Laura Asbil and Golden Belle the Wonder Dog On
February 28, 2007 we received a generous donation to our Foundation from Laura.
It was in the form of an inscription for the film credits of our
Gotta Dance documentary. The inscription was
In honor of Carolyn & Rookie, who inspired me. With thanks to
Patty Wiedeman who teaches with passion and a sense of humor. And in honor of my
best friend and dancin' partner, Belle the Wonderdog.
Of course, we had to contact Laura and learn about how she and Belle were doing
in their freestyle class. And, the next question was whether her Belle was a
Golden. A silly question, probably, given the Golden obsession that permeates
Then learning that this pair intends to go to the 2007 GRCA Nationals for their
Freestyle competition, we asked about documenting their progress through
diary updates, photos, and video clips.
So, now with an answer of yes, we were on our musical way. This is our first
venture here at the Land of
PureGold with respect to following a performance dog. With great success
through our Search and Rescue,
Guide Dog, and Therapy Dog diaries, we are hopeful
that this experience will follow suit. We are surely looking forward to videos
so that we can see Laura and Belle together enjoying themselves.
Do stay tuned and keep up with the latest antics, hard work, and
real progress as this talented girl adds freestyle to her already
impressive number of learning achievements. Yet, Golden Paws Let
Freedom Ring! CDX RN OA AJX NF FFX-AP
(Belle's) name is already crowded with so many other earned titles.
Laura's Freestyle Diary
October 20, 2007 I want to EXUBERANTLY thank Hedy Rankin for her artistic and
AWESOME video work (seen below)! What a joy to have such a perfect
video memory of our FIRST PLACE and FIRST EVER Freestyle event!
I actually thought our routine felt better than it looked, now that
I see it! Our initial back-up was clumsy, and Belle threw in a
couple of hop, skip & jumps that were not in the plan! She was quite
enthused by the cold Washington weather…she was just this side of
the zoomers all the time. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the cool
weather but suffered daily from rain-head. How does Belle’s hair
stay so fluffy? Near the end, I had wanted to “lunge” her; out, away
from me, kind of like a horse. But we still work a bit too
closely…that will be our next training goal as we need that same
result in the agility ring.
BUT, she never took her eyes off me! She wanted to “be on” with me
and I am certain that is why we took first place! It’s all about the
Thanks to Rochelle and the Land of PureGold site for featuring this
crazy crash-course effort…truly, our trip and competition was a
dream come true.
Below is a video that shows the workshop from the 2007 Golden Retriever Nationals.
Carolyn helped us match the musical beat to our dogs' step, which helps us
stay connected while moving.
Below is another video that shows the workshop from the 2007 Golden Retriever
taught us the "Git it!" which made so much sense we
incorporated it into our performance the next day.
October 9, 2007 Here are some wonderful photos taken by photographer Steve
Southard, of Southard Photography. They highlight Belle's work in
the obedience ring at the GRCA Nationals.
October 6, 2007 Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support (and training) to
get us off on this fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime journey!
Before we left we had outstanding support and over-and-above
training from Jump Start instructors, Lori Barbee (agility) Nancy
Craig (obedience and rally-o) and Patty Wiedeman (freestyle) and
each classmate in all those classes.
First stop in August was a dog show in Santa Barbara, just to do a
quickie-competition in Rally Obedience to try and get a leg that
would set us up for a possible title (RA) at Golden Retriever
Nationals in Washington. We did it, which was leg #2. We stayed in a
great little B & B near the Earl Warren show grounds. Nancy
(obedience instructor) was there to cheer us on. On to Lake Tahoe for 2 weeks of heaven: Camp Winnaribbun…(www.campw.com)
we hiked, swam, swam, swam, practiced Obedience, rally and our dance
moves (and admitted to other campers that with about 8 lessons under
out collective belts/collars, we were actually going to attempt to
compete in Canine Freestyle at Nationals. So we were encouraged by
many, instructed in general training methods by Camp Founder and
Director, Lory Kohlmoos (who is awesome) and had 3 privates with Lin
Neumann (well-known Obedience Trainer and Competitor from the
Central Oregon area) who we have met at Camp in previous years, but
we never really took advantage of her phenomenal expertise. She
invited Belle & I to take a 5 hour detour on our way to Washington
and do another private at her home in La Pine Oregon and join her
Obedience Group “Front and Finish” in Bend that night for more
At Camp we got an advance-copy of two 2008 Golden Retriever
Calendars in which Belle and her boyfriend, Golden Retriever Bandon,
appear. And Belle had the fastest and high-scoring agility run in
the annual Camp W Iron-Dog competition. She is quite the little
We were not rushed to arrive in Everett, WA for Nationals, and we
had decided to camp. Yes, camp. And no, I had never slept in a tent
in my life. I think age 52 is a fine place to start. We camped at
8000 feet elevation in Lassen National Park, then on a lake in
beautiful Cottage Grove, Oregon. Only a couple nights each, and
actually, we could have squeezed in another night at each site but I
was unsure about the timing of the mileage before us. I have to
admit that although cold and dirty and HARD, waking up in a forest
in a 2-man tent with my Belle was the absolute-without-a-doubt
favorite part of a totally awesome 6 weeks. In fact, in our 6 years!
