Westminster Agility Championship

May 7th, 2023

I’d kind of had Westminster on my bucket list for a while, but it’s a pretty expensive agility weekend and it’s a big hassle and blah blah blah.

But after losing Nina I got to thinking that if I was going to go with Zhora, I should just go. Zhora will turn 11 in August and while she’s still healthy and sound and running well, she isn’t getting any younger and neither am I. After all, it’s better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t.

So while lots of folks overnighted their entries and all that, I handwrote our entry the day before the trial opened and snail mailed it. I figured if we got in, then the universe was telling me we should go. I was shocked when I got word that we were 13th on the waiting list. I realized then that there was some danger we might actually get in! And then less than 24 hours after closing, we were in!

Of course I hadn’t made any arrangements and had to hustle to find a (very expensive) hotel.

So off we went!

Nina (thank you Sue) came with us of course

We hit terrible traffic in New Jersey trying to get into the Lincoln Tunnel because of course we did. I’m used to city driving but we were at a standstill with no shoulders or anything packed in like sadines and I got a bit panicky about it and had to call Jim. Once I got into the tunnel though it was fine, and then driving through Manhattan on our way to Queens was just wonderful. Such a beautiful city.

Checking into the hotel I had to drive around the block four times before a spot opened up where I could stash the car while I went to check in. There was a guy screaming in the lobby, hotel staff were trying to calm him down, police were being called, two different women told me how much they liked my hair. It was so NYC.

Our room was in a half basement and tiny, but it was clean. A nice agility person saw me with Zhora and showed me where I could walk her. And then Zhora and I went for a stroll around the block to stretch our legs after being in the car all day.

We got up the next morning, quick potty walk, got our game faces on, checked out, and headed to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

It’s an absolutely gorgeous facility. Purple and gold was everywhere (yes, the dog show starting tomorrow is the big draw, but there were still a LOT of people there as the day went on).

We checked in and got our awesome swag (an embroidered North Face knapsack, a picture frame, a dog toy, a bandana, a really nice t-shirt, and a ticket for a free lunch).

Standard was in the stadium:

Jumpers was in an outdoor ring under a tent (this is actually where the biggest crowd was – most were just bystanders and they were AWESOME! The cheered LOUDLY for every team, it was so much fun!):

And then! We walked and ran standard, had lunch, then walked and ran jumpers:

Standard was first (Q and 14th place!). There are supposed to be “official” videos coming but Jesse kindly videoed too:

ProPlan gave us a lovely, healthy, and delicious free lunch (not dog food but I did share my sandwich with Zhora):

Then Jumpers (Q and 12th place!!):

I was hoping for one Q, and instead we doubled! And Saga the Vallhund was in the top 10 (awesome!) so made it to finals, but if she hadn’t, we’d have likely gone to finals too!

I am always humbled and amazed by Zhora. She always rises to the occasion, she thrives under pressure. I am so very glad we went, it was a whirlwind, tiring, crazy and expensive two days, but it was so very worth it for the amazing experience we had. Thank you Zhora for being the wonderful partner you have always been.

Finally, I just want to say that it was so awesome to see so many of my usual agility peeps there being supportive and having fun running their dogs and doing wonderfully. And it was so nice to see Whitney and Susan with their amazing Vallhunds (ALL FOUR VALLHUNDS QQ’d!), and it was just so lovely to feel the support we gave each other, we were all genuinely happy for how well each other did. Agility might just be dogs jumping over plastic but wow can it bring out the best in people sometimes.

“Official” standard video:

“Official” JWW video:

(and finally, as if my heart wasn’t full enough, tomorrow Zhora’s son Orbit and his co-owner Ruth will compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I wish I could have managed to stay and watch but it wasn’t to be, I’ll be watching on the live stream though!)


