~Iliamna's Quest~

Meet the Dogs

Dora, Kylee, Trick, Tori and Khana the puppy - February 2005

Being a dog trainer is an interesting occupation. I've been doing this professionally for some 13 years now, and I still enjoy it as much as I did when I first started. While I compete with my dogs, they are first and foremost my companions and live in my house with me.

Over the years I've trained and taught in a number of different venues. Obedience has always been the mainstay of what I do with the dogs (and the classes I teach) but I've ventured out into tracking, herding, schutzhund and most recently agility. The dogs have performed in schools, fairs, talent shows and youth clubs across the state. My first German Shepherd was my partner in Search and Rescue when I was an EMT with the local emergency services, and I've had German Shepherds ever since.

I have five furkids currently: two German Shepherds (Trick and Tori) and three Chows (Kylee, Dora and Khana). I've also included Dawson and Lady, who have both passed on but who had such an impact on my life.

So settle back, prepare to have your face licked thoroughly, and I hope you don't mind the dog hair!


Photo to right courtesy of Roy Mullins Photography
Dawson, Lady and Kylee - 1994

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is their dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity, health and sickness. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds that come with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all others desert him he alone remains. He is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. And when the last scene of all comes and death takes his master and his body is laid in the cold ground and all other friends leave, there by the graveside will be found the noble dog, his head between his paws and eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even in death." George Graham

Kylee Cub

For more pictures of Kylee, go HERE.



What an amazing dog, this Kylee Cub. While she holds some 11 titles and certifications and has twice been the top Chow in obedience in the U.S., her true talent lies in her sweetness and ability to make people smile. She's the oldest of my little gang, but she will always be my "baby". I love her dearly.

Kylee came into my life as an 8 week old pup. I was working at a vet clinic, and she was brought in with a treble fish hook caught in her mouth. She had eyes matted due to entropian (eyelids rolling in) and overall was just a sickly looking pup. The owners had no money and, rather than let them take her home and shoot her (which is what they were going to do), the vet allowed them to sign her over to the clinic. We removed the hook, surgically corrected the entropian, and I took her with me to doctor her eyes until we found a home for her.

That was in 1991.

Since then Kylee has been the most wonderful companion. Her intelligence, incredible attitude and intense bond with me has taken us through many tribulations. Along the way she's acquired 3 Companion Dog titles (AKC, UKC, ASCA); a Companion Dog Excellent title (AKC); four novice agility titles - NA and NAJ (AKC), NAC and NJC (NADAC); a herding certification (HIC); and a schutzhund BH degree. She also has a magnificent repetoire of tricks. She plays the piano, bows, waves, and rolls herself up in a blanket, to name a few.

Tracking is next on the list for this wonderful old gal.


For more pictures of Trick, go HERE.



Trick is the first dog I actually purchased. And I have to say - every cent of that purchase was absolutely worth it! This German Shepherd is my most constant companion, whether I am traveling, fishing, or just heading to work. She helps with the training classes, as the official "greeter" of all dogs. She's my buddy.

Born in 1996, Trick grew up during my major switch into positive training. She was the first dog I trained from puppyhood with positive reinforcement instead of compulsion - and the results have been incredible. She's such an alert, responsive and trusting girl who would do anything she could for me. I haven't shown her as much as I wanted to, but she does have her AKC, ASCA and Canadian Companion Dog titles. We also went into agility and she has novice jumpers and standard (NA and NAJ) AKC titles. She's quite a dog.

Trick has a great set of tricks. She fetches a beer from the fridge (men LOVE this); retrieves my keys; puts her paw over her nose when asked "what stinks?"; waves goodbye; and is part of a cute act where she takes garbage out of a trash can when I'm not looking. It's definitely a crowd-pleaser. She also can toss me a toy - this is really amazing to watch. She flips her nose and the toy flies up into my hands. Then if I tell her "you're too close" she backs quickly away and waits for me to throw it. I swear this dog is half human!

When I'm at the fishing lodge, Trick is always with me. She is crazy about water, and generally runs down to the pond or the river for a splash or two. If she can convince me that I need to go too, she will fetch a stick from the swift current of the Kenai River for as long as I'm willing to throw it. Crazy dog - that water is COLD!

For more pictures of Dora, go HERE.


Dora came to me in 1998 at the age of 14 months. Her strong mind and independence caused an occasional problem - both with me and with the other furkids - but we have worked this out and she has become a fantastic companion and competitor. She's also incredibly funny.

One of the things that is so endearing about Dora is that she is definitely "my" dog. While I never make an attempt to have my dogs be only interested in me, that's how it worked out with Dora. She tolerates the attention of others, but I'm the one that makes her tail wag.

Chows are not known for their athleticism, but this little girl showed her stuff in the agility ring, running mostly against shelties and taking her share of the ribbons. She has completed her AKC NA and NAJ titles. .

In addition to her agility abilities, she is trained for her Companion Dog title and should accomplish that. She's got the first leg completed, but due to some difficulties on my part we just haven't shown much.

