Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

I originally posted this on Porter's Training & Trial blog, but he doesn't get as much exposure as this blog does...   :)

Some agility blogs are taking part in a Blog Action Day. The topic today is: If I Knew Then What I Know Now.

I may not be a “big time” agility blogger, but what a great topic! And a perfect excuse for me to tell the story of Porter & my first agility trial. Ahhh, the beginning... It was September of 2007.

My first agility trial with Porter was memorable, to say the least. It was the only trial I can remember ever being held in Lexington. It was a small English Springer Spaniel specialty (held outside) that had been opened to all breeds. One ring, one judge, one day. A lot of my instructors would be there competing. Perfect first trial, right?

Not really. We arrived before the first class started so we could be measured, maybe 7:30 am. I then waited until early afternoon for my first class. My nerves were outrageous. I took to the course & Porter & I did fairly well. Until the table. As Porter jumped onto the table, the judge blew the whistle. She then walked over & asked to see Porter’s collar. I raised his ruff and showed her the brand new pretty collar I had bought just for trialing, complete with a shiny brass name tag. She promptly excused us from the ring. Oops. I knew you couldn’t have tags on the collar, but I had no idea you couldn’t have anything riveted on there either.

I left the ring totally embarrassed. Due to my ignorance, I didn’t even get to finish the course! Everyone saw what a fool I was! Everyone knew now what a newbie I was! Everyone was looking at me with pity! Ok, not really, but that was what I imagined. John approached me to ask what that was about, instructors approached, strangers approached. The stress was building & I was about to erupt into tears. I barely made it outside the crowd before I did burst into a crying mess.

John, Porter, & I found a quiet spot where I cried it out. I sent him home, ready to steady myself as I waited for my next class. And wait was just what I did. We waited & waited, dog after dog, jump height after jump height, class after class. We waited until almost dark.

And finally they began to set our course, the last course of the trial, in the dark. Yep, the sun had gone down. People pulled their cars up close to the fence to shine their headlights into the ring. Everyone, except us novice folks, had long since abandoned us. We walked the course in the glow of the headlights. I was still highly embarrassed & was determined to make this run count. I had been there over 12 hours after all.

As we lined up to run, the judge announced that everyone needed to turn off the headlights so they didn’t shine in the dog’s eyes. So we ran our first ever Jumpers course in the dark. Porter missed the weaves twice, but I just went on, my day had been long enough. Come to find out, months later, we actually qualified in that run. I guess the judge didn’t see Porter skip those poles. Or she just felt sorry for us… But I ran that run just like I ran the first: completely terrified that everyone was watching us, judging us, critiquing us. When obviously they weren’t, not even the judge.

So back to the topic on hand: If I knew then, what I know now.

Well, I know now that no one was really watching us. And if they were, who cares? I didn’t know them, they didn’t know us. They didn’t know what struggles we’d had or how many trials we’d been in. They didn’t know I was about to throw up or burst into tears (ok, maybe they did know that). But my point is: I realize now how little any of that mattered. No one remembers that day but me. And I overcame it & learned from it. And I’ve helped others learn from it by relaying the story!

Porter & I have gone on to do some great things. And some not so great things. But we’ve done things. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting out there and training our dogs, enjoying our dogs, and learning from our mistakes.

Now if only I could realize all this when it comes to herding trials…

And I include these old photos below to show that it does get better! Perseverance pays off! You know, all those things people tell you that you don’t believe at the time. “If I knew then, what I know now!” :)

Our 2nd trial & first ever ribbons! Only a mere month after our first trial!

Still our 2nd ever trial: We even qualified the next day!

Our first Cardigan Welsh Corgi National Specialty (in April of 2008 - less than a year after our first trial!)

I think we qualified in both classes, earned a title, & received our CGC!


  1. Great story!

    When I first started training in agility, I didn't think I'd ever compete. I hate being in front of people, being watched, being the center of attention. But of course, the agility bug had bitten me, so I had to try.... I was a nervous wreck in Novice, butterflies galore!, but I quickly learned that NO ONE is watching! I'd step out of the ring and ask those sitting nearby, "Did I Q? Did the bars stay up?", and all you'd get was a "I dunno, I wasn't watching...." my worst fears were laid to rest...That is, until last year, when the need for double-Qs arose, and all the butterflies returned with a vengeance! I am my own (and Jimmy's) worst enemy :-)

  2. Great stories! We all need to be reminded about our early days. None of us entered the ring knowing much. If we pay attention, train, train, train the dogs and keep trying, we eventually learn something. I always think back to my poor first herding dog. Lots of talent in the dog and a totally inept trainer/handler. We made it through Started - eventually.

  3. Man, wish I had seen this, I would have joined in as well! Just might have to do so this weekend. (Is it bad that I can tell where all those pictures were taken?? LOL)