May 12, 2005
DUI FOR FORMER
CANDIDATE: Charlene Cutler-Ploss,
a member of the Eureka Design Review Committee and Redevelopment
Advisory Board and a former City Council candidate, was arrested
May 1 on suspicion of driving under the influence, Eureka police
said. Cutler-Ploss, 38, who was reportedly returning from a Planned
Parenthood fund-raiser with Councilman Chris Kerrigan, was in
the driver's seat of a Volvo at 12:08 a.m. in the 800 block of
Henderson, police said. The parked car, which was running with
its lights on, attracted the attention of a neighbor, who called
police to report a "suspicious vehicle." The officer
who responded to the call spoke to Cutler-Ploss and subsequently
arrested her, whereupon she refused to take breath or blood tests,
police said. That refusal earns Cutler-Ploss an automatic one-year
suspension of her drivers' license by the Department of Motor
Vehicles, beginning in 30 days, police said.
by HELEN SANDERSON
Humboldt State's "Winningest Coach," Frank Cheek, who reached 800 career softball wins this season, talked with the Journal last week about his 36 years coaching wrestling and softball at the university, and the possibility of retirement.
After clinching the Greater Northwest Athletic Conference title last week, Cheek, 67, leads the top seed HSU women's softball team into the Western Region Championships this weekend at CSU Dominguez Hills, and then, he hopes, on to the NCAA Division II championships in Salem, Va.
Journal: In your youth, were you a wrestler or baseball player?
Cheek: I was a baseball player and a football player. Kentucky [high schools] at that time did not have wrestling. When I was 17, I went into the Marine Corps and I played baseball. And this wrestling team was working out, and I kinda liked it. So I went over and started playing around with them, and I got beat up pretty good. Well, that made me mad. I mean, I always thought I was a pretty tough hombre.
So I went back the next day, and the next day, and I started working out. Then I went to San Francisco State and wrestled there.
I [hurt] my arm my junior year wrestling a kid from Stanford. We won the match. Actually it was the loss that I felt was really one of my greatest victories. Early in the first round the guy threw me and I separated my shoulder. My coach wanted to throw in the towel. I said, "No, I can finish the match." I was hurting pretty good, and in those days you wrestled nine minutes not six minutes, so for the next six minutes I sucked it up and took my punishment. He was tough and he beat me but he didn't pin me. If he had pinned me, or if we threw in the towel, we would have lost the match. We beat Stanford 17 to 16. So my loss was my greatest victory because beating Stanford in those days was a big win. In losing I felt pride.
Journal: Have you ever had an athlete make a similar decision?
Cheek: Oh definitely, all the time. I find no difference between the desire to win between men and women. And I've coached men for 22 years, and women I think for 17 [years] so I can speak pretty authoritatively on that. There's no difference in their tenacity or their dedication -- none.
Journal: Some people say, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Do you abide by that credo?
Cheek: Well, that was said by a loser, not by a winner. You don't hear winners say that. I feel that winning and losing is everything and if you don't take that approach how can you demand 100 percent if you're not giving 100 percent? People who come up with those clichés -- it's nice on paper but in my case, winning is everything. Winning is everything.
Journal: So when you entered the season, were you thinking, "We might reach 800 wins this season?"
Cheek: I know that the numbers will take care of themselves. I live in the future, not the past.
Mike Ditka was a great football coach and a reporter once said, "[Ditka] knows the difference between six inches -- a pat on the back and a kick in the rear end." I actually don't kick the girls. I kick the wrestlers. Some ladies need a little more motivation than others.
There's one young lady who has a tendency to try and bunt rise balls. So you tell her, "Don't bunt the rise balls, you don't wanna bunt rise balls." You finally have to say, "You bunt another rise ball you're gonna run to the [outfield] fence." Well, running to the fence seems to work better than telling them, "Don't do it." There is a saying from Proverbs that I like, I wrote it down Proverbs 20:30, "Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." I believe that.
Journal: How, if at all, has your coaching changed over the year?
Cheek: Oh, it's changed dramatically. I'm from the old school, they have the hard heads and the ultra modern; well, I'm a hard head. There's no doubt about that: Just blood and guts -- your blood and my guts, you know what I mean. And the coach is in charge. I am not your friend on the field. I'm a dictator. I try to be a benevolent dictator but I'm a dictator out there. You don't ever question me on the field, ever -- not even my assistant coaches [question me]. You just do what you're told. We can't have a girl rounding second and I say go home and she says, "Well, let's stop and think about this." You can't do it. But they can come into this office and talk all they want, and they do that. Once the ladies realize that I'm on their side, and that my bark is worse than my bite, I believe that we have a pretty good relationship. So I've learned to be nice but I'm still from the old school. You don't question my leadership.
Journal: After so many winning seasons, is it hard to keep your athletes from becoming overconfident?
Cheek: I like my players to feel somewhat arrogant. I like them to be assertive. I like them overconfident. I don't want them going into a game thinking they haven't covered everything. I want them to go in the game positive. "Don't Tread on Me" -- that's the Kentucky motto. And I believe in that. When we walk on the field we are all business, there's no horseplay, they've got their game face on. When we walk off the field and get in the van then they can do what they want as long as we win. If we lose there shouldn't be a word said. Losing hurts. We work too hard to lose.
Journal: Are you planning to retire?
