Ahhhh. Back to dog agility competition again after some time off, and a very rough couple of months. Packed up the RV with food and supplies for four days and met up with my friends at the show yesterday. The dogs could not contain their excitement as we got ready; they leaped into the RV bristling with excitement in anticipation of the road trip and the fun and games ahead.
For those who do not know what a dog agility competition is, it is a sport where each dog is guided through an obstacle course by the owner (or handler). The handler/dog team compete for speed and accuracy in the competition arena, or “ring”, to achieve their personal best or for national competitions. Each “run” is a sprint in the agility ring from the start to the finish line of 20 to 70 seconds, and there are several different runs to choose for competition each day. I currently compete with my two Shelties and a Rottweiler who is owned by my good friend Cathy.
It never fails; I could have the worst time, the worst day, and after an agility run or two with my furry friends, it all just melts away. I am humming a tune each time we head to the competition ring and I can’t wipe the smile off my face. Neither can my dog! Today I heard someone say “a bad day of agility is better than a good day of work!” So true. Lucky me…this is my work…and my playtime!
There are times that it does not feel that way at first. Sometimes things get me down, and I don’t want to leave home. I miss my husband when I am away. I miss the dogs I have to leave at home. My mind runs through all of the difficulties of the day, the week, the month. I don’t want to drive 3 hours and get up at 5:30 am each day of the weekend. But then… I begin the first of the 10-12 runs of the day…and I remember how good it feels … that rush of adrenaline that is difficult to understand until you feel it for yourself.
Then, funny things happen. Today, one dog missed the entry to the weave poles; it happens so quick, the blink of an eye, the average person would miss it… and as the handler is running he announces to the judge “you didn’t see that did you?” and we all laugh. Another handler and dog team gets their championship, everyone cheers as they take a victory lap around the ring, and you hear “someone is getting steak for dinner!” Oh, you bet it is the dog!
Mud on my running shoes, muddy paw prints all over my clothes where Saki jumped into my arms, white Sheltie legs covered in mud up to the chest from churning up the dirt as they run, and all is right with the world. I know I am where I belong. This is my happy place. To me, there is nothing like that sprint with your best furry buddy racing with you, the two of you in sync, and the joy at the end of the run. Your buddy gets a pile of treats or their favorite toy during your celebration. The joy on their faces and in the wagging tails, and you can’t resist smiling and talking to them as you run back to your tiny setup area. They share in your enthusiasm because you have both experienced that rush. It is so incredibly exciting and so much fun.
It is funny when people who do not understand dog agility listen to us talk about our day, how much fun it was, and the placements we earn. “Yup”, we say, “we won a first place in jumpers, and a second place in standard”. They often say, “what do you win?” “Well, ribbons and titles!” “That is it? You don’t win money?” “Well, no …” and you get the odd look. It isn’t about the qualifying score or the “Q”; the win, the placements, the prize…we all have boxes and boxes of ribbons stored away.
What is it? It is about the journey. The goals we set for ourselves. The fun. The rush of adrenaline. The teamwork with your dog. Meeting up with friends who feel the same way, talking strategy, or just talking silly. The goofy ways our dogs humble us in the ring for all to see, after all the planning and strategy. Then there are the times that you ace the course and you and your dog are “in the zone” together and all the work, planning and strategy pay off in a big way.
So you think we are a little crazy? Yup, we are. Do we care? Nope! Love, love, love, dog agility 🙂