Not a day goes by that I do not miss my darling Athena. She was an incredible girl and all Alaskan Malamute -- gorgeous, clever, strong and independent. Athena was bred in Long Island, NY by Bonnie Martin. I will never forget the moment Athena and I met: Bonnie let loose four monstrous-sized puppies to me to greet me. Three of the pups were distracted before they reached me; only one pup sought me out like a heat-seeking missile and launched into my arms. This puppy squealed; licking my face as though I’d used peanut butter as skin cream. Somehow 10 week old “Athena Beana” knew that I was hers.
Now, granted, our training life together had its ups and downs. Athena was a self-governing kind of girl and if she did not feel like doing something then nothing – not even prime rib – was going to convince her otherwise. Playing dog agility was one of her greatest joys, but she would often tweak the course to her liking. If Athena found flaw in the course design she would amend it at once, usually meaning that four or five extra tunnels would be added to the sequence for flow. Many witnesses can testify to the occasions where Athena would reach the apex of the A Frame and choose to remain there until she was satisfied with the view.
One of Athena’s grandest moments occurred while mid-run at a trial. On this occasion she caught a whiff of a spectators BLT. Being an agile girl Athena jumped the ring gate, snagged the sandwich and promptly returned to the ring ready to proceed with the course. Needless to say we were eliminated, but Theenie thought that she had won the world championships. After all, she got bacon. Each time Athena flaunted her creativity on course I had the choice to become frustrated or to laugh. Looking back at our time together I am so thankful that I usually choose the latter reaction. Athena was who she was -- I would not change a thing about her. It was only through the unique training challenges Athena presented me with that I learned to become a patient, compassionate dog trainer.
Athena’s antics were not limited to the agility ring. Off the course this girl had a mischievous streak longer than the Iditarod trail! I’ll never forget the time I came home to find Athena standing – STRANDED and SCREAMING—atop the kitchen table! My crafty Malamute had managed to climb onto the table in order to raid the cat food dish (well, at least all those years of climbing an A-Frame finally paid off for her). The problem was that Athena had not taken the time to plot a safe course DOWN. I could do nothing but laugh as Athena looked to me with pitiful, desperate eyes. Needless to say I helped her down – which, might I add, was not an easy task as she weighed a good 85lbs!
Ah, then there was the time I ex-penned Athena in my absence in order prevent havoc from being wrought upon the house. Well that backfired, Athena simply pushed the 40lb ex-pen around with her head from the inside. Ramming the pen from the inside allowed her to freely move around the house with it around her. She moved quite readily about the house for weeks unbeknownst to me. Theenie was even skilled enough not to spill her water dish. Athena might never have been caught had she not gotten the pen stuck in the kitchen doorway. Her appetite got the best of her!
Oh, but the Ex-Pen Adventures continued! I once ex-penned Athena on the sidelines while teaching a class. As I was explaining the handling options for a Tunnel – Dog Walk discrimination my students started snickering. Knowing that they could not possibly be laughing at MY lesson, I turned around to see what was so amusing behind me. That ‘something’ was Athena. “Miss Bean” was happily traveling around the outside of the training ring INSIDE of her ex-pen. She casually pushed the pen along with her head as she traveled closer to the garbage cans. What made this scene all the more ridiculous was that Hermes was her reluctant passenger! Poor Hermes sat on a blanket in the rear of the pen. Athena dragged him along like he was a 10 lb Poodle, not a 60 lb Husky! The first Malamute book I ever read claimed that “pound for pound Malamutes are the strongest dogs on the planet”. No kidding.
And . . . to trump the previous stories I’ll NEVER EVER forget the day my sister and I returned home to discover that it had magically SNOWED inside of the living room. Only . . . it was not snow that blanked the couches, rugs, tables and every other object unfortunate enough to be in “Blizzard Bean’s” path, it was a unique blend of sugar, salt, baking powder, and flour. In our absence Athena had robbed the baking cupboard and had a glorious time spreading the previously mentioned baking delights about the room. Athena stood in the middle of the storm COVERED in white powder and “wooo-woooing” proudly. It was after this event that I finally learned the importance of crating unsupervised dogs. Like I said, Athena inspired much of my interest in dog training early on!
Today when I leave the house I do not have to hide the cat food or garbage and, amazingly, I miss it. I’d give anything to come home to the remnants of a “garbage party” that was held in my absence . . . but only if the party was thrown by Theenie. Bladder Cancer took her when she was only seven years old.
Athena was a fun performance dog. When our teamwork was on Athena was a blast on the agility course. During our years together we did score a handful of Agility and Rally Obedience titles in AKC, CPE and APDT.
The best thing About Athena was her temperament, she LOVED every person that she met. Athena was a true gentle giant. My sister, Marie, handled Athena to her Canine Good Citizen Award and through her therapy dog test, Marie and Theenie visited a local nursing home on numerous occasions.
Please enjoy Athena’s many pictures throughout this website and thank you for reading about my darling girl.