I went to a two day agility handling and training seminar last weekend. I handled Felix, exclusively. Yeah, the dog I just told you I wasn’t sure about doing agility with. The dog I told you I love deeply. The dog I told you is my limbo between sports; my what if.
And something remarkable happened. I didn’t wish he was Idgie (I wished she was his age, but that’s another blog entirely). I didn’t feel hopeless or even frustrated. I never once wished I was hiking instead.
Felix and I played agility for two whole days—way more runs than we’d ever have in a trial—and we had a damn good time.
We had an excellent instructor who has a mind for errorless learning and teaching so that certainly helped. I wasn’t even judged for being the girl to hang up the tug toy and bust out the clicker. Every human there was supportive and delightful. All of this helped. But there was something more. Felix and I, we melded. We connected, we jived. He dug it, and so did I. Together, a couple of times, we felt that thing that has become so familiar to me when it comes to Idgie. That thing people struggle to name. That thing I will call the buzz, the zone, the high. That thing is why we play this game.
The dog who went off toys for a spell after I accidentally hit him with one. The dog who didn’t jump for a month after he hit his first bar. The dog who has taught me, truly, the importance of reinforcement hierarchy, showed up and played no matter what the payout. He couldn’t even hear agility two years ago without losing it, and he chilled with me in the shade while barky young dogs played.
It proves true time and time again: whatever the struggle, there is an answer. One of my favorite passages from one of my favorite books come to mind:
If you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, the truth will not be withheld from you. —Liz Gilbert
I’m here. I’m willing. I can face and forgive. I’m ready, Felix.