I’ve been out of the ring now for almost a year, as in, with no dog to run. I think this topic was meant to be more like “how do I train between trials”, BUT . . . maybe I have something useful to say, too. Here’s what the other dog agility bloggers have to say: http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/outside-the-ring/
Starting with why are we out? Several reasons combined to make 2014 a rough year.
1. Maxie has slowed down so much that, from 1st places almost every Q, he barely makes course time. For some reason he won’t, or can’t, run fast any more. After 2 chiropractic adjustments where the doctor said he was “badly out of alignment”, and I heard her pop his sternum back into place, I dare not push him. Also, since he had 12 teeth removed late last year, his personality seems to have changed. He’s not as confident, not as feisty, not as demanding of attention. He actually chooses to sleep in another room, for example.
2. And then, I tripped on a tree root at the agility field last December and tore the meniscus in my left knee. Painful, and after an MRI, 16 weeks of PT, and 8 months of sitting out, it still throbs and I can’t run at all.
3. Meanwhile, in late January my young, daring, robust, 50 lb. Lucky Lucy mysteriously disappeared, and after 3 months of desperate searching, the Orkin man found her remains under our house. Due to very cold weather, we never smelled her decaying. When my husband and son retrieved her from under the house, they put her in a box for me and I took her to the vet next day for cremation. The box weighed 20 pounds. Just skin, and bones. 30 pounds missing! I’ve suffered continuous grief and no closure there, as I still have no idea why she died. Time has done little to assuage my sadness. I miss her so much at every turn! At the mere mention of her name I still tear up. Her ashes are still in John’s trunk. I can’t bear to bring them inside. Going from playing fetch every day, admiring her beauty and insatiable joyfulness every time I looked at her, training and strategizing how to make my girl love the ring (she loves agility, just hates the ring), to no partner, no nothing, has left a gigantic hole in my life. Everyone about me seems to think I should just “get over it”, “get another dog”, “get back in the ring”, after all she’s “just a dog”, etc. The doctor prescribed “anti-depressants”. All such advice just makes me realize that grief is not well understood.
GRIEVING: I’ve learned that people are terrified of grief. Nobody knows how to behave around someone crying, how to console the bereaved. Where does one learn that, anyway? Who wants to be around a sad sack? That’s why it is easier, for all concerned, for the bereived to be alone. But I want to say, grieving is a very important process. Loss has an intensity shared by no other life transition: except maybe birth, shame, pride, and falling in love. It isn’t bad. It teaches you a lot about yourself - what is truly important to you. For me, it wasn’t agility, but affection, partnership, loyalty, devotion. Grief can actually be a way to stay in touch with those qualities, re-living the joy of fondest memories, feeling deeply the bonds of intense love. If loved ones were instantly replaceable, not long missed, (as in,, “life is too short to waste on being sad”), that would be horrible. What would that say about any one individual’s worth? The whole concept of a “cherished loved one” would be moot. This, my first experience of inconsolable loss, has made me better understand those who likewise grieve. My mother, for example, widowed 2 years ago after 65 years of marriage, breaking down sobbing at odd moments,with that vacant look in her eye now and then, is more understandable now. I see why in the old days widows wore black for a year – to remind everybody to cut them some slack, give them some space, don’t try to “fix” them. Let TIME heal the wound. One learns to live with loss – slowly! I also understand why some people can’t bear to talk about the loss. Even after years, it’s too painful. Some things are irreplaceable!
4. In April, amidst the bum knee, sick husband, and missing dog, I moved my aforementioned 93 year old mother to Baton Rouge and we are both still adjusting to her constant presence in my life – in an Assisted Living situation down the road from me. Lots and lots to do to help her adjust and I’m happy to do it. Doctor’s appointments. Social outings. Shopping. Repairs. Being on call. Trying to make her days enjoyable when she needs a walker to get about, can’t drive, is getting hard of hearing, is kind of stuck in the past, with lots of aches and pains, etc. Really makes me appreciate the 4 years I had of relative freedom from responsibility! And the ability to drive. Cherish your freedom.
5. Oh, and I must mention, my husband and I both quit smoking in January after his bout with a strange type of flu that kept him 15 days on oxygen in intensive care – another big adjustment. According to the doctors, I almost lost him. As of this writing, he hasn’t yet regained all his strength. He no longer sets courses for our dog club’s trials, and we’ve had to hire various handy men around the house, whom I get to manage. What with my bum knee and both of us doing lots more sitting, we’ve each put on about 20 lbs.
WHOA! Agility does keep the weight down – and that’s one more reason for none of you to ever, ever leave the ring! I hope you never have to.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE RING:
Actually, life outside the ring is a lot easier. I don’t miss the tension of packing up the motor home, long checklists, getting dogs ready, hours on the road, living through storms in a little tin house, dealing with dirt, soreness and injuries, jostling among all the people, the tension of watching the time, memorizing courses, performing the run, processing videos, beefing up my mental game, etc. – all very tedious, requiring extreme focus and total dedication, not to mention gobbling up the time. It’s a miracle anybody puts themselves through all that trouble. That so many do is a testament to how our dogs inspire us.
Actually, I only did agility because . . . . . how can one not . . . . . when our dogs beg every day to be trained and yearn for their turn, there’s a huge payoff in satisfying them. But I never acquired an “agility dog” for the sheer love of the sport. With Lucky gone, Maxie lethargic, Pepper content to be my “buddy”, and Willow too old, I don’t currently have an agility partner. Maybe when the dust settles around here, and perhaps if I experience another “fatal attraction’ with a motivated, athletic dog that wins my heart and demands my attention, I may well get back in the ring. Lots of my dog friends are getting new puppies, specifically to train in agility. It had it’s peak moments for me, and it would be a shame to waste all that I’ve learned. I wouldn’t trade my experience. I cherish every ribbon. Maxie is only 6 QQ’s away from championship, and I do hope we can accomplish that someday. He’s only 6. We have time. When my husband retires in 2.5 years, maybe we’ll head out west in the Motor Home and go trial hopping!
Meanwhile, friends, I want you to know there is life beyond agility. I frequently take my 3 papillons (Pepper, Willow, Maxie) to Mom’s nursing home for pet therapy visits. They are much admired and very popular, and Maxie still loves to perform. I’m beginning a blog on the “assisted living” experience – lots going on there.
And, I’ve been recording audio books for Librivox. (type Michele Fry into the search box to see what I’ve recorded so far). And I’m learning to create podcasts. Challenging hobbies, all, keeping me motivated, in touch with creative processes and surrounded by human genius.
So, that’s where I’m at right now. I just beg you all to realize that nothing we do or have is cast in stone. Pets. Homes. Friends. Family. Activities. Health. Free time. Count your blessings and cherish them all.
Upwards and onward!