a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Going To Agility Class

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Going To Agility Class

SUMMARY: I love going to agility class and here's why.
Agility class is way across the valley, up a winding road into the hills. At certain times of the day, the commute is a bear. And that long and winding road is, well, long and winding. When I first started (1995(!)), I desperately tried to get anyone at all to make that drive with me, it was SOOO long and SOOO far away.

After all these years of driving it once, twice, or even three times a week, I no longer think anything of it. Really, if weather and traffic are at their best, it's only about a 20-minute drive.

And I love going. Oh, sure, so very often these days I am stressed about how much I have to do and how little time I have, and if I were to stay home for 3 hours instead of going to class (10 minutes to close up the house & computer & get treats & such, 25 minute drive there, 15-20 minutes to potty the dogs and get set up, 90 minutes class, 15 minutes to take off shoes, put away dogs, etc., 25 minutes back down the hill... it adds up) then I'd be able to get so much more done.

But saner heads prevail (as in dogs who will be INsane if I don't go). Plus I pay for it whether I go or not. Waste not, want not.

No matter how stressed and overwhelmed I am before class, how tight my chest is on my drive up the hill, by the end of the evening I am relaxed, breathing easily, cheerful, imbued with a feeling of having accomplished something of value.

The evening is structured, so I don't have to make major decisions. I have to listen and watch and learn. I have to figure out how to handle a course--but with ample confirmation and assistance from the instructor.

Sometimes I'm frustrated with my dogs or myself. Like last night, that serpentine into the tunnel with Boost where she knocked the bar every time no matter what I did. Or coming out of the tunnel and wrapping over the jump, where she knocked the bar every time no matter what I did. Shades of some of my futile bar-knocking exercises at home! But I had an expert watching and helping who could confirm that I was doing the right thing, and identify what the dog was doing, and give some suggestions for later.

A safe, helpful, useful environment.

The view from Power Paws is stunning. Last night, instead of seeing miles and miles of sparkling valley lights, we saw only a swath of lights around the valley's perimeter surrounding a mysteriously dark center. We gathered at the edge of the field to observe, and realized that low-lying fog had obscured many square miles of homes and businesses. The instructor talked about some of the things he's seen in the weather patterns from their aerie on the top of the hill as we stood together, wondering and admiring.

And there are the friends. We chitchat a bit, we joke in class, we laugh often--far more than I do in my regular everyday life.

Last night we had a reunion of our old Wendesday Night 8:15 class, who got to be so tight together. Then Lisa's dog broke (structural issues), and I couldn't manage 2 classes a week any more so dropped that one, and Jenn got a new puppy and decided to focus on him instead of her older dog, and Ashley moved to the world-team class on a different night...

But last night we all came up to celebrate Ashley and Luka's triumph from last weekend's AKC Invitational. (He not only won all four preliminary rounds, but won them with the fastest times of any dogs in any height at the event; then he won the final round with the fastest time of any other dog in any other finals group. Pretty big achievement.)

He brought his crystal bowl engraved with the 16" Winner title, and his gigantic blue and purple ribbon, which I could hardly take my eyes off because I looooovvvve blue and purple. Classmates brought food that nearly overflowed the small tables out in the field that PP keeps on hand for the occasional treat. We feasted on grasshopper pie, tamales, crackers, various cheeses and sausages, guacamole, chips, a variety of drinks...gosh, only 24 hours later and I can't remember it all.

We ate and chatted and congratulated Ash multiple times. Now I know how a small town feels when the boy next door becomes the starring Superbowl quarterback. We're all so proud, even though we really had nothing to do with his success, which was all his own hard work. Makes us feel good. Maybe we hope his skill and success will rub off on us. We all fondled the ribbon and the bowl, and he didn't even try to stop us.

As I drove home, I realized--dang! how could I not have taken any photos!-- but also how lucky I am to have such a wonderful place to go with my dogs, such an excellent opportunity for bonding with my dogs and my friends, for learning something new, for getting some exercise and fresh air, for relaxing and stretching and getting back in touch with the reality that there's more to life than just getting things done at work and around the house.


  1. Sounds absolutely wonderful. And a completely sensible way to spend a good (as in very good) chunk of time!

  2. i feel the same way about going to class sometimes. and then i get there and feel much better.

    i heard about, and saw some of Ashley's runs on the pyr shep list. Luka is an amazing dog- and he is an awesome handler.

    how lucky are you to have such a great place to train!

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing his younger dog run. The dog is very cute, very active, and Ashley's been working intensely on training him to fix all the things that he felt he didn't get quite right with Luka.

    All of which, even so, still does not make me want to go out and get another dog. I am so not ready to be starting over again!

  4. How would we keep our sanity if not for our hobbies?

    And yeah, Ashley really messed things up with Luka. He'd better be careful not to screw up the new dog. ;)

  5. Well, you know how it is with your first agility dog: "If I could do it over, I'd--" Actually that seems to be how it is with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th agility dogs, too. Hmm.