Monday, March 29, 2010

The 2010 National Agility Championship

I have to start by explaining a little about the jump-height thing (agility people can skip this paragraph.) Dogs jump height is determined by the dog's height at the shoulder. Maggie should have been jumping in the 20" group all along, but we've always bumped up to 24". We've done this for a couple reasons. 1. I hoped it would slow her down and give me a chance to keep up. 2. The team that we practice with 99% of the time also jumps 24" and I'm too lazy to reset the jumps every time we run. Anyway, the National Championship REQUIRED that you jump in your own height, unless you wanted to jump 26", with the competitors for the International team (these are the super-competitive, really fast dogs). I knew we would not be competitive against these teams, many of whom have done agility for years and even earn their living at it-nevertheless, we went with the 26" choice rather than jump 20".
Friday was like a dream come true for us. Maggie ran exceptionally well and we posted good times in both runs despite the fact that we've never run at 26" before. I didn't feel like she was blazing fast, sort of her normal run speed. The Nationals do not use scribe sheets, everything is electronic, so to get your time, you have to go to the area where all the times are posted on computers. Our times looked okay to me, but I had no idea where we stood. After all the 26" dogs had run, the placements were posted and I was shocked to see the "Fast Times" box checked behind our name and a number 6 in front. Against some of the fastest dogs in the Nation... maybe even in the world, we had placed 6th. I thought at first that this was a mistake, and asked someone next to me... "are these placements?" and when she said yes, I almost cried. My little Maggie-girl, born to a homeless mother, rescued by a good samaritan, adopted through a rescue, and then trained by a first-timer (me) had just placed 6th among the best of the best.
I wish that I could finish this story with how well we did in the finals, but my own nerves and handling errors pulled her off course in the subsequent runs. Despite being eliminated due to mistakes, her times were still respectible. Not fast enough to have seen us take home one of those huge ribbons or gain an invitation to the elite World Team, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of, either.
Several strangers at this elite event remarked on how much they liked her and said they were surprised to hear that she was a rescue (it was announced over the PA system as we ran that Maggie was adoped from Mo-Kan BC Rescue) If even one person thinks about going to rescue for their next dog, it would be worth more than any of those ribbons anyway, so maybe we were more of a success than we know.
I can't finish this post without a few shout-outs.
Congratulations to our friend Jeri Frye who finished in 4th place in the finals with her Aussie, Rocket. You two are a wonderful team and a great role model for us all!
Also, I cannot say enough about our wonderful trainers... First, Kim Berkely (Dog Sports at Kim's) who got us started in agility and provided us the very best foundation training. Kim warned us early on how ugly it can get if we don't get the basics down before we move on and that advice has been priceless. She's been with us since the beginning and always been our cheerleader. Second, Joan Meyer (Triune Training Center) not only an experienced world-team member, but a world-class handler and teacher. She has patiently been working with us to make us a better, faster, more reliable team. Just working with a handler of her calibre has been an honor. I think that both Joan and Kim are proud of our performance this weekend, given where we began 2 years ago.
For us, it is back to regular trials, and hopefully earning our Agility Championship (MACH) title before too much longer. But no matter what, this previously homeless dog has given me the thrill of a lifetime this weekend in Tulsa. I love you Maggie-girl!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

no time for blogging

This is the big weekend I've been waiting for. We are off to Tulsa on Thursday for the National AKC Agility Championship. While I don't expect to make it to the finals, I'm excited just to be able to go. My biggest wish is that I don't make a fool of myself.

"butt on the ground, butt on the ground....
looking like a fool with your butt on the ground"

I'll try to post some pictures along the way, because I may never get this opportunity again! Unless of course, I do fall down and make a fool of myself, in which case there will be no pictures.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The way it should be....

This morning I had the honor of going with a friend to the vet to say her final goodbyes to an old friend. I won't share too many details, because that is her story to tell; but I couldn't help but think that this was the way it should be. The old cat was ready to go, and we gathered at the animal hospital to show our support to both cat and human.

It reminds me of a quote that my son shared with me. One that he found after he lost a friend.

"I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend. "

Happy trails Mr. Mufasa.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My heart dogs

A lot of people talk about their "heart dog" as in the dog that they feel they are closer to than any other. They usually feel that they have a special relationship with this dog, or that they love them in a special way.

I've never quite understood that... maybe I still have not found my "heart dog" because I couldn't pick just one of mine and say that I love them more than the rest. I know I post a lot of photos of Maggie and that I probably spend more time with her than the other two going to agility practice and shows. But when I am at home it is Jake that is my constant companion. I can't even go to the bathroom without him following me in. And when I'm on the phone with someone, I'll sometimes catch him watching me like he is part of the conversation. Still, I wouldn't say that I love him more.

If there were to be a "heart dog" in our home, I guess it would be the old girl, Mopsy, if for no other reason than her age. Bless her heart, the years are starting to catch up with her. She's getting lumpy from fatty tumors and her eyes are so cloudy it is a wonder she can see at all. But when you look into those cloudy eyes, you can't help but see the wisdom and the experience of an old dog.

I sure do love the old girl... and I guess we do share a special relationship. We both groan when we get up and we rarely make it through the night without having to pee. Neither of us looks as snazzy as we once did and we're both getting gray. I get a little cranky when people try to take my snacks and I'd love to take a nap in the sun.

Maybe I do have a heart dog, after all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring has Sprung!

