Monday, December 9, 2013

2013... A year in WOW

And by WOW I do NOT mean World of Warcraft, in fact I played very little of that this year.

I didn't quite realise... wait let me rephrase that, I STILL don't quite realise what a phenomenal ride my dogs took me on this year.

But let's talk about WHY this has been the year in WOW...

The round that changed my life.  Before you watch this unspectacular, yet momentous round, think about this... I live in a small country with a tiny little Agility community on the other side of the world of all the OTHER Agility countries.  So what means a lot to me, might not mean a lot to you... but honestly I am not really going to care.

In 2012 I by some miracle, support and, in my own personal opinion,dubious selections, won a spot in both the South African Large Team and Individual competitions for the AWC. I was also on the South African Small Team, but that is not quite relevant to this story yet.

From day 1, when I picked my pony puppy, I felt a connection to him, I saw a light that no-one else could see until many years later.  As the years went by, I learnt to really appreciate the small things with Chaos, as the ride was a roller-coaster... a bumpy roller-coaster in the middle of a thunderstorm at that.  But the fruit of our works slowly accumulated and I was fortunate to end up in a really supportive, understanding and motivated Large Team in 2012 (thank you Helena, Annaret and Julie for this experience).

Up until the SA Champs/AWC Team Selection weekend, I had quite a problem with mental management.  I am not afraid to admit that.  During that weekend I had a rather thoughtful friend that did all but crumple my toilet paper for me.  Embarrassing as that dependence might seem, it did lead to me making the team, which lead to me having a life-changing round, so it is all good up to here.

Being realistic and all, I knew I wasn't exactly aiming for an individual podium position... let's face it, maybe 10-20 dogs every year really have that potential, but it just wouldn't be the same if only those 10 or 20 dogs competed for the title.  But we had a team that we knew could do well enough to matter for us (which we did, finishing 9th... the best finish since the SA gold medals in 2004 and 2005).  This is where my head-space, my preparation, my thoughts and my dedication went in the months leading up to this event.  I managed to run a (albeit not so pretty) clear round in the team jumping even... the next event was the Individual Jumping... and it very suddenly, harshly and fantastically hit me while I was in the queue... I have nothing to lose??? How cool is that??? (and yes it actually took me 16 years of competing in Agility to FINALLY realise that).  I started with a smile on my face, Chaos started with a skip in his beat and we ran the best round ever (up to that time, remember this is more than a year ago)... I ended up with tons of faults due to one small miscalculation, but it didn't matter!  I remember taking Chaos out after that round for a long and private celebration that had lots of happy tears and tennis balls.

While that was far from perfect, it was as perfect as I will ever feel again.

From that moment Agility bumped up 10 levels of fun, enjoyment, go, love, investment, commitment, laughter and competition for me and my dogs (no, competition is NOT a bad thing, I think it is fantastic for a good relationship with one's dog... especially competition against yourself).

Of course we have still had our ups and our downs.  Frustration, pain, happiness, humour and pure ecstasy just like before. But everything went to a next level.  Things I never thought possible, wins and losses that I never even imagined became a reality.  An experience that I could never put into words.  This last year has been madness of good AND bad, but one thing remains... I have to be so thankful to my dogs for their continuous commitment to our journey in the sport I love so much.  I won't deny that the National League wins, the SA Champ medals, the QC's and the World Team isn't very friggen awesome, but also the fun, the laughs, the dq's, the training and the cuddles is something beyond explanation.

To my friends (I won't embarrass you by mentioning names), my training partners, my husband and my mother... I could never thank you enough for your continuous support and I look forward to many more years of just that.

My advice to Agility handlers everywhere and anywhere is to Love and Live YOUR game and let the rest of the world pass by.  We are all fortunate enough to already take the best partners home, so nothing else matters.

Just to end of my year, Chaos and Volt rewarded me by winning their respective categories in the National Agility League and Psycho Kiddie Winks decided to learn how to weave...