Posted by: jility | September 8, 2012

The Little Red Rocket

The day she was born I knew she was for me. Her coat glistened like a shiny new sports car. She had a small white patch on her rump and exactly the right amount of white. She was stunning!

For about a year I had searched for a Border Collie. Ever since I was a teenager, I had wanted a Border Collie and a standard Poodle. I had the standard Poodle (well actually I had four of them) and I wanted the Border Collie. I had read and heard that they were the smartest dogs on earth and I wanted to know for myself which breed was actually more intelligent.

I was full of excitement as I started my search. Instead of being met with open arms, I found door after door closed in my face. It was the same story over and over: I had only trained Poodles, surely I was incapable of training a Border Collie. One of the stud dog owners actually wrote me a scathing long email explaining that I would NEVER get one of the puppies from the upcoming litter, because I was clearly not high profile or good enough to own one of those precious pups.

It was the same story with each breeder I contacted. One breeder actually took my deposit and sent me a contract. I signed it and sent it back. The next day she sent me an email stating that she had contacted a local competitor in my area and was told there was NO way she should sell us a dog! Because we had only trained Poodles, we would never be able to train or handle a fast BC.

I was about to give up my quest for a Border Collie when Susan Garrett offered to help us. Susan introduced us to Lynda Verna of Bo-Tyne fame. Susan’s brilliant dog, Encore, came form Bo-Tyne and the sire of the upcoming litter was a littermate to Encore. We were placed third on the list. The breeder would take first pick, then a high profile trainer got second pick and then us. I will be forever grateful to Susan for arranging that purchase for us!

I held my breath as the pups grew. The breeder wanted the one with less white, which was fine with me. The trainer wanted the male (first pick in my opinion, but I didn’t want any male dogs, although I might have made an exception for him!), and we got next pick.

The trainer suggested that, because it was our first BC, we should not take the little red and white one. She said that this puppy was over the top crazy. She suggested we take the next puppy that was more mellow but almost nearly white.

Being the structure fanatic I am, I chose the little red and white pup because she has the prettiest color. I have never regretted that choice. OK, maybe once or twice in the beginning.

With the help of our friend Jef Blake, we named her Bo-Tyne Crush on Ewe. Crush, Crushie or Fwushie for short. She arrived at six weeks old. She proceeded to fence fight with the older dogs, bit me when I tried to hold her, and she screamed like a wild Banshie in a torture chamber when she wanted something, didn’t want something or just felt like it. She really was over the top high drive and crazier than loon. When she was about 10 weeks old, a friend came to meet her. She brought her nine month old Shih Tzu to “play” with our new puppy. HUH! Crush took one look at that fluff ball and attacked the crap out of her! I grabbed her and hauled her off the back of the bewildered puppy, told her that her behavior was unacceptable. I thought she got the message so I let her go. She proceeded to nail that puppy again! She meant business too. She was not messing around. I had never seen a puppy that young be so aggressive! It was scary.

I wrote to Susan and told her what we were going through with her. Susan suggested we send her back. I was starting to think that we really we incapable of training a BC! We adored this little girl and just needed some direction.

Eventually, we worked it all out. There were plenty of pitfalls along the way, but I learned how to train a crazed, over the top dog to love self-control. She was challenging but a blast to train.

When she was about a year old, several people suggested I turn her over to Mel. They said I was not fast enough to get her around. I figured they were right, so that is what I did. I had already trained her to do a pretty darn good 2on 2off, a great sit stay and had a good foundation going for the teeter. I had done her focus work and drive work (not like I needed to do much of that). I knew letting Mel take over was the right thing to do.

Watching her run and jump, I figured she would be about in the middle of the pack time-wise. She wouldn’t be the fastest, nor would she be slow. I figured she would place third or fourth in most of her runs. I mentioned this to our instructor, Stacy Winkler. She looked at me in disbelief and said, “What are you smoking? She is CRAZY fast!” I just didn’t see it. She was tiny and took a million little strides to get anywhere.

When Crush came out for the first time, I was shocked. Stacy was right. Crushie was pretty dang fast. She went through the levels very quickly. Unfortunately, she also went through the bars. It was and continues to be a struggle for her. Had it not been for knocked bars, she would be at about MACH 6 now instead of only half way to MACH. She placed third in jumpers at USDAA Nationals a few years back. Mel was really hurting, so he just loped in at the end and Crush slowed down. They were only 7/100s of a second out of first place. Not bad for a little dog and an old man in the stiffest competition in North America. Had Mel not had to slow down, they would have won by a fairly large margin!

