Success!

Well, I’ve missed the DABAD (Dog Agility Blog Action Day!) call for posts about success, but I’ve decided to muse on the subject anyways. Success and the NEED for it has always been a struggle within me. Let’s go on a journey through my psyche, shall we?

I want to be the best. I’ve always been competitive with my school grades, school selection and majors. (What do you mean I can’t have 4 majors and still graduate in 4 years?? Because you tell me I can’t do it, I will! I shall prove you wrong because I can!) Alas, my 4 majors turned into 2 majors and 2 minors, but I still got out in 4 years. Haha!

I’m competitive at things I know I can be good at. Very competitive, and external successes are very appealing for those things. Things I can’t be good at, I’m the most Type B person you’ll ever meet. Volleyball? Basketball? Just not my thing as a person who’s 5’1″! Playing tennis? Riding horses? Dog agility? Game on.

I started by saying that I struggle with success. Things I’ve been good at, I can’t take lightly. When I graduated college, I wanted to get back into horseback riding. I tried, but after riding so, so competitively for so long, I couldn’t find the joy in NOT horse showing and not winning. So I quit. It was better for my person to not pursue the old passion rather than to do it “half arse”.

Enter dog agility, stage right!

Riley

I wanted to be the best at agility. And I had very high hopes until recently of Agility Invitationals and PDCHs and the lot. I took classes, I practiced, and I set goals. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? It had worked for the first 23 years of my life! Riley was great at home, running enthusiastically and proficient on all the obstacles. Game on time!

When we debuted, she won every class! Woo! Then it crashed and burned. She ran in circles for NINE months. Literally, circles. Then she decided not to weave. Then she got those back and wouldn’t hit her contacts at trials. But if I pulled her off and tried to maintain criteria, she’d revert back to running in circles. I was lead to believe that, because we weren’t Qualifying, we we’re not successful.

Yikes. Not successful? But success is all I’ve cared about! So, fun runs, USDAA and many other things were introduced. In USDAA, there were class options! You won’t weave? Fine! We’ll do classes where we can exclude them because we had nothing to celebrate in AKC, but this is new venue at least we got something to celebrate. Slowly, we started making progress, but every day brings new challenges, always making us re-evaluate what success is for little Riley Taylor.

Currently, we’re not even trialing. It was too difficult to set our own successes and feel good about them around other people that have wildly more success than us. Yes, that might seem shallow or petty or annoying, but that is what WE need to feel good about ourselves. Trials were becoming frustrating– a waste of time and money– and we weren’t in the right mindset. I got frustrated with Riley, Riley wasn’t having fun. Lose, lose. We play in the yard, and she’s managed to weasel her way onto my bed at night while UNO sleeps in his kennel like a good boy (success for the Terrier!).

UNO

If I compared UNO to Riley’s success standards, he is wildly, leaps-n-bound more “successful” than Riley already. He learns things quickly, is very focused and has really developed a passion for the game that Riley never developed. So, success with Baby UNO is quite different. And it changes every week. Last week, it was successfully learning independent back-sides with a verbal cue. Check! This week, it’s collection  :)

I will say, though, that UNO has been quite challenging in the success department with his teeter. At the ripe age of about 8 months, he was playing after Riley’s ring rental, and ran up the teeter. He fell off of it, and so began the incredible journey towards conquering his newly developed paralyzing teeter fear. Even the wobble board was too much. In fact, I had to go out and buy a flat 2×2 and it took a MONTH for him to even stand on it.

After months and months of positive reinforcement and confidence building, we have FINALLY gotten a teeter performance. 18″ tall within lots and lots of confidence! SUCCESS!! We might never get to competition height (24″), but I DON’T CARE. My puppy has trust in me that I wouldn’t put him in a horrible situation and that’s the BEST kind of success  :)

In Conclusion

Success is not static, it is very nimble and ever-changing. Success is internal, not outward. (Validation from others does not equal success.) Do not let folks define success for you. Success does not mean Qs or ribbons or fancy titles or national finals. Enjoy where you’re at. (Hiking is good! As is Chuck It throwing and frisbee!) And, finally, sometimes success is doing nothing too. And maybe, just maybe, “success” should be eliminated from our vocabulary (whoa!).

