Check

I have a wall in my bedroom that is chalkboard paint. One half of that wall is covered with inspirational quotes. Some from dog trainers, others from writers, and a few from Walt Disney. The other half of that wall is a list of goals. Most have to do with agility. Some big, some small, some long-term, some short-term. Each one has a small white box next to it, waiting to be checked off, complete. I have only ever checked two off, “EOJ 2015” and “Start a Blog”. That list is constantly changing; things being added, erased, or rearranged. That’s the glory of the chalkboard. It can be altered any time I want. And changed it has.

I got Tempi during a very hard time in my life. She was my light, and my joy. Yes, I had hoped to accomplish many of these goals with her, but her main purpose was to bring me the happiness I was missing. And she did just that. My goals with Tempi have changed greatly over the past year. I thought I could get her and make her a “world-team dog”. That, If I worked hard enough, we could that. Well, that didn’t work out. We don’t work well together. We clash. We get frustrated with one another much too easily when it comes to training. I spent a solid year crying after every training session, because I was so discouraged. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be that hard. But I am not one to give up, ever. So I pushed, and pushed to make her what I wanted her to be. That had the exact opposite effect. She began to hate the game, and so did I. But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t give up. I saw a light in her, and I still do. I just needed to figure out how to get that out of her. And I think I have, in my Mom. Tempi works great for my mom and they have fun together. Something I never did.

But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was giving up on her. And she didn’t deserve that. She deserved everything I could give her. I had goals and plans with her. How could I just toss those aside, just because she wasn’t exactly what I wanted her to be. Maybe if I worked a little harder I could get her there. Maybe. Maybe I’m just not a good enough trainer. I’m learning that that’s not true. That sometimes trainers and dogs just don’t work out. Other people do it all the time, get new puppies when the first one doesn’t work out. So, why couldn’t I convince myself to do that? Because I wanted nothing more than for Tempi to be my “world-team dog”. My partner, my teammate that I could check things off my list with. But, I’ve accepted that she’s not. That no matter how hard I try, I can’t make her what I want. Dogs have personalties too, and sometimes those don’t mix with ours well. So, I’m changing how things with Tempi go, and handing her training over to my mom.

Things can’t always happen the way you plan them. There will always be surprises, and changes. I’ve had to change my methods and my goals to fit my current situation. Because as much as you try, you can’t plan your future. But, you can change the way you go about it.

I’ve changed my goals with Tempi, but I still have those big goals, goals that require a dog. Do I really want to get a dog two years before I go away for school? Where does that leave my mom, in a house with 4 dogs by herself? That doesn’t seem fair. Do I take Zippy full time? Well that doesn’t seem fair either. And then fate happened.

A breeder I’ve admired for awhile has a litter that I instantly fell in love with. I’ve followed these puppies since the day they were born. It just so happens they have one puppy available. He’d be ready to come home right after I got back from the EOJ. I know, and love a dog from a previous litter of the same breeding. Things just felt right. That feeling in your gut you get sometimes, when you know somethings good? I had that in a major way. But there were so many “Ifs”. How could I guarantee that this dog would be what I thought he would? How could I guarantee it wouldn’t be a repeat of Tempi?

Well I can’t guarantee those things I’ve learned. And that sometimes, you just have to trust your gut. So, I’m jumping.

Introducing, Ignited Checkpoint “Check” 

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I’m hoping he will be my partner to help “check” those goals off my list. His name is also in honor of my first international competition. Something I hope to be able to do with him someday. But if we don’t, that’s okay too. You can’t assure these things. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try my very damnedest.

I’m ready to explore my goals, and this world with you Check.

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Managing

If you’re anything like me, you know good is never good enough. You can always improve, you should always strive for perfection (even if perfection is not attainable). Being good at something is never enough for me, I want, I need to be great. Whether that’s at school, or agility, or anything else, I never settle. Sometimes that can be a very good thing, a 4.6 GPA is evidence of that. But, sometimes it can be detrimental, in a big way.

