Dog Poetry Sunday – An Agility Blessing

It could be nostalgia or it could be jealousy. When I found this poem on Agility Nut I knew it would be perfect for my Sunday series. I have spent a greater part of the weekend watching the videos of my Haligonian friends as they go on to earn title after title in one of the greatest sports in the world. I knew these people and these dogs back when they were just starting out, when one was too scared to zip through a curved tunnel and when another quivered at the sight of a tire jump. It is heart-warming to see how our former teammates have grown and it is bittersweet to watch from afar as they succeed beyond their early expectations.

I miss the sport of dog agility a lot. It was a significant part of our lives for almost four years. It was where we found each other. The few moments Shiva and I had together, when everything just connected, were a wicked experiences. Our last class together in July 2013, before we moved to Edmonton, was one of those times. It is a memory I will always treasure. If only we had it on video. If only those moments had been more frequent. If only things had aligned a little better for us.

This isn’t to say we’ll never get back into the ring. One never knows what awaits. But it isn’t going to be any time soon.

Here is a blessing to all dogs and humans participating in agility, this weekend and next, and all the days to come, whether your are just beginning or whether you are a seasoned professional. May your frustrations be minor and your joys of working together outweigh them all.

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An Agility Blessing, by P.J. Hughes

May the tunnels not have too much suction,
May the course be fun and fast.
May your dog not stop to say “hello”
to the photographers they pass!

May the table not be too slippery,
May the chute house no scary beasts,
May all the yellow parts be touched
with one little toe, at least.

May the wind be always at your back,
May no bars fall on the ground.
May the A-frame have no stop sign on the top,
May the judge’s whistle never sound.

May your dog obey all correct commands
And ignore the ones that are wrong.
May your heart be light, your feet be sure
and the bond with your dog grow strong.

At the finish line, may great joy abound,
regardless of your score,
You have your dog, your dog has you,,
and who could ask for more?

Lots of questions. And a baby goat.

It is day 58 of my 100 Days Project. I feel like it may as well be day 1. So many words, much more than the required 5800, and I am no closer to my goal of figuring out my goal.

The point of this challenge was to cultivate a daily writing practice. This I have done and am doing. It can be checked off. The underlying point, however, was to move beyond writing for writing’s sake. One can only blather on about nothing for so long.

Granted, I’ve done a decent job of this for over four years. Maybe there is purpose in a lack of purpose?

This is all a little too meta, isn’t it? Even for me. I am putting a lot of weight on one online scheme.

I am proud that I have stuck with it. Though I have dropped from blogging every day, I have faithfully kept up with my personal project. In the last few weeks, I have leaned toward pen and paper as a preferred medium. It is all very old school. There is something more appealing about burrowing into my deep blue chair, notebook in hand, scratching out the first thing that comes to mind, than there is about balancing my laptop and frowning at a bright screen. The experience of writing on real paper feels more natural. I correct myself less, crossing out much less than I would delete if I were typing.

But then, if I can get the same catharsis from writing my thoughts by hand as I do from sharing them online, is there a meaning behind this space at all? Why bother stammering to the void? Would it be more rewarding to hold my words to my chest? Should I just start a journal and be done with it?

What am I doing, really?

These are questions I can’t answer. I hate that. I hate that I am 32 years old and I have no clue what my passion is, what my goals are, what it is I want to do with my time. If I wasn’t afraid, if I was to throw everything at my dream, what would that dream be?

I don’t know. I am frightened I never will.

That’s enough ennui for today, I think. Because I don’t know how to end this properly, here is a short video of a baby goat. I filmed it while on holiday in British Columbia two weeks ago. If I could have fit him into my suitcase, he would be cuddling in my lap and life would be perfect.

Sweet dreams.

Things I learned about my dog while camping

Whoever said that dog training is never over was a very bright individual indeed. After all the time I have spent studying my dog’s behaviour, enough to fill several years of blog posts, one might expect me to be an expert on Shiva-isms. This is why expectations are premeditated resentments. If Labour Day Weekend 2014 is a forecast for my future, I am a novice in the way of the Sheevs.

Once I climb out of myself and look at it from an aerial view, I can see how this is a positive. Learning more pushes our relationship forward. Time had taught me how to give us both a break.

DSC08233We spent the last weekend camping with family. We’ve never done this before as we always lived several prairies and a Canadian shield away. I was nervous. Obviously. Shiva has met these family members before and it sometimes went well, sometimes… Less well. To be kind about it. Camping brought fresh hope, however, in a clean environment. There would be no territory for her to defend.

