Looking back

Most of us think a lot about what’s going to happen or might happen or what we want to happen…whether it’s in our professional lives, personal lives or dog lives.  It seems we’re always racing to get somewhere else, to grow, to get stuff done, to achieve that next goal.  Nothing wrong with that.  But every now and then, its good to look back and take stock of how far we’ve come.  With a young dog, when I wonder if I’m making progress in my training, this can be comforting.   With an older dog, looking back at the journey we’ve taken together can be quite emotional.  My sheltie Lacey has a birthday tomorrow – she’ll be 11 on 11/11.

Lacey’s a healthy and happy 11 yr old for which I’m mightily grateful.  Lacey is the dog that taught me so many lessons, it’s hard to count.  It was just before Lacey came into our lives that I started working with Susan Garrett – who set me on the path to becoming knowledgeable dog trainer.  It feels like yesterday that I introduced Lacey at 12 weeks old to Susan and she had her first shaping lesson.  She was brilliant – I quess I mean both “she”s – Susan and Lacey.  Lacey was confident (to say the least), a bit independent (to say the least) and very quick.   She was a joy to train unless she had other things on her mind.  Building a working relationship with her taught me a lot (to say the least).   As I work puppy Tai through distractions, it’s not my more recent experience with 6 yr old Breeze that I think of…but what Lacey taught me.

“Denahur’s Racey Lacey” has all the titles an agility enthusiast could hope for barring a national championship.  Silver ADCH, Silver LAA, Top 10 USDAA, MACH,  Regional and National placements.  Her career was interrupted several times with injury – a recurring shoulder issue.  After the last go round in late 2008, I eased her into retirement but not before she was overall individual winner in the 2009 Northeast Regional USDAA Performance class and took home the Performance Grand Prix Regional Champion trophy.  She wasn’t the fastest out there that weekend, but she was the best.

So on Lacey’s 11th birthday, here is a list of  11 things that Lacey taught me.

1. Patience and the benefits of laughing while dog training.

2. That steak can have more value than squirrels.

3. How much fun it is to shape behaviors

4. How to invent a jolly ball on a rope – the first toy Lacey would tug on outside

5. That transfer of value really works.

6. That there must be really, really, really good smells in our backyard

7.  That a 3 foot fence will neither keep an athletic sheltie in the yard, nor keep the neighbor’s German Shepherd out of the yard (duh).

8. How to condition a dog to – hopefully – prevent injury, benefiting Lacey and all my dogs.

9. How to manage a dog who gets sprayed by a skunk – which happened incidentally 15 minutes before she and I were to leave for the airport – another story altogether.   I recommend Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover.

10. That one good way to  handle ring nerves – is to look  in her eyes, think of what a good little buddy she is and smile.

11.  The joy of really laying it down in competition, knowing that she knows too and celebrating together.

There is no doubt that Lacey still has more to teach me and here’s hoping that there will be many lessons over many years.  Happy Birthday Lacey!   So, give your older dogs a big hug and extra treat from Lacey and me tomorrow.  If you’d like, click on this You Tube link to see a pictorial of Lacey’s life so far.  I hope you do and that you enjoy it!