It wasn’t enough for me to be here, for me to have made it this far. I had dreams of standing on a box. But 2 off-courses ripped those dreams away faster than I could have imagined possible. And I was crushed, I mean seriously crushed. I cried a little, okay maybe a lot, told my dog I loved him; and decided to go into Sunday with a smile and a kick-ass attitude. The course was difficult but you could tell by walking it that it was serious fun. I walked into the ring whispering to Zippy, “C’mon Zip, let’s show them what we’re made of”, and it worked. No we didn’t Q, another off course due to a late front, but it was good. It was fast, and connected, and in-synch. But more importantly I didn’t loose it after that off-course. The rest of the course was exactly how I pictured it in my head, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I was proud of him, not so much of myself at the moment, but of him. He was so good.

The mental aspect of the game is always what gets me. I’m learning to manage my stress, and it’s coming. Slowly, but its coming. After my final run on Sunday, I sat with my mom and Zippy away from all the commotion and talked. I verbalized for the first time my fear that I would never be able to manage my stress well enough to perform on a big stage. That I would only ever be able to get 1 or 2 good runs and then it would all go bad. That I would be the agility equivalent of a One-Hit Wonder.

Yes, I know this trip was about the experience, and having fun, and all that. And it was, it was amazing, and life-changing, and such a great learning experience. No matter how we performed, that was not going to change. But that didn’t mean that standing on a box would be the icing on the metaphorical agility-cake, as someone put. I so badly wanted that box. It was right there, we could have had it. I didn’t just want the satisfaction. I wanted the validation that I could do this, that I could manage my stress, that I would be able to accomplish my goals one day, that I wouldn’t always crash and burn after one good run.

I was crushed at the end of our run Yes, there were great parts of it. But I was so disappointed. I was so proud of Zippy, he performed so well under all this, all weekend. But I was upset with myself. And I allowed myself to be. After a 5 minute pity party I went back to my team with a smile on my face, and continued cheering everyone one and celebrating their small victories.

I’m still upset, but I’m managing these feelings. I’m allowing myself to feel bad, but also to remember all the amazing things about this trip, and all the things it taught me.  I’m letting this experience light a fire within me. A fire to be better. A fire to overcome these obstacles and succeed despite them. A fire to fight.

Stepping Stones

The first time. The start of something new. A beginning. This week has been full of those. The beginning of my international agility, my first time in Europe, The beginning of a completely new level of competition. This can be very intimidating and daunting, but also exhilarating.

Today was the first time I actually got to play agility in Europe. How cool is it that I even get to say that? A very rushed team practice led to blazing tunnels, a hop off the see-saw, and frantic handling. Not how I pictured practice to be. I had hoped to be calm and collected, and relaxed. Not the case, but maybe it worked out for the best because he realized that the see-saw is different than the ones in the States, and that he (and I) should pay more attention to it. Just those few minutes were all I needed to realize it’s the same game here, no matter the pressure or environment. It’s still the game we love.

Opening ceremonies was one of the coolest, and most surreal things I’ve ever experienced. It was just as I imagined it. All the different countries running in, holding flags and their dogs with everyone cheering. The energy at this stadium was amazingly intense. We laughed with our team and with people from all over the world. All here for the same reason. Claire, one of my team mates read aloud a pledge to all the competitors about sportsmanship and remembering why we came here. She was chosen because they wanted someone from the US because we’ve travelled all this way, and we’re the only country not from Europe, which is pretty cool. The Czech randomly broke out in dance at the end of the ceremony, and after much convincing, our whole team went out and danced too. We all laughed at ourselves, but continued dancing anyway. It was wonderful. I’m not much of a ceremonies person, but I could definitely get used to this.

