Saturday, May 24, 2008

Acknowledge, accept, and move on

In my Tuesday evening yoga classes our instructor reminds us frequently to clear our minds of passing thoughts. If a thought persists and occupies our mind, she encourages us to acknowledge the thought, accept it, and then move on to be open to our practice. I spent the last week doing just this after an experience I had last weekend. Yes, it took nearly a week to let go.

I've only gone to two agility trials to spectate and I've never entered a trial to compete. Our agility instructor keeps us students well-informed of when upcoming trials will be in our area and encourages us to go watch so we can see what a trial is all about. He suggests we don't bring our dogs and, although I've never asked specifically why, I would imagine it's so they don't make a hectic situation for the people/dog teams entered even more hectic with visiting-dog-excited energy.

The first trial I spectated was a four-day AKC event, held indoors at a large local soccer arena. It was indeed a hectic environment with crates lining every possible wall and tight corridors with many coming and going dogs and handlers. Definitely not a place for a non-trialing dog to be.

The second trial I spectated was a three-day AKC event, held at a dog training club outside of town. A man who lives in my neighborhood with two bearded collies he trains in agility belongs to this club. He's suggested I join the club more than once as it's a more economical way to continue with agility training (as well as obedience, etc.) rather than taking classes over and over as I've been doing. I thought going to this agility trial would be a good chance to catch up with him at his club and have a look around, as well as watch agility dogs of all levels in action.

And it was.

The trial was this last Saturday and it was a sunny, semi-warm day. I enjoyed exploring the event and grounds with my neighbor. The trial was held outdoors and there were two rings. The entire area was fenced and along the fence, surrounding the rings, were lots of portable shade tents set up by the trial entrants with crates, folding chairs, and rugs underneath. There was plenty of space to move around and spectate. It was a nicely organized and well-presented event.

My neighbor made me feel right at home, introducing me to entrants and trainers – he seemed to know everyone!, explaining which classes were in each ring and talking me through the order of the obstacles, and all around encouraging me to take the leap into entering a trial. After all, Marvin and I have been training since last October. He felt we would be competitive in a novice class, although we both agreed an outdoor trial probably wouldn't be the place to start for my scent hound.

I had no plans (or time really) to go back to spectate on Sunday, but my neighbor encouraged me to stop back for a short while if I could manage it, and this time bring Marvin. We both felt he could use the experience of a trial environment too. I figured there would be no harm in it as we could stay easily on the outskirts and out of the way, plus we were invited by a club member.

As we drove onto the club grounds Marvin excitedly chirped in his car crate as he sometimes does as we get close to our agility class or the dog park. Once unloaded, his nose was sniffing the air and the ground at practically the same time. He chirped some more at this sensory overload but responded when I asked him to focus on me. There was promise so we walked to the fence and entered the trialing area to look for my neighbor.

We walked the grounds and I heard some people comment on his handsome ticking and I smiled. Marvin stayed "with me" for the most part. People walking by with hot dogs on plates were the biggest distraction for my chow hound. We met up with my neighbor and he commented that Marvin was doing well for his first walk around such an exciting environment. He was. I could tell that he was excited though and would occasionally chirp a bit, but still, when I would ask for his focus or for him to walk close to my side he minded ... of course rewarding him with treats didn't hurt!

My neighbor stopped and talked to person after person, introducing us as we went. Again, I felt at home and welcome. No one was at the warm-up jumps so we thought we would give Marvin a chance. I had taken him over a jump on-leash prior to meeting up with my neighbor but quickly left because I didn't want to get in any one's way. Now I was with an entrant – and a club member – and I felt a bit more empowered in being there.

Almost at the warm-up area, my neighbor stopped to talk to two women, each with a Golden. One of the Goldens and Marvin started barking at one another. I don't know who started it but Marvin began pulling at the leash to go meet the Golden. They barked and barked and my gut told me it would be best to move on to the warm-up jumps and allow my neighbor to catch up, which he did. Having all the faith in the world in Marvin and I, and I feeling empowered by the faith, my neighbor told me to put Marvin in a sit-stay and send him over a jump. I put Marvin in a sit-stay.
I *removed the leash*. I moved forward to the jump. The second I released him he didn't take the jump. No, he didn't. He bolted, off-leash, out of the warm-up area and rushed one of the Goldens who apparently followed us to the warm-up area and were waiting their turn.

I only remember bits and pieces from this dreaded 30-second experience. The woman with the Golden Marvin rushed said "What is it with today? This is the second time she's been rushed!". She said this as she gently kicked towards Marvin to back him away from her dog. The woman with the other Golden stood there saying over and over "This is not cool. This is not cool. ..." Over and over. She sounded angry and hateful and I wanted to disappear off the face of the earth. In the meantime Marvin playfully danced around the first Golden, dodging my advances towards him, until I caught him and pulled him back to his leash, still laying in the warm-up area.