We arrived in Everett with 3 days of total down time to get ready to
compete at Nationals. I spent 1 day at the laundry-mat and car wash
alone! We found small parks and played ball…no formal training from
this point on. (We trained in many, many 10 minute increments under
the trees and sun and stars all the way up the coast every day!) We
found a PetSmart and stocked up on our favorite ballies. We napped.
I took Belle to a do it yourself dog wash and got most of the pine
sap/pitch out of her hair. I took a lot of very hot, wonderful
Monday was Agility: we did not Q, but I think one of Belle’s runs
would have broken all land speed records…so much so, that when it
came time for me to slow her up to re-position her for the turn to
the weaves, I guided her instead (by not turning my body away)
directly to another jump that she could fly over, which she did,
which was wrong. I guess I just couldn’t fathom that she was already
at that point on the course, it seemed she just started! It was a
beautiful run though! Her first run was a hodge-podge of zoomers
(cold, rainy, Washington morning!) and talent! I think she took most
obstacles twice and still came IN UNDER TIME.
Also during the day was our second showing before a panel of 3
top-tier Golden Retriever breed judges. This was an attempt to get
the one more passing score we needed to receive Belle’s Certificate
of Conformation Assessment, or CCA. For this she was judged not
against other dogs, but against the Breed Standard: hair by bone by
top-line by eye shape, you name it! It was a very interesting
learning experience and she had received 2 of the required 3 passing
scores last February. She got the necessary 3rd at Nationals!
Monday evening Belle was in the Parade of Title Holders, and it was
a hoot. She LOVED marching up on a stage, having a huge
rosette/ribbon loop placed around her neck and being applauded for.
Tuesday was Rally-O and we qualified and completed our RA title with
a score of 95. Six dogs had a score of 100, so, amazingly, 2 Goldens
that had a score of 100 did not even place. Oh well, we did get a
title at Nationals.
Wednesday was the dreaded Open B Obedience ring…I have to admit, I
have been too intimidated to go NEAR an Open B ring in my regular
show-territory. (CDX was over a year ago) Imagine: with my
inconsistent heeling, I would be in the ring with the likes of
Louise M, Catherine Z, Betty C, David, and Kathy M….need I go on?
All those awesome handlers and dogs are a joy to watch ….and that’s
what I do, watch.
We were 2nd in the ring…good, get it over with. Our figure 8 (first)
was our best ever in the ring. Our heeling…best yet. Belle hadn’t
even been in an Obedience Ring in a year so she did a little
lollygagging on the way to the dumbbell both times, but came to her
senses and got it back to me both times with her normal mouthing. I
praised her BEFORE the judge said “exercise finished” on the flat as
she came in to me…ring nerves, ya think? What a dork. The last
exercise was the broad jump, the only thing I hadn’t really
practiced much in recent weeks because we don’t have a problem with
the broad Jump. Until this day. She walked over it like she had
never seen it before! The judge said to her, “what were you
thinking?” So we flunked, but it was a nice flunk. I have new
confidence and a new plan for our heeling training.
Belle gave blood for DNA for a study of canine cancers GRCA is doing
in conjunction with Morris Animal Foundation. She sported a pretty
green bandana for the effort. (A little Imp on my shoulder kept
whispering in my ear, “maybe she will think that if she steps on the
broad jump in the Ring, they stick a needle in her neck”) HA!
