Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A New Chapter

We had so much fun at agility that we immediately entered every local show. At first, we did not travel, in fact, I thought that we never would travel for a show. We would enter whatever shows were local, but that was about it. Maggie and I continued to improve, and she read my signals like most people read books. Unfortunately, I do not learn as fast as she does, so we continue to have small mistakes when I give her mixed information. But more than that, her entire demeanor changed to the point that I forgot she was ever anxious or afraid. But the following spring, I was reminded.
We were at an outdoor trial at Purina Farms. It was nearing Easter so there were many little kids at the main building, but not too many at the agility ring. However, at one point, when we were taking a short walk around the area, a group of 4 or 5 little kids ran up. One of the older ones yelled "look! It's Fly!" (I suppose he thought that Maggie looked like Fly from the movie Babe). With that, the whole group came running straight at us. I could feel my panic begin, there was no way to head off all these kids and this was exactly the kind of situation that I had feared the most in our fearful days. It was why I never took Maggie out unless I could avoid people. I looked down at Maggie to give her a "heel" command and try to walk the opposite direction, even though the kids were very close. But when I looked down, her tail was wagging and she was actually looking right at the nearest child with a totally relaxed face. I was in shock... I couldn't believe that she had changed so much, so fast. It was more than I had ever expected.
Today, I can (and do) take her almost everywhere. There are a few people that she will shy away from, but there is no great fear associated with it... she will just lean away as she walks past. But I can't really blame her, there are people that I feel the same way about. We continue to trial in agility, and hope to continue until one of us has to retire. It has changed both our lives... not only did it heal Maggie's fear, but it brought us a huge network of friends that I cherish and that I would never have met otherwise. It takes up most of my free time and most of my disposable income, but I love every minute of it, counting the days to the next lesson, next trial, next seminar.
This is the final chapter in this story, but hopefully not the final chapter in Maggie's. And someday, years from now, like Murphy wrote the first chapter of Maggie's life, Maggie will likely be the first chapter in the life of another dog, and who knows where that story will take us. We'll just have to wait and see.

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