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by Kathleen Burns

This past year has been filled with such happiness and success, and yet so much sorrow. I continued to train and compete with two of my Golden Retrievers in agility. I hoped to reach my goals set for Fanny and Scot, and when Fanny got her MXJ and Scot got his AXJ I was truly happy. There were times when I thought that moment would never happen, and then when it did occur I didn't want to stop. After having discussions with my parents and veterinarian, we decided that this year would be my last doing agility with my nine-year-old Golden littermates. I knew this was the right decision because of their age, in order to prevent a serious injury. However, I still see two-year-olds running around like puppies when I look into their semi-white faces.

So now here I am, a junior in college, and for the first time since I was eight I don't have a dog to train. I retired Scot and Fanny after a Greek Week competition at my college where I ran an agility course and became Greek Goddess of Wittenberg University. At the time I knew it would be hard not seeing them every week at their agility lesson, but I did not know the extent. Occasionally my parents will invite me to their obedience lesson to watch, but I long to be on the other side. All of my instructors and friends tell me it's time to get another dog, but college is no place to raise a puppy and spend an adequate amount of time training it. As an alternative I plan on training my instructor's dog or a friend's to tide me over and keep my handling skills up to par.

Since my dogs' retirement I have switched my sense of loss into motivation to save up my money for my next dog and do everything in my power to be prepared for it. Some people in the Golden Retriever Club of Columbus would call me a traitor, but I have fallen in love with a new breed perfect for my apartment stage in life: the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I never thought I would be a "little dog" person, but this breed truly has me excited. I have been following friends and breeders of Cavaliers trying to absorb any information they offer. Thinking about having the chance to raise and train my own dog the way I see fit is so exciting. After training four different dogs (and making some mistakes) I am anxious to try out different techniques and form an even stronger bond with this new dog. So while I am sad that my time competing has been put on hold, I look forward to the time when I come back to the ring with an incredible dog.