However, later that evening I changed my mind. I realized that Amber needed someone like me, and I needed someone like her. I needed a companion for my regular hikes in the mountains during the week, and a focus for the energy that I used to put into running a business……the family business that I had been part of for 20 plus years that had closed down the year before. During the first year with Amber we walked at least 30 miles a week together, and took many obedience and agility classes. Then we found nose work through my friend Kristin Fertschneider, which we started with Penny Scott-Fox and Ramona Audette in 2013. We are now both thriving. She’s a natural at it; it has given her great confidence and allowed her to blossom!
As for winning the Harry Award, it was an unexpected thrill. As others have said, it is “icing on the cake”. Amber has extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work, and her joyful search energy makes everyone smile. I am doing my best to match her in my handling skills and to spread the joy of nose work to others through volunteering and doing whatever else I can to support the sport.
I learned about Amber from a hiking buddy who has Australian cattle dogs. She knew that my older dog Sasha was eleven, and encouraged me to get a second dog. She heard about a dog that was a “people” dog, who was great on a leash and knew basic commands, and who came from a home with cats. Well, I learned that her cat experience meant chasing the cat under the bed, not peacefully co-existing. It was quite a shock when she started chasing our cat Lindie in circles around the first floor of our house, while the trainer who was evaluating her temperament watched! That night, I said to myself “I can’t handle this dog….she’s going to drive me crazy.” Amber was going to be my responsibility; I didn’t grow up with dogs, and wasn’t the primary caregiver for our older dog Sasha….my husband filled that role.
Amber was adopted from the Pasadena Humane Society at eight weeks by a woman who had just lost her service dog. This woman has spinal muscular atrophy, a motor neuron disease causing severe muscle weakness and respiratory complications. She is in a wheel chair full time and has very limited use of her arms and legs. The plan was for Amber to learn to press buttons, turn on lights, and retrieve items. Amber was bright and bold enough, but very energetic. Her owner sent her to a “military” type of trainer in hopes of molding her into a suitable service dog. Unfortunately, this person abused her. A significant amount of time and money was spent by her owner to fix the damage done by this terrible trainer. Eventually, her previous owner decided that as her service dog Amber could not get the kind of mind and body exercise which she needed to thrive. Her owner found a family to adopt Amber, but that only lasted a couple of days; Amber was too active for them and was returned to her owner. She was eight months old.
Harry Award Winner - 1/5/14
San Pedro, California