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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An Unforgettable Student: An Unsolved Murder


She was one of my first students. I'd begun offering group classes and private lessons at our home in West Valley. Barbara called me to set up some lessons for herself and her new puppy, a Boxer named Rocky.

She and her husband had just moved to town, were having a home built, and were temporarily living in a trailer at the KOA Campground...with this Boxer puppy. More power to her!

So I helped. Barbara and Rocky showed up for about three intensive one-on-one lessons in my front yard, and that got them started. It was fun to see their progress, thanks to Barb's dedication in working with her pup.

I didn't see her again for almost a year, when she enrolled in a group class so he could practice his obedience skills around lots of other dogs and distractions. She and Rocky went through an eight-week class I offered through City Parks & Recreation (this was back around 1993). They did so well that I encouraged them to go on and train for obedience competition. Within a year or so, Rocky had his "CD" (Companion Dog) obedience title. He was the first of my students to earn the honor!

Barb went through a divorce not too long after that. She took back her maiden name. She got more involved in other activities besides dog training. I didn't see her or speak to her for months at a time. The spans between conversations lengthened, and finally I just lost touch with her.
One day I heard a radio newscast saying a woman's body had been found in the Yakima River Canyon. She'd been identified as Barbara. The news updates over the next couple days was vague. She'd been shot once with a small caliber bullet, and her body had been dumped in a ravine.

I wasn't able to attend the funeral, but I did read the obituary that mentioned how important Rocky had been to her. I am so sorry that her life took the turn it did, and that she apparently fell in with bad company. The shock was great for all of us within the dog-training community in Yakima.
The murder was, to the best of my knowledge, never solved.
One of my first students...my first CD on a student's dog...a strong, determined young woman who loved John Mellencamp...a woman with a real sense of adventure....a goal setter...totally dedicated to her dog.
Stories about people like that aren't supposed to end the way this one did.

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