April 21st, 2023

Jim and I are very excited to welcome Kleinhaus Trulli Madly Deeply at Alkemi LT to our pack! Two weeks ago I drove to Massachusetts to meet these little monsters, and this little girl cuddled into me, took a deep breath, and melted. And then so did I. So on Friday after the agility trial I went and picked her up. She’s been doing great: stable, brave, bold, sassy, smart, and adaptable (just my kind of dog).

Trulli (pronounced “truly”) is out of a very genetically diverse breeding (as diverse as you can get in Vallhunds, with parents who carry the least common alleles, this was a BetterBred “10” breeding for those who follow that), so I knew I might be interested just from that standpoint when I learned Kat Klein was planning this litter. That, combined with the fact that Kat does an absolutely stellar job of raising her litters, meant that I just couldn’t say no once I met her.

Trulli is named after the Formula 1 driver Jarno Trulli (because of course she is). Because she was born near Valentine’s Day I knew I wanted a Valentine’s sort of name, and her name just came to me as I drove home from meeting her that first time.

The last puppy in our house that I didn’t breed was Nina, so it’s been a while since I didn’t grow my own. Thank you so much for trusting us with this little girl Kat!

It’s The Little Things

March 26th, 2023

The things you notice after you lose someone or something you love.

Two weeks ago Nina was doing so well that I bought an extra two cases of food because I was worried I’d run out. She was sparkly and bouncy.

And then as that week progressed she stopped eating so well. The little hitch in her step and occasional trip she’d had for a while progressed to outright falling. She’d been sitting down to eat for a while, but now she wa swaying and sticking her legs out at odd angles.

That weekend, last weekend, it was like she fell off a cliff. Eating less and less, falling more and more. She had been frail (she was just a few weeks aways from 16 years old after all) but this was different. Sunday she ate just a token bite of her Sunday pancake. It was cold and windy but we bundled her up anyway and took her around the block in her stroller. I took pictures. I knew it was coming to an end. As we walked, she looked back at me as she often did, meeting my eyes in that way she had.

Monday at work I wrote in her chart that she’d had a rough weekend. Dr Stein said to bring her in Tuesday. That night she was restless and woke me up by walking on the control for the heated bed pad and turning it on.

Tuesday at work she had diarrhea and seemed very dull. But she had a fever, so maybe she was sick! Maybe it was pneumonia again or something. We put her back on Clavamox. I decided I’d force feed her for one week only in case that was what she needed to get over the hump. We put her on two different appetite stimulants. I said I just needed to know if this was a bump in the road. Or the end of the road. I gave her a bath on Tuesday, because she got poop all over herself.

She was a dog whose dignity did not depend on things like that. She was the queen after all. She tolerated the bath and blow dry with her usual grace.

That night she was restless, and she woke me up by getting herself trapped between the wall and the dresser. Appetite stimulants can have strange effects is what I told myself, but I could see she just wasn’t right.

Wednesday she actually ate a couple of bites on her own! I allowed myself to feel slight optimism, but I could still see that there was something neurological happening. I took her to work with me so I could feed her small meals throughout the morning. We gave her a cautious amount of subcutaneous fluids to hydrate her (you have to be very cautious with this in dogs with cardiac issues). And then a co-worker called and told us of the unimaginable tragedy that had killed one of her dogs.

Wednesday she got worse through the day, and the knowledge I’d been carrying in the back of my head forced its way to the front. Jim and I lay on the floor with her that night, and she told us. I don’t mean she spoke English, but she told us just the same. She was done. She was ready.

Thursday morning I texted Linda and said I was so sorry to do this after the trauma we’d all experienced the day before with the co-worker’s dog, but we had to put her to sleep that day. She was ready. One of the other instructors at agility kindly agreed to take over my classes that day.

Caroline at work came in and asked how Nina was and I told her. She hugged and cried with me. Then suggested I come home to spend the day with her. I walked in at home and she came to the baby gate like usual, looking surprisingly perky, Jim cautioned me that she was really wobbly (as in “don’t get your hopes up”), and then one of the other dogs brushed against her and she fell. I had always been Nina’s sunshine, she always brightened up when she saw me, and that was it.

