Agility Passion

A couple of weeks ago, I posed a question to the people on my mailing list: Why do you do agility? There was more to the question than that, but I REALLY enjoyed reading the responses, and I don’t want to lose them, AND I want to be able to share them. I started collecting the responses in document so that I could read and reread them, and enjoy them, and draw motivation from them myself, and then I realized, WAIT, those of you who WROTE probably would enjoy the same thing. So, here goes:

THE QUESTION:

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why *I* do agility. What about it is so fulfilling? What need does it fill for me that other activities fill for other people? Is it an emotional need? A physical outlet? Competitive outlet? Just something to do with my dogs? For me, it’s so much more than just something to do. So many of us are so passionate about it. Why? Why are YOU so passionate about dog agility? What is it about this activity that has got YOU hooked? No greater cause, just curious what your answer would be, your agility manifesto, so to speak. If you’ve got a minute, email me back, I’d love to read your thoughts!

THE RESPONSES:

I am passionate about agility because it combines the three things that have been most important in my life.
First, I  love collaboration, working together with others to accomplish a common goal.
Second, I am fascinated by understanding how others think, learn, reason through problems, identify goals.
Third, I love the animal world, but most especially the universe of dogs.
Agility is a unique and beautiful medium that weaves  these three pieces together.
It has taught me how to communicate and understand a wonderful friend so that the two of us can collaborate in the challenge of solving the mystery of a jumble of jumps, tunnels and obstacles.

 


 

Because I’m still fascinated by dog behavior and dog training. I still look at agility as just dog training and not so much a sport. I’m still enchanted with the the idea of getting my dog to “want” and “enjoy” doing something “I” want to do.

My motto…Train attitude, not obstacles”

I’ve never liked head to head competition  but love challenging myself as a trainer and a competitor. Agility gives me both.

As I’m thinking of all these reasons one thought came to mind.

Because I’ve been doing it for so long it’s just part of my life. It’s been part of half of my life! Which can be somewhat of a sad statement because it’s so NOT who I am. I could walk away from agility and be perfectly happy but probably not walk away from dog training. I miss doing movie work with my dogs.

I feel lucky to have seen the sport change and evolve. I look forward to being part of what it will become in the future.
The only part that makes me want to go away is how it changes people, sometimes not for the better.
I believe in coming out of every situation a better person…especially towards others.

I love training my dogs, I love teaching. ..I could take or leave the competing.

How is that for a short answer….phew! I feel better now that I got that off of my chest!


Why do I do agility? This question has an evolving, revolving answer. I got into it because it looked a whole lot more exciting and positive than obedience, and I selected a Shetland Sheepdog with the intention of pursuing sports with him. 


 

Why do I do agility? The answer evolves and revolves. What kept me going through my graduate degree program was a promise to myself that when I was finished I would find a purpose-bred Shetland Sheepdog from working lines and get involved in my childhood dream of competitive dog sports. I ended up falling hard in love with a 5 month old beautiful but very shy oversized conformation reject. He became able to enjoy the world through interaction with it…jumping curbs, walking park benches, balancing on stumps and rocks, weaving bike racks. Agility brought him out of his shell and was way, WAY more fun and motivating than anything else we tried. It bonded us, it introduced us to a whole new world of friends, competitions, achievements. We competed at a National Championship! We placed! We were on the Bad Dog Agility Breed Power 60 List!We earned a MACH! During a very brief time when he was recovering from an injury and I missed a few trials, I realized just how much agility had permeated my life in a few short years. Was it the friends? The adrenaline, the never ending challenge to be better, faster, more skilled? The dogs (mine and everyone else’s, I really love dogs)? The connection, the belonging? It is all of those things. But as I am training my new girl and seriously mourning the not-so-distant-future retirement of my golden boy, the one who started it all, it is clear. It is in that moment of anticipation, of breathless excitement, the connection and communication between my terrestrial, awkward human self and this superior, soaring, incredible canine creature, who not only chooses, but demands to do this thing with me, I find my reason for agility
That was not at all short or succinct. But thank you for letting me share! 🙂
 

Why I’m passionate about agility?  And by the way, I’m still way down the learning curve but improving.  It is great exercise for mind and body – both for me and the dogs.  I changed desks when I moved a year ago but I still have a desk job.  My FitBit is so happy with me on an agility weekend –  a zillion steps and up/down the stairs at the arenas.  I’m packing healthy food with me when I’m on the road to help offset arena food.  Great friends, fun times… whats not to love.  Besides agility, we do other dog sports but I think as teams our favorite sport is agility
 

For me it’s the partnership with my dogs that makes it fun.
 

