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Written by Gaea Mitchell

My introduction to freestyle happened ten years ago, at a seminar in Jacksonville, Florida. Among the truly memorable participants that weekend were a small flock of tiny poodles and their tall, self-possessed handler. It didn’t take long for the youngest to rise, like cream, to the top. Exploding into the midst of the newly formed First Florida Freestylers Guild came Pippin and Ann. They have been at the center of our organization ever since.

Pip is quite a character, full of fun, mischief, and creativity. He showed us all the ways freestyle can be done; the good, the bad and the ugly! Well, not ugly exactly, but certainly at times he frustrated Ann. In doing so he stretched her as a trainer and as a freestyler, and they grew together. The rest of our group benefited as Pip and Ann shared their journey with us, as can only happen in a supportive group, the essence of the guild system.

Pip has been part of many a demo, around the state of Florida and beyond. In October of 2009 he and Ann flew to Oakland, California to take center stage at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference. He not only shared a freestyle performance at each demo, each day he and Ann presented a skit, specially written for the occasion, like the ones they perform in assisted living facilities in Central Florida. Finally, he finished each demo by choosing and retrieving the winning raffle ticket (as a directed retrieve) for a basket offered at the CFF booth. So much energy and skill in such a small package! Such heart!

You can also see Pip and Ann in her book on the Learning Center, sharing some of the skills and props that go into their therapy skits. Together, over the past twelve years, they have logged around 1800volunteer hours, divided among an Assisted Reading Education program with second graders, three hospitals, several nursing homes, hospice, adult daycare, special needs children, and a psych unit. He also accompanies Ann for educational talks and public relations programs. So you see, our special Pip is not just a pretty face! He is a productive and respected member of our (to him alien) society. We could have no better representative of our sport. Thank you, Pip and Ann. Welcome to the Canine Freestyle Federation Hall of Fame.

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