A Hero’s story

We lost a friend today. His name was Hero. A Belgian Malinois of 13 years and 5 weeks. It doesn’t seem like he got to stay with us long enough, but it was enough to turn me into a different person and enough to help two kids grow up.

He came to us on a flight from California in July of 2001. A young pup who’s future I envisioned would be full of all sorts of ‘greatness’, thus his name. He was my first Malinois and I expected he would fill big shoes transforming me from Podunk dog trainer into a name that would be noticed in the industry. Perhaps I should have been more concerned when his shipping had to be delayed because he had Demodex, but I had high aspirations and started right out from 9 weeks old taking him everywhere, including on his first of many family vacations. We even made it to the Leinenkugels lodge by the time he was 12 weeks old. 🙂 That was also a flash moment in time I noticed more than average apprehension about noises and ‘strange stuff’. The fluttering of a ‘buried wire’ flag marker was pretty disconcerting and we made a game of it to help him realize it wasn’t much to be bothered about.

And we continued on and trained and traveled and within his first year he’d been to several workshops and learned to retrieve and started bite work. But those trips were never without some event, some car backfire or other disruption that caused him to quiver or begin to pant. He’d carry on but always with some concern that maybe, just maybe the sky Would fall.

By two years I was a bit beside myself that somehow I had ruined this dog that I had intended for greatness. Why could I not overcome this issue of quivering when ever there was environmental stress?  So I traveled to Long Island New York to a seminar given by Bart Bellon, someone whose work I admired and who probably knew Mals better than most anyone on the planet. On day two of the workshop Hero and I had our turn in front of the audience to discuss my struggles…just as a plane took off from the nearby airport and my Hero turned to jello! Imagine my shame. And after the noise subsided Mr Bellon announced to the audience, ” I observed this woman and her dog training in the parking lot last night and she may think she caused this but she didn’t. The work was sound. This is a Beta dog.” And he looked at me and explained if you want a top dog you must start with a top dog and explained the importance of genetics and how nerve is inherited and then built upon.

And after that both Hero and I were free. I was free to find another ‘demo’ quality dog and free to allow Hero to have the life he was intended to live. The life of family companion, nanny to children and holder of secrets. He could lick away tears of disappointment or send them streaming from laughter. His animal impersonation tricks of Be an Alligator or Be a Kangaroo were party favorites and his gentle demeanor allowed him to accompany my daughter trick or treating when she went as Red Riding Hood and him as the Big Bad Wolf in grandmas cap and nightgown carrying her basket through the entire town and collecting the candy.

He was my go too for teaching young pups the rules of behavior. A playful bow if they were shy and a gentle squish if they needed to be brought down a peg or two. Always fair and always patient. Thunderstorms made him shiver but he could hunt and swallow shrews and other small rodents in a single gulp. He grossed us out with his occasional explosive diarrhea but astonished us with his ability to get even the most dog phobic folks to warm up to him. He taught many foster dogs the ropes and held the tears of children’s burdens as they grew into young adults.

He was a Hero to this family that loved him.

And such is the life of a dog. A simple life that touches so much.

Hero was not a dog of strong nerve. He was a dog of enormous heart and the words that “You don’t always get the dog you want, sometimes you get the dog you need.” could not have rung more true. His heart is what ended up teaching me what I really needed to know about this profession. That it isn’t about greatness, or flash or even fearlessness. It is about perseverance and giving your best and remembering each day to be there with a smile and support for those who need you.

It is about heart, and that was the embodiment of a Malinois named Hero.



  • I didn’t know Hero, but I could tell her was a special companion. Some dogs are here to help others. Hero did was special because he gave you unconditional love and companionship. It is hard to loose a beloved pet, but I know Hero will never be forgotton by all the people that he has touched in his lifetime.

  • So sorry, Robin. We will always be grateful for the help you gave us with our Leonbergers, Titan and Chu- Chu, down in Wisconsin. They are both gone now and we have another Leonberger rescue and a Rottie rescue as well. They are never with us long enough and each time we loose one it is as fresh and painful as the first time. But their memory stays and allows us to be brave and risk it all again for the next time. There will be more dogs in your future but Hero will never be part of your past. Blessings.
    The Zeescape Crew.

    • Thank you Geri and everyone for the kind words. Hero was a wonderful dog. He will be greatly missed but always in our hearts and with many fond memories.

  • Robin, So Sorry for your lose. I remember Hero from my time down there with you. What a great dog. He was so blessed to have such a great Human.

  • Hero is the reason anyone who never owned a Malinois wanted to. He certainly was a “hero” to so many, but so much more than that. He helped a woman become a legend and children grown into fine human beings. We should all lift a glass to this special dog. Whether you knew him or not, if you ever worked with Robin, you have a little Hero in you too. Rock on.

  • So sorry for your loss Robin. We have all been there and feel for you. Hero was a very special dog.

    I remember that Bart Bellon seminar and how poor Hero was trying his best for you …with his tail tucked tight and his legs shaking.

    We are all on this earth for a purpose. So glad that Hero got to fulfill his purpose.

    Hugs to you and your family at this sad time.

  • I truly understand your loss…4 years ago we lost our “Max”, our furry friend of 15 years. I called him “Max the Wonder Dog” because we always wondered what he would do next, to entertain us. When I developed heart disease and had to nap every afternoon for at least three hours…I always awakened to find “Max” on the floor next to my side of the bed. At the times I had to be taken to the hospital, “Max” let the EMT’s know who was in charge of the house, and then he would disappear to his favorite spot to avoid giving the EMT’s a problem! I know at least part of your feelings because “Max” was in our lives for 15 years! Our condolences to you on your loss!

  • Hero was an awesome, amazing & beautiful dog who was lucky to have such a loving, amazing owner. Absolutely beautiful tribute Robin, I am so sorry for your loss <3

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