Saturday, November 1, 2014


It's been an embarrassingly long time since I posted any content on here. There are lots of stories to share since my post before Nationals. They certainly deserve their own posts, I just haven't had the heart or drive or post them. So they will continue to be stories for another day.

Today I want to focus on one story in particular that isn't too far overdue. Knight, my wonderful little-man, finished his PACH!!!

He did this the weekend before he turned 5 years old. Just over a year and a half after I switched him down to 4".

October 2011, Knight just gave up at a trial. Maybe the grass upset him, maybe he wasn't feeling well, I'll never know the reason why exactly. But there I was, with this brilliant young dog who no longer had joy in his eyes when we went to trials.

I remember the day before he earned his OAJ. We NQ'd in jumpers because I was doing everything I could to get him faster than a walk. We ran around 80% of the jumps on that course, but I did it. I got him running. That snapped him out of his funk and we quickly attained our OAJ, AX, and AXJ.

He still wasn't thrilled, but he was getting there. So in January, 2013 I switched him to Masters preferred. That was the best decision I've ever made for him.

Over the past year and a half I've watched him blossom into this fantastic dog that trials as well as he trains. I see the dog I see in my back yard when we step out onto that line. It's thrilling. Sure, we're not the fastest team out there... but we love what we're doing. I can feel it and everyone can see it.

This is the first Agility Champion title I've earned. It's been a weird journey. I felt a little guilty for a long time. I felt like "first agility ch" was something Lilly deserved. But here I was, with my blazeless little boy, sitting at QQ #19 with a jumpers Q in the bag. I was all nerves and excitement. Keeping the pending PACH under wraps so we wouldn't jinx our run.

Knight was brilliant. I am so incredibly proud of him and how far we've come. Cassie joined us and cheered for us as we ran. Smiles and laughter abounded. Knight got extra hot dogs and tuna and had no idea why his Q ribbon was so incredibly large.

I also got a message from some good friends of mine who ordered a custom PACH ribbon for the occasion. I was at a loss for words.

I am so incredibly grateful for my little dog, my supportive girlfriend, and my wonderful friends.

Thank you to everyone who has cheered us on through his roller coaster of an accomplishment.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Addressing the Elephant in the Room....

Mia is no longer considered one of "my" dogs. I don't think the details need to be plastered all over the internet. If you have questions you can contact me privately.

It was a decision made over four very long months.

I firmly believe it was the right call. Doesn't make it any easier though.

Monday, March 24, 2014

We're Going to Nationals

I've been trying, and failing, to write a post about how I feel about our upcoming Nationals adventure for the past 3 months.

What is there to say? What tone should this kind of thing evoke?

Do I go for inspiring? The daring tale of a scared, stressed, overweight Novice A dog and Handler that have made it to the National Championship against all odds? How about the heartfelt story of a worried little 9" tall Papillon who was too afraid to jump. The story of how he was moved down in jump height and placed on the back burner of training focus only to blossom into this fierce, confident, little dog while no one was watching?

When you're stepping out onto the biggest stage you've ever walked across, what do you want the announcer to say?

10 years from now, when I have a few Nationals under my belt, I'm sure these kinds of things won't matter as much. But right now it feels really big.

I've been excited for Nationals. Scared, Worried, and Indifferent about them too.

Long story short. Who knows what'll unfold this weekend. Right now, I'm so incredibly proud of everything my dogs do for me. I'm so proud of how far we've grown as a team and I hope they'll let me show them off to the agility world at Nationals. No matter what happens, I love them, I'm proud of us, I'm proud of every Q and NQ we've collected along the way, the titles and placements we've won and lost, and all the friends we've gained along the way.

Are we ready for Nationals? Only one way to find out I supposed.

Ready or not. Here we come.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First Trial of 2014- Here we Go

I've been having bad dreams. My last trial in November left me a little cracked. We had our lowest Q rate all year and honestly some of the worst runs I'd seen in years. No matter what I told myself in my waking hours, the quiet of the night seemed to bring out the fears I thought I had cast away.

Some dreams left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Knight would make it to finals, only to get beat in the 4" class by a dog that managed to run 6 YPS, well over Knight's average yardage. Dreams where I'd show up at the trial site and suddenly find myself surrounded by a sea of people with no space to crate my dogs. Silly dreams of silly fears.

