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Gripper passed way in March 2013. I am still devastated from losing her. She was a Mixed Breed and lived about 15 years. She appeared to be part Miniature Pinscher but the other breed(s) were a guess. Maybe some Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, or Chihuahua were in there somewhere. Whatever she was, her personality was very Terrier-like. She weighed about 13 pounds and stood 13 inches at the withers. I adopted her when she was about one year old. Grip was an energetic and amusing little girl. She loved to play and was incredibly intelligent. She was truly very special in every way.

Gripper was originally found wandering in Williamsburg, an industrial area of Brooklyn. She was eventually caught and taken to the BARC shelter. Luckily for her, it was a no-kill shelter. Her temperament would have placed her on death row in most places. Grip ran around free in BARC's store for several months. All the toys were hers! She was nicknamed "Giovanna" but I changed that to something more appropriate when I adopted her. When she's got a grip on a toy, she doesn't let go. That tenacity is what "sold" me on her.

I initially discovered her when I stumbled upon her photo and description when checking out the Petfinder website. That original photo is in the row of photos below, far left. She was cute and looked like the good agility candidate. But I really wasn't looking for another dog so I let it go. I kept thinking about her and after a couple of weeks, I e-mailed BARC hoping that she had found a home. When I found out she hadn't, I went to have a peek.

Our first meeting was not at all pleasant. She wanted nothing to do with me or anyone for that matter. She shredded my hands when I'd go near her or her toys. After an hour of bloodshed (all mine) and attempts to connect with her, I gave up. I concluded she was probably unreachable by humans. Too far gone. She seemed almost autistic.

But a few weeks later, she was still there and I decided to at least give her a day in the country since she'd probably never seen a blade of grass. I took her to my agility training place in Long Island and decided to try playing with her a bit there. She immediately took to the clicker and I was very impressed by her eagerness and trainability.

I decided to take on the challenge. A little voice in my head kept saying, "if you're really a dog trainer, then this one's for you." After all, who else would take her? This was a dog that you could not touch. I knew she was right for agility with her long legs and stride, incredibly flexible body, high drive, speed, etc. but turning her into a companion was the tough part.

Some very early photos

She learned the agility obstacles in an amazingly short time. It took her far longer to learn her name and to enjoy being petted. Agility gave her a reason to interact with humans - for the treats! After training for only four months for agility, I felt I had run out of things to teach her. Normally, a dog should be trained for at least a year before entering competition. But Grip had completely reliable obstacle performance and was fast as lightning. After a few matches (simulated trials) at unfamiliar locations, I hesitantly signed her up for a few trials. She did great and racked up titles in a few months that take most dogs several years to attain. I competed with her for eight years and she earned multiple championship titles in both USDAA and NADAC. Gripper also loved to run courses with other people. She seemed to like the novelty of it. I loaned her out to kids at trials and she earned a Junior Handler title. Here's a sample video of Grip and I running a Snooker course in 2006.

In 2007, I decided to retire her from competition. She definitely could have continued to be successful for at least a few more years. But with no new dog on the horizon to compete with (Fix and Sputnik were clearly not that into the sport) and nothing left to accomplish with Grip, I decided to focus on other things. So began the obsession with all things roadside (the main part of this website). Grip still got plenty of exercise every morning in the park and loved all the traveling that we did.

Grip was an amazing, entertaining, and unforgettable character. In 2002, I lost her for three days in Maryland. She disappeared at dusk without a collar - most likely to chase a rabbit. A friend and I put up posters all over town and, miraculously, she was found.

Grip hated having her feet or mouth touched but she tolerated it much more than when she was younger. Gripper knew dozens of tricks and loved learning new things even in her golden years. She lost sight in one eye in 2010 and then went completely blind for the last couple of years. However, she was still full of energy and personality. She still eagerly did most of her tricks. With her blindness, she developed even more trust in me. I love all my dogs but she was admittedly my favorite.

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