Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hooping for joy

Sometimes interests spark in the most unexpected ways.

One of the goals I had set for Diesel at the start of our tricks class was for him to jump through a hula hoop. I mean, if you're talking tricks
, that's a classic – not to mention a good preliminary to agility training.

I never took into account that Diesel might be afraid of the hoop.

We covered jumping though a hoop in last week's class. Thankfully Heather used Diesel as the example dog and she was "glad" that he was skittish because that made him an even better example. She lured him to the hoop with tiny hot dog pieces and cheered him on in a way that made me feel guilty for not giving him as much attention for success (luring behavior, clicking, and treating with the proper timing is tricky enough ... praise too?!). After a fairly short amount of time she had him stepping through. She must have built his confidence enough for him to do the same thing with me when it was my turn to try. With an assistant holding the hoop and me luring and treating and cheering we were on our way to him jumping through while the hoop was a couple inches off the ground.

Practice makes perfect, so the next day I dug up a kid's hula hoop at work used for games at our company's summer picnic. For fun I gave it a whirl around my waist and it fell to the floor after a couple spins.

This is where the focus shifts.

I work with an energetic and chronically cheerful project coordinator named Beth (who I'm quite envious of due to her petite and well-toned figure). I've known for some time that she is a fire hooper. She literally hula hoops (tricks and all) with a hoop set ablaze. As I was leaving the office with the feeble toy hoop I commented to her how Diesel is now jumping through hoops but I can't do more than a couple of spins. Seeing the toy she could understand why and showed me a handmade hoop she uses for practice.

My eyes lit up.

It was huge, almost to my chest when set on the ground, and beautifully decorated with crisscross fluorescent yellow and green tape. It was substantial and inspiring. I was mesmerized. Beth offered to gift me with a hoop that she would make and I left work very happy that day.

I found I couldn't wait to learn more. I looked up hooping online. I read articles, watched videos, and discovered that making my own hoop would be quite easy. By the time I left work on Friday I was on a mission.

I spent the weekend rounding up materials, crafting, and decorating. The excitement and enthusiasm I felt making the hoops (two so far) and decorating them was unlike anything I've felt in a long time. I was giddy! It was blissful and freeing and playful. And that was just *making* them. Trying them out made me laugh with joy. The grass was greener, the sky bluer. The size and weight of the hoops made them easy to spin and my mind soared. I daydreamed about new tricks I would practice and learn. I don't care that all I can do right now is waist hoop as I slowly turn my feet to move in an awkward circle. I see something bigger. And I'm fortunate to have Beth as a resource.

Anxious to share my enthusiasm I invited Diesel to jump through one of the newly crafted hoops. Back to square one, the boy skirted off and hid behind me. Even with more luring and treats and cheering, he has yet to regain the level of cautious confidence he felt in class. So we'll concentrate on "take" and carrying a basket for now.

But I'm hooked. Where I least expected it Diesel opened up another world for me.

Perhaps after enough hot dogs he'll learn to love hoops like I do. Besides, who said only the beagle would learn new tricks from tricks class?


Blogger 2ndaryHighway said...

Wait till she talks you into lighting it on fire... it's like being inside your own little world, protected, trancelike, surrounded by the roar of flames.

August 16, 2006 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger snoutbeagle said...

I certainly haven't eliminated the possibility when the timing is right …

August 16, 2006 at 10:42 AM  

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