Monday, June 6, 2011


Across the Decade of the Nineties, Dick Guetzloff stood astride the world of competition obedience like a great colossus.  Crisscrossing America, steamrollering all who dared to show up and compete, the tall man in the black Greg Norman-style hat and his splendid border collie Sweep amassed 7,924 OTCH points.  At the time that was by far the greatest number of OTCH points accumulated by one dog in the history of our sport.

Dick and his wife Kay -- equally to be reckoned with in the competition ring -- lived here in Arizona at the time.  I got to know them well and benefitted handsomely as I studied them from ringside.  Then, for a period of several years in the mid-2000s, we lost them when they moved to San Angelo, Texas.  They moved back to the Phoenix area a few years ago. 

Blazing across the eighth decade of his life, Dick is still cleaning our clocks with regularity, now with a young border collie named Sparky.  And he hasn't changed much, either.  Hasn't mellowed at all.  Cantankerous, combative, Dick can still storm around like he's not a day over 79.

But there's another Dick Guetzloff, one those at ringside seldom -- maybe never -- see.  There's a quiet softness buried in Dick.  It was revealed to me one day last fall.

We were at a fun match in Ahwatukee, a southeastern suburb of Phoenix.  During a lull in our ring run-throughs, Dick beckoned me to a quiet area where no one else could hear.  "There's something I want you to know," he told me.  I thought maybe he was about to fess up:  Confess that back in the glory days he had a transmitter in his belt buckle and a tiny receiver implanted in Sweep's head --which it was said accounted for Sweep's near-perfect performances.  Yep, that was one of many wild rumors that circulated during the period when Dick and Sweep were all but invincible.

But no, that wasn't Dick's message at all on that fall morning.  Instead he stood out there in the warm Arizona sunshine and recited (perfectly) from memory the lines that follow here.  He had written them, he said, in the hope that they might help ease a traumatic decision for others, the decision to put a pet to sleep.

When he was finished, I told him how nice it was and that it needed to be liberated from his head and shared with others.  During the ensuing months, I cajoled, arm-twisted.  I have it now . . . and so do you.


One day I got a dog.  God gave it to me.  But, there were certain conditions that had to be met before God would allow me to keep the dog.  God said, "These are the conditions.  You will have to take good care of the dog and never let him suffer.  You must give him food, water and shelter and keep him safe from harm.

"But that isn't all," God said.  "There will come a day when your dog will have to be returned to me."

"But God," I said, "when will that day come, and how am I to know?"

God replied, "Do not worry, my child, when that day comes, you will know, you will know."

Then God told me, "In your years together, your dog will bring you much joy and happiness, asking little in return.  He will give you unending love and devotion.  He will make you laugh when you are sad; he will give you companionship when you are lonely.  He will be truly faithful and trusting.  He will lick your face and hands, showing everlasting love for you."

God then said, " "Many years will pass before the day comes when your dog must be returned to me.  This will be a very difficult day for you, but I will be there to console and comfort you, and give you strength.  After your veterinarian has given your dog his final sleep on earth, I will take him and lead him through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, protecting him from evil and harm.  We will walk through beautiful fields of flowers, and songbirds will be singing as we go up the stairway to Heaven, to the Rainbow Bridge in the sky.  It is there, by the Rainbow Bridge, where your dog will be waiting for you.  Some day, when you arrive, you can cross the Rainbow Bridge together."

Dick Guetzloff, Heelalong Kennels
November, 2003

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