If I was adrift in setting goals for my dogs last year, I am even more so this year. Facebook "memories" reminded me about writing this post for Team Unruly called "Life Goals" and that was two years ago. I seem to be trending towards accepting my dogs for who they are, and wanting to change myself so that I can meet them there. Not that I have ever not accepted them for who they are. Not much turned out the way that I thought it would this year, for the good and...not so optimal.
Perri's year started off great, with continued and exciting progress in agility. We attended the Poodle Club of America National Specialty, stayed in a cabin near the beach, and earned two new AKC titles at that event. I will never, ever forget our time at PCA - it was my first time showing any of my dogs at such a large event and it was completely magical for me. Perri was as stress free as she gets in the agility ring, tail fluttering over each jump and running fast and with joy. Agility is her happy place, it makes her shine.
Perri's year was clouded over by her shoulder injury. The signs of the injury showed up in early spring and returned in autumn and as I have been blogging, we have been working hard on recovering ever since. I have no more hope for Perri regarding obedience and rally obedience. She needs time, maturity, and years of confidence to be able to work in the ring - and I need to focus on being even more confident of a handler for Perri should we ever return to obedience. Dogs are full of surprises, and I am willing to let Perri take me wherever she wants to with obedience...but for now my focus is to get her body in shape to enjoy the sport that she loves without re-injury: agility.
Molly's year has become about acceptance for me as well. I joked in last year's post that I wanted us to earn the C-ATCH and "get the hell out of Open", and we did do both of those things. We even almost made it to a C-ATCH2 and earned some Excellent legs. We qualified for CPE Nationals in 2016! Standard continues to demonize us. Trial stress continues to demonize us. Contact problems, weave pole stress. Our last trial of the year was so full of stress, likely physical (anal gland infection), it left me feeling so desperately that we had gotten nowhere at all since the last year. This year more than ever I am shaking off that magical "someday" of reliable contacts and stress-free focus and just accepting that we may have hit our ceiling of progress. A fellow competitor posted on Facebook a week ago that somebody told him something that meant a lot to him about his dog, that they can tell the dog is always happy and having fun in the ring. People tell me that about Molly at least one time per trial or more. Always, every trial. Three years nearly of trialing and I hear this very special thing at least one time per weekend, by people who don't even know her. I have gone to trial sites where I know no one, where no one knows Molly...and these strangers bubble over with the joy that my dog has brought them. It's not just laughing at a rowdy and out of control dog (which she sometimes very much is.) It is Molly's presence, she throws herself into all she does with 500% effort. A friend of mine said it in perfection, "Molly does everything with GUSTO." She does. So she is who she is. She stresses on weaves and contacts, and so do I. I need to accept that those areas might never be perfect, I need to stop being so cautious and nervous of a handler. I need a little more GUSTO!
And the best for last, my Ein. Last year I said that my favorite thing about the year was how Perri had surprised me by being a rockstar agility dog in hiding. Ein has come roaring back from retirement, from crippling ring stress, from his hip pain and rocked my world. His heeling is flashy and happy, his focus is like a laser beam, his tail is wagging in the ring. His "retirement" in Veterans took all pressure off of him and he has thrived. At ten years old he has learned a formal dumbbell retrieve. We have plans for 2016 that I literally thought was completely impossible. Ein has crushed every limit that I thought we had. Those limits were very real, and I was willing to accept them. I brought Ein back to regular titling class in World Cynosport Rally. He is over halfway to his ARCHEX. We will try AKC Novice Obedience this Spring. Ein will be my "Novice A Dog". It was always meant to be him. He is the one. Our journey together has taken some unexpected turns, but my little red dog is full of loyalty and surprises.
My focus in this post has been sports, but we have had a fun year on the trails and more than a few fun camping trips. I am proud of growing and learning to groom long ears on Perri. Molly tried dock diving , Perri has done almost 150 therapy dog visits. The sweetest feeling in the world was returning to a hike in the woods with Perri's healed shoulder. I love how my relationship with each of my three dogs intertwines, each dog helps me to be better for the other two. 2016 feels so full of "unknowns". I have no idea what I will be sitting in this chair typing a year from now. Only one way to find out. As Atticus the schnauzer would say, "Onward, by all means."