Saturday, November 15, 2014

it just makes my heart hurt ...

I err on the side of caution. This I know. I laugh at myself sometimes.

"I'd love to enter the trial in a month but Sally was sore a year ago at that time so I won't."

"I volunteered to work and Sally will be too stiff if she sits in a crate for the day - even if it would be after her classes"

"Oh Harri horse looks a little stiff, we'll go for a walking hack instead of the ring work we had planned."

"Oh you didn't leap up when I put my shoes on, perhaps you aren't in the right head space to learn something new - lets reinforce what you do know"

and so on ...

That said I am pretty sure my animal gang would pick playing  training here over some of the other options. Many years of listening when I see an animal in discomfort have left me with some doozy statements that rattle around my head at times.

"He's old, I want to show. What if he is never sound again?"

"She's not really lame, just uncomfortable"

"Do you think it's painful? Couldn't it just be mechanical?" (and the answer to that - no matter the species in sudden onset change of gait is a BIG RESOUNDING NO)

and so on and so on ... right down to "I can't see it" (umm playing ostrich helps no one here)

I am sorry if it was the only show you had planned. I'm upset for you if it is the only show you can get to in two months. I understand the devastation of withdrawing if it's a title on the line. Really, truly, I am and I do.

Seriously though there are so many reasons to respect what your animal's body is saying and NOT trial or show if you suspect or see pain or discomfort anywhere.
1. Your animal partner plays the competitive version of your sport for you. They would have just as much fun playing at home when conditions were perfect and you were in the best mood. We have a HUGE responsibility to consider their interests. And I'm going to take that further and add ahead of our own. That's right. We control what we do as a team therefore the onus is on us to make the experience as positive, stress free and painless as possible for the animal half of the team. (If we can do it for us too all the better!) They TRUST you to make the right call for them.
2. You may make things much much worse by pushing through it, whatever "it" is. That is not OK. (be grateful that's as much as I'm saying on this one)
3. If your animal is painful they cannot be themselves. Maybe they will be worse; maybe they will be better but either way it's not a true testament to the state of your partnership.
4. People who are new to a sport, or young, are looking around and up to everybody. What kind of example does it set if you will show a sore or sick friend? Don't be bitching to me about them or anybody else when they bring their dog with worms or that was exposed to kennel cough, or their lame horse to the next show if you are demonstrating less egregious examples of trialing animals not in top form.

I had a nice conclusion written up - I erased it to leave you this thought. If it feels at all wrong, At all like you are pushing it, if somebody else can see your dog or horse is not Quite Right if you get that sinking oh dear feeling .. even if things are  not absolutely clearly WRONG please let them stay home and recover well and wholly. Please. You make my heart hurt when you don't.

At the very least think about it.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Stress and Nerves

In an A HA moment of epic proportions  I may have tripped across a key to success (for dog sports and beyond) that I have never articulated before even as I live it. My theory? People who are holistic in their approach - seeing the interconnections between play, training and competing in dog land are better able to set goals that are achievable and make sense in terms of team development and will therefore be better able to be successful in the long run. How's that as a run on sentence? Awesome eh?. Bear with me, bare with me? Whatever... too busy thinking to check which is right here!

My working theory is largely developed from Face Book posts and conversations with a wide number of people in a bunch of different sports. So it probably has little, or maybe even no merit. But it's got my brain working. So maybe it will trigger some thought for you that will make sense; or help you think through your attitude in times or triumph or despair. (Let's be real - if you stick with a sport long enough - either showing or training you will likely get both ends of the spectrum!)

It seems that people who see their world in segments are less likely to be able to see the big picture and the value that can come from errors and mistakes, Their goals are tied to specific events and frustration with themselves and their partner builds with each failure to achieve whatever their goal is. 

Each mistake or frustration leads to another and the cycle of stress and unhappiness continues to spiral down down down .. the flames get higher and higher and people give up. Either on themselves, the sport or their partner - all of which SUCK.

Big picture people get that a mistake is a chance to learn. A show is a place to test yourself. An imperfect partner is teaching you more than a perfect partner ever could.

and there you have it - random musings as I try to avoid thinking about the coming winter! 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

eight years later ...

just a little over 8 years later and Sally celebrated her anniversary here by running with 10 other dogs ... she got a turkey neck... it was, in Sally terms, a very good anniversary.

It's impossible to imagine it was just eight years ago, and impossible to imagine it was only eight years ago that I first met Sally. The Thursday before Thanksgiving weekend she had been adopted into a fabulous home to be a second dog to a lovely couple. Their house was in behind Toronto's Seneca College and they were so excited to meet Sally. I quite honestly can't remember if I dropped her off or not. I suspect I did as I was so excited for Sally (Daisy at the time) and optimistic that this quiet little puppy would be a great fit for this amazing couple.

By Monday the adopters were hysterical. The puppy wouldn't eat, or play, or do any normal puppy things. They were terrified she was going to die. They begged the rescue I worked with to take her back. Instantly. Faster than instantly actually. I remember having to put them off an hour or two to finish some Thanksgiving something then driving up fully expecting to talk them through feeding little puppies. One look at Sally and I knew she was coming home for vetting the next day if she made it through the night. I was sure the puppy was dying.

I hugged them and thanked them for caring enough to do what had to be done and alked out the door, unknowingly starting a journey I had couldn't imagine.

Sally came to school with me - hidden in a crate under my desk I seriously thought about how I could go on leave to care for her. I took her to the vet after work and she thought the puppy was dying. My orders? Take her home and do what we did best. Give her palliative supportive care and report in daily.

Luckily my immediate supervisor had a huge heart - and loved dogs (in fact he had adopted William Wallace, another sad sack puppy, from me a few years previously). Sally was at work every day until after our Christmas holiday. Just over two months under my desk in a little bed.  She ate home cooked meals every two hours, around the clock for two weeks then gradually I started extending the night time hours - eventually getting her to 6 hours at night.

She was always so brave. She was always happy to see people and she was a total heart thief. It was a few weeks in that Big T announced the puppy would be known as Sally, would live, and was staying with us. He felt strongly that knowing she was loved was going to be what pulled her through. It seems he was right.

Much of her journey after she made the one year mark is in this blog. Life with Sally is not easy. But it is always adventurous.  That she has made the 8 year mark is simply astounding. Sally is Sally. Will always be Sally. Such a special girl.