In dog agility there are many ways to achieve “success”. It might be earning a qualifying score with your novice dog, achieving a confident performance by your shy dog, or standing on the podium with your dog at the World Championships. Each can be a meaningful and significant accomplishment, and each can be a very challenging endeavor. I’d like to share with you my dog agility success story.
In order to succeed, the first thing you must do is determine how you will define success for you and your teammate. Once you have determined what it will take for you to be successful, you must make the decision to make it happen. This is the easy part. After the decision, the next step is to devise a plan, with realistic goals, to help you achieve it. Then you must commit to follow through on your plan. This is the hard part. I am a marshmellow grabber which means I like instant gratification. No matter how you define success, it is rarely achieved in an instant. Almost inevitably, progress is slower than you would like, and your efforts go seemingly without reward. You may even have setbacks. There are times when it is tempting to throw in the towel. But, you must remain intent on achieving your goals. If you set realistic goals, you can do it!! Remember your decision. If you want to succeed, you must maintain commitment. Make it happen!
Okay, so now for my story. For the last couple of years, I’d been hampered by several performance-limiting health problems. My doctors did not give me any reason to believe that these problems would ever resolve; the implication was that this just the way it was going to be…(unless I discovered the fountain of youth).
The 2011 USDAA Cynosport World Games were a turning point for me. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), at the event I incurred several acute injuries that, when added to my chronic problems, made it nearly impossible to compete. In addition to my physical issues, I was an emotional wreck because I had recently lost my dog Awesome. Awesome was always a source of inspiration, and losing him drained the life right out of me. He truly was the wind beneath my wings and without him, it was difficult to maintain a positive outlook. In short, I was relieved when the event was over.
Not being able to compete to the best of my ability was very frustrating. With all of these problems, what was my future in this sport? Not long before then someone had pointed out to me that I was old enough to be Daisy Peel’s mother…not long after that someone else mentioned that I was old enough to be Tori Self’s grandmother… Considering the state of my health, when I considered the youth, strength, speed and agility of the average competitor at an international event today (yes there are some notable exceptions), it was a bit overwhelming. I certainly was not getting any younger. Aspiring to compete at the international level again seemed unrealistic. If I hoped to compete at that level, it was going to take A LOT of hard work, with no guarantee of “success”. It was tempting to just accept the fact that international level competition was no longer a realistic goal, and admit to myself that perhaps I should be content to compete on less physically demanding courses. There was a certain appeal to that; it would be a lot easier! I considered other ways I could put my talents in dog agility to good use. But the very fact that international courses can be demanding is what attracts me to them; I want to be challenged. I have three very talented young dogs right now; I want them reach their fullest potential. A really intense, in-sync run with my dog over a challenging course is the very reason I do agility! It doesn’t even have to be a clean run…just one of those on-the-edge runs where my dog and I read each other’s minds and we make magic happen as a team. There’s just nothing that compares.
Decide, commit, succeed. I had to determine what success was now going to mean for me, and set realistic goals for my future. What I came up with would be a win-win situation, no matter what the outcome in agility: I decided that success for me would be to get my health back on track. Setting competitive goals was not realistic. I knew that I could not turn back the clock, but I made the decision to commit to becoming healthy. If I could achieve that, I would consider myself successful.
So, despite what I was being told by the medical community, after Cynosport last year I embarked on a journey to get my health back. It was a long, hard road that I am still traveling. This blog post is not about how I did it, the post is to tell you that I DID IT. I’m hoping the post inspires you to do whatever it is that you need to do to be successful. You must decide to do it and commit to making it happen. If I can do it, so can you.
My dog and I have just recently started back running together. We are headed to AKC World Team Tryouts this weekend and then the WAO Championships just 2 weeks after that. We are pretty rusty as a team, but the competition results are not what is important: I have already achieved success! Those of you that know me and know where I was at last year, and how far I’ve come, you will believe me when I say anything’s possible!