Others dreams were about Lilly. Dreams of my beautiful, courageous, rebellious, redhead darting out of the ring and into the parking lot. Dreams where I would scream her name across the vast blackness of the asphalt. Yelling, voice ragged with emotion, for her to wait. Stay. Stop. Anything to get her to stop running away from me.  Ironically, it was the yelling part that always alerted the more rational areas of my mind that it was all just a dream. My inner dog trainer would recognize the faulty reasoning behind screaming for your dog to come back and I'd be jerked back into reality. Wide awake again, mind wild from the real fear the dream managed to dig up. Vivid dreams that stuck around to haunt me again in the daylight.

I was so worried that that's how our story would end. Not with the bang of a PACH. Not the victorious tale of the scared papillon who made her way from Novice A to Nationals, but with a whimper. Just a string of NQs and broken trust.

The first trial after our winter break usually brings an uneasy sleep. I get so paranoid about my alarm not going off that I spend the whole night waking up every hour until the correct time rolls around. Add my nightmares of Nationals into the mix and it was a recipe for disaster.

This year was different though. Cassie came down for the weekend to celebrate the six months we've now spent in a relationship. She listened to my worries about Lilly and pretended not to notice the uninvited tear that slipped down my cheek. She offered some quiet words of comfort and just held me in her arms for a while. It's a crazy how one person can just waltz into your life and become this huge part of it, of you. I slept peacefully through the night in the comfort of her company. Words cannot express how lucky I feel to have her in my life.

When we rolled up to Dream Park I wasn't so afraid. With my girlfriend beside me and two of my best friends bouncing excitedly at the ends of their leads I knew I could do this. This was one of my home fields. These were my people. Agility is my drug and I was itching for my next hit.

Before I knew it, I was back in the swing of things. Checking in, walking courses, exercising dogs. I slipped effortlessly into the rhythm of the trial. No thoughts of past nightmares dared to cross my mind.

Lilly was first up for my crew in Master Standard. There was one millisecond of disconnect when I took off her lead. Her eyes were far away for that fraction of a second, but I called her name softly and she was back. Ears pricked in anticipation, eyes bright. She was ready.

So we ran. It felt good. It felt really, really good.

One tiny mistake for both paps in standard, but blues and Qs in JWW.

I am incredibly proud of how Knight and Lilly ran. Knight didn't miss a beat. He was right there, sharp with his turns and light on his feet.

Lilly listened. There was a moment in jumpers where she saw the exit and thought about leaving. I wasn't afraid. My breath didn't catch at all as I shifted my weight to stop Lilly from taking a back jump in JWW. I had her back with me and we finished strong. Yeah! I got her back and we finished strong. Man, it feels really good to say that out loud.

What a wonderful way to start our spring 2014 trial season. We got this.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

And so, it Begins

 My new rotation of agility foundation classes started on Friday. Just like before any big presentation, sleep was hard to come by Thursday night. I don't know when it happened, but by the time I was loading up the papmobile to go teach all the anxiety was gone. Only a calm confidence remained. I got this.

And I did. I met my two new students and jumped right into teaching. Wonderful dogs and wonderful people. I am so excited for what the next 5 weeks will bring us.

I love this. This teaching thing. I'm so grateful I get the opportunity to do it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2013 has come to an end

All in all, this year was brilliant. I got to trial more than I ever had the chance to in previous years. This resulted in me qualifying two of my dogs for the 2014 AKC National Agility Championship which will be happening right here in PA. 

I've been struggling to put my 2013 recap into words. I want to skip ahead to all the good stuff, but sometimes the rough patches are what make the good stuff so good.... so here we go. 

By the end of 2012 I was tired. I had spent way too much time dealing with Medical emergencies that fall. I had been to the ER to get my bite wound from a Rotti treated, Knight was rushed to our vet twice- I was so afraid he was going to lose an eye one visit, and my father spent his fair amount of time in the ER too. 

I didn't trial much. When I did, Knight continued dislike trialing. He'd drag his feet, jumping was hard for him. My 3 year old dog was losing his love for the game right in from of my eyes. To top things off, driving home from work on December 30th, 2012 my Papmobile died. I spent 30 minutes sitting in the freezing cold waiting for someone to pick me up. I was tired, and just ready for things to start looking up again. 

When 2013 began I had a "new" car and was dead serious about qualifying for AKC Nationals. We opened the new year with a fantastic CPE trial and I was feeling good about our full trial schedule. By the end of January I was rushing Lilly to the emergency vet. Weeks of sleepless nights followed. 

