I have, from time to time, acknowledged the passing of a great agility dog on this blog. Last week I got the sad news that a friend’s dog had lost her two year battle with cancer. Yes Maeve was a good agility dog, but she was also a little bit naughty and likely broke as many start lines as she held. I am sure few of you reading this would even know her. Agility wasn’t the reason she came into Chris’s life. Maeve’s was a very well loved family member that, amoung other things, she did brilliantly.
Maeve touched the lives of everyone she met. She had looks- she was freaking gorgeous. She had character – she inherited her daddy’s “clacking” trait and used it for high scores on the cuteness meter whenever necessary. Plus, she had this intangible spiritual quality about her that seemed to shake hands with your soul whenever you said hello to her.
She was blessed with tons of natural drive and physical brilliance but never won any big agility Championship– but that was not because she wasn’t talented enough, nor was it because Chris wasn’t a good enough handler. It just wasn’t what life had intended for the two of them.
Does that mean the dog never reached her potential? Does that mean her talents were wasted or that she was just an ordinary dog? Absolutely not. I think there are likely hundreds of dogs out there that have the tools for agility brilliance but that is just not the purpose for their journeys. Throughout my yearly travels, I have countless people tell me “this dog would have been something really extraordinary if a better handler owned him.” I know you know this, but at the risk of overstating the obvious I am going to say it anyway, your dog IS extraordinary right now.
I think I could have been a phenomenal parent. I love kids, I was raised knowing how to change diapers and I had great role models for parents. I also think I could have been a great artist, science teacher or hockey player. My life could have gone in one or another, completely different directions then dog training. The fact that I have taken the path I have doesn’t mean I have wasted anything does it? The same is true of each of our dogs.
Thanks to Karen Hocker for all her great photos.
I remember years ago sitting with perennial USA World Team member Jean Lavalley watching a Sheltie she bred run in the the Novice ring. The dog was gifted, perhaps one of the best Jean had ever bred (and she has bred a lot of good ones). Running the dog was a 60 something, robustly build, arthritic woman who had a very infectious laugh but little skill as an agility handler. While Jean and I sat there watching someone came up beside Jean and said “that puppy grew up to be amazing, isn’t it a shame she didn’t go to a different home?”
Jean’s answer was polite but pointed as she said something like this; “She went exactly where she was intended to go, to a home where she is made to feel special and where her owner feels special to have her.”
Don’t ever think that any dog’s life story is one of unfulfilled potential. I am confident that each dog in our life is living out their intended purpose. From your first agility dog who may now be the star couch-potato of your family, to the dog that may be driving you to drink due to a never-seen-before level of agonizing frustration.
Regardless of how it may appear to any of us watching, every dog’s life is always one of great intention. The odyssey is unique to each dog and their person. Those of us on the outside looking in may never be privy to all that is being fulfilled during the time you have together but the impact is likely more than any world championship ever could provide.
Today I am grateful for Maeve, an amazing dog whose time with Chris may have felt way too brief, but whose life was one of great purpose.