Karen Koenig, Mohe & Quinn
by Terry Wright
As I began this (many times and many drafts, I might add) I realized that I really wanted to talk about the friendship I had with Karen and the quiet talks we had about everything under the sun and the afternoons at the barn where we built equipment and fixed things and did maintenance and the time she spent at our house and…….. and then I realized that many of you who knew Karen have very similar memories and experiences because, that was one of her gifts.
So, I’m going to try to do this by making a list of memories and, at the end, including what I wrote about Karen when she died.
Karen was an incredible person. She was richly talented, caring, dedicated, as guileless as a 3 year old, compassionate and funny. Her most serious fault was not of her personality but of her body, she had a flawed heart.
Karen could make just about anything. She made or helped make much of the original agility equipment we had and annually, she would bring in wonderful little wooden band saw ornaments and such that she had made over the year and sell them. The Christmas gifts she made everyone were superior in both craftsmanship and in thoughtfulness.
Karen was a gifted musician. She played the guitar and wrote music including Mohe’s Song which is beautiful and from which we took the line “he runs not for purple, he runs for you” which many have put on clothing in her honor.
Karen had a gift as a friend. She loved everyone but held a few people closer than others but whoever you were, she could make you feel very special and cared about when she was with you. She was the link that kept the separate classes meshed during agility. It was Karen who thought of the name “PAWZAZZ”.
Somehow, Karen found time for everyone she loved. She maintained friendships from her youth and took care of her aging parents. She was adopted and although she did find her birth mother, that situation was a source of deep pain for Karen which was expressed vividly in her music which she shared with very few people. Her adoptive parents were her parents and she was there for them constantly as they made the transition from their longtime home into an adult care facility. She also had an adopted brother who did some very hurtful things to her but she never whined and she kept on loving.
Karen always spoke her mind, sometimes saying things that made us cringe but her honesty and her pureness made it hard to be mad at her. She did not understand deviousness in any form and when she spoke her mind, it was as a child might, she just said what she was thinking with no attempt to hurt in any way.
Karen had 5 dogs and 3 cats. The dogs were: The Eskies, Mama Dog and her 3 pups, Lacy Edel and Mohe; Quinn, her Sheltie and the cats were: Wynkin, Blynkin and Nod. Every single one was pampered, adored and beloved but Mohe was her heart dog and Quinn was her special agility boy, her “Qinnifer”. In the early years, Karen did all of Mohe’s training and occasionally ran him at local trials but he traveled with Debi so he became one of the Tebi gang. When Quinn joined the mix, he also spent a great deal of time staying with Debi and Terry and was just as comfortable at their house as he was with Karen. The Eskies were beset with serious health concerns including severe seizures except for Mohe who escaped that horror but was stricken with early blindness and so retired earlier than Karen had ever planned. It was in part the deterioration of Mohe’s sight that steered Karen to Quinn. She delighted in training and running Quinn and took him to the NADAC Championships where he discovered his speed button and forevermore wanted to run FAST!
In the midst of all that she was and all that she did, Karen’s great heart suddenly stopped in the middle of the night. We could all wish for an ending that was as sudden, painless and unexpected as hers. She fell asleep knowing that she was going to an agility trial in the morning but went on a different journey during the night. To this day, all of us who knew and loved her grieve for her loss and, knowing she remains around us in spirit (OK, Karen, stop with the frogs now!) call upon her for help and support occasionally.
Pam kept the Eskies and the cats but felt that Quinn needed a home where his active young self could be kept busier than she could manage so she sent him to Tebi’s, allowing them to make the final decision as to where Quinn would end up. During this time, Debi showed Quinn constantly and they began to really mesh as a team. She was able to allow him to run with the speed he adored and he won the 16” NADAC Championship Division under her care. However, on the home front, he was just another dog in the group and not getting the absolute love and devotion that Karen had provided him. In a wrenching decision, Debi decided to place him with Noel and Joan Firth as Noel was a very capable handler and Joan really adored Quinn. We have always felt that the choice we made was one that made Karen smile. Quinn seems to approve of the choice too!
I was asked to write something for Karen’s funeral that would share who she was with everyone there which was a daunting task as everyone there knew Karen well and loved her well and many had known Karen longer than I. Here is what I wrote:
Lessons From Karen
All frogs, toads and turtles are to be rescued.
Hummingbirds are to be watched with smiles.
If you own any breed of dog, you will forever more adore that breed.
Even if someone annoys you, be careful of hurting their hearts.
Listen to people. Remember what they dream about and if you can help make a dream come true, do so.
Love your parents.
Be what you are and be comfortable with that.
Write in color and write BIG!
Think outside the lines but color neatly.
If you like a plant, try to grow it. Usually water and love will be enough. If not, try another location. If that fails, there are lots of other plants to try.
Taco Bell is a 5 star eating establishment.
Commitments are forever be it in love or in friendship.
Holidays are for decorating and no Holiday is officially over until the next major one begins.
With the right organization, a small circus can be put into a minivan.
Friends are precious.
Life is basically OK but living a good life is wonderful.
At least 25% of each day should be spent doing something that makes you happy. 50% is much better. Many days can go as high as 99% if you let it happen.
If it feels good, wear it. If it doesn’t, throw it out.
Never pass up an opportunity to be a good friend.
Friends are not forever. Love is and so are memories.
Karen is a forever friend.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
by Terry Wright
Mark first appeared at Kinder-Pup to cheer on his partner Dan and their little mixed breed girl, Tawanda. One night, Dan who was a veterinarian, came home from work with a little abandoned schnauzer named Buttons. Mark instantly fell in love with Buttons and renamed her Belle Button which he pronounced as if it was French “Bell Booton” but he always laughed when he said her name was really Belly Button”. And so, Mark and Button arrived in class.
Mark was absolutely irrepressible. You could not be around him and not laugh. He could describe the worst day in the world and have you laughing until the tears came and your tummy hurt. In the real world, he was deeply involved in education, being the principal of a school for special needs children and he swayed back and forth between desperately wanting to retire and desperately not wanting to leave his “kids” behind. In that “other world” in which Mark lived, he was admired, loved, granted many high achievement awards, and beloved by his students and their parent, his staff and other educators.
He and Button klutzed their way through early classes and into competition. They sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed but Mark was always a human who adored whatever his dog did. At one point, after weeks of stressing about how to approach Mark, Debi had to sit him down and explain that his antics were sometimes confusing little Button and he needed to be a clearer handler. Bless him, Mark immediately understood what he needed to do and became a much better handler. However, the humor never stopped and many are the tales of things Mark said and did on the field and off with Button.
At PAWZAZZ, we sometimes do things unrelated to agility but related to having fun as a group who really love each other. One cold winter night, we all went ice skating at a local outdoor rink. Mark and Dan came along and to our wonder, our beloved klutz turned out to be a swan on the ice! He was awesome to watch.
Mark and Karen were close and together they could really make us all laugh at them and at ourselves. Mark was crushed when Karen died.
There came a time when Dan and Mark’s hectic schedule in “the other world” began to make getting to classes and agility trials a real struggle. They finally made the tough decision to trim back on some of their outside activities and they regretfully put agility on that list. However, we saw them often and always Mark would talk about coming back to agility. He was determined to do that and it was on his list of things to resume when he retired. But he never got the chance. In January of 2008, after a brief and sad struggle with kidney cancer, Mark died leaving all who knew him diminished by the loss but expanded by the joy of having known him.
It’s all about the joy, isn’t it Mark?