21 August 2017

Dress for the success.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a dog agility competitor in possession of a good dog, must be in want of an excellent capsule wardrobe that mixes and matches based on weather conditions and dog personality disorders. A capsule collection limits you to thirty seven, give or take a halter top or two, most excellent mix and match articles of clothing that hang right, come in your favorite colors, facilitate extra fast running, and make your mid section look fine. Say it like this. F-i-i-i-i-n-e. There are no muffin top lumpy bits in the well constructed capsule wardrobe.

Kind of like the tiny houses, and Japanese de-cluttering, fewer clothes is clearing out space in life for more time to spend with dogs, or is just quantifying what some of us have known all along. The not wealthy have smaller houses and fewer things. Either way, it's called simplifying. Days are shorter than what they used to be. A capsule wardrobe requires no brain cells at dark o’clock of getting dressed, so brain cels have the golden opportunity to stay relegated to much more stimulating topics like fixing weird dispositional quirks of dogs. You just reach in the drawer, grab the first thing on top of the stack, and you’re guaranteed to look and feel fantastic. Just like how we want our dogs to feel. It’s what every busy dog trainer needs, not to worry about what to wear, but simultaneously not to look like a Crocs footed, mismatched psychopath strolling down the street in a little number both inside out and backwards, with visible mud prints and a tear in the sleeve the shape of dog teeth.

It’s also a truth universally acknowledged that everybody’s stressed out these days. Did you already mutter how you're “So stressed out” today? Truer words never spoken. Isn’t this one of the reasons we have dogs? Walking the dogs. Playing with the dogs. Petting the dogs. Supposedly lowering the cortisol levels as a healthier alternative to over eating massive amounts of sheet cake or having an opioid crisis.

Except that, now the dogs are stressed out, too. It's supposed to be exactly the opposite, dog agility causing prancing around proclaiming, “I feel great! I feel amazing! I feel like a true patriot!” while the dogs are earnestly slobbering and wagging their tails and flying off the startlines with ease. After calmly staying in place.

Instead, there are the dogs who come to the start line fade and go flat. Their bubbly effervescence fizzles like a sugary death drink left out to congeal in the sun. A lazy “S” of wrongness vapor visibly leaking out their ears whispers, “I've had enough. Get me off this start line. Get me out of this dog show. Get me to a beach or a couch or anywhere but here.”

Or the dog who comes roaring into the ring in a blaze of over the tippy top wackadoodle bug eyed frenzy. Who can’t hold it together enough to even sit down at the start line, who prefers up down and sideways all at the same time to sit, who’s wrongness vapor is jolting electrified hotwire zapping willy nilly also up down and sideways. Eyes bugging so far out of head that they are close to dangling in the turf, and their incomplete sentences just trail off at, “Get me...”

And how might one dress for this, you may ask? A good stylist always starts from the bottom.

Foundation is key in dog agility. It’s not all pivots and spinning round cones and contact positions on boxes. There’s no one size fits all way to train it. Maybe the dog who tends to flatline needs a lot more rewards for enthusiastic attempts. Maybe the dog who tends towards high volume explosive frazzling needs a lot more rewarding for a calmly thinking things through. Look deep in your heart to figure out what drives your dog’s pulse, then go deep inside your underwear drawer and find that one sports bra that fits just so, perfect. It’s a lady thing, gentlemen. Maybe you have a pair of boxer briefs that make you feel the same. You feel incomplete on wash day.

I don’t think there can ever be enough foundation in dog agility. More impulse control for the crazed. More playing for the undemonstrative. More sports bra for the jigglers. More fun, more tricks, more reinforcing the things that you’ll need forever that you don’t want to break. More noticing. Training things you didn’t even know you wanted. Things that you had a little feeling about, and then glossed over.

Do more of those things, because, oh snap, is that glossing going to come back and get you. Your future self is weeping, like they did when that one perfect pair of underpants was on sale, and past self didn't buy them in every single color (you do get a pass on underpants numbers when curating your capsule). The elastic will eventually fray and you’re left thinking, I knew this was going to happen, as the startline disintegrates before your eyes. More with the crazy puppy impulse control. So much more. More toys and games with the low key puppy. More playing! More love, more snuggles, more of everything. Mind the gaps and fill them up.

Maybe if you can help your dog feel like a million bucks, dress for success not the stress, there’s less fading. Less crazies. They know you got their back covered. You can cover yours with an upmarket athleisure hoodie with a pocket big enough to hide the toy and you're ready to go.