My neighbor was totally cool throughout this entire affair. I just wanted to get the h*** out of there. He did encourage me to take him over some jumps, even on-leash, and I agreed simply because I didn't want Marvin to end the experience by rushing a dog, rather than taking a jump. We jumped a jump and the woman with the second Golden yelled to us "Are you in the trial? We need to get in there." I couldn't even answer her, I felt so insignificant, but I understood her position completely and we left the area right away. My neighbor encouraged me not to feel bad or defeated. But I did and there was no going back from that. I wanted to leave.

Just as I was catching my breath, the woman with the first Golden, the one Marvin rushed, called to me. "Lady with the beagle, I want to talk to you ...". I turned to her but couldn't face her so turned around and went to stand at my neighbor's side so he could do any talking if necessary. I heard her say something to the effect that not all Goldens are friendly and it worked out okay because her dog was rushed, but if Marvin would have rushed the second Golden there would likely have been a fight. Almost like I encouraged Marvin to go play off-leash with these dogs. That was so not the case! I felt like a child being scolded. I found words but they were spoken through a sudden outburst of tears and I directed my conversation to my neighbor, not the Golden's owner. I told him I felt terrible, that I should have known that, even though Marvin sat and stayed that he was still excited from barking at the Golden and wasn't nearly relaxed enough to be trusted off-leash. My feeling over-confident by being with a club member and his confidence in us took precedence over my gut feeling of knowing my dog. I made a bad judgement call. To me it felt like a huge mistake.

I know my neighbor was surprised by my tears – and the fact that I couldn't stop! – but I didn't care. I couldn't help it.

So sadly, the result of the experience turned me off of agility. Well, off agility altogether for about a day. But it still has me turned off the idea of competing at all.

Marvin and I love our agility classes. I make handling mistakes. He makes mistakes too, like getting distracted and snouting and, yes, he has hopped the barrier in class before just to get to a waiting dog for a sniff. He rushed a dog for a sniff at a run-through as well at our other training facility. He's quick and takes me by surprise when he does that, but people laugh and forgive his Marvin-ness ... and thankfully he's only done it a couple of times. Marvin has a tendency to come up with a variety of surprises and I would imagine will continue to do so occasionally.

I suppose the fact that these women took this surprise encounter with Marvin without an ounce of humor is what I found so humiliating. I do understand the situation could have been serious and I felt awful, but I felt judged and unforgivable as well. Granted, they were trialing and under their own pressure so I need to keep that in mind. I did find some comfort in the fact that first Golden lady mentioned "this is the second time today she was rushed." At least I'm not the only idiot handler.

So, in the effort to keep agility fun for us, I'm not entertaining the thought of competing anymore at this point. I've never been a competitive person (quite the opposite!) and competing was never our goal in doing agility. Marvin and I will make mistakes. If people take it so seriously, and I don't have the constitution to handle that, where is the fun?

Acknowledge, accept, and move on.


Blogger Patience-please said...

What an unpleasant situation for you! May I offer my "take"? (As someone who competes in multiple dog venues, and as someone who would also have been undone and in tears.)
First, your well-intended neighbor led you astray. Unentered dogs are not allowed at any AKC event (which is why your instructor suggested not bringing your dog). Are there unentered dogs at every AKC event? You betcha! But they are not allowed.
Second, I'm glad you decided to continue training! You and Marvin obviously have so much fun, and why should you deprive both of you of that fun, and bond, and satisfaction?
Maybe as you continue in your training you will get confidence in Marvin's reliability and you might change your mind about competing. But if you don't, you are still having fun with Marvin. And that's what matters.

Sounds like you did a great job of acknowledging, accepting, and moving on! That's advice I could use.

May 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM  
Blogger snoutbeagle said...

Hi Patience,

Who am I kidding? I've acknowledged but I haven't completely accepted or moved on. This experience is still lingering in the back of my head, occassionally popping up to haunt me. Maybe if I keep repeating the mantra though it will stick! I'm one of those "I want to do everything right/I want everyone to like me" goodie-two-shoes kind of people and this is a tough pill to swallow.

Before writing this post yesterday I hadn't told a soul about this experience, not even my loving husband. It was too humiliating. But I finally had to get it off my chest and tell the story. And as I wrote I specifically hoped that you would comment and give me your take because I knew you would be kind and honest and unbiased. Thank you so much for doing just that. I kind of wish I could have held it more together that day because in all honesty I think the first Golden lady was trying to offer kind words but I just couldn't register them at the time.

Yep, Marvin and I will keep training and having fun. My next post is from our agility class the next day and the video is funny ... I just need to figure out how to reduce it in size so it's compatable with Blogger.

