My agility addiction started so innocently.
Years ago, when Sanchez was career changed from Guide Dogs for the Blind, I knew I needed to find a new job for him. My guide dog puppy class leader also taught agility, a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. I just thought it would be a fun activity to enjoy together, never imagining I’d turn into one of those crazy people who set their alarms for 4 am on weekend mornings to drive for hours to an agility trial.
I love Sanchez to no end, but, I have to admit, he wasn’t the best agility partner. He’s always been a dog who marched to his own drum, and that was no exception on the agility field. He often just wanted to make up his own course. But, I just fell in love with the sport as I continued to learn so much about dog behavior and training. (And Sanchez went on to become a fabulous freestyle partner.)
When I adopted Gina, I knew she had the temperament, work ethic, and athletic body of an agility dog. Everything about agility is fun with Gina. She tries so hard to please me and is incredibly responsive.
At USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) trials, she’s usually the only Lab entered in the 22″ Championship class. It’s a height dominated by super fast Border Collies.
I missed half of the season while nursing an injury (mine, not hers), and I was down to the wire to qualify for USDAA Nationals (Cynosport). I had two more weekends left and needed to run a clean Grand Prix run.
We had one of the best runs of our career on the first weekend. EXCEPT… her happy waggin’ tail slowly brought down a bar just after clearing it. (It’s a Lab thing!) It was the 3rd to last obstacle. After heavily rewarding my dog and playing ball with her, I had a total meltdown. I started to convince myself that I just wasn’t supposed to go to Nationals, for some unknown reason. Maybe, I just wasn’t cut out for it.
But, it wasn’t over yet. I still had one more weekend.
The pressure was really on. Western Regionals on Labor Day Weekend ended the qualifying period. We had two chances for clean Grand Prix runs, the local qualifier and regional qualifier.
WE DID IT!!! We ran clean for both!
The full honest truth is what I posted on Facebook… I almost never post my agility runs on my personal profile. I watch all the agility runs by fabulous handlers and fast dogs, and I’m very inspired to watch and learn, and I love them, but it doesn’t inspire me to share my runs with Gina. I watch our runs and it’s too easy to notice all the things I could have done better.
After posting, a comment came in from a frequent member of the world team that reminded me what truly is important about agility… “
Yep, our tails were waggin!
Having missed so much of the season, I’m thrilled we qualified for USDAA Cynosport World Games and honored to have made Grand Prix finals at Western Regionals. And, I have to admit, it was even more fun to add my own piano playing from my concert repertoire to the agility video below. (Yep, sometimes I play fast music in addition to calming music for dogs.)
Yea, Cynosport World Games here we come!!! If you live near Scottsdale, AZ, we’ll be there November 9 – 13, 2016. Come watch. It’s a free spectator sport, and you’ll be blown away watching all the fast, happy dogs run with their 2-legged partners.
We’re setting our goals and gearing up for a good time. It’s an indescribable feeling running a course in total sync with your canine partner.
Main Photo: Ian Coggins