A short while ago, I reviewed Carol Quinn’s Follow My Lead and gave away a copy to a lucky winnah who will also review the book.
Carol and I had a great conversation about dogs, dog sports, and a zillion other subjects. In addition, she graciously agreed to an email interview. Here’s what we discussed…
Shaggy Dog Stories: APDT (the Association of Pet Dog Trainers) has just created the Valor Project — basically a non-competitive agility league for special needs dogs and handlers, and for anyone else who might not want to compete in AKC/USDAA/NADAC, but who would like to benefit from the advice and camaraderie to be found in an agility club. Have you checked this out yet? If you have, what do you think?
Carol Quinn: I didn’t know about this project until now, and wow — what a great idea! Many dogs can’t handle the stress or physicality of competition, but they can fully enjoy the sport with their handlers.
My focus has always been to learn and have fun, and this league seems as if it’s focused on that. The sport is also so great for dogs. It keeps their minds active, their bodies strong, and deepens the relationship with the handler. It’s also pretty good exercise for owners!
Shaggy Dog Stories: How are you training now that your time with Irina has drawn to a close? Are you working independently, or have you found another trainer?
Carol Quinn: At the moment, we aren’t training in agility. Nairobi is getting older and I think I’m retiring him. I’m ready to start training again with Sheila. I found a new trainer and as soon as the weather is cooler, we’re ready to begin again.
Lately my focus has been obedience training, believe it or not. Ridgebacks aren’t the most obedient dogs, but it is fun to work with them. We train about a half-hour a day. Ridgebacks get bored quickly, and if the “cookies” aren’t good, they completely lose interest. As long as the treats remain tasty, the training sessions are productive.
Shaggy Dog Stories: What are your next goals related to agility training? Do you think trialing will ever be in your future?
Carol Quinn: I’m open to trials, and my next ridgeback (yes, I have my eye on a puppy) will definitely compete. I’ve never enjoyed competition, but I think I’m ready to go out and try my hand at it.
Shaggy Dog Stories: Do you think you’ll try other dog sports, or will you stick with agility since it’s had such a profound effect on you?
Carol Quinn: I want to try lure coursing with Sheila because she has such a strong prey instinct, and she loves to run. You can also muzzle your dogs in coursing, so I won’t worry about Sheila going after one of the other dogs!
Competition isn’t in the cards for these dogs, but I will definitely compete with future dogs. There’s a wonderful ridgeback community in California, and the all-ridgeback agility competitions are really quite funny. Ridgebacks are quite playful — and serious — and their owners appear to have exactly the same qualities. It’s priceless.
Shaggy Dog Stories: How is Sheila’s health?
Carol Quinn: Sheila amazes me. She’s strong and funny; still a handful with other dogs, but her health is phenomenal. Her stamina is impressive, and it’s hard for me to imagine her sick. But any sign of illness still panics me.
Sheila is still on her holistic/Chinese herb protocol, but I think the better nutrition really helped her beat the odds with her disease. It was an important lesson for me to learn; healthy, fresh food makes a huge difference for dogs—and for humans.
Shaggy Dog Stories: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
Carol Quinn: I’m revising the novel I mentioned in Follow My Lead. I really love it, but I’m still tweaking it. And I’ve started a second novel — a light, funny, adventure piece.
I’ve set a goal to have the revised novel, and a credible first draft of the second by December. That’s a lot of writing, but other than running with the dogs, writing is my favorite thing on earth.
Shaggy Dog Stories: Is there anything else you’d like mentioned in the blog?
Carol Quinn: If anyone has read the book (and liked it :)) please write an online review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Also, come visit FollowMyLeadTheBook.com and read about our progress. On Facebook, we are http://www.facebook.com/FollowMyLeadBook Come like the page, if you’re so inclined On Twitter, you can find us @FollowMyLeadcq.
If you like to get out and do things with your dogs, and if you’re filled with wonder at the depth and transformational power of the human-animal bond, you’ll want to read Follow My Lead. After spending time with Carol, Nairobi, and Sheila, don’t be surprised if your thoughts turn to the life lessons your dogs have taught you.