I’d stopped on the way home to get her a Tim Hortons old fashioned plain donut, her absolute favorite. She took one piece to humor me, but spat it out. Jim had gotten her to eat a couple of bites of baby food, but that was it. I made ramen for lunch, also her absolute favorite. She ate a few noodles (probably also to humor me), but that was it.

I sat there with her all day. I took pictures. I cried. I wrote her obituary.

And eventually it was time to go. That last car ride to the vet is always, always, always, such a journey. Her warm weight wrapped in waterproof pads on my lap. It rained. I kissed her nose over and over again.

We let her walk around the clinic while we waited, she didn’t want liver, or peanut butter, or even one of the Hershey’s Kisses that we keep in a jar and bring out for euthanasias (the jar is labeled “goodbye kisses”). I lay on the floor with her. I told her over and over again how much I loved her. I kissed her nose, her fur was wet with our tears.

And then it was time. We gave her the sedative injection and she took a deep breath and relaxed on my lap. We stroked her and hugged her and kissed her. She got so sleepy so quickly as they often do when they’re really ready to go as she was. We put a catheter in. I sat back down on the floor with her on my lap, her head against my chest. I told Linda we were ready. I kissed her nose and told her that it had been a privilege. And she was gone.

Euthanasia when it’s done right is beautiful. It’s a very heavy burden those of us in veterinary medicine carry (even when it’s not our own pet, we cry with every one, every one affects you, you are ending a life). But it’s also beautiful. To give something you love so much a peaceful and painless death when their time comes, when it’s the last thing you can do for them, is beautiful. When it’s done right, they just drift away.

Friday, the day after, was sunny. I visited Sue and we cried. I tried to train my dogs but my heart wasn’t in it. Jim and I took all the dogs for a long walk in the sunshine.

We cry all the time. Of course we do. You don’t love and lose a dog like Nina every day. I see her everywhere. I am so glad she got to be in the house, to bless it with her presence. I am so glad she got to be happy and sparkly in the house. We needed that.

I told a friend yesterday that it’s like she was this magical creature who was somehow MY magical creature. We had nearly 16 years together but now it seems like a dream.

And now we are faced with then mourning. And the last of all the things. Washing the pile of waterproof pads she’d used. Vacuuming the hair that was hers. Washing the last bowl she’d used. Washing the water bowls and refilling them, washing away the last traces of her. And today we will make our usual Sunday pancakes. And for the first time in almost 16 years she won’t be here to demand and eat her rightful share.

But between that first time our eyes met and I knew she was meant to be my dog and I was meant to be her person, and that last breath she took in my arms, hopefully feeling loved and safe and warm and at peace, there was so much. So much joy and and running and barking and agility and travel. So much love. I hope we gave her a good enough life. I hope we gave her the life and love she deserved.

There will never be another Nina. She was my soul dog. When we looked at each other there was a connection that transcended species. She was my sunshine and I was hers. I don’t really believe in metaphysical things but I so hope I will see her again.

It was a privilege.

Nina May 14, 2007 – March 23, 2023

March 23rd, 2023

Today we said goodbye to the best dog who ever lived. She changed my life in so many ways. From the moment our eyes met at Ulla’s house, I knew she was my dog and I was her person. Ulla was keeping her, but I managed to convince her to let me take my bean home.

Baby Nina

I met so many people because of Nina. I have my job because of Nina (I needed a vet because she broke a baby tooth shortly after I brought her home). She was a wild puppy and a wild dog in the best way, so energetic and strong willed and opinionated. But also so sweet and so loving and so gentle. She was just what we needed. She drew blood more than once in agility when she thought I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. But she also gave the best kisses and snuggles. People who only saw her in agility thought she was a wild thing (and she was), and people who only saw her at home thought she was a mellow sweetheart (and she was that too). She was the foundation on which Alkemi was built, and while we wish she was living on in our home, she is at least living on through her descendants.

