Monday, February 2, 2009

Agitiy For The Fun Of It?

I have a dream. In my dream, my dog Addie races eagerly over agility obstacles. To the awe inspired cheers and adulation of the gathered crowds she leaps in an effortless arc over jumps. She wriggles at the speed of light through long yellow tunnels, emerging with a wag of her plumy tail, ears up, alert, ready for the next piece of equipment. At the pause table she sits and waits, expectant eyes on me, primed for the signal to dash to the A frame. Ah, what a dream.

Reality came knocking when I signed us up for an “agility for the fun of it” training course at our local rec. center. We arrived early on an unseasonably humid day. We sat in the shade and watched as three women struggled to assemble thrilling looking pieces of metal, wood and plastic. I was beginning to get excited. Addie panted lethargically at my feet. Other dogs were starting to gather, sniffing, growling, barking. Many different breeds and sizes. All united in the common cause of agility!

After a brief explanation of the course, we got down to business. And I saw the error of my assumption: Not all border collies are natural agility athletes. As I glanced around, I saw dogs jumping as though strapped to pogo sticks. I saw frenzied wheeling and dashing; dogs seemingly on caffeine highs. Who had slipped that little white terrier an E? Had that poodle forgotten to take his ADHD medication? They were noisy, ecstatic, exuberant. And there was Addie, placidly dozing against my legs. She seemed to be in slow motion while the others were on fast forward. I was beginning to get worried.

Our first piece of equipment was the jumps. They set them low, and we were instructed to run alongside our dog squawking “jump!” enthusiastically. The couple in front of us proceeded. A large woman waddling, puffing in the heat, her dog bounce! bounce! Bouncing over the jumps. They met up at the end, the dog bounding into the owners arms, wriggling, kissing, both smiling widely. I glanced at Addie. Did I catch a hint of reproach in that sideways look? “Do we have to do this?” I sat her at the start of the course, pointing her nose at the first jump. I took her leash, pulled slightly, and she rose reluctantly to her feet. We began to run. Jump! I shouted. She jumped. We finished the course, and she wagged her tail, embarrassed, looking about her like a mortified child caught doing something good in front of her friends. I gave her a treat and fussed over her: “Good dog, Good dog.” She seemed slightly mollified.

In two weeks we looked at various pieces of equipment, and I began to see why they call it “Agility Trials”. Each time we got to the course, Addie seemed to shrink inside herself. When given the motivation, she can be speedy. She chases squirrels, deer and rabbits till she drops. But when I put her in a field with jumps, a-frames and squiggly yellow plastic tunnels, she became a sluggish lump. She just didn’t want to know. It took me two weeks , but I finally admitted to myself that it wasn’t going to work. Addie and agility were not compatible. Just because she has border collie in her blood doesn’t make her an agility dog. Her heart just wasn’t in it.

Thinking about it, we humans are all different, so why shouldn’t dogs be too? We all have our own interests and hobbies: art, tinkering with car engines, ballroom dancing, gardening. Some dogs are into the agility stuff, but others like to play ball or chase a Frisbee, or just lie snoozing in front of the fire. I now accept that Addie will not be an agility champion, even just for the fun of it. She is a doze on the couch champion, and I love her just the way she is.

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About Me

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I have been married to Andy since 1991, we have 4 daughters, 2 dogs, 2 cat, 4 rabbits (and various baby rabbits) and a hamster (not dead). We have lived in the U.S.A since 2000, and are citizens of the U.K. I miss many things about the U.K.(pubs, old buildings, red post boxes, church bells,narrow roads, a good joint of roast lamb with mint sauce, to name but a few) but I have grown to love the U.S.