Hall of Fame - Can.O.T.Ch. WGSDCII CH. Sunlit's
White Spirit, CDX, HC (OFA)

Sire: WGSDCII CH. Jo-El's Spellbound
Dam: Sunlit's Silver Spoon
Owner: Linda M. Brock (formerly Haagenstad)

"The Long Road Back"

By Bert A. Haagenstad

Kodi was a German Shepherd, white in color, 27 inches at the shoulders and weighing in at almost 100 pounds. Kodi was a beautiful dog, a powerhouse of energy. In March of 1989, Kodi had completed his Canadian Companion Dog (CD) title and with scores good enough to bestow upon him the respected Dog World title. For this title, the team (dog and handler) has to qualify in three trials. To qualify, they must compete in each exercise and retain 50 percent of the available points with an overall score of not fewer than 170 points out of a possible 200. The Dog World scores must be 195 points or better in the first three trials. In March of 1991, Kodi finished his Canadian Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title.

Now it was early September and Kodi was 7 years old. My wife, Linda Haagenstad, Kodi's owner, was busy putting the finishing touches on the trying exercises for the Utility title, the highest degree available in obedience competition. Linda had been training dogs for almost 12 years. Kodi was her third dog. The plan was for the March 1992 shows the following spring at the Thunder Bay trials to complete Kodi's three obedience titles in Canada.

Linda had started training Kodi with love and tenderness from day one, which had created a very special bond between them. Linda had incorporated all levels of exercises into Kodi's regular training from the beginning. As Linda and Kodi finished the last exercise of their training session on October 8, 1991, Kodi was quick to bring Linda his favorite toy, the Frisbee. Playing with the Frisbee had become Kodi's reward for his training sessions. After a few throws, Kodi, who puts fire in every motion and action, flew after the toy, only to slip and fall spread-eagled, but soon recovered. Linda noticed Kodi favoring his back legs somewhat on the return, so she decided that it was enough play for the day.

The next day, October 9th, Kodi showed no signs of favoring his back legs; indeed, he seemed as fired up for his training session as he was every day. As the training progressed, Linda did notice Kodi hitch himself to clear the high jump. This would end the training for that day. Kodi again brought Linda the Frisbee for his reward. Linda was reluctant to play, but threw the toy a short distance to Kodi who was standing still, waiting for it. Kodi caught the toy, then spun around in a circle as he had done a thousand times. But this time Kodi's left front leg collapsed under him, the leg was bent back, and his head turned hard in the opposite direction. To Linda's surprise, Kodi, who was usually oblivious to any pain, cried out. As he got back up to his feet, Kodi's legs were sprawled out in four different directions. Linda hurried to Kodi's side, quickly put his legs under him as they belonged, and, not knowing what else to do for him, just hugged him tightly. In a couple of minutes, Kodi shook himself free and trotted off.

By October 11th, Kodi had begun to drag his back feet. It was decided to try to keep him quiet for the next few days to see if this condition would improve. By the 18th, a visit to our vet told Linda that Kodi had a real problem. The vet checked Kodi's reflexes, which were very slow. A physical check of the spine indicated the strong possibility of two injuries, one to the neck area, and one in the hip area. It was decided that Kodi would need medication and a back brace. An x-ray using dye was considered but dismissed because of the danger to Kodi. Also, if the damage was soft tissue, it wouldn't show up on the x-ray anyway.

On the 20th, Linda met the vet again. The vet had fashioned a home-made, lightweight brace for Kodi. The brace did seem to keep Kodi's back straight, but even the light weight caused him to collapse, so it couldn't be used. By this time, Kodi was in so much pain he paced all the time, day in and day out. He had started to lose weight and there were indications of depression.

It was decided that a second vet's opinion was needed. After describing the problem to Kodi's former vet over the phone, he prescribed a new medication. The very next morning, the 24th, Linda was startled to find Kodi sleeping so soundly that she thought he had passed away. But that day Kodi showed only some slight improvement. On the 26th, the second vet's exam confirmed two injuries, and that x-rays would not have shown anything. The only treatment would be the new medication and time.

Over the next few weeks, Kodi had some bad days and some good days. The bad ones included rear legs that crossed, which would trip him. Other times, all four feet had so little response you could turn them top down and Kodi would stand on the tops of his feet and couldn't tell or didn't care. Kodi needed help going up and down stairs, and sometimes just to walk without falling, so his collar was replaced with a sled harness to ease helping him. Kodi had lost over 24 pounds and at times seemed more dead than alive. On the good days, Kodi could walk and even run, but right afterwards showed stiffness and again, depression.

