Far from the bottom

Sometimes things don’t work out. The expectations and hopes and imaginings you’ve created for something just don’t happen. You’re back at the bottom of the hill looking up again. Just like that.
I’ve been going through a range of emotions the last couple weeks; sort of unexpectedly. I expected to feel disappointment if things didn’t happen, but it was a lot deeper than that. I wasn’t sure what the outcome of tryouts would be, but I had a lot of hope going into the weekend—a lot of doubts as the time got closer, too. It’s hard to keep those in check sometimes. All of the training leading up to the weekend had me feeling confident and, if possible, more impressed with Bolt than I ever have been (hard to believe, I know). He is so responsive, he works so hard at this sport. After nationals (2 bars.. oh, 2 bars) we worked on jumping. He rocked. We kept working on collection and wraps. He seriously rocked. And we played on contacts. My first dog with reliable contacts, no matter what, that rocks. I went into the weekend keeping expectations down, but the hope was still there.
People always ask about how stressful tryouts must be, and how impossible it must be to keep your nerves in control and focus on the course. The honest truth? I usually find my heart pounding harder at local trials. Tryouts is a blast. The pressure is there, but when you go out and walk the course with headphones blaring, a small smile tugging at your lips, surrounded by some of the best handlers and trainers in the country—how could you be stressed? This is a sport. But it is also a game. Our dogs do not have expectations of world team, they do not dream of team jackets or medals or anything else. They do not dwell on knocked bars, or missed contacts, or—most especially or—mistimed threadles. They live in the moment. They embrace the present. I want to be more like them.
I got to see a friend I don’t see nearly enough and we spent the weekend as if no time had passed at all. We told (stupid) jokes, and laughed, and talked about too big ideas (on our ship of the imagination). The extended agility family went out for an Italian dinner where we were too loud, under-dressed, and having the most fun in the room. Our poor waiter. There was a distinct lack of sleep over the three days and once we landed my head was light and fuzzy like an agility hangover. It was hard to adjust back to life: work, teaching, school. (I graduated, by the way. Even if I didn’t walk at graduation. I’m a master now). 
So four courses, three mishandled threadles on my part. A skill that I knew I hadn’t practiced well enough going into the weekend. My fault. Sorry, Bolt. We’ve been working on them and, like most everything with this dog, it is coming together.

Are we back at the bottom of the hill? That’s what it felt like at first—that we were back to where we began, with another year of pushing, training, practicing, anticipating. I’m not so sure. Agility will mingle with hikes, and adventures, ice cream trips, late night laughs, sitting around fires, travels, long car rides, tears, celebrations, growth and change.

We’re not at the bottom, I’ve decided. This year we were close to cresting the top of that hill, of seeing what’s on the other side. We’re not there yet, but we’re a hell of a lot closer than we ever have been before.
What a cool place to be. 

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