Happiness

Happiness (N): The state of being happy

Synonyms: cheerful, satisfaction, merriment, gaiety, joy, contentment

“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power in your life.”

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But my dogs, I find happiness in them. Each one of them does something special, unique to their own personality, and I love that. They’ve brought joy into my life everywhere I go. For me, happiness is sleeping in a big comfy bed in my second home in Maryland snuggling with my pups surrounded by tennis balls, elk horns, and stuffed toys. It’s sitting outside staring at sheep, because my dogs don’t know what to do at them so we just stare at them. It’s walking out the door every morning wearing mis-matched scrubs, coffee in hand, and dog on leash. And finally, it’s stepping to the start line every weekend, knowing there’s improvement to be made and as a team, we can grow.

Agility makes me happy and I’m 120% sure that my dogs also love it.  They really have no idea about anything but the obstacle that is presented to them or the wrong obstacle I probably just showed them. They really just like to do stuff. They don’t care what that stuff is, as long as it’s something and I’m involved. And that is really what agility is about, doing cool stuff with our dogs that make us happy.

I get really uncomfortable when this sport becomes more about the ribbons and winning (it’s not like we win millions of dollars) and accomplishments than it does about dogs. Agility is not a job, you can teach and train and lecture but it is REALLY hard to make a living off of pure prize money. This is not life or death. This is agility. It is learning and growing and for some of us, happiness. So while I may get frustrated that I was way too late on that blind cross, I know I’m learning and growing and taking control of my own happiness. I choose to participate in this sport and I love it. I’ve centered my entire life around agility and helping other’s dogs stay healthy and happy too.

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Fun?

Usually after every big event I like to reflect on the happenings, results, and my experiences. So as the fun of this years AKC Nationals comes to a close, I’m setting my work aside for a few minutes to reflect. There were several things that I enjoyed about this years nationals, one of them being my own personal attitude toward the event. I didn’t feel that I HAD to do well, and I found that I was able to enjoy my runs much more than if I struggled with every mistake that occurred.

This national was especially great for my dogs and I, we had phenomenal runs and I’m quite happy with the improvements I saw in all of my dogs. This is where I’d like to address the splitting of the 20″ dogs for round 3 Hybrid. Yes, both of my dogs were listed in the top half, and yes, both of them made finals. This was due to the fact that they both had smooth clear runs in rounds 2 and 3. Now, at previous national events, my results were not so great and I knew going into day two, I was not making finals or challengers. That’s just what the cards held for me that weekend. So as I joked with a few close friends, who had already commented on how well my dogs had done the day before and that I was with the “winners”, that I had come to socialize with the “losers”. Taken out of context, this sounds pretty bad, huh. So when I jokingly said this to my friends, I didn’t expect to have it be taken seriously elsewhere. This was in no way meant to be derogatory to any of the handlers in that ring, nor was it to be taken as an insult. There was some pretty spectacular handlers in both rings, two runs do not define what anyone thinks of a team.

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I apologize if anyone had taken my comment to mean that they were losers. I did not expect for it to be taken out of context or even out of my circle of friends. In reality, we all qualified for this event. The results play out differently each and every year. The past few years, I wasn’t close to making finals and who knows where I’ll end up next year. The fact of the matter is, one event does not determine who is a “loser” or a “winner”. My mom always used to tell me that no one will judge you for having a terrible event. Everyone has really terrible weekends and everyone will have spectacular weekends. Nationals is no different, I could have just as easily been eliminated in all my runs. We all watch our agility idols compete and mess up, get eliminated, etc. You cannot win every event but you can enjoy every event and isn’t that what this sport is about?

The one thing I love about this sport is the unpredictability of who will become the next  champion. Everyone has an equal opportunity to become the next AKC National Agility Champion as they enter the event Saturday morning. For most of us, Nationals isn’t about going to win. One of my favorite parts is getting to socialize with my friends from all over the country. That’s what keeps me coming back each year.

For those that didn’t know, Seacrett’s last 20″ run was her finals run. It was such an emotional time for me, having so many people watch as her 20″ career came to a close and a whole new era opened up for us. She really has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Does it really matter if you win or lose? Isn’t this event about having fun and loving your dogs? If there’s anything I do know for sure, it’s that all my dogs have so much love to give and where would I be without them?

