Shiva’s last agility class took place on July 6, 2013. Five months ago. The dog sport was a part of our lives for so long, three and a half years, I was wistful about giving it up. Our coach and trainer had become a good friend; we certainly wouldn’t be the team we are today without her guidance. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Not to mention, all of the compassionate friends we met along our journey. They were people and dogs who had experienced similar troubles and anxieties. A more supportive lot I have never met outside of blogland. I will forever be grateful for each and every one of them for the cheers, the commiserations, and the camaraderie. They were special people and I doubt I will see the likes of them again.
Alas, things changed, our lives changed, and we had to say goodbye to all of it. That final day of class was difficult, to say the least. As I watched our trainer and friend say her farewells to Shiva, it was all I could do to rein in my emotions. I was determined not to cry in public. I don’t think I did a very good job. We owe them so much and it is hard to comprehend that we may not ever see them or their adorably skilled dogs ever again. Of course, they are all just a Facebook message away but it’s not the same is it? Another dog and handler have taken our place in the class, competitions have come and gone, titles have been won and lost, and we were not there to witness any of it. Videos after the fact do not compare to shouts of encouragement on the sidelines.
Agility has not been an easy practice for Shiva and I. We’ve had many more failures than we’ve had successes. Countless times I have vowed to give it up, that the stress is not worth the lackluster results. And yet, I miss it. Maybe not the frustration or the tears but the moments when we really connected. They were few, admittedly, but the rush was enough to keep me going.
Honestly, I don’t know that I will ever trial with Shiva again. It’s not something that was ever fun for us. What I miss, though, are the classes, the little bursts of connection and fun once a week in an environment where it didn’t really matter if we performed the sequence perfectly or not. Especially during this last year when I officially gave up the sport. It took all of the pressure off. Ironically, when I stopped caring how well Shiva performed, she did better than ever.
Isn’t that always the way?
Our last class was amazing. I don’t remember the obstacles or sequences – that is all a blur now. What I remember is how we were both on our game. Laughing and playing, Shiva and I were a true partnership. We enjoyed that final hour as much as we possibly could. She made me so proud. It was a fitting end to her agility career.
And yet… Perhaps it doesn’t have to be the end. Maybe we can find another class here. It won’t be the same – it couldn’t. Magic like that isn’t created, it just appears. I don’t even know how to look. We kind of just fell into our last class on a referral from our trainer. Is it possible we could be that lucky again?
This is where I ask for your advice. If you currently take training classes, either in agility, or nosework, or any other dog related skill, how did you find your coach? Did you receive recommendations from friends? Did you randomly Google and select the first place that sounded decent? Do you feel a connection with your fellow classmates? If so, how did you find your training group?