06 June 2010

A story with a beginning that includes foreshadowing, a middle that includes a heartwarming bit with a pony, and an ending where everything is fine.

Beginning Part.

At what point in one of those shit days do you abandon ship, give up, and admit defeat? When one cosmic sign after another keeps slamming you in the knee and waving cosmic genie dust on you that stains your tank top? I'm not sure what the answer is to that, but for better or for worse, I like to believe I'm the type that tends to, maybe after a bit of bucking up, throw the genie dust back at you, sweep, and then try to carry on, one way or another.

Potential signs of doom.

Gary has injured his back, perhaps requiring surgery, and is pretty much incapacitated. And I decide to go to a dog show for the day. Leaving him with only the best in terms of patient care. Otterpop and Ruby, scary therapy dogs from hell.

Alarm clock to wake me up for the dog show never goes off.

Rush out the door quite late to drive to Turlock, knowing that I have a 50/50 being the first dog in the ring with perhaps no course walk, and that dog is Gustavo.

Not wearing a matching ensemble or clean tank top due to this.

Not remembering to go to the bathroom before I left the house due to this.

Requiring a stop at a roadside porta potty that also apparently also serves as some kind of white supremacy clubhouse.

And then driving by a real time Bambi tragedy as a mama deer stood roadside nuzzling a dead fawn that had just been flung to the shoulder in a hit and run.

I did get to the dog show in time to get a course walk in, and it did end up that Gustavo was the last dog in the ring for the first class, instead of the first. The day was looking up!

The day then started looking down when in his first jumpers class, which was tunnel free, he had to run outside of the ring where some equipment was piled up, to get in a half folded up tunnel out there.

And then we had a snookers where there was a plethora of tunnels, and I made a handling error early on, leaving us with very few points.

And then came the part that I like to call the Epic Failure Portion of the Day.

Epic Failure.

My dog agility friends, I could go on with the minutiae of screw ups that went on in Team Standard. My non dog agility friends, these would bore you to tears. They involved weave poles and pressure, and let's cut to the chase. The run ended in it's middle, with Gustavo laying underneath a teeter totter. Because there's no hidey table in Team Standard. And when dog agility unravels in a scope so dramatically hideous, he likes to shrivel up and hide and so do I.

We retired to a hard plastic chair in some dirt, under a shady vinyl tarp. People would come by and complain about the heat to me, and I just sat there for a while, feeling quite foolish and weepy and like a loser with a Capital L. There were 4 of us Laura's at dog agility, and all day long I'd hear someone call out for Laura and I never knew which one it was. Probably not the loser one in the dirty and unflattering tank top. And I had the revelation that maybe, just maybe, all those signs in the morning, including the weird ocd portion of the drive where I kept making my ipod repeat the Camper VanBeethoven song Eye of Fatima, were the signs that this was it. It was time to quit.

Heartwarming Bit involving a pony, this is like a flashback.

This week, one of my favorite young riders had a meltdown when her pony was behaving like an ass, and she had just had it. Had it. Had it with her pony. Had it with all ponies. Was ready to be done. I would agree that her pony was behaving like an ass. Some of his reasons, I know. Others, I don't. We don't know what ponies are thinking and feeling. We can guess and frequently guess pretty good, but that's it. When you're in a team sport with an animal, all your best guesses and best training and best laid plans still result in an awful lot of damage control. And that's just the way it is. And when you're nine years old, and don't have the softest of hands, and don't like it when your pony puts his feet down and decides to not move, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

But what we talked about that day was being a quitter. About how when you get so frustrated, to the point of boiling over with weepy tears running down your sad kitten face, your choices become twofold. Quitting and packing it in, or not quitting and keeping on keeping on. And how you can be frustrated, you have a moment, pull up your bootstraps or chinstraps or bra straps, whatever straps you want, acknowledge that frustration, get over it, and then just got to keep on going. And that Rome wasn't built in a day and some people's Romes get built faster or fancier, but that your personal Rome might just be taking a little bit longer. But if you want to ride ponies, that's just how it goes.

And then the end of the story goes the pony started behaving somewhat better and the rider didn't quit and the next day went on to jump some lovely and higher jumps than she normally does and was joyfully happy and doesn't ever want to be a quitter.

Flash forward now back to dog agility.