The Parade of Rescue was a tear-jerker, as always. All these
wonderful, brave, smiling Golden faces, once somebody’s garbage! Now
heroes (saving the adoptive family from a burning house) and therapy
dogs, a couple of them happily bouncing on only 3 legs; there were
very successful agility and obedience dogs and drug sniffing dogs
working in Law Enforcement. Someday soon I want to position myself
and my home to really make a difference with rescue work and with
the very old Golden’s that just need a soft couch and some special
Thursday; a day off. In the evening we did a 2 hour basic Freestyle
Workshop with Carolyn Scott (yes, THE Carolyn Scott, Rookie’s Mom
and dance partner) She was to be our Judge for the Freestyle event
on Friday…yikes! No pressure there.
Then it was Friday and time to fish or cut bait. Belle & I were
going to dance in front of an audience and for a judge who just
happened to be Carolyn Scott, who’s “Grease” routine with beautiful
Golden boy Rookie has warmed hearts and brought tears to eyes around
the globe. We were the 2nd Novice team in. Having rushed this whole
learn-to-dance-with-your-dog thing, I had barely taught the moves
and certainly never had time to fade away the toy or food or
whatever lure was helping Belle learn. We just went in the ring with
no treats/toy and did it. COLD TURKEY. I remember smiling at her,
and her smiling back. A lot. I heard only our music…..and then, I
will never forget as we finished with our final kiss…the Judge
standing up and yelling “Bravo!” Then I could hear again, and hear
other applause as well. I knew it went well; Belle did everything I
asked of her, and NEVER took her eyes off of me. We had a little
crooked “backie-uppie” or two, but we did what we meant to do, and
pretty-well in time with the music, too. Even so, I went deaf again
later, as Carolyn Scott approached us, center-ring with the First
Place Ribbon. What a phenomenal ending to a week at Golden Retriever
Nationals. (It goes without saying, but I will anyway: that “first
dance” of ours will forever and always be dedicated to Rookie and
Carolyn. Just a couple days after Nationals, they started their last
dance together, and I am sure your prayers for both of them would be
The next day my friend Marsha flew in from Texas with her Min Pin,
Molly, to join Belle and me for our long journey home. It was
another total-dog-related excursion…and a vacation unto itself. The
River Place Hotel in Portland, The McCallum House Inn & B & B in
Mendocino, Doris Day’s Cypress Inn in Carmel By The Sea and a last
minute decision to stop at Harris Ranch for a night so the trip
wouldn’t end! All the pre arranged reservations were at famously
dog-friendly establishments. Blankets, bowls, beds, biscuits, etc.
We had planned on only one night in Portland but Molly ate an ounce
or two of a very good dark chocolate bar that Marsha had half-eaten
and left in the car. And yes, Molly and Belle were loose in the car
while we ate dinner. Well…long story short (have you ever seen a Min
Pin with a very serious caffeine-high?) at 3 a.m. I said, that’s
it…we find a vet! Thank God for navigation systems in
cars…Portland’s dark streets were mostly one way and often under
construction. Poor Molly’s heart rate was 220 (normal is 140) and
her BP was dangerously high. There was never any vomiting or
diarrhea…no abdominal tenderness. I say this because that’s what I
kept watching for, since we really couldn’t be sure she had eaten
any candy---could have been Belle, could have just been an empty
foil on the floor from a human, for Peat’s sake. But 6 pound Molly
was one seriously sick puppy. So, we hung out in and around a
beautiful hotel in Portland on the Willamette River and waited for
her release from HER hotel in Portland: the one with the I V’s and
charcoal and heart monitors. Her bill and ours were both about $700.
I just had to make it to my Freestyle class at Jump Start Dog Sports
tonight, even though I haven’t unpacked a thing! Patty and the class
were so supportive and excited at our win, we just had to show up
and thank them. We stopped at Le Woof bakery and bought beautiful
doggie-gourmet cookies to share and wore our dancing clothes. They
one-upped us though, and were ready with a root beer float
celebration and little wings on a stick as a prize! We did the
routine for them. They had only seen the fragmented version…as we
tried to choreograph and get the moves down. It was better at
Nationals, but the video will prove that later. As soon as possible,
video from the workshop with Carolyn, and professional photos and
video of the performance itself will be posted.
