It’s been over nine years since I lost Sparkle. She was only three years old when she was killed by a car on my road. I cry every time I think about it. The guilt has stayed with me. I think it always will.
Sparkle was my keeper puppy out of my first show dog, Ruby. From the beginning, she was special. She was an amazing athlete with the will to work her heart out. She was great in the field, retrieving with accuracy, speed, and joy. She earned her Junior Hunter title with no problem. She also earned her CD in obedience.
Sparkle was wound like an eight day clock. I always said if I had placed her in a family home, she would have been returned. She was enthusiastic, but also very sensitive. She did everything with gusto. When learning how to drop on a recall (an obedience exercise where the handler calls the dog to come and then asks the dog to lay down about halfway), she would actually drop so hard she would slide on the ground like she was stealing home base.
She was a serious retriever. One time, when doing field work on a particularly cold day, my field partner threw a bumper near a partially frozen pond. I made the mistake of sending Sparkle for the retrieve before waiting for the bumper to land. The bumper, landing on the edge of the pond, proceeded to slide on the ice out to the middle. I knew I had a problem. Sparkle has not yet learned handling skills to stop her on a retrieve and I knew she wouldn’t come back without the bumper. Seriously, I could picture that I was going to have to swim out to get her back. Or maybe convince my training partner to make the swim. She didn’t hesitate, going out on the ice, breaking through, swimming, finally reaching the bumper and making the return trip. Training was done for the day. I knew she would never give up.
Her one nemesis was Barney, the barn cat. Barney, a subject of a previous blog, would terrorize Sparkle. At one point he jumped the poor dog as she went through a covered agility tunnel (it’s like a long blanket that lays on the ground that the dog runs through). Barney continued his attack after Sparkle made it out of the fabric. It was awful! Poor Sparkle would never again train if Barney was in sight.
Sparkle was an overachiever. She taught herself to bring me slippers every morning. She was also a talker. I never had a Lab before or since that would talk like she did. It was a game for us.
When Sparkle died, my heart was broken. I wish I could do it over. She would be an old dog now with a lot of gray. She was already turning gray. I wish she had had the chance to grow old. It is one of my biggest regrets in life. She may never have been a champion in the conformation ring, but she was the champion of my heart.