Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inclusion, Diversity, and Appreciation

Have you noticed that there are times where a few of your lifestyle habits start causing negative energy to grasp hold and interfere with your attitude? The goal in our lives should be all about finding happiness and joy. But do you find yourself occasionally noticing the opposite?

Ask yourself a few questions and be honest with yourself.

1) Can you approach someone that feels different from you (uses a different handling system, trains with someone else, comprehends and takes things in differently than you do, has a different personality, etc) and pay them a compliment? If you answered "No", then is it because they don't compliment you? Or do you justify not telling someone that they've done a good job because they train or do things differently than you do and they are successful?

2) Do you embrace and appreciate the different ways that people do things and "allow" them to be different?

3) Can you listen to a friend or another person "gossip" (what someone has done or what has happened to someone, someone's dog, someone's mistake, etc) and seriously not contribute to it by asking any more questions, not giving opinions or input, and just drop it and not let it go any further with any further thought?

4) Do you treat people the same in every situation? (in front of a crowd, among many people, alone with them, in a formal situation, in an informal setting)?

There was a time in my life where I wouldn't have been able to honestly answer these questions. I suspect if I had been asked, I would have answered them very differently and would not have admitted that I needed to change the way I approached life and the way I viewed others.

I was fooling myself in believing that I was living my life incorporating the Golden Rule. While I can honestly say that I've always been good at paying compliments to others, it's not easy to admit that there was an empty feeling or a feeling of jealousy during some of those compliments. At one time, it was very important to me to debate issues that I felt were "wrong" and argue the importance of doing things the way I had decided to do them. If people did things very differently than I did, it was worth trying to find fault with something in order to justify what I was doing. This was purely personal for me as it would make me feel better - surrounding myself with more "believers" or company - which would make me temporarily feel better or more powerful. Being popular is powerful in the mind of an insecure person as is being in the right company. It was important that I was respected and for people to know of my successes and experiences. The hardest thing for me to admit was the gossip. I would hear something from someone and feel the need to add fuel to the fire by contributing more negativity. Then I would think nothing of passing it along to anyone else that I felt might be impressed or who would listen. It was important for me to be "in the know" and if it elicited more negativity, it was worth passing along. I also regret the times that that I would "tease" (which is a kinder word than what I was really doing) a person in front of a crowd. I did this because it would temporarily make me feel better.

Interesting enough, while I might have felt better at the time by my treatment of others and while I might have felt at the time that I was a positive person (and I was in other ways), I was actually contributing more and more to my own negative energy. It took a long challenging/stressful event in my life that helped me make changes that have made me a better person. 

What I know now is that I can honestly answer each of those questions with a very bold "Yes". I always treat people the same way - whether in a crowd or if I am alone with them. If it appears someone is treating me in a way that I know is different than they usually do, I know that it's not my problem and it's nothing personal towards me. It's just the sign of an insecure person who doesn't recognize that they are contributing to their own negative energy. I am very proud of the fact that I no longer gossip or pass along anything negative to others. I will listen politely, but not contribute and then I will let it go. I genuinely pay compliments to people with the sheer appreciation of what they have accomplished and without needing the compliment returned to me. I appreciate diversity in handling, different opinions, and I don't take things personally. I'm not perfect in any of these areas and I do still make mistakes, but I am quick to recognize it and it only makes me more determined to do better next time.

I believe in inclusion - not exclusion. I believe in diversity - not conformity. I believe it's important to appreciate others for what they are contributing to my experience - even if it's an opportunity to realize how not to behave. And sometimes when someone is really bothering me, if I am really honest it's something about that person that reminds me of something that I don't like in myself. I love differences of opinions because it creates change and gets open minded people thinking, and I appreciate and respect everyone's journey through life. We are all at different places in our lives and everyone is trying their best to improve and become a better person. The way to make your world and your life experience feel wonderful and more enjoyable as each day passes is to concentrate on making changes within you. That's the only way!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Very Special Photo

This photo is very special to me. It was taken at the St. Cloud AKC trial on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 by Deb Forstner. She was kind enough to send me a copy (both digital and paper). She said in her message (and I'm paraphrasing) that she lucked out in getting such a nice shot. What she didn't know was just HOW amazing this photo is and just what she captured. I am actually in the photo, but when I zoomed in and took a look at Reason jumping, I had to smile.