This was the thought. Shiva had other ideas. Doesn’t she always?

Alas, there were plenty of dicey moments, more than made me happy. But there were also more moments of clarity than I could have predicted. It turns out, gaining a little outside perspective on my dog’s actions can spin even my cynical brain.

DSC08203Things I learned about my dog while camping (with my parents)

  1.  Shiva is a dog. Yep. Stunning, right?
  2. Shiva is a dog who does dog-like things. You are blown away, I know it.
  3. Dog-like things include barking and sometimes jumping. Can you believe it?
  4. Shiva’s bark is loud and frightening BUT she is easily called off after one or two woofs. This is not the end of the world. Some people startle, some people swear, some people laugh, and some people don’t do anything at all. None of these reactions say anything about my dog.
  5. Shiva is a very well-trained dog, in comparison to the majority of other dogs. Comparison games are dangerous and I don’t want to play them, but it feels awesome when Shiva sits after one cue and other dogs the same age look like they have never heard the word before in their lives. I shouldn’t gloat over this. I don’t care. Shiva and I worked hard!
  6. Shiva likes her sleep. She turns into Grumpy Dog when she doesn’t get it.
  7. Shiva can sleep alone in a tent when she is motivated to do so. She cannot sleep alone at home.DSC08195
  8. Shiva has a lot of trust in me. When walking on narrow board walks and passing unpredictable toddlers and flailing cyclists, she didn’t have one reaction. Not because these things didn’t bother her, but because we worked together to give her the space she needs. This is why I can stop her from losing it at the end of her rope when people and other dogs wander by our campsite, sometimes staring as we eat our dinner. She knows I will take care of it.
  9. Shiva makes mistakes. And so do I. Thus far, no one has died.
  10. Shiva is not a dog everyone likes. She isn’t cuddly with strangers and she struggles with impulse control in new environments. She is anxious when forced to stay still. These are not endearing qualities. It doesn’t matter if anyone else loves her. It has nothing to do with my training.DSC08222
  11. Shiva is not an easy dog and is not a dog for a beginner. I was a beginner. I am not any more.
  12. Shiva is great with smaller dogs and puppies. I love this about her.
  13. Shiva is not going to change. She might mellow, she might learn more fun tricks to show off, but she isn’t going to turn into the relaxed, submissive dog other people think she should be. Good on her.

Do you still learn new things about your pets after years of living together?

One new thing every day

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One of our favourite things to do, Shiva and I, is to explore new places together. It doesn’t have to be complicated. So often new discoveries are as simple as meandering around corners before ignored. The ripe smells invigorate Shiva and the fresh sights prevent mental boredom in me. I have learned that routine is my swiftest route to insanity. The smallest change is worth any inconvenience.

We never would have found this interesting church if we hadn't crossed a new road

We never would have found this interesting church if we hadn’t crossed a new road

I have been thinking of embarking upon a new challenge, to do one new thing every single day. It can be minor – finding a new tree under which to eat my lunch – or major – talking to a stranger. Would such a feat even be possible? This is what I wonder. There will come a time when I will run out of little things to alter. How willing am I to deviate from the norm? This is what I think I am ready to find out.

Shiva, contemplating doilies on trees. That is a first.

Shiva, contemplating doilies on trees. That is a first.

It is something else to think about, regardless. I might fail. Then again, I might impress myself. As winter approaches and I face seven or more months of Canadian Arctic, I have to focus on something positive, right?

Shiva will be my guide. No challenges daunts her. I couldn’t find a better companion. Year of Badassery, part deux?

First days are the best days

Fall is here. I knew it this morning at the sight of hopeful students loitering around the bus stop. Backpacks slung over their shoulders, crisp jeans fitting a little too well, they stood out like Shiva at a pug meet-up. I loved the first day of school. Next to Christmas Eve, it was my favourite day of the year. There was so much to believe in on a first day. Anything was possible. First days were fresh and clean, with no mistakes in them.  On first days, I felt confident, capable, and courageous. The pang of this memory hits me every autumn when the students return to class. It isn’t jealousy; at least, it isn’t all jealousy. I feel for them, sense their nervousness and excitement beneath their facades of boredom and ennui. As uncomfortable as such ambiguity is, it is also thrilling. They don’t know what will be hitting them next but they are ready to learn. It won’t be long before the reality of midterms and papers and annoying lab partners slam into them. Within a week or so their eager anticipation will turn into frustrated exhaustion. I try to remember this as I battle the curl of envy in my stomach. School means late nights and ink stains, dull assignments and obnoxious classmates who dominate the professor’s time with their unrelated questions. If only every day could be a first day.