Smart as a whip. Fast as lightning. Beautiful inside and out. Sweetest dog in the world. A working dog to her core. More than my heart dog. My soul dog. There will never be another Nina. She was with us for nearly 16 years, but it seems like it went by in a flash. Every dog you ever own will break your heart, and while she was ready to go, we weren’t ready to lose her. She did everything with conviction, and balls to the wall abandon.

I hope she is healthy and happy and running like the wind wherever she is. I hope she is spinning and barking her “pack a day” bark. I hope she is with Al (she is the last of my dogs to have met Alun) and with my Mum and Dad and Auntie Ann, and with Rakki, Riley, Demi and Austin, and with Ringo and Rupert and Bailey and Sullivan and Cillian, and with everyone else who’s gone on ahead.

I have never had a bond with a dog like the bond I had with Nina. She was my soul dog, and she will take a piece of my heart with her across the bridge, and I will keep a piece of her heart here with me. I know I will see her again one day, and both our hearts will be whole again.

It was a privilege to be your person my tiny bean.

Canadian CH MACH PACH Vastgota Nina Ricci ROM MXG MJC MXPB MJP3 MJPB PAX XF T2B3 NAC NCC NJC TN-E TG-N WV-N HP-O ChFH CL3-R CL4-S CL4-F CL4-H TG2, AKC Agility Invitational qualifier 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2020, AKC National Agility Championship qualifier 2018 2020, #1 AKC Agility Swedish Vallhund 2015 #1 AKC Agility PACH Swedish Vallhund 2019


May 14, 2007 – March 23, 2023

This was always Nina’s song

Kayl McCann & Jamie Moreau Seminar

March 4th, 2023

Alice and I had a great time at the Kayl McCann and Jamie Moreau (both Canadian world team members and certified OneMind Dog instructors) seminar! We learned some really useful things. I usually think if I learn one or two things to keep in my training toolbox it’s worth the price, but we learned so much more from these two, including some really good ideas about commitment!

Cuyahoga Valley Golden Retriever Club AKC Agility Trial

January 14th, 2023

Our first trial of 2023, and what a great day it was! I’m only doing one day per weekend at Countryside during the winter because that way if the weather is bad, I don’t mind eating a day’s entries. If I enter a whole weekend and the weather’s bad…it’s irksome.

Anyway! Judge Laura Kuterbach designed some really difficult courses with very low qualifying rates, and I’m horribly out of shape, and the dogs aren’t in great shape either (we’re working on both), and we haven’t trialed (other than Zhora at the Invitational) since November, and we haven’t been training at all…and and and….but somehow, my amazing girlies pulled off a PERFECT DAY!

Zhora earned her sixth QQ towards MACH8, and Alice earned her very first QQ (and it was actually a triple Q, towards her TQX, because she also qualified in FAST). It was a very small trial, and there were only 5 8″ dogs, so I had almost no time to warm up properly, so I was running even slower than usual, but we did it! The courses didn’t have much room to open up and let the dogs run, and they don’t like that, but it also meant that Alice didn’t get high and zoomy and stayed controlled. Not as much fun, but better for qualifying. AND! They went 1-2 both times with very close times. Alice might have edged out Zhora for first place in Standard if we hadn’t had a miscommunication that led to a wrong turn and ate some time.

Alice Saturday FAST (part 1 of QQQ #1):

Alice Saturday Standard (part 2 of QQQ #1, second place):

Zhora Saturday Standard (QQ #146, first place):

Alice Saturday Jumpers (part 3 of QQQ #1, second place):

Zhora Saturday Jumpers (QQ #146, first place):

2022 AKC National Championship

January 1st, 2023

Ruth and Orbit worked very hard in 2022 to qualify for the National Owner Handled Series Finals, and Orbit took Best of Opposite in the Finals! Annie and Diane won BOB.

