Valerie Plewa, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Frank and I grew up in a small mountain top town about two hours east of Pittsburgh in the Alleghany Mountains, but have lived our married life in South Central Pennsylvania, just outside a quaint little town called Gettysburg.  You might recognize the name.

I grew up in a non-hunting household and all our dogs were family pets who never really behaved as well as they probably could have if we had done a little training.  When Frank and I started to train our first lab I was tickled to death with what we could get her to do and was a very proud momma.  Now that we have trained and owned multiple labs, have helped numerous others and trained dogs for clients I am still amazed at what we can teach these animals to accomplish. I am most enamored at the fun and love they have doing it.

To think this all started over a Great Dane……I wanted a big dog to keep our cocker spaniel company and saw an ad for Dane puppies in the paper, so I called the number.  Unfortunately or should I say fortunately they were all sold by the time I called.  So a friend of ours suggested a lab knowing Frank liked to hunt.  If you would have told me over 26 years ago that in a few years that my wardrobe would consist of camaflouge, a lot of green and brown, the occasional fluorescent orange, that I would be trudging through mud and muck, standing in the hot sun or rain, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and best of all throwing demised training aids, I would have told you were crazy and not in this lifetime.  Now fast forward……. that is exactly what I have done and continue to do.  Frank and I have been involved in retriever training since 1991 when our first lab came home with us.  Who would have known how such a cute cuddly little yellow fur ball was going to change our life style.   A few years into this game after sitting at home when Frank was at a field test running that fur ball, I decided to become a judge as a way to participate.  We have traveled across the country, to Alaska and up and down the Mid-Atlantic meeting some incredible people and watching some wonderful dog work.

The NAHRA program has brought much more to my life beyond having well trained dogs.  It has given me opportunities to travel places and see some amazing things.  It has brought new friendships and has become a second family to me.  I have met some of the most welcoming and sincere people on this journey all because of the common thread known as “man’s best friend”.

One of the greatest honors is to be recognized by a group of peers and to be nominated as an Invitational Judge.  I am humbled to accept this assignment for the 2019 NAHRA Invitational.  I hope that you all have fun, find the things we ask you to do as a team a challenge, but fair. You are considered some of the top dogs in NAHRA and I find it a privilege and honor to be watching you and your best friend, buddy, knuckle head, goofball, sweetie, babe or whatever you may call them.  My only advice is to take a deep breath, enjoy the beautiful scenery, enjoy the moment, enjoy the ride and most of all have fun.

May your lines be straight, your whistles be limited and your dog kisses be many.

Good luck and………

Dog to the line!!