Dora also has some mighty cute tricks, such as a great wave good-bye and rubbing her nose when asked "does your nose tickle?" .. she is sweet, loving and intelligent. What a great dog!


For more pictures of Tori, go HERE.



Every trainer should have a dog like Tori once in their training careers. She's my neurotic "child". She came to me when she was 4 1/2 months old, flying from Ohio to Alaska (12 hours in transit). During that flight, something happened to this little alpha bitch puppy. She arrived in Alaska as the most frightened, mentally traumatized animal I have ever seen. The kennel was brought out, and there was Tori huddled at the very back of it with her face turned away, shaking.

I couldn't get her to come out of the kennel, at the airport, so a gentleman helped me carry it out to the van. Back at the hotel, I finally reached in and pulled her out. I put a leash on her and started petting her head - she looked up at me as if I was her angel and ever since then she has been absolutely bonded to me.

Tori has never recovered from her trauma of flying, and I'll never know what happened to her on the flights to cause such deep neurosis. It took her literally years before she would venture away from me to visit other people. To me, she's extremely loving and cuddly, but she gets nervous easily. I tried agility training with her, and it has really helped her confidence. I doubt I'll ever trial her though.

I've learned a lot about dealing with neurotic dogs and how they react to separation and stress. It's been good for me, as a trainer. By using positive reinforcement for all "non-fearful" times, this beautiful dog is able to handle being in public and around strange people and dogs. Compulsive training would have shut her down. But instead, she is a hit at the nursing home because she is so loving.

For more pictures of Khana, go HERE.


Khana is the baby of the group. She was born November 3, 2004 and arrived in Alaska at the end of December.

Khana has brought a new energy into the house. She has an enthusiasm for life that is just wonderful and fun to watch. In a short amount of time she wrapped everyone (the other dogs AND me) around her little paw!

She plays with Trick extensively and is learning some great behaviors from Trick too. It's neat to see how this little Chow has been so mentored by the German Shepherd. If the girls are outside, you can almost bet that Trick will have a furry little shadow.

I really hope to be able to do some great things with this girl. If I can get past my limitations (I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease shortly after Khana got here) I'd really like to see her earn obedience, agility, tracking and conformation titles.

I know she can do it all!


For more pics of Dawson, go HERE.



1988 - 1999

Dawson - my first German Shepherd, my first true obedience dog and the most wonderful guy you'd ever meet. A giant of a dog (100#), he was gentle and loving and intelligent. Dawson helped me through the early years of developing my training techniques, and although I made many mistakes with him, he always forgave me and continued with that unconditional love you only seem to find in animal friends.

During his "career" Dawson accomplished a number of titles. He had both the AKC and ASCA Companion Dog titles, and he went on in AKC obedience to finish the Companion Dog Excellent and the difficult Utility Dog title. Along the way, he picked up several High-Scoring German Shepherd awards and also had two High in Trial awards. He certified in tracking and herding too.

Dawson was my Search and Rescue tracking dog. I was a volunteer EMT II with a local EMS unit at the time, and Dawson went out on a couple of search calls. However, due to time commitments (I had to make a living!) I left my volunteer position with the department and Dawson went on into obedience competition instead.

Dawson, along with his sidekick Lady, made it onto two episodes of "America's Funniest Home Videos". They did a variety of tricks together.

As I developed into teaching obedience classes, I came to realize what an asset Dawson was. He greeted the puppies and had a knack for letting them know when they overstepped the boundaries of good behavior - and yet, for all his size, never hurt another dog. He helped me work with the aggressive dogs by showing vast indifference to them. When a wolf came to me for training, he was there to help keep it in line.

Dawson is still missed very much.

For more pictures of Lady, go HERE.



Lady was another rescue. She came to me at a year old, and was an untrained dominant bitch. We had our share of disagreements! And looking back - if I'd known then what I know now, I think I could have brought some pretty magnificent things out of this dog.

As it was, Lady acquired the AKC and ASCA Companion Dog titles, garnering the #6 Australian Shepherd in ASCA Novice (U.S.) one year. She went on to finish the AKC Companion Dog Excellent and Utility Dog titles, and was the first Aussie in Alaska to earn the UD. She also was a very nice little herding dog, and earned her Started Trial Dog title on sheep in three straight trials. She always worked with a certain flare, but often added in something unexpected.

Very athletic and energetic, Lady was a natural frisbee dog. She also learned to ride my horse, Fireweed, and was seen in parades and at rodeos throughout the area. Her tricks included leaping up onto my back as I bent over (or anyone's back I directed her to) .. tugging on pant legs on command .. and leaping over Dawson's back.

Lady unfortunately had epilepsy. While the meds controlled it to a certain extent, in her tenth year she began having worse seizures and sudden rage episodes. We tried different medications, and I went through behavior modification techniques but the problem increased. With much reluctance I made the difficult decision to have her euthanized before her unexpected rages caused someone to get bit.

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May 10, 2005