Monday, September 27, 2010

Embracing Inadequacy

This post started out being titled 'Yesterday and Today' and was going to feature video of my first show with Sam and Georgia's first match this weekend.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to figure out how to get the video from the mini DVD onto the computer so the video of Georgia will have to wait.

So now it's called 'Embracing Inadequacy' because I spent some time watching old video this weekend and I talked with a friend from my agility class and a lady I knew through work but also through agility passed away recently.

If you are involved in dog sports, you are at least nominally competitive if not outright cutthroat.  Don't try to deny it, you are.  Even me, who never participated in any sort of organized sport until I was in my 30s.  Dog sports are interesting because it's probably one of the only "team" sports where, if something goes wrong, you can blame your team mate and the team mate can't refute it.  However, it also presents us with a great opportunity to recognize and embrace our inadequacies and then work to improve - all without criticism from our team mate!

More importantly though, dog sports offer us the opportunity to spend time with our dogs.  As the human it's up to us to decide how we want to spend that time; beating ourselves and our dogs up over little flaws or recognizing the pure joy our dogs take in just being with us?  Dog sports are, more often than not, a hobby not a job.  Shouldn't we enjoy our hobbies?

The acquaintance who passed away recently had a terrier named Scooter.  They participated in obedience and agility.  I would talk with her about Moira's progress in agility and my hopes for Qs at upcoming trials.  After the trials we would talk again and I would bemoan what went wrong in our runs that denied us the Q.  She would smile and say, "It's not about the ribbons for us.  Scooter and I had a great time and he did this...."  She would always pick one skill or obstacle out of the run that had been executed brilliantly.  She was dying of cancer and knew that the ribbons and Qs weren't really that important.  What was important was focusing on the good stuff and being with her dog.

There are a couple videos below of my early days competing with Sam.  I haven't watched these a lot because, honestly, I find them painful to watch.  The errors, the terrible handling, etc.  This weekend I watched them again though and I focused instead on Sam - and what a GREAT time he was having.  He didn't care that I was super late on cues or that I had the lead in the wrong hand and strung him up.  His tail wagged the entire time because we were together and he was having a grand time just being with me.

My handling both in the breed ring on on the agility course has improved a great deal.  I still make mistakes but now I am working very hard to focus on what went right - was Moira happy at the end of the run?  Did she conquer her fear of the broad jump?  Did Georgia wag her tail and give the judge kisses? (Although Georgia seems to be a little more serious in the breed ring than her father ever was!)

Embrace those things you don't necessarily do well.  Risk a little embarrassment and get out there before you think you are entirely ready(ed. note - Never attempt anything where a lack of training or preparation would endanger you, your dog or other people or animals).  You might surprise yourself.  Either way, your dog will love you just the same. And if you think no one else has ever been so embarrassed in the breed, agility or obedience ring, think again.  Ask around, everyone has a story to tell about the time their dog did something or the time they tripped and took out an entire row of spectators...

Sam's first breed show with me handling (Sept 2005).  You can watch the entire clip but Sam's portion starts around 2:30.

Sam's first agility trial (October 2004).


  1. You are so right. What an incredibly happy boy Sam is!

  2. Oh boy, you cure can see the Happy in Sam. His tail never stopped. Mistakes and all what great memories those must give. They made me smile this morning.

  3. UHM has the pleasure of watching both sides of these partnerships develop firsthand. A great post that makes me smile, and makes me proud of how your understanding of the animals and yourself is deepening!

  4. I didn't notice the mistakes so much, as I enjoyed SEEING Sam 'for real', instead of just in pics. Roy Rogers is so happy, like that, and I hope it keeps going! I loved seeing how handsome, and carefree Sam is. I hope to meet him in real life someday!

  5. Emily - Sam would love to meet you too! At 12.5 years old, I'm not sure how much longer he has. I might take him to Ohio for the 2012 National - not to show though. He would just be along for the ride.