Discover Your Purpose
But the fact is, my friend expressed a common misconception about agility that affects many people. While not as bad as the customer that called and told me that she looks out her window into her obstacle-filled yard and is disappointed that her dogs aren’t out there running around using the equipment on their own (yes, I’m serious), there IS a mentality that we have to come to grips with, and that is agility is more than something that entertains us and works our dogs. I’m afraid most people catch the ‘agility fever’ without counting the cost of what it means to them, not the dog. The speed, the glory, the good feeling of seeing dogs flying over jumps and whipping through poles is something that affects anyone who sees it the first time, and does more for enlisting new recruits into the sport than anything else. But as much as we might want to admit otherwise, the purpose for agility goes deeper than our dogs. It’s also about our own character and personality. There is something we all seek for in doing agility with our dogs, and it’s often a “vision” that lies in a seed form in our heart. This applies not just for agility, but for anything we get involved in. Getting in touch with this vision and clarifying the reason why we do something is one of the keys to “sticking it out” when the weather gets nasty, distractions come, or when difficult challenges arise.
“Agility is like life…you have to take it one obstacle at a time”.
I have to admit, when I first started Affordable Agility about a decade ago, it rather ‘snow-balled’ into what it is now, rather than starting off as well-planned company of vision. Not to say that it didn’t have any. Vision was conceived in frustration, particularly over trying to make backyard equipment for the “agility fever” that I had caught. As a single gal who still holds a hammer up close near the head (the hammer’s head, that is), and who is about as confident walking through the aisles of a Home Depot as I would be walking the streets of India, trying to design a teeter-totter base for my dog was more than I could emotionally handle! I remember my pitiful attempt at building an a-frame. Would you believe I used a small hinged garage sale sign and nailed carpeting on it? My Springer Spaniel would either fly over it, or knock it flat. She was so patient with me back then.
It didn’t take long for me to feel that my dog was enjoying agility more than I was. What happened? Why did it sometimes feel like a chore to train? Why did I get involved in agility to begin with? What did I believe it to be? What was the vision of Affordable Agility going to be? Over time I got more in touch with the vision for all these things, and it helped me immensely.
I discovered, for one thing, that agility is more than just a fun thing to do with our dogs. If that was the sum and whole you would get bored of it, because while your dog appears to be in his glory, you yourself are doing soul-searching. Soul-searching, you ask? In agility? Well, if you’ve been involved in agility training for any length of time you have surely experienced the subtle affect that body language, tone of voice, and attitude has on your unusually sensitive dog. Anyone who has competed in agility knows, for example, what happens to their dog’s confidence when you feel nervous in the ring. Or if you feel insecure, how easily you can miss giving a necessary cue in time. Or if you are discouraged, how your dog runs slower. It’s like your dog is seeing right through you and reflecting everything you feel. Suddenly a sport that started off being fun (and still is) is also becoming a way of seeing yourself for who you really are! For some of us, this revelation can be a pivotal experience. How committed we become to the training process, and how we decide to work at it, is directly related to how much we want to use the method of dog agility to train ourselves and succeed in overcoming certain negative aspects of our character.
You see, in a fundamental way agility represents and contains the essence of what dogs were meant to do and what we were meant to do from the beginning of creation. Dogs are creatures of nature, and nature was created for man. Both are happiest when in a harmony of submission, dogs to their masters, and man to his Maker. Agility is a form of teamwork that exemplifies this harmony. Training dogs is fulfilling and rewarding, both for the dog who was created to work, and the human who was created to work the dog. This goes for any other act of ruling over nature, whether in tending to a garden or mowing grass, teaching students how to do read and write, or organizing unruly data into neat columns. Everything we do, done to the glory of our Creator, is honoring our created purpose.
So next time you go out to ask your dog to run through a tunnel, or leap over a jump, maybe you’ll get that exhilarating sense, as I do, that even the simplest things of life have profound opportunities to fulfill Divine purposes. I hope you will embrace the moment for all it’s wonderment, and learn all that you can from everything you do.
~By Pamela Spock
Also read: Get a Focus Plan: A gutsy top-down approach to setting agility training goals!