06 June 2012

The thing about Attitudes.

It is not very easy to hurt my feelings these days. I have a very thick, leathery exterior from years of working outdoors, exposed to the elements. My feelings live deep underneath many rough layers, and if you are lucky enough to somehow have penetrated that hide, the kind of hide that most hand lotions don't even work on no matter what Gwyneth Paltrow suggests in her kind vegan voice and that is probably due for some work by Hollywood's least shaky handed plastic surgeon if I wasn't freaked out by doctors and scars, then you are probably someone I respect very much.

When I started out doing agility, I was a tongue tied, stumbling, flopping fish out of water. I couldn't even begin wrap my brain around the footwear issue. I parked in the wrong spot and couldn't figure out rear cross. I was the only one who couldn't do the gamble and didn't have room to set up practice weave poles at home. My dog would charge after motorcycles and skateboarders and pretty much anyone or anything that was moving fast. I followed instructions with the same mental acuity of a drug addled hamster and I didn't want to wear one of those little pouches that clips on to your waistband for easy access to dog treats because it made my ass look big.

Basically, I was not someone that anyone would think of as Promising Future Agility Star Who Should Be Encouraged.

I didn't fit in, and I wasn't any good. This was a whole wide new world and I felt like I had just fallen into some kind of rabbit hole where everyone had pants with zip off legs and a mini van filled up with complicated arrangements of cages for dogs.

I don't even know why I stuck with it. This is something that baffles me to this day. I guess there were a lot of reasons. I wanted to get good at something. I wanted my life to go somewhere different. My dog went all cuckoo for it. Fast running. It was a bubble out of ordinariness. Pig headedness. Control issues. A suppressed desire to wear polar fleece clothing.

My skin wasn't quite so thick back then. It was easy for anyone to give me one of those looks where you're all, Crap I Just Did Something Horribly Wrong But I'm Not Even Sure What it Is Because I am in This Rabbit Hole Where Everyone Has Really Bad Hair. You know those looks. Withering. Quizzical. Judgmental. Accusatory.

I got those looks. People give 'em with a roll of the eyeball. I probably still get them but the thick skin thing makes me teflon immune. People can say shit they sometimes wish they didn't. Me included. I can be a real asshole. Sometimes my mouth opens and things fall out that I'm not proud of. Splat. Out it comes. But this happens less. And less. When you're trying to learn how to do something, an ear full of asshole isn't helpful. Or those backhanded, sideways, sidewinders of passive aggressiveness, that sidle out of some people's mouths real smooth. I try to stay teflon immune to shitty words, and try hard to never let them pass through my brain and out my mouth and into someone else's head.

It's easy to be nice to dogs, harder to be nice to people. I look for people who can do both and go stand near them. Not like a lurpy creeper, but because I found my people. The way good people treat their dogs at agility, hell, maybe how we should treat everybody. Except for picking up their poop in plastic bags. Or screaming, "LIE DOWN!"

If you can be compassionate to dogs, I bet you can be compassionate to people too.

A lot of good people along the way said a kind word or helped me learn to be a better dog trainer and a better handler. Maybe they just gave me a smile and kept their mouth shut at the right time. They've shown me you can be a hardcore competitor and have excellent sportsmanship and just be a cool person all at the same time. Some of them have helped me over and over again and become good friends. Boy am I lucky to have them in my life. I may still be tongue tied, stumbling, and flopping but I am less a fish out of water these days. I don't have a mini van or wear spandex yoga pants with a tie dye dog shirt, but I do have lots of sneakers with sturdy treads and shorts with many, many pockets. I still am not a Promising Future Agility Star Who Should Be Encouraged, except I get a lot of encouragement because I hang out with a good set of people and their good dogs.

It's all in the attitudes. Mine and yours. Life is too short to be an asshole or to let one under your skin.

Many blog posts today by all kinds of dog agility bloggers with all kinds of attitudes in honor of dog agility blog action day. Read 'em here.


