Everyone has a statement, mantra, breath prayer, saying, to help them through the trying times. My parents said: This too shall pass. I had a university student say to me: Things won’t always be like this. Here are a few more:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (paraphrase of Nietzsche)
You just can’t beat the person who never gives up. (Babe Ruth)
It always seems impossible, until it’s done. (Nelson Mandela)
For some more awesome inspirational quotes: https://visme.co/blog/stay-strong-quotes/
Jonathan and I have a saying that started out as resignation, rather than uplifting. In fact, the saying really isn’t uplifting as much as it is the realization that we haven’t hit the bottom - yet. Then, the saying became a way to understand the true smallness of the moment in the big picture of our lives.
I have shown and trained dogs for years. Sometimes, I was successful and sometimes not so much. My first excursion into the obedience ring, I cried in the bathroom between the main exercises and long sits and downs. Obedience (e.i., agility, barn hunt, nosework) competitions are called trials. Whoever decided on the word ‘trials’ really knew what they were doing. When my dog and I completed a trial successfully, the feeling was similar to when Indiana Jones passed the tests (honestly, the tests were more booby-traps than anything) to be worthy of the Holy Grail. Coming out of the ring, I felt like I could take my dog to a search and rescue site and save everyone. In reality, I think to myself: Thank goodness Odin* stayed when I told him to.
Hollywood has a saying: Never work with kids or animals. That is the saying I use when my dog doesn’t pass the exercises. I also might say the following:
Way to go, Odin! We just threw away $30!
I’m so embarrassed! You have never messed up that exercise before! (completely not true)
My friends will think I’m a terrible trainer. I’d better think of some great excuses (other than not proofing the dog enough).
I’m never doing this again!
When I was thinking about getting a pedigreed dog, I went with what I already knew - Australian Shepherds. My maternal grandfather had aussies to help work cattle on his dairy farm. These dogs had it all: smart, medium build, and enough fur/coat for me to relive all of the 1980’s hairstyles and grooming practices.
After years of training and showing aussies, I got married. Jonathon didn’t really relate to the personality traits of the breed. I think Joe, Jilly, Pippa, and Odin felt the same way. Especially Odin. He was a bit sensitive and would climb into my lap every time Jonathon sneezed. Of course, to Odin’s credit, I don’t think half of those sneezes needed to be so ridiculously loud. I began looking around for a breed with a more durable/tough exterior. The final decision went against one of my own mantras: Never own a terrier.
I bought a terrier.
American Staffordshire Terrier to be exact.
This breed is not for the faint of heart. Looking back, since Jonathon had no experience with kennel management, I should have chosen a different breed. The bright side was we found a terrific kennel in Georgia: Irresistible Staffords. Linda became a great friend and mentor as we went through the growing pains of owning dogs that had a better muscle to fat ratio than I did.
Many dogs bred for guardian, police, and military work, can be tough as nails. If you aren’t familiar with the AmStaff, here are some other breeds that also require alert-and-attention-to-detail owners:
Belgian Malinois (requires owners with very active lifestyles - I mean ACTIVE)
All of these breeds are fantastic when paired with the right owners. Of course, in the beginning, I wasn’t sure I was paired with the right breed. However, as more time was spent with the OGs, Diesel and Daisy, we settled right into the show circuit.
AmStaffs are a single coat breed. Very little grooming is required. After constantly grooming my aussies, I was thrilled. I just needed to keep the coat healthy, ears clean, trim toenails, and whiskers. This was going to be a piece of cake. I just didn’t know it was fruit cake, sponge cake, upside down cake, or any other cake I hated.
Turns out, with a closely kept coat, it is difficult to hide scratches, cuts, bite marks (accidental and not so accidental), and other crazy accidents. For example, Lucy got caught on something, we still don’t know what, and had a small puncture on her side. The vet had to shave the area to evaluate the hole. She ended up with antibiotics and a goofy bald spot on her side - her show side. She looked ridiculous.
When the dogs would play too hard with each other, scratches and cuts appeared. I would treat these minor injuries with ointment and antibiotics. When show time would pop around, I’d be in a pickle if a giant scratch was on the show side of the dog. The show side of the dog is the left side of the dog. This is the ‘money’ side. This is the side you will see in all professional win photos. The left side is the side shown to the judge during conformation.
Minor scratches and such are easily dealt with, but what if something worse happens? How would I move forward in such a situation? We had a moment just like that last year. Our pick female (that means she was the best one of the litter) ended up in a terrible accident. I’d like to stop and just say that all of that litter had something to offer. They are all in training for various reasons (e.g., socialization, competition, manners, learning how to process situations, with help from their people, in a positive way).
Rory: Dock diving and Therapy training
Ruckus: Dock diving and Weight pull
Lucy: Conformation and Obedience
Charm: Conformation and Obedience
Ivy: Therapy training
Back to Ivy’s terrible accident. The entire event sent her to the emergency vet. Thank goodness, I have a fantastic emergency veterinarian. They took excellent care of her. She was in the hospital for a week. Jonathon and I visited her everyday. Then, the most awful call came: Ivy was going to lose her leg. It was crushing for me. Our vet was fantastic and Ivy has made a full recovery. She is a star with my piano students. She is thriving. I was having a harder time than Ivy during the recovery. The vet said I would. Owners have a difficult time as the dog makes the adjustment from four legs to three. My piano students had an easier time than I did. One student would kiss Ivy’s scar every time she came for lessons.
As I was settling into Ivy’s new normal, I tried hard to hide my struggle. I bought great bandannas and a very fancy collar (Olive and Pearls) to help conceal the scar. In truth, Ivy didn’t care. She had no idea what handicapped meant. After her recovery she is still one of the fastest dogs in the yard.
One night while I was sitting with Ivy on the sofa, I just couldn’t stop crying about the lost opportunities with Ivy. She was going to be the next conformation star and a high-in-trial performance dog. All of that was gone. Then, Jonathon said something to try and cheer me up.
“At least, it’s not on the show side.”
I just stared at him. Why would he say such a thing?! I took a minute to breathe. Then, I laughed. At least, our three-legged dog wasn’t missing the leg on the show side! In other words, the situation could always be worse - Ivy might not even be with us. That would have been awful. She brings us such joy. The students love sitting with her on the sofa while they wait their turn for lessons. Ivy is calm and sweet. She is the dog who can meet anyone. We would be lost without her.
Getting through difficult times, is well, difficult. It takes God’s love, grace, and mercy. Prayer, friends who understand you, and the friends who love you and have no idea what you are going through. Call those friends for help and encouragement. Take time to process situations so the circumstances don’t become bigger than they should. Remember scripture that reminds you of God’s protection and guidance. Finally, remember…..
At least, it’s not on the show side.
*Odin is my example dog for this entry. In truth, he is absolutely the BEST obedience dog I have right now, going High in Trial over 200 entries at a Rally Obedience event.