She was adopted from Brunswick Animal Shelter for two reasons, mostly because our oldest boy wanted his own dog but really it was to fill a void. Within the three months prior to her adoption, our two older dogs crossed The Rainbow Bridge.
I found her in Paw Prints magazine, her shelter name was “Nala”. I took that as a sign given that my favorite movie is “The Lion King”. After visiting with her, I knew she was the right fit for our family. My previous experience with dog ownership taught me that shelter dogs can have some issues and I knew I would do whatever it took to make sure this dog became a member of our family.
We changed her name to “Scout” after one of the characters in my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Her name suits her personality just fine!
About a year after we had her, we discovered that she had an issue with other dogs – not just every dog, but those that were bigger and more easy going than she liked. Upon discovering this issue, I knew I needed a dog trainer to help us with these issues.
Re-homing her was just not an option. In our family, once we choose and adopt a dog, they are here to stay, despite the shortcomings or lack of training.
The trainer recommended we start agility class with Scout. According to the trainer, it would give her the skill to learn and build her confidence which would help with her aggression towards other dogs. Scout cannot be off leash so we signed up for “fun agility” not competition agility. The trainer placed her in the small dog class even though she is medium size (about thirty pounds).
When we arrived at class and met the other participants and their dogs, we were given a spot to sit off to the side. Scout was overwhelmed and scared. I could tell.
New people, new environment, a trainer that she wasn’t sure of and all these “things” (agility apparatus) out in the yard that she had never seen.
We walked the course first to get an idea of the order in which we were to run the course. When it was our turn, I walked Scout to the first jump and gave her a little jerk on the collar saying, “jump”.
She not only didn’t jump, but she refused to move. She balked at this strange looking thing in front of her. The jump was less than a foot, clearly, she could step over it if she wanted to but this was a strange environment and this was a strange thing.
She had NO clue what to do.
So I gathered her leash, placed my hands on her belly, picked her up and over the jump and said, “jump.” I did this for every single jump on the course – I think there’s about seven, including a tire jump.
Then I had to get her up and over the A-Frame which is about six feet at its highest point, up and over the catwalk – I basically carried her through this one – through the tunnel, the chute and finally, we were done! If you are not aware, the point of agility is to get through each obstacle, in the correct order in the fastest time possible. We certainly didn’t set any time records that very first day!
For Scout, the point of agility is to learn a new skill and gain confidence.
I knew from that first day that this was going to take a while. Over time, however, she learned to run and jump! She learned that I wouldn’t let her fall off the catwalk, that I would be there waiting at the end of the chute and the tunnel. Scout learned that going up and over the A-Frame wasn’t quite so scary. In fact, after several classes, she jumped off the TOP of the A-Frame!!!! (she was ok, she was having FUN!)
We take agility in 6-week sessions in the fall and the spring. After about three sessions, Scout got bored (she had figured out how to jump!) and we decided to move her up to the medium dog class.
As of April 2017, we are in our fifth (or sixth?) session of agility classes – I think we started classes in 2014 but I don’t remember if we started in the spring or the fall session. Regardless, it’s easy for me to forget how far Scout and I have come with working together to get through the course. You see, once she had mastered her skill, I had to master the skill of “leash-work” – maneuvering Scout AND the 20-foot lead through the course without “clipping” or knocking anything over.
Last Friday, Karen from Bender Photography came to take pictures of the dogs while we were running the course. It was these pictures that gave me the idea for this blog post –
Look How Far We Have Come –
1. “Relaxing” while another dog takes their turn. The “crossed paw” pose is her sign that all is well, she’s got this, she is calm and chill. She does his almost every week now, but she didn’t use to. #confidence
2. The jumps are set at 20″. That’s NOT where she started – remember I had to pick her up and over the little dog jumps and say, “jump”? Now, she clears them with ease – from a running start, up and over, just like she’s supposed to. #skill
3. Clearly, she has mastered the art of jumping. She is focused and has near perfect form – look how HIGH she goes over this one! #overachiever
4. Scout knows how to jump – you can see how high the sides are for this one – it’s my job to make sure the leash doesn’t get caught up. I use a 20-foot lead for agility class. So many things happening in this picture – keeping Scout on task, telling her to jump, keeping the lead out of her way AND making sure it doesn’t get caught on the apparatus.
5. She doesn’t have to jump high for this one – it’s a long jump. She does BOTH.
Look how far we’ve come since that very first session!
It’s easy to forget on the days that she balks at the teeter or the catwalk apparatus.
It’s easy to forget when she refuses to go through the chute or she goes around a jump instead of over it. I am thankful for the opportunity Karen presented with these pictures to see how far we’ve come with agility class.
Today, I want you to take a pause and reflect on how far you have come.
Are you struggling with your journey right now? Look how far you have come.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with money management? Look how far you have come.
Are you overwhelmed with any aspect of your life? Look how far you have come.
The life lesson here? When you get frustrated, scared, overwhelmed and/or you start feeling like you have no clue as to what you are doing –
Take the time to pause, reflect and look how far you’ve come.