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King George 4-H member wins two top awards in two years under difficult circumstances
Elyse Quartuccio and Eliza played, worked and trained together for five years. The family pet died last May; Eliza developed an infection that spread to her organs.
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Coleman had already trained Cedar in basic obedience for use as a therapy dog, but he didn't know other obedience commands or anything about agility training.
And he clearly had bonded with the Colemans. At first, he didn't seem interested in including anyone else in his circle.
Elyse regularly came home from training sessions in tears, because she missed Eliza and feared Cedar would never respond to her, said Elyse's mother, Katherine.
Then, the Quartuccios decided to try to shift their focus from the incredible loss the whole family felt to the generous offer the Colemans had made.
Cedar came around, but still had his moments. At a precursor to the state show, his obedience was "all over the place," Elyse said.
But when he took the stage for the state show in September, Cedar was tuned in to Elyse. His obedience score was the highest in the show: 195 out of 200.
The two demonstrated their drills to a reporter and looked like they were gliding above the ground, with Cedar's eyes locked into Elyse's.
"When he looks at her like that, he's saying, 'I'm here, I'm focused, I'm all yours,'." Coleman said as she called out commands.
Elyse is finished with 4-H shows because she's headed to college. She hopes to study physical therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
She's written about her experience with Eliza as part of her college applications. She described the hole in her heart left by Eliza's passing and how Cedar helped her move on--even though he couldn't possibly take her place.
No dog could.
"I saw that even beautiful things come to an end," Elyse wrote, "and it is important not to dwell on the ending, but on the opening of a new chapter."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425