Six months later I noticed her limping in her right front leg. We took her to a vet and she diagnosed sore toes. I felt it was in her shoulder but figured the vet knew best. We rested her for six weeks. She came back sound but not quite as fast as she was. I would say that she was about a quarter of a second slower on average. Dogs that couldn’t once touch her, now were getting close.

A few months went by and she started limping again. We rested her for three months that time. She once again was sound so we started running her. A few months later that limp showed once again. We took her to several different vets. Some said shoulder; some toes, We didn’t know what to think. Once again, we rested her.

By now she was about a second or so slower than she once was, but she seemed sound. Crushie lives for agility so we wanted to allow her to continue running as long as she was sound.

I told friends I thought something was very wrong with her but they all poo pooed me. Dogs are getting faster I was told. Mel is getting older and slower. Training is getting better…. But I knew. Something was definitely wrong with our Little Red Rocket. She was now about two seconds slower that she once was and she had lost stamina when running in the field (her second favorite thing to do).

About three weeks ago our young pup Xoom fell down an embankment and hurt herself very badly. She screamed so hard I thought she was going to die. X-rays showed nothing so we took her to Dr. Salewski, a genius of a veterinarian chiropractor. We took Crushie along as well. We like to have body work done on her as often as we can. Dr. Salewski had worked on her a few times this summer.

As the doctor went over her shoulders, I saw a look of horror come over his face and I knew something was terribly wrong. He said he found a mass in her triceps muscle. I prayed he was wrong but knew in my heart he wasn’t. I had known for a year and a half something was wrong.

Dr. Uhler at Sumner Vet did a biopsy. It was inconclusive, but the lab felt it was a spindle cell sarcoma. We scheduled surgery for her for the next week. Dr. Uhler said we should go ahead and run her that weekend. It was the last trial in which we were entered, as our dogs were due for their yearly two month rest. Crush was not limping and she had been off for three weeks due to being in season. She was jumping out of her skin to run. So, run she did. Mel let her run her contacts in every run and it was the most relaxed I have seen Mel run in a long time. After each run, he and I would go outside and try to not let anyone see us cry. We knew this might be her last agility trial. Only a handful of people knew what was going on.

Had it not been for a few bars and one miscommunication, they would have had a perfect three day weekend with three runs a day. Her last standard run was 5.5 yards per second and with one bar in jumpers, she was about 6.6 yards per second. She was on fire and having a blast doing what she loved to do more than anything else in the world.

Two days later she was in surgery. We waited with great anxiety until Dr. Uhler called to say that is all went well. He had to take some of her muscle to get it all because the tumor was imbedded quite deeply in her muscle. By this time, I had resigned myself to the fact that Crushie would never be her old self in the ring, but she was alive and that was the most important thing.

The pathology report came back today: spindle cell sarcoma. They felt it had originated in her nerve tissue and then grown to invade her triceps muscle. It is a slow growing tumor and they think they got it all. However, most spindle cell tumors grow back in time, so we have to keep a very close watch on her.

At this point, yards per second, who is faster than whom and bragging rights seem so silly. She was once the most amazing little super dog I have ever had the pleasure to watch run. Now she is just a normal fast dog. There was a time when she could have wide turns and bad trips and still win, but those days are long gone. It really doesn’t matter though. We have her. She is a crazy little crackhead that loves to watch TV, bite at the TV controller and run huge circles as fast as she can with her big Poodles right on her hip.

When I think of her future and what is going to happen, I get scared.

At times, I can barely breathe.

Long live the Little Red Rocket.

Helen Grinnell King


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  3. Helen you are making me cry….
    Love ya Kathy

  4. Dear Helen and Mel,
    I have no words to express how sorry Brent and I are to hear this. We loved watching her run when we visited in July. Mel and Crushie made everything seem to just flow without any effort. Our hearts go out to you both, and I hear you when you say ‘I just knew there was something’. Sending you lots of strength and wish I could give you a great big hug!
    Love Francisca XXXX

  5. i love the picture of her with mel at the computer, editing. i bet she is a great assistant editor, barking her approval, or not. my heart goes out to all of you.

  6. Helen and Mel, I am just so, so sorry to hear agout this. It blows my mind to imagine how this is devastating you. I will keep you and Crushie in my thoughts and prayers and hope that she has a very successful outcome. I’m hoping you have many, many more years together.

  7. Helen, Whenever I think of the future and what’s going to happen, and get scared; I try to remember to breathe in slowly through the nose; and out deliberately through the mouth… and recall my most effective quotes ~ “Anxiety is a deep conscious breath away from dissolving”…
    “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its joy.”
    I love you!

