The last time I played The Agility with Orion was almost 4 months ago. I love it so much, it’s easy to get hooked on if you love to problem solve as a team. Plus it sharpens cognitive skills, timing, coordination, physical wellness, decision making, strength of character, mental toughness, and deepens self knowledge. It is very revealing -sometimes in ways you wish it wasn’t. You become transparent when you are trying to be messy or unclear or bossy or careless. It’s a discipline that also includes joy, running, laughing, feeling awake and alive and free. I miss it and sometimes I can’t watch videos of other people doing it because the wave of grief is too sad.
I have trained with other dogs while Orion is recovering from knee surgery, and it is so different. I just keep thinking about how it is with Orion, it is so intimate. People keep kidding around with me and saying oh do you feel like you are cheating on him? No, I don’t feel like that but it’s not the same running other dogs. Something is missing.
I know what he needs before we begin, especially if I am going to ask for a start line stay. A moment of happy eye contact, a clear greeting, then a very purposeful lead out. Keeping that thread between us taut as I lead out away from him, moving away but still being together. Once we are running I know when he is committed to an obstacle so that I can move ahead, I know that it is a different distance on different obstacles and at different angles. I know how to help him accelerate and when it is a good idea to tap the brakes a bit. I know where he is likely to look ahead at his path and where he is likely to look towards me. The things I want to cue and how to fix it if I am too late or too spazzy. These decisions are based on knowing him, and knowing my limitations as a teammate, even though I continue to work and improve.
I had the pleasure of training with a very fancy and experienced agility dog because my friend was generous enough to share her with me. This dog is highly skilled and such a joy to work with! I could send her and leave, confident she was going to complete the obstacle and need more information really quickly, so I better get there. I knew what to do and if I didn’t she would tell me I didn’t, she was so clear and such a great teacher. She didn’t get frustrated with me and we have no baggage because even though we are friends, it is not that intimate when we run together.
With Orion it is a shining, tangled manifestation of not just our agility training together but our years together, our conflicts and our successes, our habits both bad and good, our drama. Our challenges are communication problems and our successes are huge victory celebrations, because in spite of the drama we did it! I know him, and he knows me, the great successful shining me and the flailing awkward struggling me. I know him so well and I love him I love him I love him. I love that feeling of accomplishing something together, and I can’t get enough of that feeling ever. Every day that I am lucky enough to feel that feeling, the one where we are successful together at a game that requires us to be really good communicators, it’s just a total gift. I enjoy the conversations I have with all dogs, dogs are awesome and fun and I learn so much from them. But Orion, he is my dog. He is friendly and has a lot of friends but we can just exchange a look and feel so connected even in a noisy or busy place. Its just an awesome closeness, and agility is a wonderful way to practice sporty skills while we wear our hearts on our sleeves. It’s just intimate, and I miss that so much.