June 6, 2012

Changes in attiTUDES....Agility Blog Action Day!!

Today is

The topic today is ATTITUDE

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Wow, I had a hard time with this one. Such a broad and really undefined statement. One word to work with. How can I focus this? 

Attitudes in agility and how I feel they have changed:
I started agility over ten years ago. Holy smokes that sounds so long ago. When I got bit by the agility bug it was still pretty young in the North East. Not many trials around and they were mostly one ring. They closed out fast. The club I joined was small but so so friendly, helpful, and welcoming. They had formed an "agility only" club. How cool is that! Like minded people passionate about the same thing as me. I  started going to shows way before we were ready to enter the ring so I could learn. I would put up my brand new shiny E-Z up (next to the excellent ring of course!) pop up my fold out chair and before I knew it there would be a group of us all sitting around talking dogs, strategy, runs, clapping for great runs, clapping for great tries, clapping for epic failures. I heard stories of how the sport got started, stories about some of the handlers that were starting to make a name for themselves in our corner of the U.S., and so much about what I was seeing (or not seeing) on course. We all started bringing food to share so I now popped up a table to hold it all. I found the agility community to have this great attitude of open welcome and the highest of sportsmanship.

I then had my second child and took about four years off from agility. In my opinion, things have changed so much since I have returned. The sport has taken on this feeling from camaraderie and sportsmanship to just over the top competitive. It was a sea of many different breeds all joined in a common goal (them against the course) to a sea of border collies all against each other. From ringside analysis to help better ourselves to a "better than the Jones'" comparing with many negative comments heard (sometimes loudly) ringside.  From "my dog and I need more training" to "your (dog, kid, food, ring crew, show here last week, judge, etc.) ruined my Q." And since I am on my soap box....since when did people STOP picking up their dogs excrement!?!
Now in all honesty this is a generalization. There are always those few bad apples that can ruin the atmosphere or just your day at a show. Just this last weekend I had the complete opposite experience. We had Dan Dege in as one of the trial judges. He is a former USA world team coach and his Excellent standard course was of international caliber. Needless to say not a lot of Q's coming out of that ring but the atmosphere around that ring was AMAZING! The cheers, the groans, the encouragement it was so very electric and inspiring. It caused many of the Novice people to turn and look ;-) Then at the end of the day in Time 2 Beat my 8 year old daughter ran a friends very fast but mostly retired border collie. She has been letting us 'borrow' Blast for a while in the Jr. Handler class I teach, so Rayce has worked with him before. She was so excited and nervous but she did great! Not clean, a few bars and two wrong courses but not bad for her first time in the ring. The response to her run ring side was so generous and loud that Rayce kept looking around wondering if there was a MACH run they were cheering for lol and she just didn't get why they were cheering she didn't Q? As a mom, it brought tears to my eyes and made my heart swell again for my fellow agility competitors.


 More changes in AttiTUDES:
Which brings me to my next observation about attitudes. Kids and agility. Again way back when I started there were no families or very very few of them around and the attitude of 'most' of the female handlers of the time were not very kid friendly. There were many comments and down right nasty comments made to the few brave souls that dragged their young kids along so mom or mom and dad could enjoy their passion with their family. My daughter was at her first trial at the tender age of 4 weeks. I walked one of my courses while she breast fed with a blanket covering her. Now, there was the occasional teasing of double handling (grin) but there was also the nasty "that thing is leaving it's sent all over the course" to which I smiled and ignored them. Over time the presence of families and children at agility shows have continued to grow in the North East. Now, many handlers that do not have access to children to desensitize their dogs use ours. Our kids are working in the rings, they are meeting and greeting other adult handlers, and finding their own camaraderie with each other. Us parents of the agility latch key kids work hard to make sure that our kids are good ambassadors for kids in agility. Mine learned very early, you always ask before approaching a dog, you let the adult and dog pass first, you stay out of the way of practice jumps, you never hang or climb on the agility equipment, you don't run through a show site, there is no screaming around dogs, and you educate any other kid you see doing that. I make my self approachable by other handlers to let me know if they see something they think is inappropriate by my daughter. I don't allow the kids of other handlers to get away with making bad choices and you know what, all the kids tend to hang with us. They know I expect good behavior but that I will spend the time to talk with them, educate them about agility, and listen to what they have to say. Today it is not uncommon to see Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops working rings or a small group of kids hanging out together playing behind some tents.

AND that is a change in attitude that warms my heart since kids are the future of our sport. It will be our kids, raised on agility, that are the next generation of agility stars competing internationally and kicking this old lady's butt at Nationals!