Nothing says spring like outdoor agility! Sure, you could do it in the winter, but we are fortunate to have an indoor facility to practice. So, when we go outside because we want to, that means that spring is here!The only thing missing from this photo is a cold beer....Lovely Miss Madison... isn't she a sweetheart?

Pole Wrecker. Good thing those poles bend or she'd break them for sure. (You can tell the sun was setting, because Addie looks brown instead of her ghosty grey. )

Maggie's happy to see her friends. Especially the ones that carry a pocket full of treats.

"Put me in coach!" Flash is ready for a little agility. For about 15 seconds, then he has to get back to his Jolly Ball.

Auggie was flying through the course at his normal speed... Mach4. Take a little time to feel the sunshine, buddy! And get that tongue in before you land.

Maggie's got to check out Carol's pockets again. Might as well take the jump while she's at it.

I wonder if Addie can get High Def when she turns those ears just right? That's a big girl to be jumping that high!

This is a funny jump... must have caught her off stride. But she can still manage it.

I'll post some more pictures soon. But for now, this is the end!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stranger in pain

Last night I took Maggie to the vet. We made a 9pm Saturday appt for her because it is a really not-busy time and Maggie is really deathly afraid of the vet. This time slot gives us time for a little relaxing and give the vet time to put up with her craziness without having to just pop in give her the shots and leave.
Anyway, Maggie did a little better than usual; I have been getting strangers to handle her at agility shows and it seems to be paying off. She's still afraid, but I wasn't worried that she would have a coronary on the table.
As we were paying, a young woman came out of the emergency side of the clinic, sat in the waiting room, curled up and cried. My heart ached for her... I don't know her story, I don't even know what kind of pet she brought in, but I knew that she was leaving without one. Maggie and I walked over, gave her hug and I told her that I understood her pain, that I'd been there. After a few minutes we left, but I could not get her out of my mind. If this had been a human hospital, family would have rushed there to be by her side, to support her in her grief. But because it was "just a pet" she was alone in her pain. After I got Maggie settled in the car I saw the lady at the front desk, paying her bill. I know it has to be done, but it seemed like such a painful thing to have to do at that moment. She was still wiping her face as she stood there.
I don't know who she is, and I'll probably never see her again, but still our hearts go out to her today, knowing that it will be a very painful morning for this woman. But like the rest of us, the pain will fade and the parts of her heart that so dearly loved this animal will come back to life and another animal will find that there is enough love in her heart to welcome them. But also like the rest of us, she will never forget.... not the animal, not the friendship, not the love, and not even the pain. Someday she will see someone in the same position and like us, she will remember the pain of losing that animal friend. And then remember that the joy is so much greater than the pain, so that it is worth the tears and the painful goodbyes.
My heart is with you today, whoever you are, as you grieve.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Damn the random draw

All of my agility friends are in Chicago for a show this weekend. Maggie and I are staying home. I entered the trial, but it was a "random draw" not a "first received" and I did not make the draw, despite the fact that I volunteered to work AND it is a three ring trial (990 dogs/day!).
Anyway, I'm still feeling sorry for myself.
If anyone can explain how to better my chances in a random draw, I'll buy you a beer!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I've been digging through old photos in preparation for a friend's birthday, and I find that some old photos really get me emotional. That was the case with this one. If I close my eyes I can still feel their little hands in mine and smell their sweet hair. Wow, what I wouldn't do for one more day with these babies.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Digging through an old box of photos, I stumbled across this snapshot, taken (yikes!) almost 34 years ago. It is the female half of my graduating class (go ahead, laugh now, I'll wait).

Okay, now that you've had a chuckle at the size I've my school, I'll continue.

What struck me so much about the picture is that I remember that moment with such clarity. I remember that moment and the fear and anxiousness that accompanied it. We all thought that we needed to have a plan about the rest of our lives at that moment, and we all thought that we were the only one who was feeling this pressure. Here we were at the ripe age of 17 or 18 and the world expected us to be mature enough to make life-long decisions. We were expected to choose a career path, a college, figure out how to pay for it and move forward. Or, for some of us, we were expected to choose a husband, make a home, raise babies. Others found jobs including one who elisted in the military. But the sad part is the pressure we were under to KNOW. What 17 year old kid KNOWS what they want from life? Heck, here I sit at 51 and still wonder!!

And when I look at this group of young women, I am shocked at the potential that was there, that none (or few) of us realized. Most of the girls in my class were good students, we had several that were very competitive academically and the rest were no slouches. Most were country girls who were not afraid of anything and understood the farm-taught-values of hard work and spending Sunday morning on your knees thanking God for your blessings. And now that I look at us on that day I realize that we could have accomplished ANYTHING. We were smart enough, strong enough, determined enough that we could have hit this world with a force that would have been unstoppable.

Instead, we all thought we were the only one that was confused, afraid, undecided, apprehensive. So we made only small reaches that were safe. Not that any of us are big losers... we've all done well for ourselves, but I have to believe that we could have all done much more, been happier, and made a greater impact on our society if we had just known that it was the perfect time to try and to fail. To risk it all when you had so little to risk. To make the leap while the fall was survivable. We had SO MUCH going for us and never knew it.

So, your mission is to grab the ear of every young woman (and man) in your life and remind them of these things. Tell them that everyone is undecided and that is OK. Don't stress over picking a major. Don't think that all the good catches will be married by the time you are 20. Make the focus trying and learning from failures rather than making the focus "pick a path and stick to it." Even if you can't convince them, at least they will remember you 34 years from now.