Thursday, January 26, 2012

Staying Pawsative


I have spent the past three weeks writing about three wonderful dogs as part of the True Dog Series: Disregarded Dogs, Rising Above. It has been a great experience in so many ways. I'm forever grateful for volunteers and Illinois Doberman Rescue + for allowing me to share Hockey's story. And I'm grateful to Susan and Duke for allowing me to come into their lives, take pictures, and allow me the opportunity to write about Duke's journey. I've made some amazing friends doing this series. I will continue to search for, and write about, dogs that have risen above adversity. 

Also, a big thanks to the dog who started this entire thing, Chico. Without him, I would not be who I am today. I wouldn't take pictures, write and share stories, or even have the knowledge and experience that I now have.  I've always known that Chico came to us for a reason. He's lead me on a path I've never thought was possible, and he has taught me more than I could teach him. He's so loyal, brave, and true.  Finally, thank you to my husband for encouraging me to to write, and to the thousands of people that read this series, I'm so happy I could share it with you. Thank you for your kind words and support.

My True Dog, Chico

Staying Pawsative

Originally I was going to write about some of the human behaviors that I have noticed as a newer member of the dog world. I had an entire blog written about the negative way that some dog owners treat each other. I have noticed a lot of rude comments and criticisms toward myself and other dog owners, much more that I anticipated. I must admit, I was shocked when I first started to work with Chico on his reactivity. People said cruel things to me about Chico. In our area, positive training is not a popular method I found out. The words were unkind and hurtful. "Say What," was the title of this post. A discussion about the rude stares, the smart comments, and negative attitudes that you might come across. But after careful consideration, that subject matter just seems too negative. So instead, I'm going to focus on the positive. My dogs and I have accomplished so much by not following the so called norms. It takes too much time and energy to dwell on the negative, human nature, side of dog ownership. So here is something good and positive.  

A few weeks ago, I ran Rue in her first agility trial. At 7 years old, and no formal training prior to her adoption one year ago, this is a huge accomplishment. With the encouragement of some friends, and our agility trainer, I signed Rue up for an all jumpers course. We decided to go to a NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council) trial since it was a small venue and close to home. I got to the venue early since I had never done this sort of thing. Rue and I got all settled in. She didn't seem nervous about the environment, which was great...and surprising. We did some warm up jumps, and she stayed right with me. So far so good. When it came time for me to walk the course, I felt overwhelmed. Crap, I thought to myself, this is going to be harder than it looks. The course was difficult for a novice handler, and I could not be any more green in the world of handling. I kept my goal simple. I just wanted Rue to stay with me the entire course. There were 14 jumps in the course, I was not sure I knew the route well. All I wanted is for Rue to stay with me...

Rue seemed pretty tuned into me when we walked on the course, however, something outside of our normal practice routine occurred at the start line. In agility competitions, prior to the start, the handler will throw the leash behind the dog and a "leash runner" runs out and takes it to where you will finish. I see a problem here. When we were at home practicing,  I removed her leash, I would place it on the ground. This time, Rue watched me throw the leash, and had a look of surprise on her face. Noting her look of excitement, which I have seen before, I quickly started our run. 

She took the first jump. And then...and then...she left me. Rue proceeded to run carefree around the course only stopping to say hello to the judges. She reminded me of a butterfly floating from flower to flower. I finally caught up with Rue at the finish. She had the appearance of, "wasn't that awesome!" Rue had so much fun I could not even be upset with her. We learned a lot that, more than her.

Rue and I enjoying each other in agility class

The incident didn't deter or embarrass me, I knew we could do better than that. So with the encouragement of my supportive friends, I signed up to run Rue in an all jumpers course the next day. Jumper's was the first event in the morning. This time, I took Rue's leash off, and threw it a few times in the practice area. She seemed to get it. We have both moved to the same page in our book. While waiting for our turn, we played attention games. I felt like we were more connected at the start line. When it came time for our run, I asked Rue break her stay and do the jumps. She was perfect! She stayed with me the entire time, jumped over all the jumps, and finished with a great time. It turns out Rue took 1st place. But, I'll be honest, I didn't do a good job telling her where to go. Because of an error I made, we didn't qualify, however she stayed with me, and we both had so much fun.

Taking Pause or Paws

Whether we are taking our dogs on a walk, or on the agility course, it's necessary to remember that we are doing the activity with our dogs for fun. If owning a dog was not fun and enjoyable on so many levels then why would we do it? For me, it's not about the competition, it's about the journey and relationships we develop along the way. It's lessons, laughter, and love that we share. And it's okay if we never get to or win the competition. Most days our journey is living and enjoying life together. The competition and our end results are such a small factor. At the end of the day, the bond I share with Chico and Rue is everlasting. They may never win a national competition and I am okay with that. They are part of our family. I'd love to hear from you, what "pawsitive" things have you and your dog done together?  

Rue & Chico, The True Dogs!

1 comment:

  1. absolutely awesome!!! i love this pawsitive writing...keep it up!