04 December 2020

The last one.

Clean Run Magazine has seen me through four of my own agility dogs and a handful of borrowed ones. The first time I was featured in the magazine, and by featured I mean my photo randomly popped up because an agility photographer sold a handful of photos to the art director and there I was, in all my glory, pointing my pointiest finger at Ruby next to some weave poles, in an article that I don’t remember what it was about even. Pointing at things? Which was pretty much my best go-to handling and training move. I carried that magazine (print edition only, of course) around with me everywhere I went. I may have casually mentioned once or twice or twenty times to people that I had been featured in an agility magazine. I was vague on the why. This was possibly 2004? Give or take a year or two. I’d been competing for maybe a couple of months with Ruby, who spent many a run running off to eat gophers on the sidelines. I was star struck and on my way. Not sure to where, but pointing somewhere.

The next time I was featured was an April issue. I’m not sure what year it was but in the interview I claim I’ve been competing in agility for thirteen years. And there’s a photo with Banksy in it, she's six now. It was called “On Course with Laura Hartwick”. When the writer, Sally Silverman, emailed to ask to write a feature about me, I automatically told her she had the wrong Laura. In my part of the world, we have a lot of Lauras. All of them are far more illustrious agility folk than I (looking at you Pryse, Jones, and Manchester Derrett) but for some reason she wrote about me and I had to think up a lot of good things to tell her.

Some epic quotes from the article include, “Laura sets goals as if she lived in a fairyland”, and “I try to rotate my practices around special theme topics such as I Suck at Serp to Blind or I’ve Failed to Teach That Weave Pole Entrance.”

I can now say that my push back serp to a blind has been upgraded to one of my favorite moves and I seriously don’t suck at it, and while there are some weave pole entrances I’ve failed to teach, my obsession with watching Russian agility on youtube has added a few more dramatic and cool weave entrances to Banksy’s repertoire. And I do kind of live in fairyland whenever I can and prefer sitting on a stump in the woods to setting goals. Some things will never change.

Somewhere in the span of those articles there were all the years of running my amazing Otterpop, the Gambling Queen, who is now dearly departed with her dear Sister Mary Ruby. Boy, do I miss those two. And of course the effervescent and forever young at heart Gustavo, he who currently loves tunnels as much as he did the first time he chased a piece of cheese through one. Gustavo’s fourteen or fifteen now, and still loves himself a little teeter action pretty much any time he sets foot on a field, he of the chronic teeter terrors. Like if I can't find Gustavo while I'm training, just look over to the teeter, and good chance of there he will be. Or sitting in a box. Somehow I've trained him that he should seek out a box and climb in there and wait for me. I may not be a great dog trainer, but I am at least some kind of dog trainer.

I loved being a writer for Clean Run. I don’t know if my articles helped anyone with agility, but hopefully they helped someone laugh a little. I laugh whenever I can, I laugh when I mess up (usually after throwing the toy and cursing), laugh when I can't find one of my dogs and then see him across the field sitting in a box. I try to laugh when I just want to cry, and I laugh at myself when I take myself too seriously. Sometimes my laugh face may look horrified. I wonder if my face would ever freeze like that and not come out of it. Then I laugh some more. And wonder how much plastic face surgery costs.

I have agility students of my own now. I probably laugh at them too much. But I’m doing it in a nice way, not an evil way. Agility is just so darn funny sometimes. I like to hear my students laugh. Sometimes their dogs run away and come over to me when I’m cackling and I have to make sure I don’t give them a cookie. That would not be good dog training! I probably yell something like, “REWARD!” when their dog runs back and takes the right side of the tunnel. They’re probably not laughing if they were hoping for the left side. But I sure do wish they would.

We’ll still be visiting you, Clean Run, so it's not like I'll never see you. I like to buy dog toys and accessories, and I like taking online classes only to actually not take them. I am a great starter but not finisher of online courses. I’ll probably need to buy some cute puppy things, and hopefully will need to find a puppy class to sign up for and not finish. There will be another running dogwalk in my future for me to laugh hysterically at when those hits go all wrong. Cross your fingers for me.

Maybe December 2020 is a fitting end times for Clean Run Magazine. This year we went through a pandemic. Epic fires. Orange days the color of night filled with smoke. Epic social unrest. An election. I have to always predict the future when I write for Clean Run because I always turn my articles in on time which is months before it goes to print. Or digital print. Agility was there for us this year, but quietly sitting on the sidelines. Ready for when we were ready for it, it will be always be going and going. Thanks everybody who laughed at my agility stories. And thanks Clean Run Magazine, for being my friend. I'll miss you.

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