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That Once in a Lifetime Dog

Posted on 08/21/09 19 Comments

What I am about to say may come across as haughty and please forgive me if it does, as it is not my intention. I want to describe for you the relationship that develops with a dog when you compete at the highest level of competition. By doing so I hope not to minimize the special relationship each of you share with your own dog.  I by no means am implying something that is better, stronger or fuller, only different.


A dog – human relationship is a special one. We love our family pets, we laugh at them and share pizza crusts with them. This bond is further strengthened when we become a team by getting involved in a performance sport such as agility.


In order to compete we need to train, more time together, more laughs; a stronger bond. 


Moving along to the highest level of competition in this sport requires an even more intense commitment. When, at this World Team level of performance, you are now training hours together, flying all over the world, hanging out as pals in hotel rooms. Calming each other down before the big run and consoling one another after disappointments.   When you get to this level, the unity you have with your dog gives the impression of one body  mirroring another’s actions on the field. 


You never tire of the feeling of oneness you get when you and your dog pull off the run of your lives on the National or World Championship level. You recognize and are grateful to your creator for what seems to be that “once in a lifetime dog.”  I don’t know if it is all of the adrenaline highs and lows that you sustained together over your dog’s career or just the thrill of being there as a team when the pressure is on, but this dog becomes more special to you than you could have ever thought any dog could ever be.


Once the “prime” of the dog’s career is over, if you are fortunate and your dog remains healthy, you continue to enjoy running the dog even though the criteria may have slipped a bit and the speed isn’t quite what it used to be.  It is the partnership, and that remains the same. Each time you lead out at the start line you have a sense of gratitude, both for what you have accomplished together over the years and also for each bonus run you share as your dog advances in years.

After this comes the retirement, where the dog becomes even more special learning to adapt to a new role as the house general and your official greeter when you return home from a trip. Although leaving for a cross country trial without her is always heart wrenching, your dog lets you know that she understands and will be waiting when you get back. I love the retirement years with my dogs. They make me laugh so much. Sadly though,  not everyone is allowed the chance to share in those retirement years. 


Craig & Bogey

In June of this year Craig and Robin Eagleson lost their former Canadian World Team Border Collie Bogey to cancer, he was 8 years old. Amazingly Bogey had just placed 4th at the Ontario Regionals less than a month before he died.

Mike & Bailey
Mike & Bailey

This week Mike and Sally Murphy’s amazing little Jack Russell Terrier, Bailey was lost to Leptospirosis.  She was just 11 years old. Bailey and Mike where an awesome team to watch both at home and when they represented the USA at World Championships. Mike’s infectious smile and Bailey’s speed and naughtiness made this a team everyone waited to see run. Time after time they pulled it off in the big events winning multiple US National and World Championship titles. Bailey currently is in first place for all 5 classes of  the USDAA top ten life time rankings. Truly they are a team for the history books.

Losing a dog is difficult, losing a dog that has grown to be part of the way you eat, sleep and breathe is heartbreaking, but losing such a dog years before their time just is not fair.  



It can often be said of those special dogs, that “there will never be another like them.”  Over time what we learn is that each of our dogs becomes a  “once in a lifetime dog” . . . and we wouldn’t want it any other way.


Today I am grateful to have been amazed and entertained by Craig & Bogey’s and Mike & Bailey’s performances over the years, thank you all for the thrills. 


  1. Nat says:
    Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 7:53pm

    Great post Susan…our bonds with our agility dogs are often so strong and unexplainable that most “non-dog people” just can’t understand.



  2. Imbi says:
    Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 12:40am

    “Losing a dog is difficult, losing a dog that has grown to be part of the way you eat, sleep and breathe is heartbreaking, but losing such a dog years before their time just is not fair. ”

    Oh my goodness, yes….

    My gratefulness for every moment we shared together became my inspiration for the heart I give to every dog that follows, and thus we grow together – in lingering tribute and in new adventure.

    Thank you, Indi. Thank you to all our dogs. Thank you, Susan, for your heart-felt thoughts.


  3. Linda says:
    Monday, August 24, 2009 at 1:45pm

    So well said Susan. Having just attained my first MACH, I’m getting a taste of that bond you speak of. And also having lost my first agility dog at the age of seven just halfway to his MACH, I have also tasted the bitter, not fair, part of our partnerships. Both the bond and the partnership is to be treasured each and every time I step to the line with my current partner. I love my boys and treasure each minute we have together. Thanks for the tribute to the two fine dogs I never had the pleasure of knowing.


  4. Mary says:
    Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 12:38pm

    So perfect an explanation of the bond and connection between us and our dogs. Lots of people don’t “get” that special connectedness that grows over time in work and play, until you are two halves of the same mind in the ring or on the field. Thanks for this and for the tributes to two very special teams. My condolences to them both.