I can’t end without telling you about some new friends I made at
Nationals. Barbara and Anne and I started a simple conversation
about Rally from the sidelines one morning. Belle was trying to
weasel in on their picnic. You know how sometimes you just click
with people? They are delightful ladies from So. Australia, in fact,
Barbara is the President of the Golden Retriever Club of South
Australia. We had drinks and dinner a couple times, they cheered
Belle on in her dance and I am sending them video of the whole
competition so they can show their clubs what freestyle competition
looks like in a Nationals venue. They have invited me (quite
sincerely, I think) to come to their Nationals this summer and stay
with one of them and experience the breed there. Doctor Jean Dodds
will be speaking and I am going to do a little digging regarding
better sponsorship for Jean before the trip. I am toying with the
idea of going…guess I better get back to work and make a bit of
money soon, then! Because of making their acquaintance, I got to
engage in discussions of the breed and show venues and attend a
meeting of international breeders…a first of its sort, and,
hopefully the beginning of an exchange of ideas, discussions and
joint-research regarding diseases and the like, all affecting our
beloved Goldens all around the globe.
What a journey…from that puppy kindergarten class at Jump Start 6
years ago. Whatever did I do with my time and my heart before this
little yellow dog came along ?
September 22, 2007 We are definitely resting today. Stay tuned, though, to learn about the
incredible week we had at the GRCA Nationals.
September 13, 2007 Belle took to tent camping like she's done it all her life! Our first stop
was Lassen National Park, and it was awesome. Our site was about
8,000 feet up In the cold morning air, we danced under the trees
before breaking camp and moving out!
Well, I have to
admit I am sending this e-mail from a Best Western in Bend OR. We
camped the past 2 nights in Cottage Grove, Oregon on a lake. We
danced under the trees and the stars! BUT it was around 30 some
degrees each night and we needed to be in Bend tonight and Bend had
tempting hotels, so here we are. Tonight was my first shower on
other than a concrete floor in over 2 weeks.
I have abandoned the "back-around" move, as it is still too sloppy.
Also abandoned much hope of getting Belle to lunge, like a horse
would, around me in a circle just before our finish. She works close
to me and I had wanted to show off her beautiful prance and separate
myself from the scene. I tried those "stick-in-the-ground" weave
poles, but she saw them as just that and tried to weave. Next I
tried 4 agility jumps in a square with me inside but she frequently
jumped in the square with me. At this late date, I want all our
training to be very positive. I don't want anything to need
correcting, so we'll just polish what Belle knows and go with that.
My physical training aides are just too limited at Camp and in
We needed to be in Bend tonight for a "front and finish" obedience
training group, conducted by Lin Neumann, a well respected
Competition Obedience Trainer and competitor in Central Oregon. At
Camp W, where Lin was the obedience trainer for the campers, she saw
a glimmer of progress and hope in our formal obedience efforts and
invited us to detour (about 5 hrs total) and see her today for a
private lesson at her home and training center in Lapine, OR and
then join tonight's training group in Bend . . . all on the way to
Remember, at Nationals we will also compete in Traditional
Obedience, Rally O and Agility. And, any and all training strengthens
While at Camp W, Director Lory Kohlmoos tutored us on our Freestyle
routine. Admittedly, all of her instruction was relative to MY
HANDLING, but her guidance and suggestions were warmly welcomed and
So, armed with excellent finishing-touch-instruction at Camp and in
Oregon, we should arrive at the site of Nationals in 2 days. This
will give us 2 days of rest before Agility and the CCA program and
the Parade of Title Holders on Monday, Rally Obedience on Tuesday,
Traditional Obedience (our very first Open B ring) on Wednesday, the
Freestyle workshop with Carolyn Scott on Thursday and then, Ta Dah!,
Freestyle on Friday. More from Nationals!
September 12, 2007 We did our dance in front of a real audience at Camp on the last night of
week one. Camp turns over to a new group, except for the very very
lucky ones, like me, who stay for two weeks. Belle never lost focus,
a big concern of mine, since she is so very friendly and had twenty
or thirty of her closest friends in the audience!
Laura & Belle's Camp ID Photo, taken by Ross Kohlmoos
August 23, 2007 We will leave for Camp, which precedes Nationals, August 24. While we are at
Camp Winnaribbun (www.campW.com) for 2 weeks, we will refine our
Freestyle dance. Much to learn, I have not “polished” anything as we
just had to get the thing choreographed, then teach the moves…crazy
undertaking in a few short weeks, but we are off! The freestyle day
at Nationals is Friday, September 21. Will try & find a way to get
some video to you’ all from Camp and, of course, from Golden
Retriever National 2007!