One year ago - June of 2009, I ran Reason at this same trial. What I didn't know at that time was that it was going to be the last time he would be able to do trials until mid January of 2010. About 2 weeks after that trial in 2009, I was doing a 2 jump practice session with Schema on serpentines and I tried it with Reason. Serpentine and turn to the right....serpentine and turn to the left. It was at that time that Reason cried and as I looked towards him, he was raising his right rear leg. I thought he had torn his cruciate ligament. When I looked closer at that leg, it wasn't painful. But the outer digit on that rear right foot was jammed/dislocated. I quickly pulled it back into place, he screamed and appeared fine. No lameness.  That same thing happened again the next day when he was just turning on his own in the yard. The diagnosis at that time was that it was a torn ligament. He was on a tight supportive wrap for 4 weeks and extremely restricted leash walking. For at least 8 weeks after that, I gradually built up the strength in that leg with various exercises that were given to me by Lin Gelbmann (click here to read more about Lin).  And he appeared to be doing well and I gradually had him jumping again. In October, he dislocated it again going through a tunnel by banking to the left.

I was devastated. Not because of him needing to be retired from agility, but because Reason is such an active dog - a do-er. He needs activity - a job. All these thoughts were going through my head as I tried to think about how I was going to prevent this from happening again. In early November I saw a specialist at the University of Minnesota (Elizabeth LaFond) and when she saw Reason's toe, she told me that it was moving in ways that it should not move. She gave me four options, one of which was amputate the toe. This option gave Reason the shortest recovery time - where he could be back to being a normal dog (well, normal Reason) the quickest. I made the decision to go that route and I was lucky that there was an opening the following Friday. So, on November 6th, the surgery was done and he came home the next day. Not a bit of lameness after the surgery. The procedure was a success and the incision healed beautifully.

There was no balance issues and after 3 weeks, I started to exercise and rehab that leg and foot again. As I started working him with exercises, I noticed that he was actually moving better and was more relaxed than before the surgery. The thought occurred to me that I might be able to do agility with him again. A few weeks later, I started to jump him at 16" and handled it wonderfully and he was SO happy.  I was able to practice a few times on a dirt arena as well as the mats at TCOTC and he did great. In mid January, I entered him in his first AKC trial (the Malinois trial) and he was AMAZING! He actually placed 2nd in two of his classes - one was a jumpers class. I was so happy and he was even more happy.

He's been trialing since then - only at the AKC trials and I am very careful of the surface. I won't run him on any surface where he can not dig in.

So, why does that photo above so special to me?  It had been one year since that last agility trial before that dislocated toe happened. In that photo, he is 3 days short of turning 11 years old - that in and of itself is amazing. But look closely at that right rear foot as he is turning over the double (on his way to the weaves, BTW :-)). You can see that he is flying over the jump without that toe.

Thank you Deb for this VERY special photo!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How could another year roll by...

It seems just like yesterday, when I posted the video for Reason's 10th birthday (click here to watch it). Now another year has gone by and today he turned 11 years old.

I am truly blessed to have this incredible dog in my life. From the moment I first held him when he was a baby, I knew there was something special about him. Even at 11, he is always ready to do something. He's still competing in agility and running in his regular height division. He's in great shape physically and mentally and I cherish every time I lead out at the start line in agility with him.

So happy birthday Reason. Words can not express how much joy you bring into my life, just hanging out with you. You are my REASON for....well, for everything.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peak Performance Words To Live By

I love this quote by Abraham, Esther & Jerry Hicks

"Don't try to recreate peak experiences. Instead, just accept them as the gift that they are, and don't beat up on yourself for not being able to stay there. Because if you stayed there, they wouldn't be peak experiences. They would be normal, every day in time hum drum boring, experiences. So, savor the peak experiences and compliment yourself upon your achieving of them, and expect more of them, and leave everything else out of the equation. "

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Training Addiction

This is a question that I pondered recently while I was driving in my van. I absolutely love training dogs - even before I got involved in competing in dog sports, I was training animals. Before I had dogs, I had horses and I was just as passionate about training them. I have been training animals (horses, birds, dogs, cats, and anything else I could get my hands on) since I was 5 years old and my Dad bought me a Shetland Pony.

This question applies to all of dog sports - Why do we get so addicted to training our dogs?

I know for me, I thrive on variety, problem solving, and the challenge of continuing to improve in order to get better results. But that still doesn't answer the question as to why I am so passionate about the time I spend with them in training. For me, it goes much further than the training itself. The passion revolves around my desire to better my communication between each of my canine partners and the ultimate connection and bond that we develop as a team through the training sessions.  There is nothing better than finding a path of communication in a way that inspires them to enjoy the games we play together. I find that training dogs grounds me and keeps me focused on what is right in this world.

I'd be interested in hearing from you on this subject, as well.