Western Regional Recap

I’ve been getting buried by other things, but I really want to get this out. Better late than never and its been written in chunks as I snatch time away from other things I “should” be doing. But this trip, long term, means and meant a lot. So I will make time to make my recap happen.

If you’ve read the blog at all in the last 6-8 months, you probably know that the Western Regional was more than a competition to me. It was a very important event in a much bigger scheme of our agility career. And it had nothing to do with our results, and everything to do with literally how we got there.

My goal was to put Phin on a plane, in cargo, and for both of us to survive the experience relatively unscathed. If we are ever going to hope to go to Nationals, or Try Outs, or anything in Capital Letters, ala the “Big” end of the scale, the ability to be comfortable flying is huge.

I was TERRIFIED at the thought initially, but via some guidance (thank you Daisy and Clear Mind online course), I came to the realization that it was doable, and necessary, to include in my overall goals. So, I took a deep breath, and booked our flight up North. Then tried not to think about it too much.

We headed out to the airport on Thursday. It was HOT and sticky and ucky, but fortunately it was late in the day. I got dropped off by Pete, and a very nice curbside Alaska employee brought us a cart for Phin’s crate. We made it to the ticket counter where everyone was very nice, though I had to restrain myself from physically intercepting the over-zealous ticket agent stuffing her face against the crate door and screaming at Phin about otters (flying into Monterey, of course, otters…). Fortunately he was far too over-stimulated to react to the shrieking lady, instead was looking straight at me like, “What the HELL do you have me signed up for this time?” I was able to take him out again for a walk and then back in the crate he went after TSA made sure he wasnt transporting any switchblades or lighters. I watched him go through the door into the secret airport baggage place, and I’m not going to lie, my heart was in my throat. Yes, I’m a thirty-something adult, pretty put together, who almost cried at the sight of her dog being whisked away by the TSA guy. Shortly thereafter I realized that while I had all of Phin’s travel requirements checked off, I didnt do the best job preparing my own. I somehow managed to not bring a current ID. I had an expired DL, which somehow, some way, got me through security. Then the long and agonizing wait to get on the plane. Again, thanks to my barely muffled hysteria, I also managed to then leave my expired DL and boarding pass back at security. As we were finally boarding I figured this out and darted back down there. They had it and said, “We called you over the loudspeaker multiple times, you didn’t hear us?” I mumbled something about a dog, and headphones, snatched my things out of her hand and ran back towards the gate.

Fortunately it was a relatively small flight, so we actually boarded on the tarmac. I was able to see him drive up the conveyor belt onto the plane. I told every Alaska employee I came in contact with that I had a dog in cargo. Fortunately, they all seemed to humor me for the most part. I was a pest until they brought me a little note saying he’d been loaded on the plane. At that point I said my secular Hail Marys and buckled down for the flight. Once we were airborne, I was able to mildly calm down as at that point we were all in.

We landed, and I unfortunately was not able to see him get off the plane which kinda freaked me out. I booked it out to the baggage area and just as I got there, a door opened and they wheeled him out. He was moving, so I was able to take a big breath. They said is this your dog, and as I nodded affirmatively they began gushing about how cute he was, etc. I said, “Oh thank you.” As soon as he heard me the shrieking sirens that only Phin can conjure began. “Mooooooooooooommmm!!!!! Get me the &%^$# outta here!!!” They looked shocked and told me how quiet he’d been the whole time. I laughed and thanked them.

Fortunately the airport was small, and all but dead, so I was immediately able to let him out of the crate. We headed to the car rental counter where I was able to cajole the very nice lady to rent me a car even though my DL was expired. She was my hero, she did not have to do that, technically she shouldnt have, but thanks Pamela for saving me when I needed something easy to happen.

We got our rockin’ mini van and we were off to Motel 6. Phin was understandably less-than-thrilled to be back in a moving vehicle, but after some bad driving we made it to the motel unscathed.

And the rest, in some ways is history. I could detail out our 14 or 15 runs over the rest of the weekend, but, I have a video of highlights that will do it justice instead. Lets just say he was absolutely fantastic and that I could not be prouder of how he recovered from the flight and ran like a champ. So, so pleased.

The trip back home was only half as traumatic, so I hope after only a few more times we’ll both be pros at the whole aviation thing.

He now is in the second week of our two week long “active rest” period. We are hiking as the heat allows, swimming, playing ball and working on basics. As in revisiting sits (“tuck”) and downs (“fold”). Many of his behaviors are not precise and my verbals are crap. So, no agility, but we are still keeping up some important stuff. No trials for him til October, though Forest will get to be special and we’ll be sneaking in a few one day-ers here locally to see if we can rack up a few more Qs towards his National qualification.

So thankful Fall is almost here. Trying to squeeze in as much agility as I can before my life is over by roughly the end of the year…


Aging – Agility keeps us young

This is my bit for the quarterly Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day.

When I first read the topic was “aging” I had many thoughts on what I could write on. The early age at which dogs are started in agility. The age of which many dogs are still run in agility, too many well past their prime, let alone comfort levels. I could go on a defensive tear in regards to the topic that seems to be big online right now–all the “young” and athletic handlers that are getting away without training their dogs on these “newfangled international” courses…. But I’ll leave all of those alone.

Instead I want to confess something. Not about my age–which hopefully remains a mystery thanks to my semi-athletic build and very greying hair!–but about what I’ve always believed and recently have come to change my understanding of.

I’ve always thought other people knew the secrets to life, including those who were older than me. Most everyone else had it more together, had it more figured out. That their feelings didn’t get as hurt as they were wiser and more experienced. That somehow as life goes on things just get better and you get tougher and well, you just “get it”. And by default, that means I myself am less emotionally confident or stable or experienced.

In some ways that “theory” still remains intact, but I have had quite a few experiences recently with many agility friends that has made me realize that we are all the same “amount of human.” People who have been doing this much longer than me, who I look up to, still get their feeling hurt by others. They still have dogs that can be very, very difficult. There is no magic bullet, via experience or anything else, that just makes the ride smoother. Its always going to be a challenge, regardless of how long you do this. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Agility is a crazy metaphor for the rest of life, and I am so fortunate to have stumbled upon it. The people I have met and the experiences I have had, and will have, will continue to shape me and frame a lot else of what goes on in my life. Even if it is “just agility”, we have no choice but to learn how to survive criticism and failure, how to deal with a situation you cannot fix or control, test our work ethic and dedication, how to befriend someone you just met seconds ago, how to be a good winner and a better loser.

This constant path of discovery, reinvention, testing and failing, patience and perseverance must keep us young somehow.

All of my best agility friends, both younger and older than me have helped me learn these lessons. Age does bring wisdom, but it does not reduce the humanness of us all. We are all in this together and our attitudes and passion for the sport are what define us, not a numerical label.

There are quite a few ladies out there I know, competing well into their 70’s and beyond. Two of them I had the privilege of sitting by at the Regional this last weekend. As they buzzed about with their multiple dogs flitting from ring to ring, I could only think that I want to be like them, many decades from now. Fit, and passionate and totally inspiring. Agility keeps us young. Keep on keepin’ on.