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Then came Team Standard. Our medium team consists of myself, Claire, Gabi and Sinni, a girl from Finland with a sheltie. A pretty technical course led to some difficult decision making. But, after a big internal debate over going with my gut or going along with what most people on my team were doing, I stuck to my guns and went with what I know is right for me and my dog. I’m usually pretty good with this, but it was very intimidating seeing so many amazing kids handle a turn so differently than you, you start to wonder if you’re wrong. Go with you’re  gut. Always. It’s probably right. I learned this in the most amazing way possible. I went last on our team and had my all time favorite run, ever. It was connected, and tight and fast, and all around beautiful. And more importantly than that it felt good. It was nice to trust my gut and have it pay off. And pay off it did. I am so proud of Zippy for handling stress so well, and being there for me. We were totally and completely together today. Something that’s always in the front of my mind is connection. Today when I walked in the ring I sat down with Zippy and gave him a pat. As if to say, “We’ve done it. We’re here. Let’s do what we came here to do, and have fun little boy”. And have fun he did. The first two obstacles I felt a little shaky, all the nerves, but we hit a tunnel and everything seemed to click. My body relaxed and I just felt a wave of relief, I know what to do. And it was glorious, a phenomenal see-saw, threadle and awesome rear-cross to the poles led us to a wonderful run. Good job little boy, I’m so incredibly proud and grateful to have you as a partner.

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Team USA Medium is sitting in 5th going into tomorrow! Im so proud of all my teammates. We all shared each others victories today, and were so happy for one another. Tomorrow is Team Jumpers and Individual Jumpers. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds. Let’s go, Zip.

Staying Grounded

Today was the most laid back day we’ve had so far. A team breakfast followed by a team meeting was all that was planned for the day. Wow, I love my team. We all mesh so well together, and it’s truly wonderful. All of us kids, besides Kai, who wasn’t with us (sadly), went for lunch and walked around town. It’s so much fun to be around so many other kids who love the sport as much as I do. It’s so refreshing. We then went to check out the competition site and it’s awesome. Nice turf, bleachers, and a river path to walk the dogs. I can’t get over how different people behave with dogs here, they just roam free and eventually go back to their owners. It’s so interesting to watch from afar especially when we are so different in the US.

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We had our very first full team dinner, and it was a ball. Great food, and great people. We then all sat around and watched a video that Susan had put together, of people wishing us luck from back home. I got all emotional when mine came on. Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in that, not only my two videos from home, but from the outpouring of support I’ve felt these last few weeks. So cool. It’s so easy here to forget the little things. The things that keep us keep coming back to this sport for more. It’s not the trophies or the boxes (oh the box) it’s the feeling we get when we run, and so much of that comes from the people around you I believe. I was reminded to believe in myself, my training, and my dog. The hard parts over, now it’s just time to have fun. I need to remember that. No matter what happens this weekend, I need to remember how cool it is that I’m even here. It was my hard work and dedication that got me here, and that’s what matters. No matter what, we did it, we’re her.  And I’m so proud of Zippy and myself for that. Thank you for that reminder.

We get to actually play tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited. I get to play agility in Europe. How cool is that? The whole environment here is amazing. Everyone is so supportive of one another, and I love that. Tomorrow is Team Practice, Opening Ceremonies, and Team Agility. I will try to keep everyone updated as much as possible.

I will continue to remind myself to believe, trust, and most of all to Carpe Diem.

Successful First Days

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Oh My God I’m in Europe. This trip has already been so amazing, and the agility hasn’t even begun. An overnight, 8 hour plane ride is a lot and I got no sleep. However, that meant I got to watch one of my favorite movies, and read a letter from one of my favorite people. It reminded how far I’ve come, and no matter what happens, how far I have yet to go. I forget that much too often. The first day was rough, I’m not going to lie. 30 hours of being awake is too much. But, we finally arrived in Prague and it is gorgeous. So lively, and historic and beautiful. We found Claire, Morgan, their moms, and Susan the first night and went to dinner. Delicious food, but the best part? Zippy was in the restaurant with us! A fancy restaurant and Zippy’s laying down next to the table. I could learn to love Europe strictly for that reason. After going down 2, 1-Way streets the wrong way, and getting seriously lost, we finally made it back to the hotel and got to sleep. We woke up this morning after a much needed 10 hours rest, and walked around Prague some more. Did I mention how pretty it was? Again Zippy accompanied us on our touristy excursion, and it was so much fun. We got this adorable charicature done. A great memento for our time in Prague.

