Bryce: From pound puppy to flyball champion

Today is kinda hard on my heart. I got a phone call from Bec just after lunch. As the phone rang and “Bec Bec Pain in the Neck” came up on the caller ID, I was at first excited – she *never* calls me! We always chat on social media because it’s free – and then as I answered, in that second or two, I wondered if she’d called by mistake. And then as I heard her shaky voice, I knew this wasn’t good. I was immediately alarmed. Wanted to lean on something. Standing in the hall outside my office, there was nothing but the wall and air vent. So I held that.

“It’s Bryce.”

Exhale. All the other, horrible, too-far-away-to-do-anything thoughts went away. But not without stamping me with the fact I’ve not been home for two and a half years, and that’s a very, very long time. Especially when thinking about the instant something could happen.

The Beginning

The kids had wanted a dog. I was a little reluctant. Four kids was enough work. But, I like dogs, so we looked on the internet at the discarded dogs at the pound. I think doing it online meant we might put it off for a while. I had no chance if we visited in person.

There, on the “time up” page, with a ticker saying “if you don’t come get me I’m dead in the morning” (well, at least that’s what it felt like), was a picture of a dog called Bryce. What a dumb name. A black dog. The kids definitely wanted to go visit him. I called the shelter, kind of hoping he’d been adopted, or it was out of date, or something. Nope. “He was supposed to be euthanized yesterday, but he has such a sweet disposition we just couldn’t do it. We’re giving him a few more days. Can you come meet him?”

Yeah, so nobody says no to that.

The kids and I went out the next afternoon to meet Bryce. Of course they loved him before they’d even met him. I was all, “well, it’s a dog.” And of course, I filled out the forms to foster him (who’s kidding who?) and after another day, he came home. Throw out the fostering papers. He was ours.

Bryce grew up with the kids.


Every year, Sydney has the Royal Easter Show. This massive ‘country fair’ in the heart of Sydney brings animals, craft, and other county fair style competition to people who might only otherwise see animals on styrofoam trays in the supermarket. Wood chopping and other crazy competitions are great attractions.

Jo and BryceEach year that we’d go, I’d want to watch the flyball. Dogs racing in two different lanes. I couldn’t fathom the training – these were people with dedication and commitment to their obviously very talented dogs. Plus, I’m the daughter of a bookie – of course I loved the racing factor. I would have sat there all day if my family would let me. Which they wouldn’t.

As Max and Bec were older primary school aged, I wanted them to have some structured activity, and involving the dog would be a bonus. I came up with the brilliantly stupid idea that they would train the dog in flyball. I can’t remember what the connection was, but I do remember driving up the M5 every Sunday morning with the kids and Bryce to go to training at Bankstown School for Dogs. Before long, the kids had whined themselves out of the training mornings, and I took over as Bryce’s main gal.

Oh, and how Bryce loved flyball. He picked it up in about three or four months. Before long he was one of the fastest dogs in the club, with a 4.6 second run time. And then after a year of racing, we were racing at the Sydney Royal Easter Show – one of two years we did so. We were sometimes on tv, and we drove up to Noosa and down to Canberra to compete. Bryce scored the points and achieved the Australian Flyball Champion title.

This pound puppy. Who was supposed to not be alive.

Smoothing the move

When we moved to the US, I wanted something that might give me touchpoints of familiarity. So I contacted a flyball club in Colorado, and explained that we were moving here, but I wasn’t bringing Bryce (I couldn’t put him through that amount of travel at 9 years of age, and who knew how long we’d be here?), but I wanted to see if I could belong to the club. On our first visit to Colorado, I met up with Tara who was with Ruff at the time.

Through that meeting, and ever onwards, I’ve been a flyball helper, eventually moving onto the scoretable which is clearly where my usefulness is at a peak. Working with all the teams at tournaments, operating the timer, lights and working with the judges. I love watching the dogs race, and on the table I have the prime position! I have ferocious friends because of flyball in America. People I hold dear, and love, and admire. When I’m stressed I just spend a day on the scoretable, ideally with my dear friend Chari, and together we laugh and laugh and laugh.

And even though he was never here to be a part of it, it’s all because of Bryce.

Goodbye dear pup. Thank you.




One comment

  • Bryce’s legacy will continue with your American oals bringing you support through this difficult time. Not only do you need to mourn, you need to
    mourn from a distance for your daughter’s loss she is also feeling and for the difficult call she needed to make. Fly high Bryce…your existence has given me a new friend for life! God speed! Chari

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