Less Wordy Wednesday – Friends from another land

While on holiday sans Shiva last week I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams.

No, I didn’t go skydiving. This was even better.

Last week, I saw this cheerful face in person:

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I even got to scratch these downy ears.

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These adorable little bears from Kol’s Notes hardly require an introduction. They are only the most famous Canadian dogs since the Littlest Hobo. The was a moment, when the Kolchak himself licked my hand, that I contemplated never washing it again.

Jealous yet?

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Shiva should be. Now more than ever I realize how fast she would make friends with funny Koly. He is a dog after her own heart with superior begging skills. IN a way, I am relieved I couldn’t bring her along. She is bad enough as it is. Can you imagine being around this face all day?

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They are every bit as sweet as they sound on the blog, and even cuter in real life. No photo can do either Kolchak or Felix justice. I feel so lucky that I finally got to meet them in person. One doesn’t run into real canine celebrities very often. Though our visit was brief, I hope one day I will be able to count them among my small group of friends.

This is a plea for help

I have become that which I despise, that which I never thought I could be. There is no part of me that is confrontational. Strangers are dangerous. No matter the circumstances, I will go out of my way to avoid interaction with them. I will even use those dang self check outs when I have a ridiculous number of items just so I won’t have to make eye contact with someone.

I am a ninja with self check out. Fastest scanner this side of Toronto.

And yet! And yet, I have turned into the obnoxious outspoken crazy dog woman. The woman who yells at people and calls them out when their dogs are acting like hooligans. The woman who is just so bloody tired of dealing with ignorant people who think it is okay if their dog chases mine down the street. Something in me has snapped. I won’t, I can’t, duck my head and seethe inwardly anymore. My mouth speaks before my brain gives it permission. I know it doesn’t help; I know it won’t change anything. I can’t remain silent.

In essence, I have become my mother.

Oh, how that smarts.

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Mr. Poodle Man has been a common target. If we head a certain direction in the morning we are bound to encounter him. His dog is beautiful, poofy and black and bouncy and everything a standard poodle should be. Except for the whole barking at Shiva’s heels thing. If this dog was on a leash it wouldn’t be an issue. Of course, this dog is never on a leash. His or her owner doesn’t seem to think this behaviour is an issue. Sure, he calls and tells his dog to stop, but we all know that does nothing. Yelling down the street while your dog harasses another dog, making no effort to retrieve your pet and in fact having no leash on you at the time, does not impress me much. You are putting your dog, and mine in danger. If this was a park, I would let Shiva off to defend herself. It is almost always a residential road. Mr. Poodle Man may be willing to risk his dog getting hit by a car. I am not.

Do you know his response to my request to restrain his lovely dog?

“Mmmmhmmm.”

Mmmmhmmm. Indeed. There was no apology for his dog’s rudeness, no sheephish grin, no acknowledgement of how scary it might feel to be stalked down the road by a strange dog. I almost wanted to encourage Shiva to react, just to show him how risky his laissez faire attitude is. If I knew his address I would have reported him to Animal Control a long time ago. This poodle is going to get hurt.

And then there was the episode tonight with the Pomeranian. Shiva and I were on our usual evening jaunt. To the right of us was a busy parking lot outside of an outdoor swimming pool. We heard high-pitched barking and looked over. A small brown dog ran loose on the road. He or she headed right for us. My first thought was that this dog was lost. Rewarding Shiva, I directed her to my left side and looked around for an owner. I caught sight of a man walking a German Shepherd behind us. Not good.

That’s when I heard the voice of a woman come from one of the vehicles. While the little dog yapped and sped as fast as he could toward the Shepherd, she hollered at him to come back. She didn’t get out of her car, she didn’t even open her door.

The words tumbled out of my mouth before I knew they existed.

Her response was sarcastic, as expected. I told her I was just concerned for her dog’s safety. She said nothing and remained inside her vehicle. Her dog continued to run around the German Shepherd’s heels. The man was silent. Luckily for everyone’s sake, so was the Shepherd.

wpid-wp-1409108221566.jpegHow do I cure this? How do I return to my quiet, keep-my-selflsh-rants-to-myself self?

Even better, how do I help change the status quo? How do I teach people that their neglectful actions are putting their family members in danger? I feel like a jerk when I don’t speak up and a jerk when I do. Is that the way of it?

All I want is to walk with Shiva without fear, without the stress of running into ignorant owners with dogs who don’t know how to behave off-leash. Is this nothing but a fantasy?