I am mightily trying to revamp my agility goals. The biggest question that pops into my mind is how agility fits into my life mission. Agility is important to me, but it can’t be as important as the bigger things in life: people, relationships, connections, teaching, learning, sharing, and compassion. The problem is that when I start thinking about how to fit agility competitions into the bigger life mission thing and it’s like smashing a square peg into a round hole.
The scenario that keeps coming back to me is Grand Prix semi-finals at Cynosports last year. I had the run of my life with my little dog and knocked the last bar; it doesn’t change the connection that my dog and I had on the course, the subconscious movements, the lines, the teamwork or the energy that was expended. But the bar does mean that no placement happened on paper. I want to feel proud about that run, but since there wasn’t a placement there is some incongruity to the whole predicament. If I just want to feel connection and teamwork I can do that on the training field. So why compete? The mental torture playing that run over and over again in my mind was certainly a bad way to spend my time. Yet, in reality that run was fucking awesome; best run ever! And if you can feel that it was the best run ever even with the bar, what is the point of going up against others? Why go to competitions if failure is acceptable? At an agility trial am I trying to prove something? Satisfy my ego? Fill my time? Competing at agility shows don’t meet my life mission to help people and have compassion for myself and others. It costs a lot of money and takes a large expenditure of time and energy. I am exploring these ideas. Is there a way to go to competitions and enjoy my time there? Reward myself for the awesome but not quite perfect runs? Can I fit my life mission into trialing by whittling the corners down on the square peg?
The absolute best thing about all of this is that my dog doesn’t care one iota about what I decide. He is happy just to do stuff with me, he could care less what it is. I am so thankful to have a training partner that brings 110% to everything we do together. I want to honor that commitment. I want to satisfy my goals without stepping on my bigger ideals. I want to have my cake and eat it too.
for: Dog Agility Blog Action Day
Do we do dog sports because they are inherently fun? Or for some other reason? Fun (when used as a noun) is defined by the Oxford dictionary as – enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. I am not sure I would describe the average dog sport venue in this way. A better way to explain what is going on is to say dog sport X is a journey. Journey (when used as a noun) can defined by the Oxford dictionary as – a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
Dog training for me is inherently fun but competitions are another matter. I feel the need to compete; I’m not sure I do it because it is fun. And that might be a bad thing. Am I searching for something that is lacking in my life when I step to the line? Could I walk away from competitions and just do the training that I enjoy so much? If there were no titles, would we still compete with our dogs? I would, I think that would actually make dog sports better; competition for the sake of competition.
Competition should be about practicing what you know, learning about things you need to know, and teamwork with your dog. That might be fun; but it also might be a a long and difficult process.
Getting in the car to drive home after a competition where you almost made the podium or exploded miserably is not fun. Getting in the car to drive home after winning definitely feels different. But in each case you still have to drive home. And you better be ok with the process that got you there: the practice, the learning, the teamwork, the endeavor, THE JOURNEY.
Think about this – the first two letters of FUn are also an abbreviation for a common slang term that can be found in Urban Dictionary. Journey on the other hand is a good, clean, G rated word that helps me get from here to there and keeps me company on the long drive home.
It’s the Journey
You have either had one or will have one in your future. That one dog that just doesn’t fit, doesn’t want to do the dog sport of your choice, isn’t the high level prospect you were hoping for, and learns at a different rate or in a different way.
I have had two of these dogs and was told multiple times by multiple people to give back to the breeder, re-home, put down, or retire them. The weird thing is I didn’t. I didn’t listen to their voices or the voices in my head. And it wasn’t just because I made the commitment to them as puppies. I truly believe that there is a better home out there for every dog I own (stole that from an article in a Schutzhund magazine a few years back). I don’t flatter myself that I am the best trainer, handler, owner, caretaker or partner; I have issues and so does everyone else who owns a dog! That thought keeps me humble and probably makes me try a little harder when things are going awry.
Bob didn’t want to do agility. He didn’t really want to do it from the start. And I originally got him to be my competitive agility dog. We were going to go to Nationals! World Team Tryouts! Competitions overseas! Only Bob had a different plan for us. It just took me 5 years to figure out. And people would say Bob is the slow learner…
Bob would probably have been happier in a family with kids, or in a home that took him herding, or even with a handler who just wanted to do agility at the local level. I considered re-homing him many times but somehow he stuck with me. We are going to enter our first disc competition in less than a month! My keyboard is sticky from the tears I just wiped! Bob! Competition! Doing something that he dearly loves! Yay! I just had to open my eyes to his idea of a good time! Learning a new sport is never easy and we have had our shares of ups and downs, crash and burns, laughter and head shaking along the way. We certainly won’t be the best, but we aren’t trying to be. It’s just me and my Bob A Lob, doing something together that we both enjoy.
Wad Frizz Club
AWC USA Team 2013
Making a goal, sticking to it and then accomplishing it feels good! Besides my goal of going to tryouts and having a clean run I also made the goal to not beat myself up no matter what happened. I am so proud that Ho and I had 2 clean runs! Really, we had 3 clean runs but 1 run had a popped weave that I didn’t fix, and the run that we had an off course was totally my fault, not a big surprise 🙂 LOL. I approached the line EVERY TIME with a huge smile on my face, holding and kissing my wonderful dog. I ran EVERY run with commitment to my chosen handling options and stayed focused until the end. I left EVERY run holding my and kissing my wonderful dog with a smile on my face. I felt good about EVERY run! Even the two runs that we E’d on! Those courses were HARD. But I was prepared!! And I made great handling choices! In the back of my mind “WWBD?”, “What would Bo do?”.
At times I was stressed, and un-decided, and I felt discouraged but I managed to re-focus EVERY time and that is what counts! The mental game is hard, it takes time and energy and calories and brain power to do it. It is hard but I feel so good after doing it! Like I accomplished something big! Those of you who knew me back when I ran Pickle might have seen the meltdowns and the crying, it felt bad and I made a decision to not do that anymore. And I went to a top level competition and kept my mental crap together! Yeah!
I really want to thank everyone who helped me reach my goal! Eric for so many discussions and support, Bo for putting up with my shit and being a great trainer and coach, Cheryl for helping support the journey, Debbie for setting up hard courses and helping me run them, my parents for inspiring me to be me and supporting me along the way, Julie and Daneen for giving me Ho, my brother for all our woot and mounding talks, GPOL for putting up with my PEPSING and everything else, all my Thursday night peeps who put up with running those crazy courses, all my students who inspire me to be the best agility instructor I can be, Ho for being the best Ho in the world, and myself for working really hard at something!