Also, future blog posts need pictures  :P

March!?

March. How is it March already? Almost the end of Q1. Crazy. Time, stop now. Please.

Riley had the greatest trial weekend of her life this past weekend at the USDAA trial this past weekend. She finished three (yes, three!) titles that she desperately needed to finish with a total of 4 Q’s, including her very first Snooker Super Q. Woo! Still on Cloud 9. She’s FINALLY out of Starters Standard and onto being stuck in Advance  ;)

Trials are fun when you get to work them. A local club gave me (and a friend) the opportunity to work behind the table at a couple trials this winter. Call me a nerd, but I love data entry. I’m very excited to work the table at the Regional in April too. Good, good experience. Hoping to be able to help out a few more clubs around here too. Makes me feel like I’m actually doing something at the trial vs. just waiting around to compete. Like I said, good experiences.

Taking a break from USDAA until later in April. We’re revisiting AKC for the first time this year. Riley’s been weaving (consistently!) for the past couple USDAA trials, so fingers crossed we’re over whatever hump we’ve been at for the past months.

And in other news, I think UNO is getting a house. More to come on that, but it has a lovely, lovely yard and is in a GREAT location #grownupthings  =D

2013, and subsequently… 2014

2013 proved to be a year of change. For a girl who hates change, there was oh so much! Such a series of events, from busting the ACL to giving back Tag to rehab to the introduction of UNO to the moving of homes, changing of routines and jobs. Big milestones all over the place. Change can be good. Sometimes. Scary, but good.

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2014. I’ve thought a lot about it, and about what I want to do during it. I’m a planner, so I hate surprises. Hate the unknown. Hate change. Coming off of a year of change, oh boy do I hate it!

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Courage. Courage to explore things that make me happiest. Courage to stand up for myself. To pursue dreams. To find new passions. To rekindle lost relationships. To try and fail and try again. To grow and stretch and evolve. To prioritize ME.

2014 will hopefully be a courageous year. There are things on an unwritten list.. some things I don’t care to admit out loud, and some inevitable things. UNO’s foundation work, working towards his debut in the fall. Riley’s new focus in helping Mom learn agility vs. pursuing fancy titles with me.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I will try again tomorrow” – Mary Anne Radmacher

And blogging. Always trying to dedicate to more writing. There is a lot of thinking, particularly in the woods with the Reindeer puppy. But this is here, so here I shall try to write more. Courage to be honest. Courage to try.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

October is off to a MUCH better start.

We’ve taken a step back from trialing for the most part. On the weekends, we hang out, swim, hike, train.. anything but trial, and it’s been really refreshing. Riley went to one trial in September and Q’d 2 for 4 (almost 3… just one bar away from it), including earning her first Standard Q in USDAA in literally a year. T’was a good day!

Uno is now 6.5 months old (technically 28 weeks today!), and growing up. He kind of amazes me when it comes to the LITTLE agility playing he’s done. He hasn’t touched equipment (jump stanchions or otherwise) in about 4 weeks. I had Monday off of work, so I decided to take him up to the Barn, and he was amazing!

 All our friends are off to Cynosports next week (good luck!), and it does make me a bit jealous. I’m glad we’re taking a 6 week break from trialing so I can let these emotions pass, and just focus on US vs. what we’re missing out on. Hopefully, when we go back to trialing in mid-November, Riley will finish her PD. She’s only one Standard Q away now! In the mean time, we’ll just be enjoying October and the fall.

One

I’m trying to be better about keeping up this blog. While I’m fairly certain that not a single soul reads it, it’s a place for me to reflect on my dogs– a topic that I’m finding gets stale among my “non dog” friends. (And I could go on about my dogs constantly so better contain musing here, right?)

