Bark for Peace!
musings & ramblings, mostly about dogs, from a three being, three species family

Bark for Peace!

Lee Mannix 1969-2010

May 12th, 2010 . by lisa knaggs

Lee Mannix, walking in his woods

Everyday I hear in my head, “all you have to do is be funner than dirt.”  Occasionally, I am. (big exception being elk, I am soooo not funner than elk!)

Lee Mannix taught me the power of being the funnest thing in the world to my dog, Clementine.  And if I succeed, boy, does she shine!  When Lee met her she was an out of control adolescent.  Charming, yes.  But only to those who were strong on imagination.  He got a kick out of her from the get-go and commended me for loving her mischievousness and not wanting to break her spirit.

Lee working Clementine, herding sheep!

Lee also taught me the power of ignoring Clementine, not an easy thing for me to do.  And he taught me to “move through her” so she didn’t have control of our space.  Those are two other things I use every darn day.  When I realize I’m rambling on about nothing of significance, right out loud in front of Clementine, I chastise myself internally, for my “verbal diarrhea.”  Then I smile, reward her like crazy for her exceptional patience, and smile again.
I adored Lee from the moment I met him.  His easy-going arrogance and pseudo-crusty cowboy exterior did little to mask his huge heart and the insistent playfulness of a then almost 40 year-old little boy in a big-bellied man’s body.   Lee was Irish, he reminded you of that often, as if you might forget.  “Don’t cry, ’cause if you cry, then I’ll cry, and then we’ll both have to go drink.”  Or something like that.  Whatever the exact words were, I never doubted that he meant it.   He was paying attention and tracking where you were emotionally with your dog, and by golly, if it got that bad, then the two of you were gonna be drinkin’…a lot.

Lee helped more dogs (& their people) than any trainer/behaviorist I’ve known.  He also pissed a lot of them off.  Not everyone appreciated his brash, shit-kickin’ demeanor or the way he handled them and their dogs.  I have to admit, although I found it wholly inappropriate, he was one of the few men I let get away with calling me “dear.”  Hard to not be charmed by a man who lead his own cheers: “I’m living the dream!” he would shout as he strolled across the agility field.  I looked forward to every encounter with Lee because I knew I’d learn something, and I knew I’d laugh.  When a car accident on Sunday May 2, ended Lee’s earthly life, I was devastated knowing there would be no more conversations, no more laughter.

Lee with Creek, his heeler

Lee earned my respect because of his fiercely relentless love of dogs, especially heelers.  When we met him, FORD was in the last years of her long life, and many dismissed her as passé as easily as they would have a 99 year old great-grandmother with dementia.  Not Lee, he saw her strength and her beauty, and I loved him for it.  He saw strength and beauty in dozens of dogs he brought back to Austin after hurricane Katrina, and his optimism about their potential for recovery saved more than a few lives.

I sent many a dog/person combo to him because of that, even though I didn’t always agree with his methods.  Usually the hand-picked people I sent loved him for the same reasons I did.  Lee was also an ever enthusiastic supporter of my work with dogs- first with my dog treat business, and now in my service of canine therapeutic massage. I have no doubt he didn’t always agree with all of my methods either.

FORD & Clementine: Wisdom & Youth (Engineer Pass, CO. 2006)

One of my most cherished memories: In the Spring of 2007, I carried my aging heeler FORD, because she was not able to walk on her own, to rest under a cedar and observe Clementine in agility class one day. Lee asked about her condition, then went on with the class.  At the end of class he went over, had a moment with her, then was nowhere to be found. The following week, FORD was up-and-at-em once again and she trotted herself out and under the cedar. Lee came up to me and said, “When I saw her last week, I thought that was gonna be the last time I ever saw her. I started crying and had to leave. I can’t believe she’s back.”

For better or for worse, Lee shot straight from the hip, and straight from the heart. We are the richer for having known him.
We join all the hearts and voices who can’t imagine how one so much larger than life is no longer among the living. Yet we are not without Lee- his wisdom, laughter, anecdotes, like all of the dogs who come into our lives and forever change us, will always be with us.  And Lee will stay forever young…