I received this lovely, lovely email from a newsletter subscriber a little while ago, and am posting it here with her permission. I love hearing stories like this – and I'm so grateful that Cheryl allowed me to repost here.
How coincidental that you are asking for some inspiring content for your class. I read this article just days prior to finishing our very first MACH with my boy Hogan:
While it is an article directed toward parents, I found it a completely fitting and parallel scenario with us and our dogs. Many of us are “parents” with dog “children”. A lot of what is written really hit home for me, especially those 6 words, “I love to watch you play”.
You see, my boy Hogan is an almost 11 year old Golden Retriever. He's my first dog ever, let alone agility dog. We've been struggling for the past 8-9 years in agility to become that consistent team required to achieve a championship. Through those years I've struggled terribly with the mental game. I've seen and had training partners climb the ranks onward and upward, achieving success with dog after dog. I was feeling left behind and left out. At that time, I viewed success simply as getting a Q. It seemed that everyone else was Q-ing and running in Excellent classes, enjoying themselves and all gathering together with the camaraderie that I desperately wanted to be a part of.
Hogan and I were still in Novice classes, which run at the end of the day. We would get a few “good luck with your runs” prior to everyone else leaving and getting ready for going out to dinner. Sure we were invited, but we usually showed up late with nothing to celebrate. I ran those Novice runs thinking “I gotta Q, I gotta get with the program and join everyone else”. I didn't take those runs for what they were or should have been…enjoyable time spent with the most awesome dog in the world. I began to resent Hogan for not being good enough. He was (and still is) a wild child on course and at the time I just wished he would be more calm and normal like the other dogs (who Q'd). Still we struggled, encouraged only by comments such as “hang in there”, “he's a great dog”, and the best one yet, “it will all come together eventually”. How long was I supposed to wait for “eventually”? Run after run, year after year, trainer after trainer, we persisted through our struggles. Training partners came and went, and I learned not to judge our progress against anyone else's (although secretly part of my brain still does). My subconscious ruled our runs and ring nerves persisted. I tried all the tactics for calming yourself down and found listening to music prior to my runs really began to help. I found I could really focus on course if I had the rhythm of Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance” still in my head! LOL
Eventually we made it to Excellent on to the QQ journey of the MACH. On March 14, 2015 we found ourselves sitting on QQ #19 1/2. We had an awesome first run in Jww. We've been on a NQ jumpers streak for a while, so knowing we just Q'd Jww really put my head over the edge. We usually rock Std courses, but didn't want to jinx myself. I was so wound up with nerves and excitement, but I didn't want to pass that onto Hogan.
Prior to our Std walk-thru, I sat in my car, thinking about everything, the past years, the past runs, everything. Then, I remembered what I read in that article: “I love to watch you play.” It dawned on me. I DO love to watch Hogan play. From everything he does, all his quirky Golden antics and behaviors, I began to think about what I loved the most about running with Hogan. Believe it or not I realized I loved to watch Hogan play prior to our runs. He loves his tug toy, and will roll around on the ground with it and do “the Roach” over and over until he can get as dirty as possible! Oh how much fun he has! I often laugh out loud when he's doing that, and see that he makes other people laugh and smile as well. That was it. That was the key. I scrambled for a pen and wrote the words “I love to watch you play” on the inside of my arm.
During my walk-thru, as I went through the motions, I could see the words written on my arm. Seeing that visual reminder was so empowering and so calming. I kept seeing that reminder as I walked to the car to get Hogan. I saw it again as I put the leash over his head. I saw it yet again as I was warming up and tugging with him. As it was our turn to step to the line, I saw those words again as I removed Hogan's leash.
I took a deep sigh and released him over the first jump. During our run I would catch glimpses of the writing on my arm, reminding me to watch Hogan play, and remain focused and connected. We made it to the table..clean…..half way through the course. I took those few seconds to reconnect with Hogan and with myself and looked at those written words again. It's funny because the video shows me glancing down at my arm just before I released Hogan! 5 more obstacles to go. As we approached the last 2 jumps, I cued Hogan to go on with my arm held straight out. Again I catch a glimpse of the writing. He jumps and clears the triple. The bar is up. WE DID IT! OMG We finished our MACH! I patted and praised Hogan, grabbed the last bar and took our victory lap. When I shook the judges hand he was so surprised when I told him this is our first MACH and Hogan is almost 11 years old. We left the ring (with leash firmly around Hogan) and celebrated. All the while I'm catching glimpses of the writing on my arm, reminding me of what this is all about…Loving to watch your dog play.
This article and those words came into play again this past weekend. One jumpers leg was all that we needed to finish our ADCH. I took the time before our walk-thru to write those words on my arm again. I am happy to say we had an amazing and clean jumpers run. 2 Championships finished within weeks of reading this article. Was it truly the article that inspired us? Or was it the visual aid of seeing the written words? Or was it just getting a check on my mental game by really and truly believing what is at the heart of this game we play. It was all of the above, and then some. I know I just had the most amazing 11 years with a once in a lifetime partner and friend. I pray that we can be so fortunate as to have many more years and runs together.
Thank you Daisy for taking the time to read this email. I hope this article can be useful to you and in your upcoming class.