Is Winning Everything? – Part 7 – SUCCESS!

4 Jun

I started this series several years ago and have never written this last installment.  When I saw that the next Dog Agility Blog Event would be on SUCCESS, I knew that it was time to finish.  I hope you enjoy this and the other blogs on success!

I once was told that if you wanted to be “someone” in the agility world you needed to win something. To me…”being someone” was to be successful!  Winning something was not your weekly local trial, but you had to really WIN something. Something like Nationals, make it on the World Team, something BIG.

It’s not that I wanted to be “someone” as much as I really enjoyed teaching and presenting seminars.  How could I be a successful teacher when I haven’t WON something?  How I twisted that…one will never know!  When I find something I enjoy, I throw myself into it all the way. I LOVE teaching, it’s what I do. Whether it’s dogs and agility or kids and the violin, I just LOVE teaching.

Bria was my first Border Collie and she was the one that really made me realize the fun of the game. I had done “stuff” with Noodle, my English Springer Spaniel and first agility dog. We went to AKC Nationals 4 times and the Invitational twice. Granted we didn’t WIN, but we had a great showing and in my mind we were successful.

The first time I took Bria to AKC Nationals was in 2009. We made it to Finals and went off course. It happens, but I was so happy we made it that far. It was shortly after that, when I was told you need to WIN something. Who wants to hire someone to teach if they lose. Getting to finals is great, but you need to WIN. I replayed that run over and over in my mind for months.   Woulda , Shoulda, Coulda…but I didn’t and I didn’t WIN.

That year, I also entered World Team Tryouts. Going into it I knew that I had a good chance of not measuring in. For those that don’t know…to jump 18” at the World Championships, the dog needs to be 16 7/8inches or less at the withers. Well Miss Bria can measure anywhere from 16.5 to over 18 inches. Long story short, we have yet to consistently get a measurement anyone would comfortable replicating in Europe if we were to make the team. I had convinced myself that I would be ok with it if she didn’t measure in…but WAS I ok with it? On the outside yes, on the inside looking back on it…no.

One of my all time favorite photos and it just happens to be from that Quarterfinal GP run!

One of my all time favorite photos and it just happens to be from that Quarterfinal GP run!

The turning point in our agility career was at the 2011 Cynosports. I was running quarterfinals of Grand Prix and little Miss Bria, who rarely makes a mistake, missed a weave pole entrance. The FIRST thing that went through my head was now I can’t WIN anything. It went through my head before I even got her back in those poles. I left the ring, trying to hold my head high and telling her she was a good girl, but she knew something was wrong. The dog ALWAYS knows. I went back to my RV and just broke down. I had my pity party for about 20 minutes and then I said…this is stupid…I’m crying over a weave pole entrance and this is just a game I’m playing with my dog.   My dog who absolutely loves the game and could careless if we WIN anything.  Those moments in the RV, hugging my dog and crying was the beginning of OUR success!

We walked back to the arena to go play the crazy game called Gamblers. I can’t even explain my emotions as I walked in the ring. There was some determination but at the same time some I really don’t give a rip what happens. I gave it our all as did Bria – she even took an extra jump on the way out that wasn’t in the plan. I went out and had a party with my dog. You all can imagine my surprise when I find out that we WON the class.  I think by 1 point… I WON something at a Nationals, was I now “somebody”? No, I was still me and Bria was still “The Purple Puppy”

After that event I took sometime off, I didn’t show much, didn’t do much teaching, just had some fun time with my dogs. It took me a good couple of years to get that “you have to WIN something” conversation out of my head. Now the person that said that to me, may or may not have wanted to have the impact it did on me.

I have slowly started showing and teaching more and more, but still take good chunks of the year off.  I’m excited to start my 4-H agility group tomorrow night…17 youngsters eager to learn the game of agility!!

Agility is supposed to be a fun game that we play with our dogs, our dogs do this for us. They don’t care if they go to a show or just play  in the back yard. As soon the game isn’t fun anymore, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on why we play the game. Soon after that famous day in Kentucky, I started a new “routine” with my girls.  Before EVERY run…I bend over, pet them, say LOVA YA and then we’re ready to play the game.

Success…it’s not about winning, it’s about enjoying the time we spend with out best 4-legged teammate on or off the course!

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6 Responses to “Is Winning Everything? – Part 7 – SUCCESS!”

  1. Maria Matthews June 4, 2014 at 3:06 am #

    Agility is fun for all types of dogs, in our house our agility course is home made, but great fun for humans and dogs.

    • Steve Schwarz June 4, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      It is funny/weird how we get and are given these ideas about success. I still remember hearing from one of my students that another competitor wouldn’t train with me because I’d never put a MACH on a dog… But that is their problem – not mine! (interestingly they started training with me a few years later).

      But they never new the successes we experienced just getting into the ring and competing at all. Well we got our ADCH and funny enough took 4th place in 22″ on the very same Team Gamblers you won at our first Cynosports games. Sure I’m proud of those accomplishments, but there are plenty of other runs that were NQs that I’ll happily remember as successes!

  2. unstoppable dogs June 4, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    I LOVE this. 100% agree and have been there too. Glad you’re in such a good mental space and are able to enjoy the journey with your girl.

  3. Steve Schwarz June 4, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    It is funny/weird how we get and are given these ideas about success. I still remember hearing from one of my students that another competitor wouldn’t train with me because I’d never put a MACH on a dog… But that is their problem – not mine! (interestingly they started training with me a few years later).

    But they never new the successes we experienced just getting into the ring and competing at all. Well we got our ADCH and funny enough took 4th place in 22″ on the very same Team Gamblers you won at our first Cynosports games. Sure I’m proud of those accomplishments, but there are plenty of other runs that were NQs that I’ll happily remember as successes!

  4. Greg June 4, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Funny I was going to say the same thing Steve said – my wife runs our training center and is the primary instructor. Back in the early days, someone contacted her about classes and asked if she had put a MACH on a dog, because of she hadn’t, then they would not want to train with us. That’s a local version of ‘being somebody’ I suppose.
    The irony in this is that this person has dabbled in agility with probably half a dozen dogs, never finishing a MACH on any of them, and she did come to us for classes a few times over the years, after my wife finished her dog’s MACH of course.

    People get so caught up in this game we play with out dogs – you have the perfect perspective, and that is it’s own success!

  5. Mufaasa's Mum June 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Great article. I’m somewhat new (only been competing for a bit over two years) and I just started my second dog, and managing expectations has been far harder than teaching any obstacle performance or learning a new handling move.

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