Cheek: I'm leaning that way. The thing is that if we were losing it would be very easy for me to walk out that door. If I thought this team didn't want me, I'd walk out that door. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said I was retiring. Now it's getting down to the nitty-gritty. I'm going to have my knees operated on. It's difficult for me to stand on my feet for three hours. It hurts. I'm going to get knee replacements. Actually it will help my personality because if you're in pain and you're out there on the field and something happens, all of the sudden you respond inappropriately because the pain makes you irritable. But I'm still having a good time, the team is winning, I have a great bunch of girls.
Journal: What are your retirement plans?
Cheek: What will I do? I haven't the faintest idea. What would I rather do? There is nothing I would rather do. I'd enjoy some time to cut my grass and paint the house and take my wife to lunch and go down [to Livermore] and see my daughter and my grandson. I enjoy that. He's 7 and my daughter and her husband are coaching him. I'd like to see him play [baseball] because he's family.
But you know what? This [team] is my family.
by JOHN DOOLEY
LET'S FACE IT. THE IDEA OF PEOPLE DANCING WITH DOGS IS FUNNY. But, for members of the World Canine Freestyle Organization, dancing with dogs is a serious sport. Over the past few years, canine freestyle has grown in popularity in the United States, Canada, England, Denmark, Japan, South Africa and as far away as Australia.
Canine Freestyle performances feature theatrical musical routines, with dog and handler each playing/dancing characters from plays, musicals or pop songs. Techniques include paw kicks, walking backward and weaving through the handler's legs to the music. The techniques are incorporated using movements dogs enjoy naturally.
Competition routines can range from shuffling along to a cool Patsy Cline tune to full-on battles between canine and human gladiators set to dramatic classical soundtracks. Competitors use all kinds of musical styles, and the dogs come in all shapes and sizes.
Hey, if the West Nile Virus can make it here, why not doggie dancing? In Humboldt County, there is one person who dances with dogs professionally, so far: Diana Kriger.
Although quite bashful about exposing her involvement with Canine Freestyle -- rebels don't come any shyer -- Kriger, 53, of Redwood Valley (east of Blue Lake) is for now the only local participant in what has become a worldwide phenomenon. Originally from Southern California, Kriger has lived in Humboldt County for 34 years. When she isn't busy dancing with dogs, she works as a purchasing agent for Holly Yashi in Arcata.
"Most freestylers have a sense of humor," Kriger says of her involvement with World Canine Freestyle Organization. "Many people initially look puzzled when I tell them I dance with my dog, but that's part of the fun of it. Those who are intrigued enough to find out more about it usually end up with a smile on their face.
"My first real close and personal experience came when I attended a freestyle workshop in Oregon given by Caroline Scott from Texas in 2003," she continued. "This is truly a sport for all ages. Young children can and do compete, and I've seen some incredible routines performed by elderly handlers and elderly dogs. It's really a spectator sport, so it's really hard to capture that in words."
Kriger's primary dance partner is her rambunctious Australian Shepherd, Zip. So far, she and Zip have performed in two Canine Musical Freestyle titling competitions. Her first was in Corvallis, Ore., in 2003, and the second was earlier this year in Santa Rosa. She hopes to compete in Klamath Falls, Ore., this July, and again in Corvallis in November. Kriger belongs to the nearest freestyle group, Redwood Empire Doggy Dancers, based in Santa Rosa.
So far, Kriger and Zip have two routines, "Locomotion" by Little Eva, and "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle" by those kidding cowboys, Riders in the Sky. During this performance, Kriger does a little Texas two-step routine, while Zip weaves through her legs, spins and twirls 360s, and dances on two legs. For competition, each choreographed step and movement must integrate with the song, from start to finish, to get high scores.
In all, Kriger has four dogs: two Australian Shepherds and two border collies. All the dogs have competed with Kriger in dog agility competitions, and all four are learning freestyle.
"The training process is so much fun for the dogs that none of them want to be left out," Kriger says. "One of the nicest things about training freestyle moves is you can do it inside the house. When I learned about freestyle, I thought it would be something that Zip would enjoy and that I would enjoy. The best part is the people that you meet. Everybody involved has a real happy-go-lucky attitude. It's all for fun."
There is a lot of legwork in canine freestyle -- such as standing up, which can be hard on dogs' legs -- and older dogs may find it difficult to endure. However, routines can be adapted to accommodate most animals.
Freestyling with Zip, Kriger says, is a healthy retirement activity for the 9-year-old dog. "It's good to get out with him and work hard, and do things that mentally stimulate him, and give him something to do that isn't hard on his body. They [judges] don't mind an older dog. You get scored on the technical abilities of the dogs, so it's really helpful if they are athletic."
Kriger says the hardest part for new dogs is training them to focus on the handler for the complete length of the performance without getting distracted by the audience. Although food bribes can be used in training the dance animals, no such treats are allowed in a competition. The dogs must perform with their trainers because they want to.
Will there ever be a competition here in Humboldt County, or are we too unsophisticated? According to Kriger, it takes a lot of hard work to put on a title competition, and the first step to having a competition in our area is to form a canine musical freestyle club of our own.
"Humboldt County has many talented dog trainers," Kriger insists, "who could easily become world class Freestylers."
What's next? Canasta with cats?
For more information on canine freestyle, and uproarious videos of competitions, go to www.worldcaninefreestyle.org.
John Dooley is an Arcata poet and free-lance writer.
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