Canine company-- Husband and wife attorneys share profession and passion for their pets

By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News

Bob and Karen Agacinski are a dynamic duo. Despite active careers -- he's a grievance administrator for the State of Michigan, she's an assistant corporation counsel for Oakland County -- the two manage to keep going during their downtime. With three grown children, the couple enjoys being involved in activities with their dogs.

The two were introduced to Belgian Sheepdogs in 1975 and they have had them ever since.

"Karen had always wanted a dog," Bob says. "First we got married and then we got a house so we could get a dog."

The unique breed came their way unexpectedly. Karen was employed as an occupational therapist at the time when a colleague told her about a litter of Belgian Sheepdogs.

"These are big dogs, all black with pointy ears," Bob explains. "Brandy was the perfect dog. We totally fell in love with the breed."

Karen adds, "We were planning to go to the shelter to get a dog and we thought we'd have a little puppy and we brought home a 12-pound dog."

When someone suggested obedience school, Brandy turned out to score high points in class. Today they have Vega, a 13-year-old male, and Echo, a 2-year-old female. Her full name is E Street Echo because Bob and Karen, who reside in Royal Oak, are Bruce Springsteen fans.

Though they are both devoted to their dogs, "Karen has the skill and patience for training," says Bob, who acts as her assistant. "We share a mutual love with different skills and roles to play."

Their four-legged friends provide great stress relief, too.

"They require regular exercise and petting and unconditional love," Bob says. "Once you have dogs you can't picture yourself without them."

The couple also turns to yoga to unwind.

"It's a great couple's activity," Bob says.

Agility training is another favorite pastime.

"You catch agility fever. Once you start you want to continue," Karen says. "When people ask me what I do, I tell them I go to dog school."

Karen is no stranger to education. When she decided to switch careers, the mother of three went to law school at night. She credits her husband for his support.

"Bob told me I could do this and he's a wonderful dad," she says.

She graduated from Wayne State University Law School, while Bob is a University of Michigan Law School grad.

Being a therapist taught Karen that activity promotes an interest in activity. And while theirs sounds enjoyable, it's far from easy.

"Dogs have eternal optimism," Karen says. "But training them is hard work. It's a whole different skill set."

She believes in getting a dog first for practice, then having children.

"One of the advantages of all living creatures is that you get a sense you really are not completely in charge," Karen says.

Dogs can be great role models too.

"My dog has been a walking companion for training for half marathons," Karen says. "They'll keep walking when you think you have to lie down."

Their dogs have won ribbons in agility, obedience and conformation.

"The training is a very fun activity together," Karen says. "There are lots of things to share and laugh about."

Linda Brady, owner of Canine Community Center in Warren, says Bob and Karen are incredibly nice people.

"They love the dogs and they are hysterically funny. They're always there to have fun and Echo is an amazing dog," she says. "You don't often see husband and wife teams. Karen is a very gentle trainer and Bob is the most supportive husband. Echo's tail never stops wagging."

Published: Fri, Jul 16, 2010