Change

Every show we compete in changes us in some way, whether as a trainer or a competitor. It’s not just the results that have an effect on us but the happenings that occur within the ring gates. Each handling maneuver, successful or not, will be replayed in our thoughts over and over, assessing the perfections or what went wrong.

It’s really, really, really hard to walk out of the ring with a smile on your face after making a mistake, especially once you have travel a total of about 3,000 miles, been on two airplanes, and have been sleeping, eating, and breathing organic chemistry because your missing precious class time. But I did it and it made me a better competitor. I made a simplistic, baby-dog, newbie mistake and boy, it sucked. In that moment it was the most detrimental thing that had ever happened to me.

Later I realized that small mistake will make me a better handler. As will Seacrett’s three clear rounds and Karli’s weekend of fun. I’m a different competitor after nationals and after every show I partake in. That’s how agility works. Everyone leaves the show a different person than when they came.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a good or bad weekend, there’s a change that occurs. Something in the back of the mind the next time you walk a course and step to the line or there’s a new confidence. The point is, it really doesn’t matter how the change occurs, but something is different and that effects every run after that, usually for the better.

“A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to old dimensions.”  

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2015

So I started drinking coffee. Not because I like the taste or because it came from the fancy Starbucks kiosk on campus but because it’s 9:45am and at 10:00, I better be rainbows and butterflies. I am not a morning person, nor am I ever rainbows and butterflies. 2015 won’t be any different.
I guess it’s here where I say something revealing about my year but I’m sorry to disappoint, I’ll be doing the same thing as last year just in different places and with a slightly different attitude (one that won’t be rainbows and butterflies).
Off course I’m talking about my dogs. They’ll be with me everywhere I go. I can’t wait to embark on another journey. I can’t promise that we’ll win, I can’t even promise that I won’t be dead last. It’ll be fun though, and it’s already proving to be better the 2014.
It’s time to live the life I want and there probably won’t be rainbows and butterflies.

A Year in Review

10460503_10154427654880258_7438440730873384701_nIt’s funny how quickly we change; over the year, the month, the day. In reality, it just takes one moment to invoke change.

Looking back to the beginning of the year, so many moments, good and bad, changed my life. Of course 2014 was a year of huge successes, little and big, for every one of my dogs. Robber competed in his first national, Seacrett was named the Top Mach Border Collie for 2013, Karli made the European Open team, Phil made the podium at the British Agility Championships, became a member of 2015 WAO team and became the Games Challenge Champion (26″) at the US Open. For the dogs, 2014 was a year of dreams come true and reaching one goal after the next.

It wasn’t these success that changed me but the journey to reaching them. The dedication for Seacrett, the amount of time I spent watching YouTube, OneMindDogs, and training with Karli and Phil made me that much more proud of all the dogs. I look at what these dogs accomplished with the small amount of resources that I have and realized that it doesn’t matter where you train or who you train with, if you want something, go get it. There is absolutely nothing holding you back.

I am so thankful for the number of people I met over the year. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent bonding with the 2014 European Open team/coaching staff, but it was the other competitors at the event that really showed me what the sport was about. Everyone gathered around the rings in their matching uniforms, discussing, watching, congratulating. Friendships were born and strengthened.

I can’t forget about graduating high school and moving on to college. That transition has impacted my life in such a huge way and in such a short amount of time. In the week I spent at Juniata before classes started, I really put myself out there and made some fabulous new friends. I love the time I spend there. By far some of the best nights of my life have been spent sitting around, playing Smash Brothers, and making midnight Sheetz runs. I feel so at home in a diverse group of people.

And just like that, everything changed. 2014 732

The Perks of Being a Junior Handler

I legitimately cannot remember a time in my life when I haven’t been involved in agility. There’s pictures of a red-headed toddler sleeping in the dogs crates, swaddled in blankets and dog toys. That was eighteen years ago. Between then and now, somewhere in those eighteen years, I fell in love with the sport. I’m not quite sure when it happened. Maybe in the evenings when I took Kruiser to a Thursday evening class after school and everyone helped me memorize flash cards and multiplication tables. It could have been during my first run with Kruiser, I was six years old in Novice A. He promptly attached himself to my pants, I sort of drug him over to the tunnel, and gently flung him inside. Or maybe it was the next day, when he knocked me down off the start line, jumped on my back and the judge had to come get him off me so I could get up. I was hooked from the first weekend. We were off to a great start, weren’t we? I didn’t give up on. We eventually went on to earn a MACh, but let me tell you, he put up a great fight. He could do every obstacle, he just chose not to.

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I never went through one of those stages that the majority of kids go through. The “begin something and quit it” stage. Playing softball one week, swimming the next, karate after that, and trying a game of basketball. I played three sports, softball, volleyball, and agility. I didn’t stop playing till they made me and until they make a rule against red-heads in agility, I think I’ll keep playing. Quitting was never an option. Kruiser and I had our weaknesses, there were a lot of them, but I never left him for something better. Even when Tera came along, the first perfect princess. So what kept me going the whole time? The support of the agility community. Even through the ugliest of runs, everyone had something nice to say. The promise of a bright future. Becoming a better handler, trainer, and competitor. 

Hungary 709Back when I was young, some trials gave junior handlers a special ribbon or a medallion.After having a dry spell of two years without a Q, those ribbons and medallions were pretty special. I cherished them. I participate primarily in AKC agility. Today, the AKC offers an event for junior handlers. Fortunately, I got to compete at the event for three years before turning eighteen. I’ve had great success there and it’s by far one of my favorite events. I’m really glad to see this event growing and see more juniors participating in the sport. But juniors are restricted to this one event. They can compete in any event they qualify for, whether it be nationals, invitationals, international team tryouts, the European Open, and the Agility World Championships. There’s no limit to what we can do. I’ve competed in the majority of these events as a junior handler. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can do anything with a little bit of hard work and determination.  

