Today was the Thanksgiving Service and internment of Anthony Harris. “Tony” as most of us called him, had been around the dog scene in Barbados for a long time.
He would have served in the positions of President, Vice President and on the Committee of the local Barbados Dog Training Club. Besides being a trainer in obedience, he was also an obedience judge.
I believe the first time I met Tony I had my first Bouvier Nita and as a puppy I took her down to the club to be trained and also to socialise with other dogs.
Everything was going okay with the trainer, Tony Harris, until it came to his command “stand your dog, and leave when ready”. It took a little persuasion to get her not to follow me, but stay she did. And here, the trainer is supposed to approach the dog from in front and lightly touch it with the dog showing no fear nor aggression and remaining in a “stay” position.
Bouviers are a breed where, because of the fall of hair by their eyes, you cannot always see their eyes. Tony approached in his usual brisk manner, Nita did not move but a low growl came out. And Tony stopped and asked me what breed of dog she was. When I told him, he went and called some of the other trainers, who were females. It made no difference to Nita whether they were male or female. She gave a louder growl.
Tony told me to go and practice the exercise outside of class and also to trim her coat so he could see her eyes. Nita did not growl with people she knew but when we returned to class, and she did it again, Tony told me he knew the breed and it was a very dominant breed and although she was a puppy, he was not taking any chances of her biting his hand. Shortly after that, I received a letter from The Barbados Dog Training Club advising me that if I wanted to stay on the class with Nita, she would have to be muzzled. I did not return to the class with her. She was always one of my smartest and favourite Bouviers.
I did see Tony again last year and this time I had Rita at Novice level in the obedience ring. Rita, is a fun loving clown and a lagger, and after Rita had entertained people by trying to untie the rope which made up the ring, Tony, who was the judge, gave us a non qualifying score and said to me afterwards. “You are too soft on these dogs.”
As a trainer, Tony did not believe in motivation through food. A dog should be motivated to work he used to say. Some of Tony’s time in the UK had been spent with the Police force and in the Canine Division where he would have been exposed to various training methods. He used to compare the appearance of the German Shepherd dog of years ago with the version we are seeing now.
He did remember Nita as Rita is also large and black and we did have a laugh about the muzzle part. Nita did not discriminate, unless she had gotten to know and accept the person, she would not allow anyone to touch her. I can remember when I had to take her to the vet, giving her any necessary injections under the vet’s supervision and her card read “Do not touch”.
I will miss seeing Tony as we got on well, and we would usually exchange a hug in greeting. And I do recall his little smile when watching Rita clowning the ring.
I am sorry that I did not know he was sick as if I could have helped him in any way then, I would have. Actually, some of the other people I talked with who are involved in training their dogs through that Club were also surprised to hear of his brief illness and passing.
My sincere condolences to his family.