Well, it is blog action day again and the topic this time is ATTITUDE.
OMG what a topic! I have so many thoughts and opinions about attitude.....but I have been thinking for days and was having trouble deciding what to talk about without sounding like I have that area covered, I think most of us know the type of attitude we aspire too, but bad attitude or misplaced priorities sneaks up on us all when we least are aware of it.
I finally decided I would share an experience that I hope will always profoundly affect me and I hope will always help to shape how I view any time I walk in the ring with my doggies. This experience has helped me be way less judgemental about my performances, although of course I always strive to do the best I can and made me appreciate my doggies so much more. It makes it easier for me to meet my goal of finding several things to be EXCITED about with each run.
A few years ago I had a very good friend, her name was Carol and she did agility here in Southern California with her cattledog JC. Carol was just starting agility when I was starting agility with my sheltie Chloe. We ended up in classes together many a time and Carol was a very driven person which did not fit well with the local agility club so her and I found ourselves on the outside a lot of times. Eventually we drifted together and ended up spending many an hour talking about agility, handling, training etc. Carol was always FANTASTIC about building my confidence and telling me what I could do. She is responsible for me having the courage and confidence to go ahead and try teaching agility which had always been a dream of mine. Carol inspired me to think that I could do well at agility and helped me not just look at the list of reasons why I might have trouble but to really see my strenths. It is always so cool when you find people willing to help you have confidence. Not that it was always easy sailing, Carol was opinionated sometimes and a perfectionist with herself, so we did butt heads a few times, but overall we had a lot of fun.
Carol had bonded very deeply with her dog JC and in fact her latest grandchild ended up being named after her dog. Only dog people would understand that ;-). JC was amazing and Carol loved to show her off, JC was trained to do pretty much what any service dog could do, just because Carol loved to teach her tricks. When ever you saw Carol you could bet JC would be close by.
Carol started to have some memory problems, and problems swallowing and speaking so she went into the doctors. The answer to what was happening was devastating. Carol had ALS and it was affecting the upper half of her body first, alarmingly fast she was having trouble swallowing food, she slurred quite a bit and had trouble moving her left arm. Carol had just got to Excellent B with JC and she was really proud-as she should have been because JC was lightning fast, very well trained, and her and Carol had a bond like very few people have with their dogs. Not long after the diagnosis Carol entered JC in what was to be her last trial. I went with Carol to help her out, I was not competing but I walked the courses with her and helped come up with a plan.
Right before it was time to run the course Carol turned to me and asked me to run JC. Carol was not hurting she just felt I would have a better chance qualifying. I am a RN and I had a feeling that Carol would not be running JC many more times, and I knew things were going to get harder so in a decision that will haunt me I said I will if you really, really don't want to run JC i would run her for you but she wants to run with you. Carol still felt she was going to beat the disease so I do not think she had the feeling of urgency-it had not crossed her mind that this could be one of her last runs. I figured with their bond and communication even with Carols illness they would do ok. Of course if Carol was in pain or I thought she would be hurt I would have LOVED to run JC. JC is lightening fast and fun.
Carol went out and ran JC and of course did not qualify, but she came close and I know JC was smiling that day. As it turned out that was the last time Carol was able to do agility. I had tried to find her an instructor that did NADAC and was willing to work with Carol so she could still run JC but Carols illness progressed too quickly for that to be possible. JC was retired from agility and became much more then an agility dog, she became Carols service dog and very rarely ever left her side. JC would fetch the phone, or pick things up, close doors, fetch other things Carol needed and she was always there to provide comfort.
I believe it was about 18 months from when Carol learned her diagnosis until her struggle here on earth was over.
The reason I thought of that story when the subject of our blogs is attitude is that Carol was a person that really understood about supporting and empowering her friends. She always wanted to be the center of attention but she still wanted her friends to feel good about themselves. I wish I had been there more for Carol the last few months but knowing Carol changed me. I really miss her a lot.
I think the other thing I wanted to say is that just as JC and my own dogs do not care if we get lots of Q's and personally when I have to run my last run hobbling over the finish line with my walker, lol, I hope what will matter to me is how I have grown learning to handle competition and how I have learned not to give up practicing new skills and learning how to work better with my puppy team mates. I get sad seeing some friends who turn their dogs over to people that might be slightly better handlers, because "friends" tell them someone could do better :-(. How about pointing out how well you are doing with your dog, or helping you build more skills or pointing you to a mental management course or book, I am so glad I had a friend who kept reminding me that I could when I was not sure :-). Of course there are always people who might do it better, that is sure true with my dog, but that ignores what the whole journey is about to me.
It is fun to embrace competition but geeze let's not be so serious that we forget at the basic level, this should be about learning, growing, connecting with our team mate and our community. We never know when our last run or our dogs last run will be so try to keep it all in perspective and just have fun!
Check out more links to blogs for our action day at http://dog-agility-blog-events.posterous.com/pages/attitude