We are still amazed at what we've created and achieved. It's been so hard work (you can tell by the lack of blogs and website updating!) but so rewarding, and of course, we couldn't have achieved what we have without our wonderful students, who are fast becoming our friends.
And as we haven't been able to squeeze everyone in on a Sunday (as well as attempting to train our own dogs first), I'm now taking another class plus 1-2-1's during the week and its finally dawned on me that this is it! I now teach agility dogs for a living. How fantastic is that!
As well as the ups though, there has been a down for me, which is having to retire Whisky early. He's only 7 and has degenerative disc disease in his lower spine, and as I want him to live a long and happy life, I want to keep him as fit as possible but not with the stresses and strains that agility would bring. So, as much as I grieve for our partnership and what we've achieved together - being able to stand on the start line of any course knowing that he and I could tackle anything that it had to offer - there was nothing quite as good as the feeling I got when I could finally let him off his lead after spending all summer on it, and see him run free with his happy, smiley, mad face, and letting him bound up and down the hills in Wales (although with a bit of a limp now) on our recent holiday. Besides, he and I have lots to do together - as well as our lovely long walks and all the tricks and clicker training we do, we are going to enter the brave new world of obedience! And believe me, with Whisky it is brave as he almost knocks me over with his enthusiasm just trying to get into the heel position!
But on to the happy faces. We have people training with us now, who already compete and they've been reporting back how well their dogs are doing in competitions since they started training with us, which is wonderful. The first time we were all at the same show, all we could see was their smiles and we could feel how happy this group of people are. They were beaming, and so happy with what their dogs are achieving. We felt so proud of them and couldn't stop grinning all day too. And we know they will achieve much more with their dogs.
And speaking of proud. The class I take on a Tuesday are nearlly all the students who have been with us the longest and are almost ready to compete. (In fact Caroline already has competed with Rex and has won an anysize class!) So, as usual, I didn't set anything easy up and they all had to work their way around a course getting shouted at by me (not really!) to encourage them to give the correct commands, play with their dogs, do the contacts properly etc. Both Julie and I want our students and their dogs to be the best they can, and we know the more thorough they learn the foundations now, the easier and more fun agility will be in the long run.
So, after this class worked their way round small sections of the course, it was time to put it together and Caroline went first and she stood there on the start line and I could see her rehearsing all the commands and actions she would need to get her and Rex round the course, just like you would at a show. I could see how determined Caroline was to get it right and she did! She gave Rex all his lefts and rights, wing wraps etc and he listened and was fast but under control and I was stood there thinking 'wow, they are really looking like a team now, like proper agility handlers :-)'
And it wasn't just Caroline - all that group - Karen, Maureen, Elaine and Jason did exactly the same. They stood on the startline, rehearsed how they were going to run, what commands they were going to give, and they all handled the whole course properly. They also dealt perfectly with any bits that didn't quite go to plan (we don't like to be negative and say 'wrong') and either quickly tried again if appropriate or just carried on running with their dogs - there just isn't anything to be gained by stopping our dogs flow and enthusiasm by repeating something when it was maybe our fault anyway for not being clear enough - much better to try again another time.
I could see and feel a change in this group - among the laughing and joking, which there is a lot of! - there is a quiet determination to get things right and its paying off - they all looked like really good agility handlers, and were working their dogs. The dogs are changing too - because their handlers are more confident, the dogs are more confident and are working with their handlers, not against, and you can see partnerships developing. We are so looking forward to seeing them compete.
So then I started thinking about the rest of our students, especially the ones that have been with us a long time from when their dogs were puppies, and there is also a subtle change there too. There is always loads of laughing and joking and making fun of ourselves (how can you not when you run around a field with daft squeaky voices getting dogs to chase and play with you and end up splattered with mud or covered in liver cake!), yet there is a determination coming through there as well. Sequences are getting longer and including more bits of equipment, there is less 'zoomies' from the puppies and again - you can see the students really beginning to understand how they need to handle and they try their very best to get it right. Even the talk is different eg going to watch at shows, getting dogs measured and - very very excitingly - entering shows!!!!!!