Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking back and looking forward

Ahhh, a quiet New Year's Eve. Just my style. I like this break between mid-December and the first of the year. It allows me to reflect on last year, check my goals and see what we can do in 2012.

Let's start with 2011 goals. For Devon, 2011 was about finishing her Champion Tracker and figuring out if she really was going to be an agility dog. I knew she could accomplish the VST/CT; she proved that in 2010 with her two near passes. I was excited for the spring tracking season, but when Devon only made it into one test out of the six we entered, I was discouraged. And to add to my frustration, that one test was the last test of the spring season in late May, and it was our first 85 degree day with not a cloud in the sky. Bless Devon's heart she tried, but she just couldn't find the track out onto the roof of a parking garage.

I think it was on the drive home, that I really was ready for the VST/CT journey to be done. I knew my dog could do it, but it was HARD!! And now, we had to wait all summer -- and another very hot summer -- and try again in October. I was not looking forward to getting up at 3:30 a.m. to put in tracks all summer. I'll leave Devon's CT post for another time, because it's overdue, but my superstar passed her first test of the fall season in fine style, earning her VST and Champion Tracker on Oct. 2, 2011. She is quite the girl!

Now to agility. Devon's agility career has never been consistent, always stopping in the spring through the early fall for tracking and field work. And I struggled putting foundation on her, causing training issues. This year, I decided no field and we were going to stay with at least two trials a month all year and see if this girl could get past her weave and teeter issues and have an agility career.

As far as titles, I wanted her AX and legs on her MX and MXJ. Frankly, I knew that was a tall order. She had been 2 years without a Standard leg and more than a year without a JWW leg. I'm thrilled to say that Devon proved she had the heart and love of the game I thought she did. Devon earned her AX in mid-November, and the following weekend earned her first MX leg away from home! She also has 4 MXJ legs and 38 MACH points. It's a start, and I'm thrilled for her.

In our last trial of the year, tough breaks cost us Qs all weekend, but I must have had a dozen people come up to me and tell me that Devon had never looked better. Many folks didn't even realize Devon wasn't Qing! She was confident and happy -- and really that's all I could ask for!

Page and I had a growing/training year. I had no title goals for her, but she did finish her OA, earn her OAJ and got her first AX leg this year. Our startline issues continued to plague us this year. She's a smart, pushy, driven girl who cuts me no slack. She's going to make me a much better dog trainer!

Finally, 2011 was a great learning year for me personally. I completed my first full year working as a consultant for an agency, my first time in the private sector after 11 years of working for two state governments. In my previous life I was able to compartmentalize work and doglife. I had time for one and then time for the other. However, in the last 15 months I've had to learn to blend the two, and in doing so work took priority and dog training suffered.

So that has lead to my thinking in the last 2-3 weeks about our 2012 goals. My thoughts have lead me to explore not only my dog goals, but also how they intertwine with my personal schedule. I arrived at two quotes that are my launching pad for my 2012 goals:
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (New Living Translation) 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

“The main reason for people’s lack of success in life is their willingness to give up what they want most of all, for what they want right now.” Zig Zigler

The last two years I've also thought about the My One Word project. I've tried to select one word to keep me on task and focused each year. I have to admit, 2011 was so hectic and chaotic, I can't even remember my one word!

So in searching for the passage in 1 Corinthians 9, I saw the subhead "The Need for Self-discipline" in the New International Version. That's when I knew I'd found my One Word (or two words hyphenated) for the year: Self-discipline.

So, working forward to our 2012 goals, I'll start with me. It's time for a true confession: I struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I have all these good intentions when I set the alarm (isn't here some saying about good intentions?), and then I hit the snooze for 45 minutes to an hour! Really! Every 7 minutes, I walk across the bedroom into my bathroom and hit the snooze and go back to bed. My poor dogs are so used to this, they don't even move!

So then my chaotic day is off to an even worse start, because I'm already mad at myself for missing my morning workout and my morning training session with the girls. Then of course someone at work needs me to do a rush project for them and I'm off and running on that before I even leave the house. That guilt from the morning carries through the day and I'm exhausted when I get home and I just give up and go to bed and start things over again -- no work out down and no dogs trained.

So, self-discipline begins with getting up when the alarm goes off. I've already started this during my holidays and this week back to work and I'm happy to report I'm getting better! Now I'm only hitting the snooze for 15 minutes! And I'm working out in the mornings again!

So, there's a sneak peak at my 2012 goals: getting up on time, maintaining my fitness program, eating more fruits and veggies (yes those nasty green things) and building in time to train the girls regularly. All those goals build on each other, and they all take self-discipline!

Next, we'll move to Page. Many of her problems are due to deficient training time. For the first 20 months of her life, she had it great. I worked from home part time. She got trained once or twice a day. Her mind was always engaged as was her body, with very little crate time. Now she's lucky if she gets two training sessions in a week, and she spends most of her day in a crate with occasional breaks and play time with my parents (my dad is now an expert toy thrower for Page!).

For Page, 2012 will continue to be a year of training, with few title goals. We need to get our training and teamwork back and better than ever! I need to be more focused and directed in my training sessions, with not only agility, but also field and obedience. I'm leaning toward taking a couple of months off from agility competition with Page to work on some specific training goals. I'll finalize this plan in the next few days. I also want to progress in her obedience training that has been spotty in the last two years. Once the weather breaks, I want to finish her transition training. I don't think we'll test this fall. I think maturity and time will be beneficial for Page's field career.

For Devon, 2012 will continue to be about agility. I want to see if we can knock off her MX and MXJ titles this year. I also want to see where she is this time next year in double Qs and MACH points. I would love to get her MACH, but I want to see what she wants to do. Is she consistent enough to MACH? I suspect she is, but I'm not convinced yet. I prefer to take this goal one step at a time, and I'd like to know that she's still running as strong and confident in December 2012 as she looked in December 2011. The MX and MXJ are for me; the game is for her.

I also want to solidify all of Devon's obedience training in 2012 with the thought of trialing in 2013. I have absolutely loved the two lessons I've done this fall with Bridget Carlsen! I see amazing progress in Devon, and I'm going to continue those and a seminar with her in 2012.

As far as field, I think we're going to play with no pressure this year. When Page trains, Devon will train. I'm anxious to try some set ups and see what Devon has this year after taking some time off. In 2011 our only field work was a WCX in July at Hambden, and Devon was amazing. She was the only dog of 14 that passed the test. She was strong and steady, and I absolutely love walking to the line with this dog.

Finally, I think I have one more goal for myself, and that's a goal for competition with Devon. When my head's in the right place, Devon runs like a dream. When I'm anxious for a Q, Devon doesn't run as well. I need to get my mental game in place so that I remember each time I walk to the line that it's a privilege to step into the ring with my amazing dogs. My girls want to play these games with me -- how lucky am I? When my attitude isn't right, they tell me.

So that's it for my 2012 goals. Self-discipline for me to help me get my goals and the girls' goals on track. See, it's as easy as one word (or two hyphenated)!


andrea said...

self discipline is a wonderful one word - i hadn't heard of that concept before but what a neat thing ... all the best in your quest

Amy / Layla the Malamute said...

Congratulations on a very successful year! I'm looking forward to hearing about Devon's CT. I always enjoy reading your updates.

I also haven't heard of that concept of one word. My choice for 2012 is "hope". It's something that's often lacking, but I'll try to hold on to it.