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Great Competitors; On and Off the Boxes

Determining whether you win or lose, begins with the first jump and ends with the last. But that is not what makes a competitor great.

Encouraging other competitors when you yourself are having a great event, is what makes a great competitor. Encouraging others when you’re having a really crappy event makes a great competitor.

Laughing at yourself after the sixth off-course tunnel in a row rather than yelling, makes a great competitor.

Celebrating a good run, even with faults, and praising your dog, makes a good competitor.

There are a lot of things that makes a competitor great, and just as many that display poor sportsmanship. No one is being forced to play.

This sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it. And sadly, it isn’t always happy. Sometime’s it’s really frustrating, especially six off-course tunnels in a row. But if you’re not winning, you’re learning; and there’s always room to learn in agility.

I like winning, and standing on boxes, just as much as everyone else. Actually, it’s probably one of my favorite things, but it’s impossible for me to stand on every box. No one get’s to stand on every box. That’s why I love this sport, it’s really hard to know who wins before the last dog crosses the line. Determining who wins begins at the start jump and ends at the last, but a great competitor exists in and out of the ring, on and off the boxes.

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U.S. Open 2015

US Open 2015

Fast, fierce, and fearless didn’t exactly make the cut in my performances at the U.S. Open. Although, some of my runs held some combinations of the three. While I love, love, love the event, the courses totally kicked my butt (not that running 4 dogs was going to be easy anyway).

I’m certainly coming home with things to train but I left with huge victories, some that didn’t include making the podium.

A year ago, Phil never would have been able to handle the courses the way he did this weekend. I saw huge improvements in my training and in the way he ran with much more confidence than he used to have (even if it was to that off course tunnel).

As for Karli, we started the weekend with a sour taste in our mouths. Of course I haven’t been home to train much in the last few months but I didn’t expect the hell on wheels that she gave me on Thursday. However, the quick fix seemed to be letting her sleep loose. We’ll be discussing terms and conditions on who gets what blankets next weekend…

On a sentimental note, Seacrett got to run in a final, and it literally brought tears to my eyes. I’ve gotten to step to the start line hundreds of times and I’m certainly lucky to be able to do so. She’s not always the fastest but she always gives her all.

As for Robber, well, were having a good time! I’m always seeing improvements and I was impressed with how he handled some of the courses. He was the only one of my dogs to get over 25 points on snooker!

All in all it was a great event, I had a fabulous time with great friends, spending some time with my dogs, and watching some awesome competitors (and standing on boxes with them!).

Here’s to next year, to being faster, fiercer, and even more fearless.

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European Open, RUN!

Kaitlyn Renay Dreese, Karli (Border Collie, USA). European Open 2015, Rieden, Germany. Photo © Jukka Pätynen / Koirakuvat.fi

I’m leaving again, something my dogs really don’t understand. I can’t expect them to, I leave for a few days, come back every weekend and once a week. I really don’t like it that way but for some reason there’s a bias against students with four dogs living in an apartment. Who’s crazy enough to try and do that? I am.

College starts soon and all I can do is reflect on the nine days I lived in Germany. That’s really what happened. My mom, Karli, and I adventured through Germany (more accurately the airport) and lived. It is now one of the best trips I have ever been on, which is why I called it living. There was no down time, it wasn’t a vacation, I lived (how everyone should really be living life).

Kaitlyn Renay Dreese, Karli (Border Collie, USA). European Open 2015, Rieden, Germany. Photo © Jukka Pätynen / Koirakuvat.fi

It was miserably hot and usually I don’t tan very well, but I did get a really nice tan, so that great. The competitors were awesome, that was even better than the tan. I LOVED catching up with friends I’d met on previous trips and met some new ones. I am not a very outgoing person but I love the way agility brings people together (or maybe everyone bonded over how hot it was). It’s incredible to be able to see some of agility’s greatest competitors work through the process of how they want to handle a course and then be able to see them actually do it on course. That makes the trip worth it for me.

This year was different. This year, Karli and I got to run in team finals which was a huge milestone for me. That’s something I’ve only ever dreamed about. Standing at the perspective of a competitor, looking out into the crowd, everyone’s watching you and everyone’s cheering for you, even the other competitors. Everyone is cheering for everyone else to run the best runs they’ve ever had because whoever wins wants to be the best of the best, that cliche itself implies that everyone is doing their best. That’s exactly what Karli and I did, we ran our best, and it was AWESOME! Everyone was high-fiving and yelling and jumping up and down. It was incredible.

