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January 26, 2015
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Carolyn Scott and Rookie

A TRAIL OF MEMORIES

When I first saw Carolyn and Rookie dancing to the song "You're the One that I Want," I broke into tears like so many other people have. I saved a link to the video and watch it whenever I'm feeling sad or if I need to be reconnected with some of the deepest parts of my consciousness. ~Chelle Thompson, Inspiration Line

Paralyzed due to childhood polio at the age of four years, and additionally diagnosed with a significant heart disorder, Carolyn Scott has suffered much physical and psychological pain. Today, she suffers from the after effects of her initial polio and treatments, evidencing Post Polio Sequelae. This has resulted in Carolyn's no longer competing in the ring due to her diminished balance, which can result in falls. Yet, she continues to be a world-recognized teacher of the relatively new sport of canine freestyle dance, traveling the world and personally demonstrating and spreading the joy that comes from participation in this sport. In turn, she has taken her cues from a dog who, himself, has suffered from anxiety from his own fears of the unknown. By bonding with her dogs and helping them live life to the fullest, she has been able to tackle her own continuing challenges.

People who see the Internet clip (HERE) of Texas-born Carolyn Scott performing a song from "Grease" with her golden retriever Rookie are riveted to the screen. Thousands have sent her e-mails, many saying they cried with joy. They know they're seeing something special between this woman and this dog as Rookie spins and grins at Carolyn in the canine freestyle dance, but they can't quite put their finger on it. "They look at that capacity for love and they want it," says Rochelle Lesser, a school psychologist who is making a documentary film on Carolyn and Rookie. "They can't comprehend anything that pure."

BUT THEIR LESSONS IN LIFE ARE EVEN MORE POWERFUL! Carolyn was scarred by polio that weakened her right side and damaged her self-confidence. She was shunned from people's houses out of fear when she was 4 years old. As an adult, she grew too afraid to leave her house without the support of her husband, her high-school sweetheart.

Then she got Rookie, a submissive puppy who was fearful of people and tight places. He collapsed when confronted with anything new. Their journey is a lesson in reading each other's strengths and the trust that comes from consistent, positive reinforcement. "Through the process of working on his fears, I started addressing some of mine," said Carolyn, in a warm and moderated Texas accent by phone from her home in Houston. Seeing the limits fear placed on Rookie's life allowed Carolyn to see how she limited her own life. Today she and Rookie appear all over the country and on television, though Carolyn still has to talk herself through her nervousness. She says she owes it all to that "little yellow dog." "My husband is totally in shock, and so are my kids," Carolyn said. "I'm getting over the hump."

"You must do what you find hardest to do." — Eleanor Roosevelt

The journey for Carolyn began in 1950 when she contracted polio at age 4, just two years before the terrible disease reached its peak, afflicting 21,000 people in the US By the time she was released from a hospital for "crippled children" near Gonzales, Texas, her right leg was an inch and a half smaller than her left and the muscles had atrophied. She hid her limp, just as President Roosevelt hid his paralysis after contracting the disease in 1921. FDR used arm strength and braces to appear in public as if he were standing. "Most of us polio survivors did overcompensate," Carolyn says. "We worked hard and just focused on achieving. I didn't start talking about it until the last few years." Much of her hard work as a child to rebuild her mobility has come back to haunt her. She wore her leg out, she says. She suffers continued deterioration on her right side. Her left leg is starting to give from carrying the load.

Carolyn's first bond outside her family was with a collie. As an adult, she trained dogs for obedience. But the handler must confine movement in obedience and Carolyn"wavered in the wind." She was afraid of falling and embarrassing herself. And when she got Rookie, she could see that obedience was too rigid for his fragile nature. In 1996, when he was 3, she introduced him to the new sport of canine freestyle dance, a natural for him and for her. They won — or, as she says, "HE" won — the first national competition in the off-leash division, a highlight of her life. "It was a process of discovery," Carolyn says. "I had no idea how much talent he had. I started watching him closely to see what he enjoyed doing." She built his confidence by using a "clicker" device that signals to the dog immediately that he's doing the right thing and reward is on its way. She taught him spins, but he added throwing his feet in the air and other moves that give him such verve. Though she's trying to keep her balance, she lets him improvise. "Then I reward him like crazy. He loves doing it."

Lesser, who's making the documentary, says she also has a fearful dog but she accepts the dog's limitations because she can't or won't put the hours in that Carolyn did with Rookie. "Trust, me, when Carolyn had this fearful dog, this was her life; she was devoted to overcoming this," Lesser says. "The amount of hours she put into this would just amaze people. They just see the end product." As a consequence, there is no other team like them, Lesser believes. No team that moves so much as one. She's hoping her documentary, "Gotta Dance," will show that connection, raise money for canine oncology and deliver the message that people don't have to stop enjoying life because of difficulties.

Carolyn taught Rookie that life is a fun game. She gives him random rewards and lets him play with people when they go out. "Of course, now he thinks that's what they're there for. Both of our personalities have taken a change. He's confident and enjoying life — just like I am." Carolyn said. "Unfortunately, Carolyn can't be who she is right now without what she went through," Lesser says. "She's just incredible. She has a real presence." Instead of telling herself she's going to fall down and how frightened she is, Carolyn restructures her thoughts to tell herself she's going to do a good job. If she falls down, it's OK. And if she questions herself, she has only to look at Rookie, whose natural personality was hidden under all that fear. "All of us walk around masquerading ourselves," Carolyn says. "We don't let ourselves be vulnerable."

You can learn about Land of PureGold Foundation's documentary film HERE that is based on this special union. The film celebrates the human-canine bond and how it was critical in their overcoming adversity, given Carolyn’s polio and more. It is being produced for fundraising purposes for working dogs and funding research in comparative oncology, the study of cancers that occur similarly in people and companion animals. The special montage (below) is a tribute to the most unique 15-year partnership of Carolyn Scott and her beloved Golden Retriever, Rookie. Arguably, the most famous canine freestyle team in the world, Carolyn and Rookie’s love for one another has been cheering millions through the many clips that have circulated over YouTube since the famous routine was digitalized several years ago. Little did they know that posting of that video would bring so much joy to so many, actually even bringing soldiers in Iraq to tears.

There is a powerful message in the life-affirming joy and inner radiance that Carolyn and Rookie exude, as this film demonstrates the restorative miracles that can abound through the embodiment of the human-canine bond. However, it is important to understand that this documentary is NOT a story about canine freestyle. Rather, it is a courageous story of inner strength and survival, as Carolyn continues, in a sense, to dance for her life. See More Videos of Rookie & A Sad Update HERE

See Video HereCarolyn Scott & Golden Rookie Montage: A 15 Year Partnership HERE

~Excerpted from an article by Sherry Stripling, Seattle Times


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