Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goals in the ring

Ahhh, blogging. Where have you gone? Away with my time on other things that seem unimportant now. Now I have time to blog again … maybe. Let’s see how this goes.

There are several goals we’re chasing right now. Dare I say them? Devon’s MACH, Devon’s UD, Spring’s UD, Spring’s TD. These are really big goals; career goals, work their whole life goals. But those things bring pressure. And pressure is something Devon and I don’t handle well together, especially when things start going badly. Like weave pole base changes. We “get in each other’s heads” and not in a good way. I worry about her, she worries about me. Not pretty.

But last month I learned about a woman who lost a great dog way too early. In fact, he was younger than Devon and Spring. I don’t know either of them well, but I met her when Devon was 20 months old the day she earned her TDX in Frederick, Maryland. She was so excited about getting her puppy. They accomplished great things: an OTCH and at least one trip to the NOI; they were on double Q #19 for his MACH and he was getting ready to enter VST tests this fall. And then he was gone.

The weekend following his death, I had all three of my pups entered in an obedience trial. I’ll be completely honest: I wanted one UD leg for Devon or Spring that weekend, and I wanted to earn Page’s CDX. It was possible; I had the dogs and the training to do it. But it was not the goal I should have had. Qs shouldn’t be goals, performance should be the goal.

But the more I thought about that great dog gone to soon, I thought if his owner suddenly got one more chance with him, what would be more important, the MACH ribbon or the feeling of teamwork and adrenaline as they competed in the ring? I know the answer.

That weekend my goals changed. My goal was to fully enjoy every moment in the ring with my dogs. We train to get to the competition, but if we don’t enjoy competing with our teammates, why are we there?

I ran into a friend in the parking lot at the trial. This is an agility friend who wasn’t entered in the obedience trial. We talked about this subject and later in the day she brought me a necklace that I had to have. It’s a quote by Gail Storm that many are familiar with “The real joy is in the privilege and ability to step to the start line with your dog by your side, not in the crossing of the finish line, victorious over others.”

I’m less concerned about being victorious over others. I’m focused on my team’s success against the test. But it’s not about ticking another check box off a list for a title. I want to take the time to feel and live and enjoy the moments with my dog. I won’t have those forever, and I want to enjoy each and every one.

Here’s the way I told someone recently that I wanted to run agility with my dogs: I want my dog rocking that course and I want to be running for broke, because that’s the only fun way to do this sport. I need to build into my dogs so they give it back and want to give it back. I want the adrenaline rush that a truly on edge team gives you when the run comes together.

Interestingly, Tori Self said something similar in her blog post this week. This is how she described her runs with Rev last weekend: One thing I thought would not be helpful was babysitting. So I didn’t. I committed to each course, gave Rev all I had, and she lit up and met me all the way.

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