Kaitlyn Renay Dreese, Karli (Border Collie, 029 USA 1). European Open 2015, Rieden, Germany. Photo © Jukka Pätynen / Koirakuvat.fi

I am super proud of Karli. Who would’ve thought that my littlest, most vicious toothless pup would be the dog that showed the world how fierce she is. I mean, come on, how cool is it that I suddenly discovered that I can use a new handling technique in the team final (also, it’s was probably a little freaky, like what is she doing with her arms right now???). It was the summer of the airplane arms. Running all out and pushing it.

That’s what I’d like to call it, but in reality I’m totally trained to run for the Q. Oops. So now, I have to start training myself to run, hard, and not worry about whether or not I run clean and get those cushion points. So that’s what I’m striving for next. Rather doing what I always do and running to Q, I’m going to push myself to run full out and break out the airplane arms a little more often.

Here’s to the future, run fast and live fearless.

Kaitlyn Renay Dreese, Karli (Border Collie, 029 USA 1). European Open 2015, Rieden, Germany. Photo © Jukka Pätynen / Koirakuvat.fi

Expert NQ’er

There are thousands of ways to blow a gorgeous qualifying round. There are only about ten different ways to nail it, win it, or even just get through it. So let’s talk about those thousand of ways to just blow it. Sure, there’s the typical dropped bar, missed contact, wrong course kind of run but there are some really, really awesome ways to just absolutely blow it.

I’ve got a lot of first hand experience with the ridiculous happenings inside the ring. It seems to me that terriers find this a most satisfying challenge. There’s the ingenious lay on the ground and itch for 30 seconds, grab the shirt and tug like a maniac and self reward, and one of my ultimate favorites, the trip and fall. In the moment, it is probably the most humiliating things (I have fallen down in the most inconvenient of places), but later, when taken out of context, it is absolutely hilarious.

What actually counts is how the initial moment of humiliation is dealt with. The best reaction is probably laughter, but that rarely happens, because when you’re laughing you really can’t get up and run. But on a more extreme end of things, screaming is the worst reaction, dogs typically don’t like being screamed at, nor does the judge like it, and it’s the best way to get a whistle blown at you. I immediately go into training mode, trying knew moves and pushing a little harder. Later I learned to laugh, I really do fall down a lot.

There are also runs that don’t really end up being funny, they end up being that one mistake forever remembered at every big competition. Kicking yourself for two plane rides home over one, very small mistake. Those are the runs that last forever, the ones that effect every run after that. It’s a hard thought to put on the back burner. On a positive note, one never makes the same mistake again!

The entire agility community has one thing in common, from the first-timer to the world team member, we are all really good at NQing. Most of the fun of the sport is laughing at those funny moments, and enough of those moments builds an incredible handler, who is still very good at NQing.

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College, man.

In the recent past I’ve noticed a lot of things changing. I don’t exactly “go with the flow” nor do I like to “live on the edge” very often. I’m positive that every college experience required living on the edge, at least a little bit. I loved it.

There really wasn’t a time when I didn’t like being on campus, although I did miss my dogs quite a bit. I never would have thought that Hiking 3 (the coolest freshman group on campus) would actually stick together as friends for the whole semester. I never thought my best friend would be the nappy headed boy who drank too much Arizona Tea.

I liked having friends so close together, but I loved staying out till 2:30 in the morning, eating crappy fast food, and playing card games till someone fell asleep on the floor. (There was studying involved, that just ended around midnight..) Dragging myself out of bed in the mornings and eating Ramen for breakfast usually wasn’t the highlight of the day, but at least I didn’t have an 8am. College was fun. At least the first semester was.

Second semester was a slap in the face. Studying till 2:30 in the morning, no more cards, a lot more fast food, and those pants were definitely not that tight when I put them on last semester. I survived it, even with missing classes for two trips across the country and taking finals a week early to venture around the Netherlands.

I lived. I didn’t just survive through the year, I lived. I made friends, I stayed out way too late, I ate too much fast food, and fifty years down the line I’ll realize I ate too much Ramen when my cholesterol is bad. But I lived and it was freaking fantastic.

As for the summer, good times await.