Earlier this year, I got brave and did something I usually don;t do. I spoke of plans and dreams I have for the future. It felt indeed like I “exposed myself” by uttering these personal hopes of what I want to work towards. It’s not the way I typically roll, but I braved it, felt the need to push myself and said it: “I am working toward attending the AAC agility Regionals with Pinot next June”. Pinot and I now have 6 months of intense training and trialling behind us…a whole whack of qualifying ribbons…and a lot of accomplishments I am very proud of….but also a whole set of mostly un-advertised non-qualifying runs and attempts in the ring that stayed at just that: attempts.

WOW – it’s a LOT of work to do this agility thing.

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Photo by Wendy Devent. Paws on the Run.

Yes, Pinot is my first agility dog. That makes me a novice. Yes, I am a dog trainer. No question there can be an advantage to that in the training process. But there are SO many more pieces to this puzzle than just that. I have certainly had to seek out a lot of help (and continue to do so) for myself in building up the skills and what I know now – but didn’t know 5 years ago when Pinot arrived, or wasn’t relevant when training Maggio for obedience and Rally before her. Building the agility communication system that both person AND dog learn to send and receive is no small task. Really quite amazing how many layers there are to this “cake”.

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Photo by Wendy Devent. Paws on the Run.

When I set my eyes on this milestone for next summer – I knew of course that one of the things I need in preparation would be to trial as much as possible. So I decided I would attend a trial a month…that seemed reasonable…and that’s what I have behind now from the last 6 months. Admittedly, after the last trial a few weeks back in November I was feeling completely exhausted, ready for a bit of a break. Quite honestly carrying a lot of questions in my mind….

Reality has been: Early mornings with Looooong Drives to get coaching and training help weekly, extremely early mornings to drive in for long two-day trials one weekend per month. Back to training again the following week…and on and on – for many months on end now. Honestly, I was starting to feel so tired, I couldn’t quite distinguish between which part was the exhausting piece: the driving, the training or the trialing.

Reflecting over the competitions and competitiveness required to compete at top level of this sport – I am gaining a new respect for the Top Level competitors, and seeing my own “competitiveness” in slightly different light now. I can’t help but think of how much more would need to be done in order to be really, really competitive or succeed at the higher levels. My perspective is shifting, there’s no question. I do love competing as it pushes me and gives me a sense of direction – but I think what’s changed is that I see so many of exactly myself out there – I can see now that there’s a whole “breed of us” out there 🙂 It’s fun to discover – we’re a large and colourful bunch: mostly women (relatively few men in proportion to the women) – like the ones I train with, attend seminars with, trial with: serious enthusiasts who have become totally hooked on this magic that happens between a person and their dog – that agility is a mere facilitator of.

There’s an awe-inspiring 74-year old woman who is also working with her first agility dog and she comes out and competes in almost all the trials in the region. She’s got the best attitude ever – happily claiming “We may not be ready – but we’re doing it!” There simply is no day like Today. At some point, tomorrow may not come – something that will hold true for all of us.

Another brilliant agility quote uttered at a recent trial: “When you don;t Qualify in your run, most of the time you are actually in the Majority!” and this is absolutely right! Many times you will have 25 dogs in a class, and possibly only 2 or 3 Qualifying scores. There’s no place to feel left out or like you failed if you don’t “get a Q” (Qualify) in an event — just look around: you’re surrounded by Agility Sisters (and Brothers) who, too have had many an NQ for each Q they get….

So, it is with all of this in my back pocket that I now take a couple of months off from trialing (not taking time off from training). I have my gaze on the same goal, and I have discovered a new sense of Lightness.

Three-or-so weeks ago I was really tired. Really, really tired. I just returned from a fantastic vacation. Have done a lot of thinking and reflecting. I will never forget the wise words “We may not be ready – but we’re doing it!”. No matter what – isn’t that just a wonderful attitude?

Sometimes DOING IT is more important than feeling absolutely ready.

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Photo by Wendy Devent. Paws on the Run.

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