  8. Turn on those after burners, Crushie. We are praying for you!
    Please give Helen and Mel a hug from me!

  9. Helen, you opened your heart here and I could just hug you for all you’ve put into words here. There have been so many tragedies lately, I just don’t know what is in the air. Having been in your structure class, I’ve had a view into the hopes, research and planning you must have put into your search for Crush. To find a dog like her is a pearl beyond price. It goes to show that beyond the big names and the headline wins, the heart and soul of the matter and the knowledge that you’ve been party to a rare and exceptionally unique living phenomenon on this earth is the thing that’s important. Sending hopes and prayers that Crush will be with you for a long time to come.

  10. Oh crap! Helen and Mel, my heart aches for you in this situation! BUT… she is alive, she is with you and will be for a long time to come. You have a great attitude! With your brilliant mind you will be able to think of something the Crushie will be able to participate in that will not only keep her busy but will occupy her mind! Search and rescue?

  11. Oh Helen, Such a sad story. I am sorry Crushie has had to go through this. Really does give one perspective on every day we spend with our dogs. They truly are amazing creatures. I hope her recovery goes well. Hugs to you , Mel and Crushie.

  12. Helen we have never met in person but I know of you and your dogs through the Say Yes family I am in tears reading this and my heart is with you on a road to recovery for Crush. I too have a dog who had a sarcoma removed, my hope for you and Crush is that the surgery got it all and you are able to rehab back to full physical health. It can be done and if anyone can do this you and Mel can for Crush. Much rehab many massages (especially where the scar tissue may build) and a ton of love will do this for Crush. Hugs and love being sent your way….here is to a long and healthy life for Crush, that is my sent intention to you big hugs!

  13. I’m so so sorry to hear this about Crush. She is such a great dog – and I know means the world to you two. I will keep her i my thoughts and you both as well. Best Jennifer and Teague

  14. Helen I was so sad to read this….I had no idea and am going to send Crushie the best healing energy that I can! I hope that all turns out for the best and that she lives a very long life. She is still your little Red Rocket and that will never change! Both you and Mel take care!!! You didnt say how Xoom is doing???

  15. So sorry that you got such terrible news. She sounds like an awesome red rocket and hopefully has many fun adventures still ahead.

  16. I great and emotioal read,,,you also gave me some hope,I have a young BC that some times I wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew.

  17. Helen and Mel, so sorry. Our BC had lymphoma, so I know the agony you are going thru. Lan lived for over 2 years past expectation. We were devastated when he failed the Wisconsin Protocol chemo treatment. But miracles do happen and the CCNU treatment let him and us have that precious extra time. I miss him still. Crushie has so much spirit…she’ll give this the best fight she can, and she’s so fortunate to have you both to love her like she deserves. Prayers coming your way.

  18. I love you little Fwushie. It took you and I a few days to understand each other but once we did, I adored you.

  19. So sorry to hear about Crush. But I hope she still has many more years of agility and running in the yard and doing the things she loves.

  20. So sorry to read this. Sending good thoughts for a fast recovery for Crush.

  21. Having just recently gone through something similar with my “lived for agility” dog, it was hard to read this without tearing up. I recently had to put down my 7 year old BC/Staffy/JRT mix due to epilepsy. It stole not only his life, but his lifeblood, as he hadn’t been able to do what he loved for the last year and a half of his life. I hope Crush gets her joy back and you have a long life together. It so sucks to personally learn what we already know – it can all end in a second.

  22. So sorry to hear the news about Crush! Now your excellent training gets a REAL work-out keeping that super-charged mind and body active in appropriate ways!

  23. May Crush live many more happy years and have many more runs in the agility ring with Mel. Now, more than ever, may you enjoy each day that you share with her. Best wishes to Crushie, Mel and you.

  24. My very best to you and Mel and Crush. My dog has fought against multiple mast cell tumors for several years and just when I though it was safe to breathe, I found another last week and my world crashed again. I share the unknown with you, but hope you enjoy every day more than the last for a very long time, as I plan to do with my boy.

  25. Oh no, my heart aches for you both.

  26. That didn’t go the direction I anticipated. I am so, so very sorry to read this blog. Crushie has made a big impression on me and her teamwork with Mel is always a pleasure to watch. Time will tell the rest of this tale. I hope you have a lot more time to enjoy your special crackhead—and that she WILL have more runs ahead of her. Hugs to you and Mel, Helen. It just isn’t fair.

  27. Oh, Helen and Mel — may Crush recover and live long. So sorry to hear about it. Hugs to you both.

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