I’ve always found that I have had quite the love-hate relationship with most things I do in life. I suppose one could say I get bored easily, I constantly need something new and exciting to keep me interested in my passions, or else they quickly become a chore instead. Agility has always been a sport that has provided me with that, at least, nearly always. Adding animals to anything always makes life far more interesting as things rarely go as planned! Like they say, never work with children or animals!
I say all this, however, I find myself falling out of love with the sport that had completely consumed my teenage years. Every moment I had spare, every moment I wasn’t in school, every weekend I had free, I was always training the girls and travelling the country to competitions. It consumed almost every part of me and I was living the dream in my mind. Those dogs of mine helped me through some very tough years, and it was always a fantastic escape. Yet here I am, all these years later, with no desire to spend every spare moment I have training or travelling the country to shows. Here I am wanting a life that isn’t consumed by extremely early mornings and long drives and late finishes. Here I am loving spending my time enjoying my dogs for being them, with the occasional agility session thrown in, but with the majority just being far more relaxed. Here I am fast falling out of love with the sport I have loved for many years.
Last year I scarcely competed. I found myself with my priorities elsewhere. My weekends were spent finding cool new places and going for amazing new walks with the dogs. Very rarely did I find myself in a showground throughout the summer of 2017. And you know what? I can’t honestly say I missed it. I can’t honestly say that I regret the fact I set foot in a show ring about as many times as I could count on my hands. I had very little to show for last year. A few wins, a few places, but I didn’t find myself striving particularly to fly up the grades further. You could say we plateaued, not necessarily in how we grew in our partnerships in the ring, but how my ambition was greatly reduced and never did it increase again.
I find myself becoming sick of all of the pointless and petty arguments that surround what is such a fantastic sport, and frankly, it makes it seem less like it used to! We live in a society that likes to complain about more or less everything, and we have the chance to make agility the exception! Yet we don’t! And we forget the fact that such dog sports are supposed to be about dogs and humans having fun – together.
I always set myself goals. The goal with Maisie being to get her to grade 7 by the end of 2018. The goal with Envy being to get her calm and happy running in the ring, maybe into grade 4 by the end of the season, but hopefully no further. And then with Inca, just to have fun, as I have to consider retiring her at some point in the not too distant future. And I have these goals, I do, yet I don’t find myself wanting to compete all the time. And those goals are not going to be reached with no shows! We will probably end up at some of the larger shows, some of the shows we enjoy and a few local ones, but this is not going to be something that takes over our summer and weekends, at least, not with how I feel right now! But maybe that’s just January talking!
And yet I find myself with a new love. A love of teaching. A love of seeing handlers and their dogs, most of whom have never set foot near a single agility obstacle, making huge leaps forward in their relationships together. Dogs that were once terrified of anything that moved happy to negotiate seesaws. Dogs that hated anything strange under their feet happy to go through tunnels. Dogs that once had no interest in their owners, happy and engaged, and having fun! These are the people that inspire me. These are the dogs that inspire me. Agility is about inclusion. Agility is supposed to accept everybody and allow anybody the chance to run their dog at any level. And for me that is what’s so rewarding about teaching. You don’t have to be a champion sprinter with the world’s fastest border collie. And teaching agility has reminded me of that. I want to as excited as the people I teach are when their dog goes through the tunnel for the first time, or starts to wiggle through the channel weaves, or does a line of 4 jumps. We forget that so often the littlest things can be the most significant. Enjoy your dogs. They don’t live forever, and before we know it they’re too old and retiring.
I am quite sure that once the season sets off I will feel a little more inspired, but I don’t think we will ever be at it every weekend…not at this point in time anyway.
There are different measures of success, never forget that.