Over the past few months I've had the opportunity to not only focus on Walker Ranch, but also in seeking out and bringing back the joy and passion in working with and training my own dogs (which can sometimes be very difficult). At the beginning of 2016 I was to merge my home-based dog-sitting business with an existing commercial space (another business). It took a lot of time and energy out of me trying to figure out the right thing to do for not only myself, but also my clients. At the same time, I had been exhausting myself trying to work my own dogs...without a purpose. I had no idea why I was training them or what goals I had. We were participating in different types of obedience classes and also agility. However, I was never really getting anywhere (and had no idea even where I wanted to go).
I have had to dig deep and question myself how I could utilize my dogs as a platform to give back; or even a way to just bring a smile and joy to people's lives (including bringing that back in my own). That is when I decided to pursue a therapy journey with Settler, my young Dalmatian. It did not take me long to realize my older dog Chesnee would also be a tremendous fit for therapy work. And so began our therapy journey at Lucky Dog Company - it was a new beginning for us. A much needed fresh start.
At the same time I also enjoyed agility. Agility was the confidence building activity I started Chesnee in to help with her fearful behavior and also her separation anxiety. However, I never was able to find great success or confidence in the sport. I practiced with no intention of competing. Then, when I decided to give trials a go, I stepped into the ring untrusting, nervous, and with a huge lack of confidence. I had run Chesnee "for fun" but generally ended up with the same result. I was super anxious and my dog was stressed out. I stepped into the ring and always tried to leave my dog at the start line trying to make her think I had some type of motivator still on me. This weekend was different.
This was the first weekend I have walked away feeling good. Feeling restored and refreshed. Over the past few months I changed my training regimen. And although I sometimes felt like I was forcing myself to enjoy agility, I just wanted to prove that I knew Chesnee could run. Mostly to myself and mostly to help fight through an emotional past few years that made me feel I had made the wrong choices with her. I am thankful that Sun Coast Agility (where the trial was hosted) gave me a chance and took me on as their student. While I realized my foundations in agility were not very good, I realized my handling and knowledge may be even worse (and my confidence). I not only had to re-train certain skills, but I needed to change my mindset. I was full regret and resentment of the past. I was frustrated and felt I had wasted time.
Running Chesnee was a new experience. When I stepped to the line I felt a bond. I felt I trusted her. I felt I knew she would run with me. I did not need to try to pretend to her that I had food on me just so she would run with me. I felt more confident in my handling (even though there is still so much work to do). I felt my information to her was more clear. It felt good.
I also had the opportunity to run my young Dalmatian Settler. I am working on many things that take precedent over agility, but I was able to successfully step into the ring with a game plan. I feel clear on where we were at and what we need to do.
So I guess what I am trying to say is....this weekend felt like a turning point for me. It felt like a change of pace and it felt like I am finally able to start bringing the joy and passion back into training. Chesnee went three for four this weekend. Her three runs she qualified for she took first place. Her final run I had some handling errors. We still corrected mistakes and finished the course!