Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Are You A Team? Part 2

I completely love Wanda's post! Wanda and I actually had a conversation about this last week. I have been thinking about it so much since we talked. I have been trying to dissect the relationship between Echo and me versus Meg and me.

Echo was brought home at about five weeks old. It was around Christmas and the breeder wanted the puppies gone before the holiday. I adopted her with the intention of doing agility with her but had no idea that I should start training her for agility prior to our first agility class. She grew up with no expectations other than the normal sit, down, potty outside. We celebrated when she learned to potty outside. We celebrated when she learned to sit. We celebrated lying down on the ottoman. She slept in the bed with us until she was old enough to be on her own. We were up every three hours to go outside and potty. We celebrated at 3 am when she pottied outside and then would come inside and just we would play for a little while before we went back to sleep. I never taught a recall because she was never away from my side. She learned from our other dogs. She developed relationships with them. We celebrated just about everything.

We enrolled in our first agility class when she was a little over a year old. We went to every class. We loved it. She barked constantly though. But we celebrated when she was able to jump, do the tunnel, go over the A-frame, and go over the baby dogwalk. We trained the weave poles by using stick in the ground weaves with luring. It worked and it worked quickly! She even eventually completed the 60 weave pole challenge, one of the same years that Surfer did.

Echo and I started trialing and qualifying. Our first trial was at Palmetto Islands County Park. I was sick I was so nervous. Echo was so excited I had to hold her in my arms to keep her from running into the ring while another dog was running. Then we started travelling with the LCDA group and we continue qualifying.  We won Steeplechase competitions.  We even qualified in team with "Boykin you hear the Echo" winning once of the big medals. 

We ran against other really fast shelties and beat some and came in second to some. We celebrated both. I had top competitors tell me what a nice dog Echo was. I had no idea. I just knew that we were having fun together. And we celebrated every run, whether we qualified or not. Then her physical limitations started becoming more and more of a problem and we had to pull from more and more trials. We underwent so much rehab trying to get back some of those physical traits we were losing. But unfortunately we had lost them completely. We retired. We. Retired.

With Meg, I had a plan for training her before she even came to live with me. I knew I needed to start another dog as Echo was having more bad days than good ones. I found a breeder that I connected with and that I trusted the structure of the dogs. We talked for hours on the phone. I decided on a border collie because I fell in love with John Reid’s S’more. I wanted that kind of dog. A mirror of Echo but in a sturdier body.

Meg arrived on an airplane from Ohio. We waited at Charleston International Airport for her. The club was having a board meeting that night so the entire board was awaiting news of her arrival as well. When she finally arrived in the crate I took her out and immediately fell in love. She pottied and we got back in the van and drove her home. She sat on my lap the entire ride home. The board wanted to know if she was a cute as a sheltie pup. I exclaimed, Yes, Yes, she is!

With Meg we started training immediately. She was doing 2o2o on the step in front of my house before she was 12 weeks old. We would drive to LCDA West to work just on her 2o2o on the bottom on the Aframe where I would sit with a bag of cookies and we would practice over and over again. We played the bang it game, learned to down on command, made the table fun so she would jump up and immediately lie down. We trained non stop. When I realized that everything was more interesting than mommy I had to train a recall.

We entered our first trial at 18 months with rock solid contacts and she qualified on her first standard run. When we travelled to FL to take our game on the road she still had those rock solid contacts. Then our fate changed one Sunday morning. The A-frame was damp and she had just been spayed about two months prior. However, she was given clearance by my vet to run at the trial. She took the A-frame and lost her footing on the damp surface, slipping down the end and tearing the muscles in her abdomen. I took her immediately over to Gaile Dailey, a doggie chiropractor at the trial. Meg tried to bite her. I had to hold her head so that she wouldn’t. I was in tears. I called Maria Glinski as soon as Gaile told me the likely diagnosis. Maria gave me instructions and an appt that Monday. I iced her immediately at the trial site and that night in the hotel. We pulled from the reminder of the trial and started rehab. I had broken my dog. I did not realize at the time how broken she was. We were in rehab for approximately 9 months. Maria told me that we could take it slow and have her whole or we could take it quick and have her injured again. We slowly reintroduced agility. We were able to start trialing again eventually, but her contacts were never the same. I have never been able to get those back. We have spent countless hours proofing. Great in practice, but non existent in a trial setting. I broke my dog. Not only physically, but I broke her spirit. We were not a team any longer because she lost trust in me. I am sure of it. I have struggled with this and continue to struggle. I have accepted that my Meg does agility because I ask her to and she does it on her terms. My terms will sometimes cause her to shut down. We have worked through that as well. We did not celebrate nearly enough. I had to re-train myself to celebrate everything with my Meg.

What does all this mean? That is the big question.

With Jack I have taken it slow by my physical limitations. This time my doctor has told me that I am not able to run until my neck surgery. I am not sure if everyone knows this and actually think that I have dropped out of the club. Not true. The truth is my neck is a bit unstable and the doctor wanted to do surgery the day after our visit two months ago to replace a disk and insert some plates and screws to ensure future stability. My insurance would not allow it so now I wait for December when the insurance will cover it. I wait unhappily because I cannot run my dogs. I cannot really train all that much except for very short 3-5 minute sessions. And no running. This may be a blessing as Jack and I have developed a different type of relationship. I was there when he was born him and cared for him for his entire life, just as Wanda did with Surfer. He picked me when he was a puppy. And I in turn picked him. We have celebrated a lot, in fact, every day together. He is rewarded by just my voice which is an incredible feeling.

So, he will not be coming out until 2013 and it may take us awhile to get things together, but I think he and I will be a great TEAM because we have built a relationship and we celebrate. That is what I think is the key.  I hope this is the key.  

Sorry for the long post, needed to put my input in here as I have been thinking about this way too much since I spoke with Wanda!

Kathy Price
Echo, Meg, and Jack
Bongo, Mr. Fixx and WeBe Jammin'


  1. Think about how many professional athletic franchises get a first round draft pick and it is supposed to fix their team and turn them into champions. It is not that easy. Teamwork has to be developed and maintained. Good post!

  2. Great post, Kathy. My heart breaks for the anguish it must've put you through to take the blame/responsibility for Meg's injury. It also puts our sport into perspective - our teams are about so much more than winning. They're about our relationships with our dogs, not just in agility but in everything. I know Muggle and I will never be a great agility team because I spoil him rotten trying to make up for whatever happened to him in the 18 months before we even got him! And I still feel awful when I do something that spooks him and he looks at me with uncertainty and mistrust.