Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Out of the Comfort Zone

I was so excited to join League Play this year! I have to say, I wasn't sure I'd ever get to the point where I'd be able to. And I'm actually not quite sure we're able to now! Wiser folks than myself have said, "Stepping outside your comfort zone provides learning opportunities". Believe me, League Play is entirely outside of my Comfort Zone!

What is League Play? Think 'Bowling League' except with dogs (but not tossing them down shiny wooden lanes). During our winter break from Agility Classes, Our instructors organize a 6 week Agility League for fun and practice.
Our team consists of Marilyn & Henry, Diane & Karma, and Me & Pico. I am thrilled to be on a team with 2 true friends who are in it for the same reasons I am... to have fun and to learn from experience.

During the first week, we all got to run a Gamblers course. We had practiced a similar CPE game, Jackpot, in class, but this was our first-ever Gamblers course to plan and run on our own. It didn't go so well but we did have fun and Pico gave it his all.

This week, we ran Jumpers. I *love* jumpers which, at our level, usually consists of jumps and tunnels. I was excited for this week. I got Pico semi- settled in (which is as good as it gets at this point) and got a course map:

I immediately began worrying... 18 obstacles?! We've never done 18 obstacles!  I've never memorized 18 obstacles! I saw people drawing lines on their course maps so I did too... but, I don't know why as I've never found it helpful! This was way out of our league! (pun intended). Why didn't I go to the Cavs game with April and Mike instead of subjecting myself to what was sure to be a horrific public humiliation?! Panic set in. I was going to be the only one of all the people there to lose my way on the course, I was sure of it! How was I supposed to get Pico from jump 1 to jump 2? Had we ever done that in class?? And the serpentines! Dear God, there were 2 serpentines! Pico and I don't do serpentines...

And then it came time to walk the course. All 200 of us (at least that's what it seemed like) were out there tromping out our plans. Turning and spinning, imagining our dogs running gleefully alongside us while bumping into each other and getting in each other's way! "Dear Sweet Jesus", I thought. "How is this fun again?

And then my Agility angel appeared out of nowhere! It was Jessica! Calm, caring, handling-is-a-blast, Jessica. "For Pico," she said, "you may want to front cross here and keep him on your left here" she said. Jessica, who was also running her own dog and had already mapped out her own plan, my plan and probably 6 other peoples plans! I don't know how she does it but I felt a gazillion times better after she was kind enough to walk the course with me!

From the sidelines, I watched my fellow league players run and I cheered them on. I went over the course again and again in my mind: jump-front cross-jump-jump-tunnel-front cross-jump-jump-red tunnel-keep pico on my right-jump-jump-jump-rear cross-jump-jump-rear cross-jump-jump-run fast-jump-double jump-tunnel-double jump!

{The Picolator!}

I started to think, "We could possibly do this, little Pico and I!"   When it was our turn, and Pico took his first jump, I instantly remembered just how much fun it is to run with your dog! And Pico was having just as much fun as I was. We got the first 7 obstacles and then Pico missed a jump. We kept right on going. The rest is a blur. I know there were other errors and that he missed the last double jump. I was thrilled that I didn't get lost on the course and even more thrilled that Pico is still willing to try as hard as he can to follow along! I can't ask for more than that from him at this stage of the game!

I was also happy with Pico's crate training tonight and I spent a lot of time treating for relaxed, quiet crate behavior. It frustrates me that I can't walk away from his crate without loud, shrieking protests from him until I remember where we started from! He is really starting to feel much more comfortable in the crate and is starting to get the idea that calm and quiet wins him treats. Like me, he is learning more and is expanding his Comfort Zone!

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