The weather is getting cooler, the sun is setting earlier, and the fireweed is climbing higher. These trends can only signal one thing: Dog agility trial season is winding down.
It's been quite a wild ride this year.
It all started last summer when I decided I needed a new puppy. This stems from my dog Sophi's inability to become motivated in the agility ring. How it normally works is a handler directs a dog through a series of obstacles, they work as a team and have fun.
One look at our runs and it appears I am the only one having fun as I paste a grin on my face and beg my dog to take the obstacles in my "happy voice." OK, it's not that painful, but I knew a decision had to be made.
I got myself on a list for a new golden last fall. I found a nice healthy breeding and was stoked that I had the top female pick in the litter.
Imagine my surprise when mom popped out seven males.
OK, fine. So I got on another list. Sorry, the breeding didn't take: no puppies. Actually, that happened to me three times. I even threw myself on a corgi list to see if it would break the jinx, but Mother Nature was not fooled.
By springtime I was starting to get desperate, so my husband, Mark, stepped in.
"You can run Cayenne," he said.
"Cayenne? Me? Are you serious?" I asked.
"Sure. I won't be able to run her this summer anyway."
Cayenne is Mark's golden, aptly named. In other words, she's a bullet on an agility course. Speed is her middle name. And with Mark training and climbing Denali this summer, she would be left all alone on the sidelines unless I saved her from imminent boredom.
"OK, I'll run her." I was grinning from ear to ear.
This was my chance to test drive a new model. Oh, I knew it was going to be a challenge. First of all, I can't run. Secondly, Mark is 6-5 with legs nearly as tall as my entire body, so of course he can keep up with her. But surprisingly, I quickly learned my disadvantage was an advantage. Cayenne actually liked having me behind her pushing her on.
Our first few trials were a blast. I expected a big learning curve, and there was no pressure to do anything but learn to adjust.
However, by the end of June, things changed. My expectations were rising, but our team effort wasn't keeping pace. In other words, we weren't clicking enough for me.
By the time our first July trial rolled around, Mark was back from his successful climb, and he finally got a chance to see me run his girl.
Unfortunately, it wasn't pretty. I allowed stress to rear its ugly head, and it traveled right down to the end of the leash.
Let's put it this way: Cayenne is a ball fanatic, but when I got done with her, she was afraid of anything round.
During a rare break at the dog show, Mark and I wandered over to look at some corgi puppies. I picked up a little girl and threw my pouty face in Mark's direction. Then our friend announced she is breeding one of her corgis next spring.
"Can I get a puppy then?" I asked Mark.
"Seriously? You'll let me have a puppy?"
"Yes. You're ruining my dog."
Yes, he was right. I was ruining his dog.
It definitely has been an experience. I did manage to have a few qualifying runs with Cayenne, but, more importantly, I learned a few lessons: 1) Be careful what you wish for; 2) speed kills; 3) I need to lose weight and run faster; 4) running Sophi can be relaxing; and 5) if you really want a puppy bad enough, you'll find a way to make it happen.
Keep your fingers crossed for me on this breeding I have the top female pick.
When she's not chasing after her dogs on an agility course, Dori Lynn Anderson is the managing editor at the Clarion. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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