Robbie de St. Joost PH1 B CD CGC Narc AAT
No Pedigree | Health Clearances
Robbie came to us under unusual circumstances. Suffice it to say that kicking, hitting, choking, hanging, electricity, and lightlines around private parts all played a part in his training. When he came to us, he was a shell–literally and figuratively. He weighed 40 lbs, was nearly hairless from scratching at fleas, and his ears were so engorged with blood (hematomas) that they didn’t stand. His bark was hoarse from damage to his throat, being choked off the suit. He was also starved for affection. We saw instantly that underneath a pretty rough exterior was a hell of a dog.
After getting his ears lanced and nearly healed, and putting about 10 lbs on, Robbie started to look more like a Malinois than a coyote. His dingy grey-fawn coat, what little of it that was left, fell out and was replaced by shiny red hair with lots of overlay. As he started to get comfortable with us, and feel healthy, his true colors started coming out–he was a ham, an affectionate flirt, and an exceptionally comic and charming dog.
It wasn’t until Robbie was back on his feet, health-wise, that I decided to see where he was in his training. Robbie was imported as a KNPV PH1, and I’d seen his bitework demonstrated before he came to be with us. When I put a leash on him, though, he became a different dog…the happy clown I knew was gone, replaced by a cowed, flinching dog I hardly recognized. I realized that I would have to start from scratch, and retrain him. So we threw away the leash, and started everything over, positively. It was a long haul, but it was worth it.
About six months later he got his B, and I started planning for our one. About a month before his schutzhund 1 trial he broke four teeth in one fell swoop–one canine, four incisors, while working. We made the decision that at his age, and with the condition of the rest of his teeth, we would not replace the canine with a stainless steel cap. So Robbie retired from sport bitework.
We then had to switch to non-biting sports. Because he was not registered, I knew to get an ILP I’d have to neuter him. That was quite a discussion (and it actually took over a year). Once neutered, I started working obedience and agility with him again. After almost a year’s hiatus, he had fallen into some pretty sloppy work habits–loose heeling, and miserable stays.
When I began to see him “back in the groove,” I sent for his ILP. A week after we got it, he had his first entry…our obedience debut in Novice B in Mobile, Alabama under judge Don Young. This was to be a test of whether Robbie was up to the stress of travel and show environs, and Robbie passed it with flying colors. He flirted, he visited, he made a lot of friends for the Malinois at that show. He also managed to be quite a showboat in the ring, earning his first leg with a 188.5. More than the score, it was the enjoyment he showed that made me realize he *was* ready for this. At his next two shows Robbie managed to finish up his CD under Michael Chester and Diane Allen (not one of our finer performances). So Robbie was now officially a C.D. dog. You can see both of our beaming faces on the New Title picture we had taken with Judge Allen. At his last trial, everyone seemed to be pulling for Robbie to make it through his stays–and he got lots of hugs afterwords!
Robbie also gave agility a shot. AKC agility was a far cry from the Urban Agility we’d done earlier, but it was fast and fun, and he loved it. Robbie got his first Novice Agility leg at the BARK trial under Judge Susan Morse, with a clean run and a third placement! It was truly a beautiful run, and I was very proud of him. Due to his age, we never did finish up his NA…he had a bit of trouble downing on the table (some spondylosis in his spine) that limited his flexibility. I continued running him at lower heights to keep him active and limber, and because he loved it. I really hoped to bring him out Spring 2000 to knock out his NA–Wisconsin weather really agreed with him and made him a young dog again.
Unfortunately, we never got that chance. In January, 2000, Robbie was diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis was grim and I opted for palliative treatment. I made a commitment at that point to not let him linger in misery or waste away. That’s so much easier said than done. Always a trooper, Robbie was stoic ’til the end…but as the painkillers maxed out and started doing less for him, I knew it was time. We spent a weekend snuggling on the couch and making snow angels (even though he hurt, he insisted on making snow angels in fresh snow.) When I took him to the vet he seemed to know he was saying goodbye, and offered the patented "bookend" lean to his favorite vet, Dr. Jean. He gave me a paw as if to say it was time, and I held him as he drifted away.
Robbie was a wonderful dog with a marvelous personality…Besides the obvious performance work he did, he was a stellar babysitter of young dogs, did pet therapy with disabled kids, and taught my niece Elizabeth how to be a dog person. He hunted drugs and worked the occasional security detail in his spare time, and spent the balance nudging me to pet him more or throw the ball. He was truly the "king" in our house and will forever define my ideal temperament in a Belgian. Robbie was a once in a lifetime dog, and he leaves a pretty big hole to fill. I’m glad my young dog had a chance to learn from the master.
A few years before he died, I decided to have Robbie’s Portrait painted by Cathy Moar. She truly captured his spirit and laughing eyes, and I am so glad I will have this little piece of Robbie forever.