Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reflection on 2010 Achievement & Letting Go of Disappointment

Last year was a really big year for Vegas and I. We had hardly started competing in AKC agility and certainly hadn't got "it" together and I decided to push for AKC Agility Invitational qualification. After all, there's hardly any Danes competing, right? Um, it might help to remember our second AKC trial was just January at the Rose City Classic. The AKC Invitational qualification period runs July 1 - June 30. Yep; we had our work cut out for us for sure.

We trialed a lot. We even traveled to do it. We ended up at Argus Ranch quite a few times, Eugene over Memorial Day weekend, and hit a couple of three-day events locally, too. The AKC site shows you the top few dogs for free (by breed) but you don't know what order they are in or how many points they've earned. I paid for the report - a few too many times, probably. But it became a bit of an obsession, admittedly, and I was anxious to know how we were stacking up.
We had a ton of support from friends new and old, fellow club members, and people we met at trials. Others jokingly said they "weren't happy for us" since qualifying with their breed meant having to be into the 700s and higher to be in the top five.

So, we made it. The next step was waiting for the official invitation to arrive and sending that in a timely fashion. That happened in August and I sent it in within the time period. Of course I was trying to figure out how to get there. The 2010 invitational was held on the west coast in Long Beach, CA. But of course I had to drive there. Trying to fly a Great Dane and one who gets as stressed as Vegas does about being away from me was not an option. Add to that driving a big truck that doesn't get great gas mileage, I knew a significant portion of the budget was going to be in fuel. The clock kept ticking toward the trip, we kept on trialing with some successes and some heartbreaks, and ,meanwhile I was trying to sort out all the details. Having the time off work meant I was working more and stressing more - not having time off for many months at a time was tough. I started trying to find someone to travel with but kept striking out. I started considering drastic solutions toward my budget issues since saving for the trip wasn't happening. Everything from getting a credit card to withdrawing from my SEP-IRA account. Yeah, I wanted to go. Badly.

It was a big deal in many ways. Not only is Vegas my first agility dog, she's remarkable in general. We overcame a lot and worked very hard to earn such an honor. I wanted us to have such an opportunity. Vegas is a crowd pleaser. She loves people. A huge part of me will always look for opportunities to educate people, too. I encounter people way too often who think Danes are "goofy, couch potatoes." People don't think they are smart let alone agile and athletic. In addition to all of that, our friends Linda and Karen of Oregon Pet Supply had earned a spot for their first trip with Zena; our trainer and friend, Craig, was going for his last trip with second and fourth place Dobermans Risty and Tristan; our friend Debi was going with her Pug, Mia, for her first time; and many others. The Pacific Northwest is one of the fastest regions nationwide and certainly for the 24" class, and it's a huge group of people who crate together and band together for an incredible time. We earned it and the thought of not going was devastating. In the end, though, I wasn't able to pull it off. I just couldn't do something fiscally irresponsible. It was a huge feat for me to make that decision, the right decision, and break my own heart at the same time. I know Vegas had no idea, but I did. Vegas is a remarkable Dane. She truly is and most who know her and meet her see that she is, not just in temperament, but also in her drive, her athleticism, and her working partnership with me.

When reality set in and I began to accept that we were not going, I entered us in another trial for that weekend. I needed to be distracted. We competed in the Fleet Feet CPE agility trial in Turner, OR the weekend of December 4 and 5. Saturday was really hard as I checked Facebook statuses and saw Debi's regular posting with pictures of the courses, pictures of the maps, pictures of Mia, and photos of the crating space for the NW group. Hearing how things were going, knowing we should have been there, I won't lie about it; it was really tough. But focusing on friends and having fun with my girl in the moment got us through. Vegas was running awesome and ended up going 8 for 8 runs to make additional and significant impact on completing our CATCH title. That helped.

I can't say I'm not sad about it still, but I have to let it go and accept that life is just disappointing sometimes. There will have to be other opportunities albeit that will doubtful be with Vegas. This was the last year on the West Coast for at least five years. AKC has contracted with the same location back east for at least five years.

So having registered to, I was still able to get the goody bag put together by the AKC and sponsors, supporters, and others. A dear Pacific NW competitor was kind enough to pick mine up and bring it to me at a trial we went to later in December. Here's what our haul netted us:

Everything came in a sturdy, black business style tote similar to a laptop bag emblazoned with the 2010 AKC Agility Invitational logo.

Some day I hope to have time to put together a scrap book of our agility adventures and I know this accomplishment will be a part of it. But the bigger part of it is the smile on Vegas' face when she runs. Perhaps I'll capture the smiles of some of her friends and fans. She brings joy to so many people, especially me. In a 2010 retrospective, I am extremely humbled by how far Vegas and I came as a team. I am overwhelmed by how fortunate I am to have her in my life. I am amazed at what we have accomplished together, overjoyed by the teamwork we share, and brought to my knees at the thought of our joyful times ending.

For now, we enjoy every run. 2011 is another year. We are MACH bound for sure, but we are also focused on honing our team bond. I am focused on not pushing Vegas' body any more than is necessary. We've all but given up practice in favor of trialing together as often as we can and finding other outlets to play and exercise otherwise. Her results in recent months astound me. Our last two trials we have had a total of eight runs. She has qualified in seven of those. Here are the results for the 2011 Invitational through January 14.
We're the number two Dane team right now with many more good things to come. She's earned her first three QQs in the last month and is up to 88 MACH points. And we're having a ball. We are in sync. We are together. And we are joyous. Points, qualifying, and achievements are all for the human. The fun is for the dog, and Vegas is living it up. She loves the environment of the trials because she gets attention all day long every day we're there. She has that kind of spirit that draws people in. Most everyone she meets wants to say hello. An agility trial to Vegas is an all-day hands on event. That is heaven to Vegas; that and hanging with her mom. Those are the things I'm going to focus on this year - remembering what she enjoys most. I have my goals, but her health, happiness, and enjoyment have to come first. For now, we've got it all and the sky is the limit. I can't wait to review 2011 in a year and see what else our time together brings.

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