Dogs and Westerners go together like biscuits and gravy. They can be good separately, but when you put them together, something magical happens. That’s how it was for Quinlan, Texas farrier and former rodeo performer, David Hartwig, and his dog, Skidboot.
Skidboot was a Blue Heeler mix that actually belonged to Hartwig’s wife, Barbara. Like many true love stories, Skidboot’s and Hartwig’s relationship got off to a rocky start. When neighbors began to complain about the mischievous dog, it looked like Skidboot’s days with the farrier and his wife were numbered. The horse-chasing, chicken-killing dog was not endearing himself to anyone and the Hartwigs were in the process of looking for a new home for Skidboot. That’s when Hartwig discovered that Skidboot was sort of a canine prodigy.
The mild-mannered Hartwig and, the once ill mannered, Skidboot developed an understanding. Skidboot wasn’t bad. Like many gifted youngsters, he was just bored! The hound longed to be challenged. Hartwig quickly learned that Skidboot had a knack for learning tricks. And in fact, the dog’s ability to follow directions was nothing short of astounding. W.R. Koehler, who founded the Koehler Method of dog training, once said, “Intelligent dogs rarely want to please people whom they do not respect.” Skidboot’s tricks were a testament to both his intelligence and his respect for his owner. Skidboot proved that he knew a thing or two about delayed gratification . . . he would wait and wait for the signal to eat the Milk Bone that he had been balancing on his nose, no matter how long a wait it was. If mere mortals could follow GPS directions like Skidboot could follow David Hartwig’s directions, no one would ever become lost! He could fetch the right toy and raise the correct paw. And Skidboot always did it right on cue.
Before long, the pair began performing at rodeos, and their popularity only grew from there. They appeared on the national television show, “Pet Star” and walked away with the grand prize of $25,000. They hobnobbed with the stars, rode in limousines and performed before amazed audiences. Skidboot and David Hartwig even made an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” That’s not bad for the farrier who never lost his humility and the dog who never left his side. The duo took their show to schools and church groups, where they entertained and motivated, in equal measure. They performed at county fairs and even at the State Fair of Texas. Skidboot longed to please and Hartwig longed to see the smiles of audience members.
As with all well-loved dogs, Skidboot had only one major flaw: Mortality. Skidboot lived from 1992 to 2007. When Skidboot was forced into retirement due to health reasons, Hartwig viewed it as an opportunity to spend more personal time with his four-legged friend. Skidboot’s final years were spent on the farm surrounded by horses, family and the best friend a dog ever had, David Hartwig. We often hear stories about a dog’s loyalty to his owner, but this is also a story about an owner’s loyalty to a dog.
If you think that Skidboot’s death marked the end of the story, guess again. While David Hartwig knew there would never be another Skidboot, he wasn’t ready to give up on Skidboot’s mission. Hartwig has trained other dogs, some of which are descendants of Skidboot. “Friends of Skidboot” and David Hartwig have continued to travel the country, speaking before school assemblies and church functions.
Give yourself a little treat . . . watch this wonderful video about David and the amazing Skidboot!
Happy Trails, y’all!