Unknown said...

Holy buckets you make me laugh out loud! It's interesting how you take the same topic that I write about but make it HYSTERICAL! Awesome.

AgilityFoot said...

I feel like a real asshole after this weekend, screaming at my dog while running agility courses. Was it worth the Q's "I" wanted so badly, not at all. My dog came up lame and now headed to the vets on Thursday.
I rarely raise my voice with my dogs and thought I was a good person to stand next to. Maybe not.

Loretta Mueller said...

LOVE THIS!!!!! Don't be an ass was my title...apparently that is a good word...ass...asshole :) Asshat? All of the above? :)

Nancy Gyes said...

Pawfect post!
I love having you for a student because of your teamsmalldog attitude, and it makes me so happy when Gustavo has as much attitude as he had last night!

Nancy G

team small dog said...

I will still come stand next to you Denice! Part of agility is Yell Louder.

When Gustavo runs like that in class Nancy, then we seem like on our ways finally to Promising Future Agility Stars to be Encouraged. And luckily because you are good people when it all goes to hell you still help us so we can keep trying to figure out agility. Also I am very useful to have around to use bravery skills to walk down the ravine with a flashlight to find mystery animals in the dark.

Amanda said...

Love this post. I am also still pretty hopeless as a handler but have met some very nice people along the way, which is probably why I haven't thrown up my hands and quit. I am not a very good runner either, but I think I am actually better at running than I am at agility. Ouch.

Leslie said...

this was perfect for today. thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughts ! I am right where you were and identify completely. Thanks for the inspiration !

Kathy Mocharnuk said...

It all really does come down to standing by the person that is nice to dogs and people :-). Great post!

steve said...

Laura - thank you, thank you, thank you! Great article.

As a fave Scottish band of mine says: ballboy says: "You can’t spend your whole life hanging round with arseholes".

I try to hang with the nice people - hope I can hang with you and TSD when Cynosports comes back out east next year.

Unknown said...

Is someone messing with you? Let me at them! Laura, one of the best things that happened to me since moving up here from So Cal was meeting you!

Terry A said...

this post brought tears to my eyes, you said some pretty important things. there have been so many people who have experienced the unfortunate assholishness of a few agility folks out there and it really can hurt. i'm dedicated to making things fun and encouraging those around me and watching it be contagious. love to see it happen, and it makes things go better for everyone when it does.

Anonymous said...

yep, attitude is everything. my skin is not tough, even though i am older than dirt. i am careful who is near me, because it rubs off.

Kristine said...

Oh wow. The way you say you were is exactly the way I feel right now. Please don't tell me I should start wearing one of those hideous pouches. Please?

I love this most of all:
"Life is too short to be an asshole or to let one under your skin."

Thanks for making me feel just a wee bit better about my shoes.

Alaska said...

"I didn't fit in, and I wasn't any good." Exactly the way I felt (and sometimes still do). You totally nailed it, including the part about the mysterious drive to forge ahead as a stranger in this strange land for some unknown reason.

Not a lot of assholes in my agility world. But man, I love my dogs, and I love just about everything we do together. They have the best attitudes of all, and I just like to stand near them...and near anyone who is nice to them.

And I really like reading your blog :)

minnow said...

Awesome post in every possible way.

Cedarfield said...

I try to make it a point to say nice things to people I know and total strangers at agility trials because everyone is so anxious about how they and their dog is doing and whether they measure up. And I feel so good when someone says something nice about my dog or my run that I want to spread that feeling around and hope that more people figure out how to relax and have more fun at agility trials. Does anyone else remember when agility trials used to be fun because everyone was bad and we were all stumbling around doing the best we could with our tiny bit of knowledge? Now we know so much and it still isn't enough.

CA Pet Palace said...

Let's just say you are not alone, still a lot of agility clique's out there, kind of reminding me of high school kids.. Experienced this today... some people... whatever.. :)