I’ve been searching around for ways to handle my nervousness at dog shows. I love this quote*, which I just found in the Yahoo group, Clicker Competition Obedience Training:
…Any time you start to feel nervous, take a nice deep breath and picture three images in your head. First think about the first time you ever saw your dog. Next think of something your dog does that makes you feel proud. Lastly think of something your dog does that makes you laugh. Practice it now. I bet when you finish you will end up with a great big smile on your face.
I am inspired. I’ve starting sorting through my mental list of Cooper images. Most of them are just in memory, but others are actual photographs.
The first time you ever saw your dog
I first saw Cooper at Tammy’s parents’ house. I had met Tammy only a couple of times before, but she had taken the trouble to fly out from Minnesota with my Cooper, her Mowgli, and Amy’s Maggie. When Russ and I arrived, Tammy’s mother directed us into the laundry room, where Tammy was giving a very wiggly 8-week-old Cooper a bath.
I commented something like, “He doesn’t like the water? I thought he was an Irish Water Spaniel.”
“He’s a water spaniel,” Tammy replied, drying Cooper off, “not a bath spaniel.” Something your dog does that makes you feel proud
Cooper’s hunting and retrieving skills and his intense enthusiasm for the work makes me proud every time we go out to hunt or train. He found the thing he loves in life very early, when at 9 weeks he first retrieved our morning paper.
Since then, Cooper has pursued field work with the kind of passion that makes me snort when I hear people say, “My passion is…” or “I am passionate about…” They (and I) would be very lucky if they felt 1/10th the passion Cooper exhibits when he’s hunting.
The illustrative event that sticks in my mind is Cooper’s 2nd AKC Junior Hunt Test. This was a very hard test: Only 31 dogs passed of the 56 entered. The retrieves were long, the marks were launched against a dark backdrop of trees, and the many shadows, dips, shallows, and tall cover made the test difficult. (Not to mention the pink flamingo line markers.) But Cooper succeeded and brought back all 4 of his birds.
In fact, in all the hunt tests he’s ever entered, even the ones he’s failed, he has never failed to bring back his birds. And in all the hunting we’ve done, he’s brought back all his birds except for three: two of these were not found even though multiple dogs and multiple people looked for them, and the other was finally located by another dog after two long searches.
Something your dog does that makes you laugh
Cooper has a multipurpose relationship with his toys that makes me laugh every time.
One is that he uses his toys to express his understanding of value and fairness: He trades a toy for something he wants that is not his. We’ll walk into the bedroom and find, instead of two shoes, one shoe and a toy. Or, in the bathroom, we’ll find a toy instead of the washcloth.
Another funny toy thing is, we’ll say, “Want to go for a ride in the car?” Tooey will race to the front door, but not Cooper. Cooper runs first to the toy drawer so he can grab a toy to take along for the ride. I wish I had a video of this, but when I’m getting ready to go for a ride with the dogs in the car, my hands are full of leashes, keys, a coat, my purse, a couple of treats, and several plastic bags.
*Credit where credit is due
The quote was most recently posted by Libby on July 31, 2011, but she said she borrowed it from a previous post on the list. Later I heard that this probably came from Leslie McDevitt, who includes a similar classroom exercise on page 67 of her book Control Unleashed (2007):
When the dogs and handlers look ready, I ask each student to close her eyes, and while keeping her hands on her dog, remember the first time she saw her dog. I’ll give her a minute to take in that memory. Then I ask her to think of something her dog has done that makes her laugh. Lastly, I ask her to think of something her dog has done that made her proud. I love to watch my students, beaming and chuckling and petting their dogs as they’re doing this exercise.
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