College and UKI

I love the time that I spend with my dogs. Whether it be running agility, hiking, swimming, or lazing around the house. But there is big change ahead. In a few short days I’ll be moving out of my ribbon filled bedroom and into a dorm, with another person. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like my roommate. We’ve suffered through multiple AP classes together, but I am perfectly happy living alone. I’m only 45 minutes from home so I can go home everyday to see my dogs, they’re even welcome on the campus to visit me and do a little training (there’s a gorgeous courtyard perfect for agility). I won’t be giving up agility just because I started college. I may have to cut back but I still have big plans for 2015. I’ve been looking forward to the US Open, AKC Nationals, and International Team Tryouts. I’ve even started to break away from AKC and try more USDAA and UKI. Hungary was a revolutionary experience, one that made me realize that I need to find a way to run and train more difficult courses because my quaint backyard set-up barely gets the job done. So here I stand, with four dogs at my side, jumping at every opportunity to go out on our own and try some new things.

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Pupdate: Phil Harris

I remember a naughty blue boy that would scoot on his startline, suck into the weaves, and run across the ring to get on the dogwalk. He still does these things. But he has improved so much! I have to be satisfied with Phil, he’s a rockstar. He’s still a goober though, properly named Deputy Doopdedoo. Silly little thing he is, rolling in the dirt before every run. Just the look in his face says, “I’m a goofy goober, yea!” 

He knows what his job is, though. I have to admit how much I admire his weave entries now, I don’t always present him with the best entries. He is something else. I was reminiscing on his novice days. A short two years ago, Phil was still in novice jumpers, and it felt like an eternity until he got out of open. I had even ordered an ‘open jumpers for life’ t-shirt! I look at him now and see the adventures we’ve already embarked. I think England was by far my favorite. He held his own on those courses (and those weave entries)! He’s definitely grown into a happy little jumper, but there’s still more room to grow.

 

 

 

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European Open 2014

Everyone has a cute dream for when they ‘grow up’. For most, these dreams stay in the clouds because at Hungary 088some point in time we’re told they’re unrealistic. If everyone believed their dreams were unrealistic, this world would be a very different place. Those of us who chose to believe in our dreams, set a plan into action, turned our dreams into goals, and goals into successes. So sitting in my small, uncomfortable seat on flight 133 to Munich, I decided my dreams had far surpassed goals and Karli and I were headed straight for success.

My mom and I met up with some friends at the airport and had a lovely, uneventful trip to Salzburg, Austria where we spent the night and did a little – before heading off to our final destination, Taszar, Hungary. Salzburg was a beautiful town and the birthplace to Mozart, I was easily amazed with the parking arrangements, we drove into what looked like a cave, really we parked in the side of a mountain. There were street vendors, musicians, water wheels, trolleys, carriages pulled by beautiful horses, and the rare Starbucks. Salzburg was beautiful, but I didn’t come for the beauty, I came for the action.

Once we arrived at Puchner Castle (yes, we stayed in a castle/theme park) I was exploring, swimming, and agilitating non-stop. The rooms were the full Hungarian experience! My mom and I roomed together and we were practically roommates. Small, cot-like beds, very small rooms, a vanity mirror, an air conditioner, and a real key. Not one of the typical, plastic, US hotel keys. A real key one a key chain that you could hear jingle in your pocket. The best part was, we had our very own bathroom. Not your typical bed and breakfast. Each day we could come back, change into bathing suits, and relax in a variety of spas and swimming pools. There were at least 5 different spas and several swimming pools, inside and out. The best part was taking the dogs through the theme park after hours. Again, not your typical theme park. There were no rides or games. Just old building, some farm animals, and the occasional guillotine. With all of these cool accessories,  I met and became friends with the majority of the team. That may have been the best part of the trip. I loved getting to know some of the best agility competitors the United States has to offer. Between relaxing in the spas and exploring the theme parks, the team made of up people from all across the United States slowly become a close-knit group of friends. For this, we have to thank the fabulous Team Coach, Ann Braue and the Team Photographer Lisa Jack. Clear back at team practice, Lisa and Ann had different activities to help bring our team together and the trip to Hungary solidified that.

 

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Now, the real reason we all went to Hungary, the 2014 European Open! What an event it was. I was absolutely starstruck for the majority of the weekend. I couldn’t believe I shared a walk-through with Janita and Jaako. Lisa Frick stood next to me. Jenny Damm said good morning. I joked with some of the members of the Great Britain team. It was like someone placed me in the Hollywood of agility. After watching some of my favorite handlers run, whether they had a terrible run or nailed a course, I realized I belonged there. I worked just as hard as everyone else. Karli and I, as inexperienced as we are, we deserved to run at the European Open. Even though we left the event with four eliminations we were not the worst ones there, we didn’t have the worst runs of all the dogs, and I didn’t have to throw myself on the ground and have a temper tantrum. My little Karli, the jaws of the family, Toothless Wonder, Snappy McGee, she didn’t try to bite me once and I totally deserved it. Every mistake we made was 100% my fault. (Let’s be honest, Karli should really have hit that weave entry but…. nobody is perfect!) It made me realize that my backyard training doesn’t really cut it, but it didn’t do too bad either. So for next year, run faster, train harder, and bark just a little bit louder.

The time I spent in Europe and the people I met are absolutely priceless. Looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have it any other way, E’s and all. Look where agility has taken me, an 18-year-old high school graduate. Look where Karli, my small and mighty, has taken me.

 

There are so many more places to go. 

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