Also I like to try to think about what Joe Strummer would do in this situation. Probably not sit in dirt thinking about quitting and whining. And if this was a movie, which Lost character would I want to be playing me? Juliet the doctor? Kate? Or Michelle Rodriguez? A no brainer. Which one can drive a helicopter! And got kicked off the show? The choice was clear.


So off we go again into a couple more classes. There are teeter totter and there are these blasted weave poles with funny bases that blow Gustavo's mind and there are guys on a roof with a nail gun. And we buck up and we reboot with some tricks and play around with his favorite toy which is a dirty old sock tied on a rope. And in he goes and does 2 more runs that totally don't suck. In fact they're pretty darn good. There is focus and there is trying and there is bravery. I hear all his friends cheer when he tips that teeter totter down and makes it through his poles.

We have practiced this. We will keep practicing this. When has my tank top not had a stain, and my shorts not covered with weird, mysterious splotches? We are what we are. We are getting better.

And truthfully, if this was a movie, I think I'd want to just play my self. Because if it was a movie, they'd give me a personal trainer and a voice coach, right? And if it was a movie, it would be one of those funny and gritty documentaries anyways, maybe with some little animated bits, and mostly starring dogs and ponies. With a soundtrack by Gary, who's back would be all patched up for good. It would just for sure have a happy ending, and that happy ending would have weave poles, and then fade out with me and all the dogs, who are all the best dogs, back home and everybody together, sitting on the deck with a margarita.

The end.


Agility Foot said...

Laura you looked so sad in the plastic chair holding Goo. I'm sorry you guys had a rough start. I thought Gustavo was looking for some shade when he ducked under the teeter. But things looked up for you guys and you ended up having some nice runs.

Jim said...

Ohhh! I feel Gary's pain. Literally! Bad news, bummer! Then the angst in your story; that's familiar too.

Elf said...

Yeah, I've had bawly teary times at agility trials, except I try to go hide somewhere where no one will notice that I'm bawling about something stupid and it's just agility for crying out loud and the dogs don't care and neither does anyone else, just me. Because I couldn't sit and listen to people talk about the weather when I get to that state; I would start sobbing right in the middle of the tirade and that would be the end of my opportunity to buck it up and get back in the game with dignity. Which somehow I usually do, and sometimes things even go really well after that. Like they did with you. I suspect there are a lot more of us having weepy moments than one might suspect.

Unknown said...

Hysterical! Great story. I have dabbled in agility in a past life, and you make me want to do it again. Hm...my Eng Bulldogs will be very concerned. As well they should be!I have seen some bullies doing agility and it isn't a pretty sight.

team small dog said...

I was so sad sitting on the plastic chair. Gustavo is really, really good at sitting on laps though-just as good as tunnels.

Next time I do a flash back I won't tell you, Mary.

Jim, you would know exactly Gary's predicament. I had no idea something could be so painful. He can only walk about 4 steps before having to lay down on the floor. Luckily he gets the MRI on Wed and then they will decide what to do with him. There is a lot of headaches with insurance companies and all that crap.

Maybe everybody has these days at agility. Maybe some of us more than others. Maybe someday, there will be less. Keep on keeping on.

Amy Carlson said...

You have probably seen this? If not, maybe it will make you feel better. There is hope!! Always hope!!

team small dog said...

Yes, I have seen her video, thanks for sending it. A lot of people have sent it to me, saying that same thing. I liked it that she kept in some of her tougher days in the beginning.

Elf said...

I hadn't seen that video before. Of course after 15 years, I know I'm not going to be world champion, but it is excellent that it shows what a mess things can seem at the beginning.

Maralise said...

I had that kind of day on Saturday and found myself sitting out in the backfield a bit trying hard to pull my *straps up and be a big girl ... you know, look up at the sky, feel a (slight) breeze and re-mind myself there was a big world out there outside of my poor head and painful perspective of that last run ... and think about what went Right. (Lots) I had no idea you were having the same kind of day on Sunday and was happy to share that patch of dirt with you, albeit briefly. And a breeze. ;>

I also thought Gustavo was seeking shade - like me. I was pole setting in the back during your run, and was literally crouched beneath an umbrella that I couldn't figure out how to raise.

Thanks for the story, Laura. And the pictures!! Made me laugh. MUST LAUGH EVERY DAY!