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 to read:

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 our website.

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 bond, right?

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 Nationals. Carolyn 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…( 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 polishing.

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 star!

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 showers myself!

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 care.

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 most welcome.

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 campsites.

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 WA.

Remember, at Nationals we will also compete in Traditional Obedience, Rally O and Agility. And, any and all training strengthens the bond.

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 appreciated.

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 ( 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 performance. 

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.

Last 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!

Well, here is a video of where we are in our quest to have a presentable Freestyle routine by Golden Retriever Nationals in Everett WA in September.

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 a riot!

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 fun.