The vet had told us that the recovery Kodi would experience by Christmas would be all the improvement that could be expected. By the first of December, Kodi was gaining weight back and had regained the tickle spot on his tummy. Kodi's bad days weren't so bad and his good days increased in number. At Christmas, friends gave Kodi a St. Francis medallion. St. Francis is the patron saint of all animals. Training had been started again, which made Kodi happy. Kodi remembered everything, but now the jumps were kept to only one board (eight inches) high. Kodi was worked in a special class at training school. It was slower paced and offered time for Kodi on his bad days. The harness was replaced by a straight collar; Kodi couldn't take even the slightest pressure on his neck.

On February 7th through 9th, 1992, the training school presented a seminar on a form of massage for animals called "The Tellington-Jones T-Touch." During the three days of lecturing by Martha Jordon, representing Linda Tellington-Jones, hope was seen for more improvement for Kodi, so a special appointment was made with Martha for the 10th. During this appointment, Martha located a misalighment in Kodi's spine near the hip. Martha was able to correct the fault, which in the coming months proved to help Kodi a lot. From the seminar, Linda had learned to connect the electrical system in Kodi's neurological system. This had to be done on a daily basis at first. Linda learned to work Kodi over low boards (cavaletti) to strengthen the legs and teach Kodi where his legs were. Linda had to teach her dog to walk and to be aware of his body all over again.

Kodi began to show real improvements with the new techniques. The training class assistant, Kathy, had a history of schooling jumping horses. Kathy's experience and training with jumping was applied to Kodi and the other dogs in class. By fall, Kodi was being entered in the local fun matches with the jump low -- two boards, or sixteen inches.

When the Thunder Bay 1993 March shows came around, Kodi was almost 9 years old. He had all the other exercises down, but he had not jumped the full height since his accident. Linda knew if he was going to do it, it had to be before he got much older. The March shows included a total of four trials in one weekend. Linda decided to only put Kodi in one show per day; if he qualified, they could try to finish him in the fall shows.

On March 27th, with Linda in tears of joy, Kodi qualified, one of four dogs out of a class of 16, with a score of 172 and a fourth place. Kodi's jumps were strong, clearing each 28 inch jump by several inches, using beautiful judgment and timing. At the Sunday show, Kodi earned his second leg with a qualifying score of 180, one of nine dogs qualifying out of a class of 16.

Back home, Linda kept working to strengthen Kodi's legs. The Tellington-Jones T-Touch Massage and cavaletti work continued. Kodi kept getting stronger, his jumps always kept low and his exercise kept as calm as possible. When the September shows came, Kodi was entered in all three shows, just in case.

When the first show came on Friday, September 27th, Kodi was near the end of a class of 12 dogs. By the time Kodi's turn came, only one other dog had qualified. As the exercises progressed, it seemed there was a chance he would qualify. Kodi completed the last single exercise, his only points lost mainly for poor fronts and sits. The group stand and exam was all a tired Kodi had to make it through. Kodi made it. Kodi had done it; he completed his Utility Dog title with a 176-1/2 and a second place, one of two dogs out of 12 to qualify. This also earned him the Canadian Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) title. This title is combined with his Veteran rating (equivalent to a breed championship) from our national White German Shepherd Dog Club. Kodi, the broken Shepherd, at the age of nine and a half, became the first white German Shepherd in the club's recorded history to have earned dual championship titles. On Saturday, because Kodi was feeling good, we showed again, and Kodi qualified for a fourth time, one of three out of 12 dogs to do so. We didn't show Sunday; Kodi had done enough.

This story needed to be told because it was so special to watch and because I believe this accomplishment is an example of love, trust and understanding. This is the main purpose behind obedience competition. Through teamwork and communication, Linda and Kodi worked through a major problem. Kodi would do anything for Linda because he trusted Linda not to ask anything of him that would hurt him. It was Linda's love for Kodi that would show Kodi the safe way to work through this problem. This is the teamwork that is obedience training.


On January 8, 1994, Kodi was found suffering from a condition known as "bloat." It is the twisting of the stomach muscles, causing several severe problems internally. Kodi was rushed to a local emergency vet hospital, and Linda was called from work. The vets did everything they could to make Kodi comfortable, but the damage was too great. Minutes after Linda reached Kodi's side, Kodi slipped into cardiac arrest. Kodi had waited for Linda's touch before he would let go of life. Linda, with only Kodi in mind, authorized the vet to help Kodi pass on. One final act of love.

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