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We had planned on leaving Prague at 2 to begin our trek to Roznov, where the competition will be. After forgetting where we parked the car and getting 4 sets of differing, and all incorrect directions to the store we parked next to, we finally called a taxi and he drove us the couple of miles to the car. We were lost for close to 2 hours. (Are you noticing a trend?) Definitely worth it after walking with Zippy for 3 hours in the city heat. He is being such a trooper and dealing with all the stresses wonderfully. I am so grateful for him.

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And then, we got back in the car on our journey to the town where the competition will be held. Another 4 hour drive and we finally arrive at the hotel. We really are in the middle of nowhere here, it’s real farm country. It so different from anything I’ve ever seen before, so pretty. It so strange driving through a different country. I have so many questions:

Like why do all the city signs have tape over them, as if to say “Do Not Enter” or “Closed”, do the cities just cease to exist? I mean really.

Why are Germans such fast drivers? seriously scary. I’ve come to be thankful for our very low speed limits in the US.

We had a semi-team dinner with 3 members missing, but I met two more teammates, and they’re awesome. I still have two members to meet, and if the team members I’ve already met are any indication, our team will be so much fun.

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Tomorrow we are going to check out the trial site and get our vet papers all checked out. Team practice, Opening ceremonies, and Team Agility is all on Friday. Busy day! Saturday is Individual Jumping, and Team Jumping, and a party at the trial site afterwords that everyone goes to and meets all the different countries teams. I’m really excited for that. Sunday is Individual Agility and then closing ceremonies.

Someone very close to me told me to try and not let the week fly by, to remember each moment, and savor it because the week will go by so quickly. I’m finding that to be more true than I ever imagined.

I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from everyone at home. I can’t thank you all enough, it means so much. I can’t wait for the agility to begin! I will try to keep everyone updated as much as possible 🙂

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Good Enough isn’t Good Enough

Unstoppable Dogs

Sometimes I want to pick everything up and move across the country. Sometimes I want to drive to each corner, see everything with new eyes, listen to music, read books, hike– agility included, maybe, take photos, sit, think, breathe. Sometimes I want to chop all my hair off, and get bangs (thankfully I haven’t indulged in that just yet… maybe after the wedding). Sometimes I want to dye it pink, or blue. Sometimes I want to take everything I have in savings and fly to Europe.

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I think what I crave is change– extreme, mild, depends on the day or the week. The bad part is that sometimes I get that wish granted and suddenly I feel my heels dig in to the ground, and everything halts. Did I say I like change? I don’t really, I take it back. I like how things are, things are comfortable, things are…

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It’s Time

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The time is finally here. The time I’ve been waiting for. My very first international competition. This is not how i pictured it, it’s not the event I thought it would be, or even with the dog I expected; but isn’t that how most wonderful things happen, in the least possible way you would imagine? I leave tomorrow with Zippy, for the EOJ in Czech Republic (I’m excited just writing that). Oddly enough I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be. Turns out I’m more nervous about Zippy flying in cargo (AHHHH), than I am about the competition. I feel complete and utter excitement. Our last training session was almost a week ago, and it did not go as planned, post turns fell apart, as did rear crosses, and yet, I still felt okay. Instead of training this week, Zip and I have been hiking, and its beautiful. We’ve hiked almost everyday this week. Today, alone in the woods with him, I felt complete serenity. Serene is never a word I would use to describe myself, and still today, that is the only way to encapsulate how I was feeling. I thought of the competition and my heart no longer began to race, I no longer thought of all the things I could have, should have, done to prepare. I thought of the competition and my heart filled with joy. I hope to carry this feeling with me next week going into competition. Everyone has told me to not be nervous, but I wanted the nerves, I wanted the edge they bring. I thought I needed them. And I’m sure they will come when competition begins, but right now, I’m enjoying the serenity.