The timing of today’s Agility Bloggers Event couldn’t be more fitting. The theme is “attitude” - something I’ve got in spades this week. On Sunday, Team Shiva had our best fun match run in history. Saying it that way probably makes it sound more impressive than it was, but I am still pretty chuffed about it all and don’t care. After two and a half years, we deserve a bit of exaggerated praise.
Naturally, I don’t have one second of video or even a single photograph from the day. We only like to record Shiva’s goof-ups. Can’t have people actually think we know what we’re doing, after all. No, it’s best to keep away from all those scary things like positive thinking and… Expectation. Now there’s a word to make one shudder.
I wrote a lot about attitude in my last agility blog event post. It truly has been the most critical piece of our training. I am finally starting to learn what Shiva has known all along, that it is the challenge, the journey of figuring things out, that makes the sport so much fun. If agility was easy, we probably wouldn’t still be doing it.
Oddly, I have never seen myself as a tenacious person. When the going gets tough, I stand aside to make room for the onslaught. Well, either that or I turn around and run in the other direction. Giving up comes easy to me. At least I thought it did. For some reason, when it comes to my life with Shiva and our participation in dog sports, quitting just isn’t an option. It’s occurred to me plenty of times that perhaps we’re just never going to be good enough, and yet I keep hanging in there, hoping that maybe next spring or next fall or next year will be our time.
Our run on Sunday was not perfect. She had a moment of typical Shiva insanity at the start line, taking off to leap on tables and shop for food. I should have moved quicker to reward her stay before she had a chance to bolt but I was too slow. Story. Of. Our Life. The only thing that saved us was the fact she took off before I released her. Since it was before the clock started we had the chance to line up again as if nothing had happened.
I’ll take what I can get!
The rest of the run really couldn’t have gone better. It was prevented from being clean by Shiva’s taking of a tunnel instead of following my direction toward a jump. I was no doubt too slow – again – and the tunnel entry was on her line. What’s a drivey dog to do? I wasn’t mad. I just called her back, was thrilled when she actually came, and we tried the jump sequence again. Despite the two blips we finished the course without knocking a single bar and with plenty of time to spare. For us, that’s pretty awesome.
It can be hard to find a balance between acknowledging mistakes from which to learn and dwelling on the negative. When it comes to my abilities, I tend toward pessimism. When things go wrong, I struggle to brush them off. In agility, that kind of attitude can be lethal to performance. It is important to know the areas in which you need to focus your training in order to improve but at the same time, I think it is just as important to celebrate successes, no matter how small. The latter may be even more important.
Dog agility is a sport, a hobby, not a practice in self-flagellation.
I’ve received a bit of well-intentioned pressure lately to enter our first trial. I don’t really know what I have been waiting for. A perfect performance at a fun match? A magical fairy to come down and wave a magic wand? For the stars to align in an A-frame formation? Maybe I am waiting for Shiva to look at me and say, “Okay, I am ready. I promise never to run around the course like an idiot again.”
It’s clearly not going to happen. My instructor warned me last week that the longer I wait, the harder it is going to be to get up the nerve. If I put too much significance on the event, I am only going to become more overwhelmed. But then again, after all this time, if we go out there and Shiva jumps over more fences than she does obstacles, how will that reflect on our training?
It’s a ridiculous question and one that shouldn’t matter. The one I should be asking myself is this: what if we go out there and Shiva and I have fun and stay connected and feel great afterwards?
Like all other aspects of dog training, agility is a sport of dizzying highs and crushing lows. The best moments I find are the ones in which my dog and I finally achieve a difficult move after hours of work. I think because it can be so frustrating at times, it can also be so wonderful when everything goes right. If agility was easy, I don’t think it would be any fun.
If you get the chance, make sure to check out the other blogs participating in today’s action day here.