Monday, June 24, 2013

Practicing / Trialing

Riff and I love to practice agility.  It's fun to run through the world together.  We love the green grass and blue sky...and the sheer challenge of taking obstacles.  Whenever I'm at an agility field, I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time.  That can be a mighty rare feeling on this earth, and it's magical.  Riff and Keeper seem to agree.

Practicing a short sequence of obstacles is as much fun as running a longer course.  Actually I think shorter sequences are more fun.  Riff and I really enjoy "going back to basics." We like bursts of speed, and the can-do moments.   We love figuring out how to get through a "tricky bit" by working a few obstacles, then stopping for treats or tug-toys or doggy hugs.  FUN FUN FUN!   Sometimes I think we'd be perfectly happy just practicing.  Our sessions keep his active border-collie brain engaged, and give both of us an avenue toward staying healthy.  Exercise! Woohooooo!  

Then the deadline for an agility trial approaches, and I'm back to making the choice.  Go?  Or...not? 

It's no secret that I worry about competition.  My tummy gets funny.  I start chewing my nails.  I wonder if we're ready.  Jeez.  Are we ever really ready?  I wonder if I really want to drive all that way, and spend all that money.  Sleep in the van or rent a room.  Deal with crowds.  (At heart I'm an old fuddy-duddy homebody.)

And then there's this issue:  Are agility trials too dangerous for dogs?  Watching some of the videos online gives me pause.  It's easy to see that agility CAN be dangerous.  Sometimes an agility accident is obviously bad luck.  But sometimes your dog will crash into a jump or fall off the dog-walk because you were reckless.  Maybe you were running as fast as possible in order to win, in spite of obvious risks.  Maybe the grass was too wet.  Maybe you yelled at the wrong time, or swung your arm up too far or too quickly, or turned your shoulders too soon.  These things happen to the best of us, and we continually - always and forever - learn from our mistakes.  Hopefully, please! not at the expense of our precious dogs.  We quickly realize that we should never let the idea of a blue ribbon sweep away our caring, well-thought-out, and often-practiced approach to an obstacle. 

Hmm.  Remembering accidents.  Feeling sore.  Thinking about how much I enjoy winning.  Worrying.  Do Riff and I really need to go to another agility trial?  Ever again?  Is the expense and effort worth it?  Is the risk worth it?

This morning I read a Georgia O'Keeffe quote that someone posted on Facebook: 
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.”

Since I don't know the context of that quote, I can only guess what O'Keeffe was thinking about. 
From what little I know about her, she just wanted to stay at her home in the desert in New Mexico, painting sensuous flowers and animal skulls.  Popularity and paid commissions were not important to her.  She thought of those goals as fleeting concepts, at best.  But seeing and recognizing beautiful moments in the world around her was important.  And, by painting those moments, she helped other people share the beauty she found.  THAT was important. 

So now I'm thinking that one big reason we compete with our dogs at agility trials is to give other dog lovers a chance to appreciate our team work.  If I didn't bring Riff to the public setting of a trial, very few people would be able to enjoy how prettily he jumps. Another reason to go to a trial is to watch how prettily other dogs jump.  You can't fully appreciate it through videos.  You need to be there, with the grass beneath your feet and the sun warming your back.   

In the long run, it doesn't matter if we win or lose. Do we even remember which team won the 22" Masters Standard class on March __, 2013?  Do we remember how many yards-per-second that dog ran?  Nope and Nope. 

What DO we remember about that trial?  

We were out at a beautiful agility field with a bunch of friends, enjoying our dogs.   We saw some great teams.  We felt like a great team, for whole moments at a time...and some of those moment were even nicely strung together!  We hugged friends and played with dogs.  We laughed.   

What's important to us?           Yeah!  Okay! 

So...   .....    .....following that line of thought....

At the next trial we'll walk to the start-line filled with pride because we've already accomplished much, just getting to the start-line.  We've worked hard, played hard, and we've become a unique team, with a unique perspective.  We're like one of Georgia O'Keeffe's many paintings.  While at the start-line we are sharing a glimpse of something beautiful.  We're sharing the happiness we found at every practice session.  We're letting the unknown be known.  What could be better? 

                                               (by Georgia O'Keeffe)


Elf said...

That's a great way of looking at it. About the safety thing--I had dogs before I did agility, and I do things with my dogs other than agility, and no matter what, they get injured in one way or another. I think agility is possibly safer because it's a known environment to both of you.

Celeste said...

No doubt about is risky, in all kinds of ways!

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