back to the gate, causing most dogs to fail. Beep never hesitated – he cleared the entire Y chute, landing ahead of the sheep and turning them back.  His High in Trial ribbon is huge, but not as big as his heart and his athletic ability.

Therapy work came easily to him, as his TDI indicates.  While he did well at nursing homes, his true joy was working with teenagers.  And they loved him – the macho dog, with “attitude”, the walk of a “cool dude” and the ego to match. Some of my fondest memories are from our therapy work.

We worked at a vocational high school with special needs students.  They loved working Beep who would retrieve, do signals, etc for them and they enjoyed walking him around the school.  One boy asked if he could walk Beep around the courtyard while I helped another student with our Corgi. I said “No problem, but don’t go in the cafeteria.  Dogs aren’t supposed to go in there”.  Naturally, 5 minutes later I spot Beep’s tail disappearing into the cafeteria.  By the time I arrived he had eaten two oatmeal cookies and a bagel – all given to him by the cafeteria staff. After that day I had to be very careful or Beep would take the students with Downs syndrome to the cafeteria on his own!

Then we worked with a new student to our district, tutoring him. The deal was, he got to work Beep and walk him through the halls if we got all our work done. He loved doing things with Beep.  The first day as they heeled through the halls, student after student came up to greet this boy, ask about Beep and pet Beep.  Later he told me that more people spoke to him in those 10 minutes than had in the first three months of school.

Those three letters, TDI, sure hold a lot of memories for me and for others.

HokeyAnd last, but not least, the freestyle titles. My daughter Kate took Beep and came up with a top winning performance after just a couple of weeks working together. Beep would come up to her when “his” music came on the radio, asking her to dance.

And for me, freestyle was our last event together – passing the Bronze BAR proficiency test in Heelwork to Music. We had no real preparation other than our relationship and work together over the years.  We picked out the music driving to the seminar and choreographed it over lunch. We just went out and together moved to the theme from Romeo and Juliet – the music of a love story that fit us so well.  Many of the people who watched us sobbed after we finished, telling me it was one of the most beautiful and moving performances by a dog and handler they had ever seen.

I lost Beep 2 weeks after that performance. A severe illness took him in just 6 short hours. The bittersweet memory of that last dance together is incredibly precious to me.

And so, that is the story behind many of those letters. Not a trophy dog, not a mere way to earn titles, but a partnership of respect and love, working together doing things we enjoyed. I don’t regret a single one of those letters and only wish we had more letters and memories.  I have his son now and at 7 months, Hokey has started his letters.  He earned the Rally Novice title, so he is Sensation Coyote Heart Dance RN.  I only ask that we too have many years and many letters to share together. And I wish for that woman that someday she has the chance to acquire letters with her dog, as eventually they will hold so many memories she will need when he is gone.

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