Riley

Since February, Riley gave up on running contacts. I don’t have the equipment I need nor the time to train it. She has a 2o2o dog walk and a managed running A-Frame, and that’s just fine for us. She didn’t appreciate the drilling needed to train her contacts so she’s happier now, which makes our sessions more productive. Win, win.

She hasn’t made too much headway towards any agility goals, which is just fine. Recently, she finished her AXJ! That was unexpected. I’ve realized that I feel sorry for those that expect to do well. I’ve started calling out my friends when I ask how they did in a run at a trial, and their first inkling is to say, “We Q’d!” No no, that’s not what I was inquiring about. Qualifying is just a byproduct of your training. I truly believe that the reason to trial is to test your training. I think I’m in the minority, though.

I’ve had a lack of motivation to train Riley lately. It feels like we’re going to class and trials just to go instead of training or proofing training. (Sorry, Dana, that your class payment is now 3 weeks late– I can’t bring myself to actually make it to class! Woof.) I need to identify goals for Riley– realistic goals that I can actually work towards. I’d like to make Riley’s PDCH a goal, but it’s so far off that it’s slightly demotivating. She has a couple Jumpers and Snooker legs towards it, but she’s still in Starters Standard. She needs two more Q’s for her PD, and she’s been so close! Her last two Standard runs it was just one bar that kept her from Q’ing. I guess that’s an accomplishment of itself.

Ranger

My mom’s dog. He’s home now. He travels to do the foo foo dog stuff, and has been fairly successful. He’s been in the Top 10 nationally for his breed for over a year now. At home, he’s a lazy little shadow. He hasn’t been taught anything (seriously, not even the basic obedience commands), but he still just follows my mom around obediently anyways. I’m jealous.

UNO

The newest addition! This probably warrants it’s own post, but I got a puppy in June, a baby Border Collie to be exact. It’s a boy, smooth coated, sable (technically) but I just call him a Tri. He is a Farm Dog, and will be referred to in this blog either as Crazy, Farm Dog or Reindeer Puppy. He is 22.5 weeks now, and is an interesting study. He’s very smart and likes to WORK, which is fantastic. He has some interesting behaviors I need to wrap my mind around– he’s a puller on leash (new to me) and barks from fear(?) of anything and everything. The neighbors mislabel it Aggression, which makes for fun relationship building with the ignorant ones.

Uno has learned some things, but mastered none. He’s a very fun puppy, which makes it very hard to be motivated to play things like “sit”, “down” and “stay”. He is hesitant of things at first. We worked very, very hard to conquer his fear of tunnels (he now loves them and is working on the concept of closed tunnels– not actually running through a chute, but understanding the feeling of fabric on his back). He’s hot and cold with the “Bang It!” game, so we don’t push it. He’s been introduced to a table and jump standards (bars on ground), but really he’s not touching anything but agility (or life) foundations. He also hated the pool at first, and now he thinks swimming is the best thing ever! LOL.

Uno’s had an interesting ride thus far. He had emergency ear surgery over the 4th of July after literally shaking off the corner of his ear. It was necrotic (likely from other puppy biting the tip) and lost the top third of his ear. THAT was fun– keeping your 13 week old puppy “quiet” on “crate rest” for two weeks non-stop. Yeahhh.

What else can I say about him? He has *no* off switch. The only time he’ll sleep is if he’s isolated in a kennel. And Riley hates him (he beats up on her relentlessly, poor girl). He’s a good dog though and very sweet. We (mom and I) both like him a lot, which is a good thing! And finally, his name is not “Uno” because I think he’s #1 or that I’m cocky– he’s my very first BC… a la UNO!

And Everything Else

Miscellaneous life things… to the point above in Riley’s section, I’m considering pausing on the agility trial thing, at least until I can get my head on straight about goals. I’m not in a rush, so there’s no reason to trial 2-3 weekends in 6 weeks. I enjoy sleeping too much!