There’s a look at agility. Sporty and sensible, with the occasional tutu paraded out during team events. Not so many blouses and slacks. Tank tops and stretch bottoms stitched from fabrics bestowed with drag queen names containing the letter X. Lux Treme. Sup Plex. Moxie Flex. Cool Max. Junior cuts for the slim and wide cuts for the less so. All bodies are equally valuable. It took me a long time to become cool with dog agility-wear. While the ease of sloppiness was rad, the footwear thing and appropriate sporty pants was hard to get into. I ran in jeans and boots for a long time. Sometimes my beautiful dog Ruby, she of the crazy jumping, would crash through a jump and vanish to chase gophers outside the ring. It was embarrassing and I just wanted to blend. The subliminal art of camouflage was the ticket, if I could look the part of dog agility, maybe I could successfully play the part of dog agility. I bought neon colored running shoes with grippy soles and shorts that weren’t cut off jeans.

But my dogs still got stressed out.

Otterpop always wished all the other dogs would just go away. Agility trials would have been so much nicer for just her and her alone. Otterpop wanted to do all the things, and win all the things, but she wanted all the other dogs invisible. The more she had to deal with, the more stressed out she got. She sometimes fizzled flat until her very first tunnel. Once in a tunnel, the tube of invisibility, the other dogs disappeared and she was good to go. Never really fixed that problem. Just looked for the most convenient first tunnel and that was that.

Sometimes, too, we used the element of surprise. If I thought she was having a bad day, feeling a little overwhelmed, I’d leave her frisbee outside the ring somewhere random, and part way through a course, where she felt fast and confident, we’d just dive out under the ring tape without even blowing a kiss to the judge, and run off to frisbee. An investment in that confidence bucket, the potential of a course ending somewhere, anywhere, not just the very end, went a long way with Otterpop, who everywhere else in life, acted like she didn't give a f&*k. Almost always, I wore a pearl snap long tailed short sleeve cowgirl shirt when I ran Otterpop. Or a long sleeve t-shirt with her drawing on the chest. Looking like I didn't give a f&*k. That seemed like the right way to deal with her stress, and easy to procure without shopping at establishments governed by corporate robber baron management.

Gustavo, oh Gustavo. He of the on course alien communicados, he of the terrors of teeters and the tunnel vortexes. There isn’t just one outfit that goes with that. I tried expensive sweat pants from the snobby yoga lady store, I tried old work jeans and boots, I even entered the universe of gore tex waterproofing, not just water resistance, for Gustavo. I bought abundant red white and blue European dog team shirts from plethoras of fundraisers for the questionable cause of flying dogs on planes, and even started wearing shirts with cartoon dogs on them. I found the perfect shorts, during the peak of Gustavo’s agility career. Clam diggers, pedal pushers cargo style capris, call them what you will. Their breezy, bohemian chic thigh covering, plentiful in pockets channeled seaside afternoons sprawled, cocktail in hand, in hand painted Adirondack chairs at a Hamptons beach cottage and I had three pairs.

Eventually Gustavo learned how to negotiate the scarier things in life. The waistband got tight on those long shorts. The trade off wasn't too bad, years of carrying around cookies for random rewards had rendered the pockets stained and the organic cotton layers reached mid thigh. The agility became Gustavo's cookie and he was happy and confident to do all the things. Well, maybe not tables in public. But everything else.

Banksy has the over the top up-stress. I discovered stretchier nylon and spandex fibers for bottoms as my border collie grew along with my pants size from stress eating sheet cakes. Her craziness improved slowly, at about the same rate that I upgraded from size 8 to 10 to 12. I discovered, though, that those fibers with double XX names were more forgiving than Gustavo's cotton knee shorts. I have to run very, very fast with Banksy, so that nylon/spandex/vita mix blend served us both well. Now that I have stretchy shorts, I think I can handle a lot better. They also leave room for another beer.

It's time to make your capsule, if you dare. Empty your drawers, take all the things and throw them on the bed.What a mess! This is supposed to inspire you to start the editing and count down to the 37 items for success. So far, just in dog t-shirts alone I'm at 35. I also have 14 leashes and 26 totes and 3 really good sun hats. But only one pair of suitable sneakers. Not to be tacky, but what’s the worst thing thats gonna happen? Better dog training's gonna get you the best dressed award at the next trial? I finally will remember not to leave the house in Crocs? Dress for success, not for the stress. Avoid Ren Faire garb. God bless Crocs. And reward your dog accordingly.


Anonymous said...

Love this

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post!

Terry A said...

Your writing can inspire the heart to feel hope for the future again.