Thanks again, Patience, for stopping by when I needed a kind word.


May 25, 2008 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Patience-please said...

smiles! (I'm in the same goody two shoes class of person. DO tell yourself that you did not intentionally do wrong. You were following your supposed expert neighbor's advice! And also understand that the golden's owner's reaction is exaggerated by her own competition day nerves. No doubt she has forgotten it by now.)


May 25, 2008 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Kess & her mama said...

Hi Jackie, You know, dogs live in the moment. They don't remember the past, don't hold grudges, don't have regrets They don't worry about the future either. You are loved by 2 great beagles and a loving husband.

We don't have experience with agility but we do know how to reduce the size of the photos. We use this program called Infanview. In Infanview, go to File, Batch Conversion/Rename. Add the files you want to convert, select the convert/Rename option (if you want to also rename the files). This will reduce the size of your files considerably for download to your blog. Happy trials!

May 26, 2008 at 2:32 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

First! Stop beating yourself up, Jackie. (A) Your well-meaning neighbor shouldn't have had you bring Marvin. A trial really isn't the place for an unentered dog. Even if the rule is not listed on the premium, it's not a good thing.(B) Don't let this experience turn you off of competition. This was an AKC event. Folks tend to be a bit more uptight and serious. Try CPE or some other venue! That's the beauty of agility. There is more out there than just AKC. In CPE, competitors are friendly and willing to coach newbies. REALLY! (C) We all make mistakes. Believe me, I've made my share over the years of training and trialing. (D) Always remember that you and Marvin are a great team. Have fun, enjoy the day and don't let the "crabby bill's or betty's" of the world get ya down!

May 26, 2008 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Daizy, George and Taiki said...

i feel for you girl... but I think Marvin had the right idea.

Remember the reason you are in agility in the first place! For you and your guys to have fun. Beagles = merry little mischievous hounds....

At my first agility "fun match"...which was filled with agility snobs without a funny bone in their bodies; we had the entire audience laughing so hard and the commentator cracking beagle jokes!

Between George zooming around like a speed demon, skidding out doing victory laps BEFORE we hit the first jump and Darrell yelling to the audience for help after Daizy finished all the jackpots which the audience all yelled back telling him which obstacles to do to rack up more points.....and thanks to them she finished 2nd place!

We all had a hoot and they actually did a great job at the same time. It wasn't perfect, but I would not trade that memory for anything in the world.

Sometimes I think even grumpy, snobby people need to be reminded about why they're really there.

Maybe Marvin thought the Golden's could use a little lightening up and did his charming best to entertain them....who knows but if I had my choice, I'd hang out with you guys. You're more fun.

Please don't give up the thought of competing!

May 27, 2008 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Daizy, George and Taiki said...

this morning i went to feed my dogs and Darrell forgot to take out the raw food to thaw. instead of getting upset, i opened my fridge and my guys were treated to fried eggs and toast in kongs :) which i thought was cute and made me smile.

which brings me to elaborate on what i intended to convey to you last comment.

1-your neighbor had the best of intentions and whether or not you were supposed to be there trying out one obstacle, the intention behind both your and your neighbor and Marvin was innocent, you were all living in the moment being PRESENT.

2-those agility people who wind their dogs and themselves up so tight that they can not focus on being PRESENT, living in the moment, i wish they could have instead look at you, Marvin, and neighbor in the ring....and remember that first experience, take a second to think way back when they entered their first ring, the goosebumps, nerves, EXCITEMENT. Those wonderful memories would have relaxed them and their dogs (who feed off of our energy) and they might have had the best run of their lives....

3-'Control Unleashed" is all about being present, living in the moment, even in trials with your dog. It is full of case studies of those types of competitors, whom in the end...... realized the benefit of being present, relaxing their dogs, and enjoying the moment. Marvin was a reminder of that. He had the right idea, unfortunately the owner could not see past their nerves.

4-please don't be so hard on yourself. we're all human, make mistakes, those ladies weren't exactly being kind and sometimes those mistakes have silver linings in them. My hope is that the lady went home, and had a flashback of Marvin wriggling around trying to get the Golden to play and started laughing out loud. That's the memory that I'd take with me from that experience.

May 28, 2008 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Truman Tales said...

Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry you had such an unpleasant experience with this lady. Now, I've never been to an AKC event or competitive trial of any sort, but really, I don't see why she had to take it so seriously and speak to you so dimissively like that! And sweet Marvin, he just wanted to say hello. I know this has been more than a month in passing, and I'm sure you've accepted and moved on, but still, a hug for you and for Marvin. And I loved the agility videos of the boys in your most recent post. Seeing them go through those runs and have fun just fills my heart, as corny as that sounds. Keep on keeping on!

June 12, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

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