I get asked by many people on a regular basis why I travel “all the way to Machias” to teach dog classes. And I think to myself, if they have to ask…how can I make them understand?
On its face, teaching dog obedience is a very rewarding venture. I would make the trek just knowing I was helping pet owners have a better relationship with their dogs, and that part of it most people can understand. But what no one outside of the classes understands is the relationships that are forged between the participants after spending many weeks together. The best way I can explain it is the core people, the ones that really get it who come every week and take their dogs through the advanced level develop a sort of family.
One such member of the Machias training family was Lotti Morengo who lived with her adopted family in Addison, Maine. I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on Lotti sitting so properly and in control at a Basic Obedience orientation. I, like many I am sure, did not know quite what to make of her.
With no malice whatsoever intended the only word that comes to mind to describe my initial impression of this woman-child was “misfit”. Lotti was a young lady “of color” living in a small coastal town in Maine and she simply did not fit the stereotypical image of who you might expect to find there. And if that wasn’t enough of a hill to climb, she had also been born with obvious physical challenges.
I will also never forget the first time I met her dog named “Kiku”. Again all I could think was “misfit” as I gazed upon her big and concerned eyes framed by a scraggly face. My impression was immediate and very strong…Lotti would have been considered an unadoptable child at birth by any reasonable standard and yet she was rescued. Then she returned the favor and rescued a dog that would not have been top pick for most I would imagine. They made a perfectly matched odd couple and instantly stole a piece of my heart.
I have trained hundreds and yes even thousands of dogs and owners over my 40 year career. Very few of these people stand out in my mind for very long, but Lotti sure did. She went from a closed off young woman to a person who found a purpose. And when the AKC announced mixed breed dogs were going to be allowed in Obedience and Rally competitions Lotti was the first person in the state of Maine to show and qualify with her Kiku in both Obedience and Rally…and after earning titles in both disciplines she even garnered the much coveted “highest scoring dog in the entire trial” for Rally.
All the time I knew Lotti I could not help but admire her as she never complained…for that matter she never even mentioned her medical issues other than to explain a doctor’s appointment was the reason for missing a class. Needless to say it was quite a shock to her training family when I told them that she was in trouble and at Eastern Maine Medical Center.
The last thing I will never forget about Lotti was the scene in her home the evening before she died. A woman-child…still not complaining…with her faithful and once again concerned Kiku lying protectively across her legs.
Perhaps now those who read this may better understand why I have and will continue to “travel all the way to Machias”.
About the AuthorBetsy Newman owns Moosehead Trail Boarding Kennel and Back to Basics Obedience Training in Newport, Maine. She is a professional groomer, trainer, show handler and a retired Animal Control Officer, veterinary assistant and breeder.
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