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Thursday, 16 December 2010

An Ugly Dog Story

By Ralph Lymburner

Boy, was she ugly!!!. This dog was ugly by anyone’s standards. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has standards for every breed of show dog and this dog had none of these standards. One ear stuck up and the other flopped over. Her snout was long and narrow and she had an overbite. Her coat was unkempt and one of her legs was bowed.

Why did I ever accept this dog as a gift? I was told she was a five-year-old purebred Sheltie (Shetland Sheep Dog). Upon checking with the AKC, I was told she was a registered purebred but eight years old.

How did I get in this situation? When my wife and I bought our first house with a back yard, we decided to get a dog. We had a friend who bred Shelties. They are a gorgeous herding dog and I was interested in training for obedience competition.

They had a new litter which contained two pet quality pups (not show dog quality). So we decided on one that they thought was going to exceed height standards of the breed and named him Duffy. Breeders often charge an extra $50 for pet quality which is refundable upon neutering. He was a gorgeous male with a beautiful sable coat and everything in the right place.

The lady who was going to teach me to train suggested that I practice on an older dog. She knew that her sister had a Sheltie she would give to me. I jumped at the chance for a free purebred pet. This was the beginning of a love affair of an ugly dog and myself.

Her name was Kirsti. Training Kirsti took no skill at all. When learning to heel, I tugged on the leash once and from that point on she was glued to my left side. When I stopped, I pushed her rump down just twice and she understood that when we stopped she was to sit.

There’s a saying about any of the herding dogs: “Give them the book and tell them to read it.”

Over the next three years Kirsti won trophies and ribbons in almost every contest we entered. I once heard a competitor say to a friend, “Here comes Ralph and Kirsti; we might as well try for second place.”

As we advanced through the required exercises, we had to learn new behaviors like scent differences and not moving when I go out of sight.

Duffy, on the other hand, was gorgeous by breed standards but was half an inch too tall to be a show dog. He did fair in obedience events but he did it because he had to.

After having Kirsti for four years, I had to have surgery and was in the hospital over a week. My wife informed me that Kirsti spent every day and night lying by the back door and wouldn’t leave.

I was discharged from the hospital and waited outside for my wife to come pick me up. Upon approach, I spotted Kirsti in the front seat. When she recognized me she was jumping all over the car. When I got in the car she immediately licked my face and settled into my lap. When I looked down, I noticed what appeared to be tears in her eyes. I don’t know if dogs can cry or not but Kirsti did and my eyes became misty also.

Over the next two years Kirsti kept on improving and advancing in skill requirements but she was getting old. She was 13 when in a local match she couldn’t clear the jump and banged both front paws. I immediately went and picked her up and told the judge Kirsti was retired.

Throughout the next year, her health deteriorated and we talked it over and made the tough decision to have her put down. She was now 14 years old. There are not many tasks more difficult then losing a loving part of the family.

She gave us six years of her love and is still remembered 25 years later.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


So touching and sweet. There is nothing quite like the bond between a person and an animal when trust and love is there. What a beautiful ugly dog.

Kirsti was a beautiful dog by my standards. Loyal and obedient beats show dog quality every time in my book.

We never forget beloved pets, do we? They are like our children and the unconditional love they give is a treasure beyond measure.

That actually made me cry and I'm not even much of a dog person.

Hello Ralph,

I loved your story and actually learned a lot from it.

My Granddaughter has two Border Collies and she constantly tells me how smart they are and how easily they learn. I must tell her your observation:

"Give them the book and tell them to read it."

I liked reading this and I loved Kirsti.

What a sweet story. Those of us who have had the good fortune to be loved by a dog have been truly blessed!

Ralph - Great dog story!

Over the past 46 years we've owned one of each - pugs to Afghan Hounds - all devoted to my wife. Ten years ago, Geri, a border collie-springer mix joined our household. I was assigned the task of taking her to obedience training. At home she was impossible, doing just what she pleased. But at school she was a model of good behavior, winning all the prizes. She was the first dog that was devoted to me. This has infuriated Betsy, who cynically calls her, "little wife"! - Sandy

great story--i have a book for you--"the art of racing in the rain"--a story from the outlook of a dog

Thanks for lovely story..Dogs surely are god's creatures for the way they love us so unconditionally and without pretense..it's interesting how we (human types) rate them for beauty, intellectual qualities, something makes me think they chuckle at that..at least the reading dogs, for sure...Mary

What a wonderful story! We have an (ugly by definition) English Bulldog who adores us. Angel has us well-trained. She consoled my now-husband when his wife of 25 years died suddenly a few years ago, and has now accepted me into the family. If only she didn't snore so loudly...

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