Trials and Tribulations. Imagine you are dancing in a heat
wave at 5 p.m. Now imagine your partner is a dog. Add to that a
required degree of rhythm, or at least a great sense of humor!
Introducing a Difficult Move Gretchen teaches me to teach the back-around move. We want to
add this near the end of our routine, before the jumping-up part. Why not a totally new move? We don’t know the rest of the dance,
either. Wish us luck.
July 21, 2007 These pictures include Belle, me and Phil from Phil’s Dance Studio in
Orange, CA. (Where until recently, he taught only human dance
partners….he now admits his business has gone to the dogs) These
fabulous photos are by Kathy Morris, Co-Owner of Jump Start Dog
Sports, where I train.
Learning the backup move for our opening
Trying to make the leg-weaves look smooth
Showing the crowd how Phil teaches us to move together
Beautiful , enthusiastic “high!” jump
July 15, 2007 Our lessons are once a week. Our first two weeks were spent selecting music,
with the class’s help. When all was said and done, the vote was
unanimous for the piece that Belle obviously preferred: a Celine Dion song, I’m Alive.
The next two weeks were spent on editing the music, keeping the
parts that I felt we could move well to, eventually ending up
with 2 minutes and 7 seconds of the piece.
During this time, as well as for the next two to three weeks, I
tried to identify “moves” that Belle already knew from either
her Agility or Rally or Obedience training and decide how those
moves could fit in to the dance. Our classmates and Patty, our
teacher helped us fit the bits and pieces together.
Somehow or another, I have ended up in a Ballroom Dance group
class with other Jump Start Freestylers, to enhance our
dance/presence which will in turn better our canine freestyle
So, that brings us to right about now, with
only six weeks available to train in classes (we leave for 2 weeks
of dog camp prior to our drive to Nationals, which begin Sept
17. We have received confirmation that we are in a workshop with
Carolyn Scott on Sept 20 and our entry for the Freestyle
Match on Sept 21 is accepted as well. Our goal is to “do it
all” (presentably) and along with Freestyle we will compete in
Excellent level Agility (Open level Fast Agility, too) Rally
Obedience and traditional Obedience.
Right now we have two spots as yet not choreographed, each about
10 seconds long. I am trying to teach Belle the “go backwards
around me in a circle” move for one of those spots and we have
much to do to refine ALL of our intended moves! I am still
trying to be in the right place at the right time, the music goes
so much faster when the dog dances with you! I am always
running to my “spot”. Thankfully, Belle LOVES her dance-play.
She barks and barks if her music is playing and I am working on
a particular spot by myself.
weekend, Belle and I participated in a Freestyle demo with other
Jump Start students in Del Mar CA at a Wags For Wishes event.
Since we were there doing Agility anyway, I gave in and said
we’d participate. The crowds loved all the dogs and their
routines! Later in the day I was stopped twice by couples
complementing Belle and I on our “dance” HA! Thank goodness they
don’t know what we were supposed to be doing when we were doing
whatever was so cute!
March 1, 2007 My Freestyle teacher, Patty, is very excited that Belle's journey will be
documented. She has offered to take video (DVD, of course) or photos of our
progress through Nationals. We had our first class tonight and we are tired!
February 28, 2007 Belle is my third Golden and the first I have ever really trained and/or
competed with. About 3 years ago we took a Freestyle class just to have fun and
work on our teamwork. We train/compete in Agility, Obedience & Rally. One and
one-half years ago my friend and her Golden along with Belle and I decided to do
a Mexican Hat Dance for the annual summer/birthday party we throw for the
Goldens and about 10 of their canine friends. (just an excuse for another
party!) We always have a theme and that year it was Mexican. Well, in one month
we crammed and took lessons from Patty Wiedeman (Freestyle teacher at Jump Start
Dog Sports where we train) and performed the Mexican Hat Dance in tandem! It was
Fast forward to today. I recently confirmed to myself that I will go to Golden
Retriever Nationals in Washington State this September. I am very excited and
want to participate as much as possible with Belle. There will be a Freestyle
competition there and we intend to compete! So, tomorrow night we start a
"fast-track" course at Jump Start. We have been selecting music. So far
"Brown-Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison is my favorite and "I'm Alive" by Celine Dion
is Belle's favorite. We will take Patty's advice on what music suits our
footwork. While we are only novice dancers, we are definitely experts in having