It was almost a month ago that Shine and I stepped to the line at a trial with intention for the very first time. Now, her and I dabbled in a few runs here and there last spring and summer but that, that was entirely different.
In those runs, I simply wanted to give her a taste of it. I wanted her to take in the moments at a trial where we waited (not too patiently) outside of the ring, the experience of walking to the line, playing in a new environment and staying in tune with me. I wanted to let her take that all in without any pressure or expectations.
Now, I'll admit she handled it all pretty well...
Yet, I found myself backing her away from trialing as I could feel that she wasn't quiet ready for it all. Physically yes, she could handle jumping and weaving and sequencing but mentally, mentally she had a fare amount of growing up to do yet.
And so she did. She spent more hours than I can count running and hiking through the woods, tagging along with the boys and I from one show to the next, riding shotgun in the car as I did errands around town, sunning herself on the couch as I read a book, and only if the mood struck me, we would go to our training arena and we would work on the little things, the small pieces of the puzzle that later will fit together to make up a bigger picture.
Now, we weren't perfect.
Far from it in fact, but Shine continued to learn and more and more I saw glimpses of maturity. She has always been a very bright little dog but she has also always tended towards impatience and instead of letting her move forward with that tendency and potentialy fight with her over it, I simply let it be. I left it alone until she was ready to show me that she could be patient on her own. And she did. And she still does.
Over the winter, we spent just a bit more time in our training arena learning together and the puzzle pieces seemed to fall more and more in place on their own. So much so, that in January (with just a little push from a few certain individuals) I made the decision to enter Shine in her very first trial.
In her very first trial with intention.
Now, when I say intention, I mean a plan. A plan with set rules and expectations that I have for both myself and Shine. That intention is what will help me move forward with her after the trial is over.
Before we even set foot in the ring, I sat down the night before and wrote out what expectations I had for the weekend and what I was hoping to accomplish with each of our runs.
Those expectations were simple.
1) The first run of the weekend would be NFC (thank you, UKI!) and I would reward her for a correct startline performance.
2) The first run with weave poles, I would again run NFC (thank you again, UKI!) and I would stop and reward her for a strong weave pole performance.
3) We would start each run with our warm-up and end each run with play and our cool-down.
4) I would stay focused on the task-at-hand. Which was to help her succeed.
Those four simple things were my entire plan for the weekend and I was delighted when I was able to check all four off my mental to-do list.
Now, our runs weren't perfect. We had knocked bars, we had off courses and we had more than a few handling errors but in all of that, Shine was still successful. She learned just a bit more about the Agility game and each time we stepped to the line I could tell her love for the game grew a bit more and that, that is what the weekend was about.
Looking back, I vaguely remember Toby and Blade's first few times in the ring and I can honestly say I regret that.
Because it doesn't last long enough. These young dogs are only in Novice for so long, before they have to move up to Open and then Masters. That window where they are young and inexperienced is fleeting and so short lived that I want to embrace it with Shine, I want to hold on to it for just a bit longer. I know the moments of her being green and doing silly things will wane and I will see more and more of her only in seriousness and while I look forward to that and us growing as a team, that also means this new beginning with her will be behind us and that saddens me a bit.
This wonderful new beginning.