  5. Lone says:
    Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 12:24pm

    I loved this: “Over time what we learn is that each of our dogs becomes a “once in a lifetime dog” . . . and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”


  6. Trudie says:
    Saturday, August 22, 2009 at 3:28am

    Thanks, Anne, for the great video link !
    I really appreciate the slow motion and the “overlay” of the two teams.


  7. Devora Locke says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:17pm

    Thank you for this touching tribute,.. Its hard to accept that Mike and Bailey will no longer be regular exhibitors (and occasionally regular entertainment) at our local shows. We all grieve with him, since to watch this team was to love them for both their skill and their dedication to one other.


    • Susan says:
      Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:57pm

      “since to watch this team was to love them for both their skill and their dedication to one other.”

      I couldn’t agree more, well said.


  8. Tina Eldred says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 7:39pm


    That was beautiful and couldnt have come at a better time in my own personal life. Today I faced the toughest decision I have had with my own dog. My Viszla of just 6 yrs young has cancer and with surgery now has a serious infection. She is one of those dogs, her character, he joy, her love of life. She accomplished so much as a dog with many fears, she faced those fears and did well in her short agility career. Tonight, we sit on the porch together reminacing and enjoying these special hours we have together.


  9. Sherry in MT says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 4:17pm

    You did not sound haughty at all, it is a great tribute to those we’ve trained and lost (whether early or not). Even though I don’t aspire to World Team or National Championships, I simply replace those terms with whatever level, in whatever venue, with whatever event (agility, obedience, herding, etc.) I have done with each special dog I’ve done them with. Thank you for reminding me to remember them as the special individuals they are and appreciate their accomplishments as well as those accomplishments of others around us that have exceeded and lost.


  10. Wanda says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 4:05pm

    I consider every dog that has come into my life a “once in a lifetime” companion. Each one of them has brought and continue to bring me different partnerships/challenges/and experiences depending on the position of my own journey. I could not imagine my life without my four legged companion “ever”.


  11. Jane says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 3:16pm

    And if you add to the above, a dog who has shortened your day, made your work easier and perhaps saved your limbs if not life, as working (stock) Border Collies do, well, talk about a loss. I say this in honor of Toff- my once in a lifetime stock dog whose working life was cut short due to deafness and whose entire life was cut short due to heart failure.


  12. Anne says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 2:04pm

    I remembered seeing a video of Bailey on the USDAA website from the 2008 world competitions. It’s actually an overlay of Bailey and Dana Pike’s Tangle. Unfortunately, it’s slow motion. At any rate, it gives you an idea:



  13. Lori B says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 12:00pm

    Thank you for this post, Susan. Each relationship is different, each journey down a slightly different path. Yet the intensity of emotion, the depth of the love seems to be the common thread.
    Susan, your posts really make me think, ponder, question, evaluate, reminisce, plan, aspire and appreciate many of the truly amazing aspects of the journey with our canine partners. For that I thank you and am grateful!


  14. Donna Wasielewski says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 10:27am

    What a wonderful tribute after two very sad stories.


  15. Christine says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:49am

    “Losing a dog is difficult, losing a dog that has grown to be part of the way you eat, sleep and breathe is heartbreaking”

    I couldn’t imagine any better way of saying this – Thank you! It is difficult to explain to some the empty feeling that one experiences after the loss of their partners. Eventually, the empty hole begins to be filled in with love and admiration and you begin to slowly heal yet a hole will always remain and the memories never forgotten.

    I received a beautiful card from a dear friend after the passing of my boxer partner of 10 1/2 years to cancer which explained how Elephants mourn – they all stay by the one they lost and touch their tusks to the one they lost. It was a beautiful image I experienced realizing that we all mourn and we each have different ways of coping with our loss.

    There have been so many lost recently, too many before their time. May their handlers find peace in the memories they shared.

    I am thankful for those that understand the ’empty feeling’ that we each feel after the loss of our partners and those that are there to support us during those difficult times.


  16. Trudie says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 8:55am

    What a beautiful tribute !
    I was intrigued by your reference to “Bailey’s speed and naughtiness” !! so I tried to find a video, so far I’ve only found
    “Bailey was quite a handful in her early days and has walked off more than one course…”
    I would love to read more, a video link, anyone ?…


  17. Julie W says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 8:20am

    Great tribute to the special bond we have with our dogs and to these two great teams.


  18. Lynda Orton-Hill says:
    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 7:36am

    What a wonderful tribute to the relationship we have with dogs! Our hearts go out to Craig & Mike.


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