(Cheryl & BCA HOF “Chubbs” UD)
I inherited my love of animals-especially horses & dogs-from my late father, and got my first puppy (a rat terrier) as a prize for being flower girl in my uncle’s wedding. I was pretty shy at the time, but I was willing to do anything to have one of those puppies for my own! Over the years our family has had quite a variety of dog breeds, including a Rat Terrier, Weimaraners, Pugs, Poodles, Rottweilers, a Cocker, Basenji, and Great Danes. The one constant was that there were always dogs around!
Me (with Wanda), sisters Kirsten & Kim (with kitty, Leo) and brother Allan (with Wugsby)
The first dog that I was capable of taking care of properly was a little Pug named Wanda, that came along in my junior high years. My brother had Wanda’s “husband”, Wugsby, and we were active in the Doggone 4-H Club, led by a couple of professional handlers, Ted & Arlene Luke. My brother, Allan, put a CD title on Wugsby, won many honors as a Jr. Handler, and also showed him in the breed ring. The Lukes provided us with a wealth of wonderful information and hands-on experience, and set me on the path to becoming not just a dog owner, but a fairly capable trainer as well. I was also very involved in a horse 4-H club at the time, and horses were, in fact, my first love.
My sweet little Pug, Wanda, shared some key life experiences with me, including high school, battling cancer, marriage and welcoming my firstborn into the world!
I have always loved to do creative and unique things with my animals, and often would imitate tricks I’d seen on TV shows or read about in stories. My brother recalls coming home from school one day to find me and my best friend having a birthday party for one of our horses inside the house! We were serving an oatmeal cake with carrot “candles” to the three horses (one horse, a pony and her foal) as my brother arrived on the scene!
At age 14 I discovered a painful lump in the muscle of my left leg, which was soon diagnosed as a rare and deadly cancer known as “fibrosarcoma”. This cancer was not responsive to chemo or radiation which made the prognosis even more bleak. Within a year it had recurred and they came very close to having to amputate my leg–and, it had also metastasized to my left lung. The doctors told my parents not to expect me to live to graduate from high school.
Obviously, God must have had a purpose for my life as I am alive and well 37 years later–married to husband Marty for 35 years, mother to four strapping young men, a growing assortment of grandchildren…and filling my spare time teaching silly tricks to funny-looking dogs!
My near-death experience has brought out a tenacity and love of life in me, and has helped make me into a person who thrives on tackling challenges. I love to do things “outside of the box” and in high school, when fellow students encouraged certain behavior saying, “Everybody’s doing it!”, my response was always, “Well…I’m not ‘Everybody’!”
It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I ventured into the ring with my first obedience dog-a bulldog named Rosie-who acquired fame and a small fortune by winning the $3000 2nd place prize on the America’s Funniest People show in the early 1990’s. Rosie finished her CD and CDX in one year, consistently placing with scores in the mid 190’s. A friend who knew me when I was younger commented that I now had “pugs on steroids”!
People often ask who I train with and all I can say is that God has given me a rather strange (and enjoyable) gift! I haven’t been able to afford taking classes, but have taken advantage of practicing with other experienced handlers in the dog clubs I’ve been a part of–and am constantly looking for new tips and ideas from others active in the sport.
As soon as my puppies are taking to solid foods, they are taught to do sit/stays. Feeding times are my primary training times, and new exercises are incorporated into the routine–fostering a love of learning, and keeping training short, fun and rewarding for the dog. Bulldogs don’t like a lot of repetition, and are too smart to “work for free”, so they respond readily to these “mini practice sessions”. My dogs line up in a set order and wait while their food is prepped–when a release word is given, they race to their assigned bowls (no one ever considers eating from the others’ bowl!)
One day as I called the dogs for dinner, I turned around and saw that they had lined up, one behind the other, in order of size, waiting for their meal–the perfect “lunch line”!
Learning is a way of life around our house and I generally keep a few small treats in my pockets to reinforce the behaviors I want, and stay on top of any corrections–my dogs know that disobeying is NOT an option…and that obedience is fun and rewarding! Our yard is not fenced, but the dogs are well aware of the boundaries, and know that they must watch and respond to me–even if a tremendous temptation such as a cat or an exuberant group of kids happen by.
I have combined my training skills and artistic creativity to develop a line of fun merchandise which can be found on our website at:
Even my young puppies quickly learn to pose for the camera, while donning any number of zany accessories.
The dogs are always well-rewarded, and often push each other out of the way, jockeying for THEIR turn in the spotlight!
I am currently working on a fun and unique picture/story book called, “HullaBuLLoO!”, that will feature my crazy crew in all types of adventures. You’ll get a taste of the fun if you peruse Gabe’s Blog with the same title. I hope to have it available within the coming year.
Bulldogs have been my only obedience dog so far, and I have accomplished (6) CDs, (4) CDXs (plus one leg on another before losing her with a litter of pups), (2) UDs, and (1) UDX (a breed first). In 2007 we added AKC’s newly established Rally to our list of activities and have since added (5) RNs, (3) RAs, and (3) RE titles to the list. In 2007 I finished 8 titles on my three bullies–six Rally titles as well as (2) CDs–so it was a busy year!
Here I am with my “Sittingbullies Gang”…Gabe, Pip and Chubbs
With our generous sponsor and friend, “Auntie” Jeanne McClelland backing us up, Gabe and I have been able to venture into many other dog performance activities. In 2011 we added our first agility and lure coursing titles to our growing list of accomplishments. It’s extra fun having a breed that isn’t usually seen or expected to succeed in these events, and we always draw a lot of attention! Everyone loves to cheer on The Underdog…and it’s especially exciting when a victory is achieved!
Forever an optimist, I have my sights on having the first OTCH bulldog–though there is some very stiff competition out there, with several other very capable and talented bulldogs now working in the Open & Utility level! We are now venturing out into the agility ring, working on Gabe’s breed championship and tracking skills, as well as dabbling in some carting and herding!
…”At’ll do Pig!” Six-month old, Gabe, tries his hand at herding!