I do, however, enjoy trialing, especially now that I have a real, bona fide Agility Friend. We share hotel rooms, and dog training/trialing philosophies. It’s been a friendship in the making, but has recently progressed to an actual friendship. It’s nice to have someone (quasi-my age) that I see eye-to-eye with. It also has convinced me that maybe I can trial without making Mom come along. I prefer not to talk to people at trials and hide in the corner with Mom, but Agility Friend forces me out of my shell. She has other friends (maybe they want to be my friends too!), and that makes me feel a LOT better about trialing. People who know me probably don’t think I’m shy or quiet, but I prefer to just be a loner. Introvert problems. (Only child problems?)

And that’s enough ramblings! The end! :)

Aging: Not Just an Age Thing

It’s time again for another Dog Agility Blog Action Day. Sadly, this poor blog hasn’t seen much action lately, so why not use a DABAD event to get back into writing, huh? You can read all the other posts on Aging over here.

Aging in agility isn’t something I’ve had to experience with a dog yet. Riley is my first agility dog, and she just turned 4 years old in February. We haven’t had to think about retirement yet based on age, but we have had to consider what is best for her body. Right now she’s fine, but I know she’s not going to last until she’s 14 years old either because she’s just not built that way.

I started working with Tag when he was 7 or 8, so aging was definitely something we considered with him. Routine maintenance kept him competing until he officially retired (in part, due to my ACL injury) this past February. It was a difficult decision, but I was going to suggest retiring him anyways, even if I hadn’t been forced to. He was enthusiastic and loved the game, but the game didn’t love his body. After USDAA trials (4-5 runs in a day), he would come up limping for a day or so. He would work out of it, and he had regular chiro appointments and supplements, but it was selfish of me to want him to keep going for that next title or accomplishment.

It’s not easy– broaching the subject of retirement. Generally, you want to ACCOMPLISH something to honor your aged furry friend… a new shiny title or a large event. Unfortunately, several dogs have passed away recently, and so many videos of “infamous famous last runs” are flying around– and they’re always grandiose… finals at a National event, a MACH run, a Regional Steeplechase winning round. It’s easy to get caught in the “one last fame” game. Clubs make it easy now… in AKC, you can flip into Preferred and in USDAA there’s even a Veteran’s program.

But what is the point? To get a title? To compete? Can’t we still train our dogs (in agility or otherwise) when they’re retired? I was at a trial with a friend a few weeks ago that had retired her little dog after she finished her MACH2. She hadn’t brought the dog to a trial since she retired, and I convinced her to do a practice jump during the walk through. The dog completely forgot how to do rear crosses. Since when did aging and retiring become giving up something you used to love with your dog? Just because you have a new, younger project doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore the old dog or give up training completely. (*Steps off soapbox*)

What I can say about the topic is that aging isn’t just an age thing. It’s a mental thing, it’s a “can my body handle it” thing and it’s an art (not a science). It’s also partially a “how are we doing as a team” thing– not just a 100% dog body thing. I recently had the opportunity to run a friend’s Border Collies at a trial and during a seminar this past weekend, and I realized that I was the aging factor in the partnership. (Don’t laugh since I’m in my 20’s!) I wasn’t moving as quickly as I used to before my knee surgery in February.

Part of aging is knowing your limits. We had the pleasure of working with Tori Self on the afternoon of the last day. I was running an older Border Collie (but still fast), and I realized I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t even try. I looked at where I started and where I needed to run for that blind cross push back, and I decided to sit that particular sequence out. Don’t get me wrong, oh boy did I want to try to run it, but it wasn’t fair to drill the dog because I just couldn’t GET to where *I* needed to be for a serpentine.

We all reach a point (we, humans, and them, the dogs) where we just need to know our limits. The art of aging is knowing your limit. Sure, there is some science if there’s an injury, rehab or something out of whack, but hopefully, for the majority of us, aging & knowing when to stop isn’t forced upon us by some third party source. Knowing your limits. Aging. I like to think of it as being mature. It’s very easy to WANT to do the sequence or WANT the fancy new title, but it’s in the maturity that a team can understand when it’s time to move on to the next chapter.

Although, you can come ask me how I feel after I have to retire my first aging agility dog. I might have a completely different perspective!  :P