She made a full recovery and so did my sanity. Sarah and Jesse were in constant contact with me through her surgery and recovery. Selina helped out in all the quiet ways that she does. She offered to sit with me while I waited for Lilly to come out of the emergency clinic, gave me space, and took care of Lilly's meds when I needed to get away from the house for a little while. They are all wonderful friends and I cannot thank them enough. 

When Lilly jumped back into the agility scene she brought home Doubles both days. Handlers were coming up to me to tell me that "Lilly was like a completely new dog!" Just like that we were half way done our double Q requirements. (For Nationals we needed 4 double Qs, 20 master Qs, and 500 PACH points). I ran her like I trusted her, and she gave it her all. 

We had some brilliant runs. I am so proud of how we looked out there. Mia had some of her best runs, tearing up course times like it was her job. Knight-man was HAPPY again. He was running 4" and rapidly improving with each and every trial. Very quickly he became my anchor. He ended the year with 13 out of the 20 double Qs he needs for his PACH. The dog I watched give up in 2011 was gone. My happy little man was back. 

During the spring semester my grades took a bit of a hit, but my dog career was just starting to take off. Twice a week I got to assist Training classes under my friend and now mentor, Denise. Discussions were started about putting together an agility foundations class. In April I finally put some AKC Breed champion points on both Knight and Mia (this was huge for me). 

May was like a dream. Knight won 2 more points towards his breed champion. Then I got to go to a 5 day seminar called the Dogs of Course "Instructor Training Course". Met a bunch of fabulous trainers, listened to dog lectures all day for 5 days, and made some great new friends. Including a little shelter dog I wanted to take home.... but my mom (wisely) said no. I certainly did not need another dog at the time. 

Right after ICT, literally right after... I drove home from NY one night and left for KY the next morning, I attended the 2013 Papillon Club of America National Specialty with Selina and our whole crew of 5 papillons.  Papillon heaven. Mia placed 3rd in a very competitive open bitch class at our National Specialty, and placed again in a large open bitch class for one of the Regional Specialties. I finally found the confidence I needed for the conformation ring and we were owning it. 

Then came the summer.  I never remember much about the summer. I always work too much. I lose track of days. Everything blends into one long continues blur. This year was a little different though because I had some fantastic co-workers who did a damn good job. While I was still working too much I wasn't plagued by stress dreams of the kennel when I'd go to sleep. 

Once a week the staff would try to get together and do something. Movies, rock climbing, bowling, Hershey Park, even mini golf. It was a wonderful change of pace. If it weren't for Cassie, Selina, Meg, and Tori I would of spent the summer working, eating, and sleeping. It was good to go out and just have some fun every once and a while.

 As the summer came to a close, I got to spend a glorious weekend up in New Hampshire. I wandered some of my favorite mountains with Lilly and Mia by my side. It always feel like I'm at home when I'm out there. I hiked and reveled in the perfect imperfection that the mountains have to offer. I finally had room to breathe. Lots of soul searching was accomplished. 

Right before the new semester started up again I started dating one of my kennel co-workers, Cassie. Certainly not a turn I saw my life taking, but I'm so glad it did. 

The fall had its fair share of ups and downs, but I didn't feel so alone facing them.

Mia hit a rough patch in her agility career, she wasn't the loud ballsy girl I came to love in the ring. Thanks to Lilly and Knight, I was more than prepared to take on her newly acquired ring stress. I'm so thankful for the skills I've obtained from owning "difficult" dogs. We worked through it, and we're starting to find our stride again. 

Cassie joined us at a few trials to support us. A fantastic girl who enjoys my dog habit? How did I get so lucky? 


Lilly and I ended our last trial on rocky ground, but after a few run thrus we're starting to find ourselves again. She likes to keep me humble.

The fall brought on my very first Agility foundations class. I'm so proud of how much I've grown as an instructor. Dogs are my element. I know what I'm talking about and I'm starting to feel at home in front of the class.

2013 was the year of setting the stage for 2014. I wanted to qualify for AKC Nationals and we owned that. We picked up some breed points, I made some new friends, somehow managed to get a girlfriend, and made dean's list for the fall. I walked away from a job that I've had for years, and walked into a job that I hope to have for many years to come.

2013 wasn't easy. It wasn't supposed to be though. That's what makes our accomplishments feel so good. We fell so hard some days, but we managed to bounce back every single time. 2014? Bring it on.