Why do I engage in agility?

1.   The strong connection it fosters between my dog and me.
2.   It is something FUN to do with my dog.
3.  The people I like and appreciate the most includes many agility people.
4.   I enjoy the challenge of learning new things and improving our dog/handler teamwork.


 

So you asked —  I LOVE LOVE LOVE dogs!  As a matter fact for the most part, I think dogs in many ways are better than people.  They’re honest, trustworthy and don’t judge you.  Always happy to be with you!  So I enjoy being with my best buddy.  And he doesn’t care if we win or lose.  He makes me not take life so seriously and have fun!  I’ve shared my life with a dog since I was just a toddler and can’t imagine life without one by my side.

FYI my dog and I Double Q Sat & Sun and he earned his MX.  We‘re just a little under half way to our MACH in Double Qs and points. On the flip side Friday’s runs were absolute train wrecks.  I ended up calling them our sad runs since it was the first time my dog and I had run since we lost another pet to cancer about a week and a half before.  Then I realized that other pet loved life and would have wanted us to be happy so I got us out of our slump and we had our happy runs.  The standard course we earned our title one was VERY challenging with a very low Q rate, but we had a beautiful run.

I am forever in awe about how talented and smart our dogs are (I take little credit, ha)! Watching them run with me on video just brings a huge smile to my face. I appreciate their athleticism and grace and just how hard they try to do their best……….ALWAYS do their best…………..what else could we possibly ask for in a partner!

Agility keeps my dogs and me healthy physically and mentally and the rush we get when we get it right is like no other!
 

 

Several things got me Hooked on Agility, but really once I understood the game and engaged with my dog without a care about the awards or what anyone thought it became my Escape to have Fun and take a break from anything negative or hurtful in my life.

I regained my confidence in a new method of training and a different kind of partnership with my dog.
I’m new to the sport and my baby dog and I are competing for the first time and Loving it 😊

Why am I so passionate about agility? I credit agility with saving my sanity, and literally my life. Like many of us who have been in agility for many years I first started with obedience training and competition. I did OK with obedience, my dogs always placed, then agility came along and obedience paled in comparison.   I have  had problems with anxiety, depression, mild paranoia, and probably borderline personality disorder. I also suffer with fibromyalgia and severe back problems.  Pain is a constant companion. Working with my dogs and running with them in competition cause the anxiety, and paranoia symptoms to dissipate, to become tolerable.  Depression/Suicidal thoughts subsided.  I no longer wanted to hide from everyone and everything.  The exhilaration I felt when training and competing compelled me to go beyond what I thought I could do. Over the years I lost nearly 80 pounds.  My physical health improved.  Then, January 27, 2010 I suffered a mild heart attack, I was at an agility training session, several handlers noticed I was not acting right, insisted I go to the emergency room.  I ended up needing a 5  bypass open heart surgery. Doctors told me if I had gone home I would have died.  I recovered very fast, attending an agility seminar in 6 weeks, mostly watching.  I was training and at competitions several weeks later. My mantra when not feeling up to par is “I am here, I am alive, I am going to run and have fun”. My dogs and agility are a lifeline for me and worth everything I invest in them and it.
 

My agility love is always there but it waxes and wanes with respect to intensity. Right now I’m in a wane but what keeps me going back out with my dogs and trying things (especially in a wane period) is that I love puzzles. To me agility is a game of puzzles that you get to play with your dog. I love the puzzle of finding out what your dog is naturally skilled at and what they’re not and figuring out ways to improve those weaker skills. The finding of solutions to “problems” that exist within my skill set and also within my dog’s skill set. I like that when the mood takes me I can be as competitive as anybody but most of the time I’m looking towards the smaller goals of solving puzzles with my dogs. Whether it be obstacle performances that need to be stripped back to basics or just more polishing/refinement or a solid start line with a worried boy or overcoming my very awkward push to blind movements or ….. and these are the puzzles I love solving the most – learning the best way to handle something when there are many equally successful ways to choose from but you need to puzzle it out for you and that particular dog you are handling. My own abilities combined with my dog’s strengths are variable from dog to dog and this makes the handling and training puzzle even more addictive for me. And of course the positive reinforcement (highly variable – and it can be a long time between drinks) you get from achieving those said goals and seeing a happy dog loving what he/she is doing with you. When my dog get his “bark on” you cannot wipe the smile off my face.

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