Bellvue's Broadway Trouper, signature pose


by Janet Wall


Trouper joined our family at twelve weeks of age. He was big, beautiful and smart. He was outgoing, playful, and not afraid of anything. Although we had purchased him with conformation and breeding in mind, he had plans of his own.

Soon after we bought Trouper, he began accompanying me to the Regional Center for Canine Companions for Independence where I volunteered as an assistant Puppy Trainer. Trouper served as my partner when I demonstrated to puppy-raisers the commands that service dogs learn. He absorbed every bit of information he could. He picked up tricks very quickly and soon knew how to shake hands, wave, turn around, crawl, speak and roll over. Being with me at CCI each Saturday gave Trouper the opportunity to play with other dogs and their owners. He became comfortable with cats, rabbits, horses and goats. He also had exposure to wheelchairs and walkers.

As a young dog, Trouper spent time learning to be a family member and he became familiar with the world around him. He loved everything we did, but didn't always do things the way I wanted. Trouper did quite well at local conformation matches, where lively behavior is tolerated. At AKC sanctioned shows, however, judges would comment frequently that they liked him; if only he would stand still for a minute and then move around the ring correctly. Trouper allowed me the limelight only once, in August of 1989, at the Mt. Palomar Kennel Club Show where he won Best of Breed.

Trouper and I were always busy at the fun matches. We would finish performing just in time to arrive at the obedience ring. Here, Trouper earned many qualifying scores and had fun as usual. He often barked and occasionally left my side to visit spectators outside the ring. I have often wondered if Trouper was purposely showing the rest of us how exciting it was to NOT be perfect. In March of 1991, at the Collie Club of America National Specialty, Trouper placed First in the Graduate Novice class. It sounds great, but actually he broke during the long sit, once again showing us that perfection is not always necessary to garner a placement.

At thirteen months of age, Trouper passed a Herding Instinct test given by Terry Parrish. She was very impressed with his seemingly natural talent for herding and indicated that he was a prime candidate for formal lessons. Had my schedule not been so full at the time, I would have enjoyed taking advantage of Terry's well-known teaching abilities. Later, I introduced Trouper to agility. He always approached each obstacle with confidence and excitement; it was hard to slow him down.

A large part of Trouper's socialization was accomplished when I would take him to school where I teach children with learning disabilities. It is here that Trouper's career as a Therapy Dog took hold. I began to see his amazing patience and tolerance. In 1989, at two years of age, Trouper completed his CD title in four imperfect efforts, passed the Temperament test offered by the American Temperament Test Society, and became registered with Therapy Dogs International.

In July of 1990, some friends asked me to bring Trouper to the Alzheimer Family Center to visit patients. Though apprehensive and uncertain, I went anyway. Trouper seemed to know just why he was there. He went from person to person saying hello and giving kisses. He stood still when necessary and moved out of the way as needed. He let people squeeze him and love him. He posed for pictures and gently took treats from their fragile hands. He was to continue working at the Alzheimer Family Center for six more years.

Trouper's next six months as a Therapy dog was at a local hospital visiting people with terminal illnesses and some people who had recently awakened from comas. I remember one man, Ruben, who could not talk and was in a wheelchair. He was surrounded by all sorts of machines. Each week Ruben awaited Trouper's visit and his eyes filled with tears of delight when we would arrive. Trouper would carefully position himself alongside the wheelchair, stretch his neck upward and nuzzle Ruben on the cheek.

During the next two years Trouper made visits to patients recovering from strokes and brain injuries at San Diego Rehabilitation Institute. The motivation to touch Trouper was great and people whose movements were limited reached out to pet him. At the same time, Trouper was making weekly visits to a residential home for children with severe and multiple disabilities. He was always so patient as the children learned kindness, compassion and responsibility through their friendship with the big collie.

Trouper also travelled to dozens public schools where we teamed up for Pet Care demonstrations. We talked to classes from Kindergarten through High School. We met children with physical disabilities and behavior problems, as well as children whose fear of dogs slowly eased as they discovered Trouper's gentle nature.

In 1990 Trouper earned a Versatile Companion title from the American Working Collie Association. Later that year his picture appeared in the Workman Publisher's 365 Dogs Page-A-Day Calendar where he was shown in a scene taken during his Herding Instinct test.

At four years of age Trouper passed the AKC Canine Good Citizenship Test and soon after was accepted by the Delta Society as a Pet Partner. This organization has the most comprehensive test of all Therapy Dog groups, requiring health, behavior and temperament tests as well as a written exam for the handler.

In 1992 I was contacted by Susan Larson of Trailwind Collies. She requested videotape of Trouper and my other dog, Kelly, doing Therapy work for a video that was to be shown at the Collie Club of America Education Seminar in July of 1992. That video, The Versatile Collie, is now part of the permanent CCA Library collection. And in 1993, Trouper was once again seen in the Workman's 365 Dogs Paqe-A-Day Calendar, this time for his work as a Therapy Dog. Trouper is not quite six years old. He is above all, an family dog. He barks at the mailman, takes walks at the beach, and sleeps in our bedroom. He brings shoes from the closet when he wants more attention and snuggles up on the bed when he wants to be alone.

The socialization and training that Trouper received as a young dog made him a wonderful companion. I'm glad now that Trouper wasn't a perfect show dog. We might have missed out on a lot of great experiences. I have learned so much from him. Trouper has taught me mostly about patience and contentment. He has shown me a side of the dog world that I never knew could be so rewarding. He has shown me that competition is fun, but not everything. He is truly a special dog; a one-in-a-million find and a one-in-a-million friend.

[Trouper died in Dec., 1995 at 8 years of age of lymphosarcoma.]

Return Home
Stories Top|Site Map|Title Programs|Versatility Program