Bobbie Anderson
By Patrick Shannahan

April 28th 2013

It has been a few months since my friend Bobbie Anderson passed away. I have to say that her death still leaves a hole in my heart.   I think of her often, as she had great influence on her students and myself. Even without her presence, there still is a little voice in the back of my head that reminds me of some of Bobbie’s advice and concerns.  I am so thankful that I was able to start a friendship with a woman of such great knowledge and character.

My first meeting with Bobbie was over a puppy purchase.  A mutual friend told her to call, and to be quite honest; I was intimidated when she called.    Bobbie always came away a little gruff in those first meetings.   She was very specific in what she wanted and readily gave out her opinion.  
I wasn't quite sure how to react to her.   Still we were able to agree on a pup for her, and from there the friendship began.

I wasn’t the only one ever intimidated by Bobbie.  Most who met her briefly or didn’t get to know her well, thought she was really tough. Although she appeared gruff on the outside, but when you got to know her, she was as loyal and kind as any friend you could want.   Bobbie had a huge heart, and was always willing to help a person or a dog that was in need.  She gave many second chances to both people and dogs.

A well-known and admired person in the obedience world, Bobbie started to work on sheepdog trialing with her dogs. Naturally her dogs were always placing and winning in obedience, but she struggled at times in sheepdog trials.  Never a bad word was spoken about her dog’s performance at the sheepdog trial, as Bobbie was always aware of what work and experience was needed to become a better team.    Learning about sheep dog trialing was not only a challenge for her dog, but more importantly, for herself.

A person shows his or her real character when no one is watching.  Bobbie did so many kind things that most people didn't know about.  One that I admired was her willingness to help dogs and people in trouble.    After observing a dog I had never seen before at her house, I asked Bobbie about the older dog.  She said someone had to go to a nursing home, so she took the 10-year-old dog home to live out his or her life.   Bobbie said she could take the dog to the nursing home for the owner on occasion to brighten both their days.     She made no fuss about the dog, just wanted both the dog and the owner to be comforted.

One of Bobbie's many talents was her guidance of other trainers in dogs.  Observing Bobbie work in a classroom full of dogs and people was a marvel.  She did it with such ease.  Bobbie was able to make everyone feel comfortable and at the same time, had their attention.  I one time got to see her lead a huge puppy class with all new owners and pups coming to Eugene to learn good behavior.  Bobbie was able to make time for those who needed it, and observe and acknowledge those who made such good progress each week.

One of the biggest lessons I learned with Bobbie was the commitment of the owner.  Many times she would see people struggling with their dogs, and she would go to help them.  Sometimes she would come away and say, “Why would the dog try for this person?  They don’t even have a relationship.  There is no partnership between them.”  I would have to think on that, as at the time, I though it was more about mechanical sheepdog training.  It took sometime for me to understand the complexities of what the dog-person relationship can bring.  It also made me realize that dogs want and need a strong person to lead them in their life.    Pulling a dog out of a kennel, and working it for 15 minutes a day does not provide a relationship and leadership for a dog.  Spending time during work and leisure makes the dog want to try to be a better partner.

Today I still see trainers struggling with the same problem of no partnership.  Bobbie's advice still is very relevant today with my own dogs and with my students.  If I am struggling with a particular dog, sometimes I hear Bobbie ask what the relationship is like.   Is there a reason for the dog to try?  Does the dog care about the trainer or owner?  How can I make the dog want to please me?

If you were treating your dog, child or spouse poorly, Bobbie was not afraid to speak up and confront you.  She did it out of genuine concern for all those involved.  Treat others poorly, and she had little patience or time for you.   She would be polite to all, but only wanted to spend time with people who cared about their animals, friends and family.

Bobbie wrote a book that I recommended to many of my students.  It was called "Building Blocks for Performance," and much of it was based on building a good relationship with your dog.  That book became very popular for not only obedience and agility people, but also in the many other venues in the dog world.  I still go back to it on occasion to review and remind myself of how to make a competitive dog.

One thing I admired about Bobbie was her devotion to her own dogs.  In my time with her, she has owned quite a few dogs.   Some were competition dogs, some were retired dogs, others were dogs that she rescued as there owners couldn't take care of them.   But the one thing that Bobbie insisted was that each dog felt it was special in Bobbie's eyes.    Each dog knew of Bobbie's commitment to them, and she worked at making dogs feel special.

Those of you, who knew Bobbie, enjoyed her company when each event was over.  She was happy to relax and have a beer with her friends and talk about the day.  She admired those friends and competitors who got better, and worried about those who struggled.    But no matter if she liked you or not, if your dog was talented and tried for you, she admired your dog.

One of my favorite times with Bobbie was when I was able to travel with her on a vacation to Italy.  Many an evening was spent with Bobbie, loving the good food and company.   Each night we gathered to tell stories about the day, or days in the past, and each was filled with love and joy.  I still remember those evenings with Bobbie, and long for more time like that in my life.   Enjoying time with friends was always important to Bobbie, and she had close and long lasting relationships with friends all over the world.   No one was a better friend and mentor.

I write these notes about Bobbie as I always worry about those who didn't get to meet her, or experience her kindness.    Some people might have heard of her, but really don’t know of the impact she had in our community. In our busy world, it is so easy to forget about the past, and think of only today and the future.  But Bobbie had such great influence on so many people, she is worth reminding to others what a good mentor or role model can be.  Bobbie shaped so many dog trainers and owners, that her influence will be present for many years.

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