- K-9 Magic
Liberty Rose, CGC, RN, SAR-W
Last week I had to say goodbye to my Golden, Liberty Rose. It is by far the hardest part of having and loving our K-9 friends. However, all the pain in the end is worth it for having had her in my life. I am a better person, handler and trainer because of Libby.
Libby was never an easy dog to live with. She was mischievous. She always had to be managed or she would find trouble. My other dogs could spend the night on the bed no problem. Libby would snooze then see if there was something to get into once I fell asleep. She always managed to find something. Even at 14 she would manage to get into more trouble then my youngest dog, Ellie. Ellie at 1 could spend the day in the office and just snooze on a doggie bed. But
not miss Libby. Libby would start poking around to see what she could find. and paper. She loved to rip and shred paper. I remember the first time we tried a 100 acre search problem. Her subject shredded tissues and left them out thinking that would distract Libby. Libby swallowed the tissues in one gulp and found him 2 seconds later. But her attraction to paper was just part of her charm. By 14, I was used to Libby and knew how to manage her. We used to make jokes that the best search dogs are difficult to live with because of their working drive. Libby certainly lived up to that.
I brought Libby home as a young pup. She was fiercely independent from day one and so smart she
often tried to out think me. I had trained other dogs before Libby, but I was about to embark on a completely different journey with Libby. I was fooled when after a few weeks she knew the basics. I thought we had things under control and she would be easy. Boy was I wrong. When we were doing a run-thru to see what obedience class we were going to be part of at the local obedience club Libby discovered she didn't have to stay. She got up and ran around all the other dogs and did a catch me if you can. I was super embarrassed, but Libby was proud of herself. I didn't realize it at the time, but Libby liked to get me upset so I would yell at her. I remember a time a few years later when it started to click more. I was furious with her for some trouble she had gotten into. I started yelling at her and she started wagging her tail and getting excited and happy. It was an important lesson to me as a trainer, that dogs could find yelling a positive reinforcing behavior.
When we lived in Syracuse, Libby had a crate under my desk. Others in the office would call her Thumper. The crate would thump whenever anyone came to talk to me. No one could leave without
saying hi to Libby. When we first moved to the Owego, NY area, we lived in downtown. Those were her happiest days. She had a following along the street. Whenever Libby went for a walk there were lots of people she had to visit with. I still remember the first training after we moved in. The apartment had brand new carpeting and I was afraid of upsetting the landlord. I cautioned the others that I needed to make sure Libby stayed clean that night. So what does Libby do? She finds a pile of fresh horse manure and rolls until she was completely covered and perfumed. It was several emergency baths later before we could go home.
Most dogs have a desire to please, but Libby was always was looking out for Libby. If you wanted to get Libby to do something you had to put in terms of what the benefit was to her. She challenged me
as a trainer and made me learn and understand about K-9 motivations. Somehow we managed to become an operational for wilderness live find, HRD, and water. Despite her mischievous ways, we managed to become a team and were partners. We learned to rely on each other.
Along with the challenges of Libby, there are also many, many fond memories. We traveled to training seminars and conferences. We did ziplines together. We rode ski lifts. We did all kinds of crazy things. Libby used
to do a happy dance whenever she found someone. She would spin in happy circles while I was walking back to where the person was. She was one of the best PR dog for the team. She just soaked up attention and couldn't get enough. She participated on quite a few searches in her day and because of the way Libby was, I was always looking to further her training. Because of Libby I started co-teaching some local obedience classes. We used her as a demo dog so she got some work in every
week until the training group disbanded. We even showed in Rally.
As Libby got older I gradually worked her less and less. Then came the day Libby decided while she still liked live find, she didn't want to work HRD anymore. I asked her to go find it and she just laid down and stared at me. We tried a few other times but she just was no longer interested. As she moved into retirement I tried to interest her in other activities such as nose work or even more obedience training hoping to keep her mind more active. As Libby had done all her life, she told me in no uncertain terms what she thought of those ideas. So Libby eventually became fully retired. I didn't know it at the time, but I strongly suspect looking back the dementia had already started.
Until Libby was diagnosed with dementia at 13, I didn't realize it was something a dog could get. It is extremely heartbreaking. Since Libby liked to get into trouble, we used baby gates to confine her to rooms of the house she couldn't get up to mischief. At 13 she suddenly became obsessed with escaping them. She started ripping up the kitchen floor. Doing other things a 13 year old dog
shouldn't be suddenly starting to do. She would stare out in space for long periods of time as if she wasn't with it. With medicine we got another year with Libby. However, she was starting to decline towards the end of the year both with her dementia and other medical issues. New Years Eve she took a turn for the worse. So New Years 2020 we gave her the best possible day with lots of love, toys and treats. Even then she still loved to play with her piggy.
It is so hard to believe she is gone now. My other dogs stare at me and can't figure out what all the crying is about. It is so odd not having her smiling face waiting to see what trouble she could find.
As I think about her now, I realize all the lessons she taught me. Lessons I learned with Libby have helped my next dogs be better search dogs. By the time I started training them, I already had a much better handle on training because of everything Libby had taught me. They had it a lot easier then Libby. It wasn't me training Libby. It was her training me. She trained me how to be a better person, how to be a better partner and handler to my other search dogs and she trained me how to better get through to other dogs. The search dogs following Libby and all the dogs I help train after her will have the benefit of her lessons. In a way that is her legacy. Rest in peace Liberty Rose, CGC, RN, SAR-W. We will miss you.