Orbit is GCHB CH Alkemi Cosmic Curiosity LT RI

BUT! Since we were down there, I also entered him in the AKC National Championship and! He WON BEST OF BREED! Which meant he got to go to group and be on TV on New Year’s Day! What a thrill that was! And the judge gave him a really good look for the final cut too! I got to be the “assistant” and crouch down at ringside with his treats and brush and other goodies.

Orbit – TV star!
Our win pic. Orbit was bored and I was all sweaty from running agility.

Orbit finished 2022 as the #2 Swedish Vallhund all systems, and he has been invited to the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club show!

Ruth and Orbit in the staging area!
The board showing the order we were to go in
Waiting for their chance to shine!
On the fabled red carpet!
Lovely professional shot from the red carpet

Here’s my “from the secret hidey hole” behind the scenes footage (you can see the judge really giving Orbit a good consideration for the cut!):

Here’s Orbit on TV January 1, 2023:

A lot of people will tell you never to co own, that it’s a recipe for disaster for both breeder and co-owner. They say that if you want to keep a dog in your breeding program you should just keep it yourself. I only have so much room and time, and the dogs themselves are often much better off in a home where they can be someone’s whole world instead of just a part of mine. I feel very fortunate that I have such awesome co-owners for several Alkemi dogs. Thus far it has been a wonderful arrangement (I hope for all sides). I am very fortunate that Ruth set such high goals for Orbit, and that she wanted to do all the things she needed to do to get there. To say I am proud of what they have achieved so far would be an enormous understatement!

2022 AKC Agility Invitational

December 23rd, 2022

Zhora has been invited to the Invitational every year since she got into Masters. She’s been such an amazingly consistent dog, and every run with her I am cognizant of what a privilege it is. Anyway, since Orbit and Ruth qualified for the AKC National Owner Handled Series Finals this year, Ruth and I packed up the dogs and headed to Orlando! Orbit and Ruth’s adventures will be in a separate post.

Orbit and Zhora, son and mother, catching some Florida sunshine.

Zhora went 3/4 in the Invitational, and also qualified in Time 2 Beat. The one NQ was my fault. We weren’t our fastest, we weren’t our fittest (I had a foot injury that meant we got way less exercise and practice than usual in the months beforehand), but we showed up and ran! Z finished 66th out of 148 dogs, not bad!

Thank you as always for this experience, Zhora!

Time 2 Beat:

Round 1 Jumpers:

Round 2 Standard (our only NQ because I disconnected, but also my favorite run):

Round 3 Hybrid:

Round 4 Jumpers (Zhora had a reverse sneezing fit right at the startline, she was sneezing and wheezing for the first half of the course, but she just kept going, she has so much heart and so much working drive):

National Dog Show 2022

November 24th, 2022

It’s been a dream of mine for several years now to take a dog to the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. This show is recorded (it takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving), and broadcast on Thanksgiving Day.

I’m going to the AKC Agility Invitational this year with Zhora, so I didn’t think I had it in the budget to go to the National Dog Show with Alice too. But then Ruth said she’d always wanted to go, so there you go. She took Orbit (just as well I didn’t enter, since that was the weekend of the big storm), they got up at 3 am and drove to Philly last Saturday. Orbit won best of breed, and that meant he’d make it to group, which is what gets televised.

While he didn’t get featured in the group, they do upload all the judging, so here it is

DOTCORNY AKC Agility Trial

November 6th, 2022

Lots of fun and very challenging courses from Zach Davis and Janet Budzynski. Zhora had a perfect weekend with two more QQ’s (running slower than usual because she really didn’t like these courses), Alice got a very tough FAST send on Saturday, and earned a “moral” QQ on Sunday, with a Master Standard Q AND an Excellent JWW Q to finish her AXJ (on a course I thought we didn’t have a chance of qualifying on). Such great girls.

Alice Saturday FAST (Q):

Zhora Saturday Standard (QQ #144):

Zhora Saturday JWW (QQ #144):

Alice Sunday Standard (Q):

Zhora Sunday Standard (QQ145):

Zhora Sunday JWW (QQ145):

Alice Sunday JWW (AXJ!):