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.
Thank you. I lost my first dog as an adult just a month ago. I adopted her when I was 22 and we kind of grew up together. She brought me into the world of dogs and dog training, setting me on the path I am currently blessed to travel. This little pit bull came to my life with intention and I am so lucky to have shared a decade with her.
Terribly sorry for the loss of Maeve, but wonderful that she had such a loving home and such a great life.
Maeve really is a beautiful girl. I am sorry for Chris’ loss. It does sound from your post that both Maeve and Chris were very lucky.This is a good reminder to enjoy every single minute with our dogs.Right now I am grateful to have both of mine curled up next to me after a fun evening of play.
Well said Susan! I know a few eyebrows were raised when my BC came into my life, beautiful talented dog/very green handler. I am forever grateful that MEB, like Jean, had criteria other than a superstar agility career for her pups.
You always have a way of making a GREAT point. Hip Hip Hooray for Jean as well !
Poignant and so true! Thanks for the reminder.
What a great post. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I know dogs are great. I was having doubts about myself. I get ceased up thinking I am going to ruin my ‘first agility dog’ but now I see she is right where she is supposed to be. This post brought back the simple joy of doing something my dog and I really enjoy together. It is a journey and we get do overs. It isn’t the end of the world when my dog makes a mistake. It is an opportunity. Why would I be so hard on myself? It is time to lighten up and enjoy the journey!
Thank you Susan! We all need to be reminded in everything we do with our dogs whether ir be agility, obedience or any other dogs sports that the most important thing is whether or not it is promoting a positive and happy relationship with our dogs. Above all it is about enjoying a closer bond with our dogs through a fun activity enjoyed by both humans and dogs.
So perfect and beautifully written. I am going through a divorce and my labrador has been my sanity through it all. She is amazing and intuitive and knows just what I need be it a walk, a cuddle or just letting me lie next to her and cry – before I had a dog I never could have imagined the emotional connectedness. Now I wonder how I could ever live without it!
Thank you so much for this. Every once in a while an email about “what a title means” comes around and it always leaves me a bit sad because it chalks up to a title things that are just as true for untitled dogs. I’ve never been able to fully articulate my feelings about why it bothers me. Your post here has done that nicely. Thank you .
Thank you for the wonderful blog about the inner value of the relationship we share with each of our dogs.
This is just beautiful. I sit here now with a big lump in my throat and I think of my Dylan. I have probably said 100 times that I wish I knew then what I know now. However, I need to remember that I wouldn’t know any of it, if it weren’t for Dylan being the dog he was. I think the greatest work he ever did was at making me who I am today. He led me to the friendships I hold close today and he patiently allowed me to make the mistakes to become the trainer and person I am today.
Thoroughly enjoyed your sentiments and share them wholeheartedly. I do not know the team described in this post, but wish them both godspeed.
This is all the more poignant for me as I adopted a BCX last Fall and named her Maeve and she’s a pistol.
The longer I’ve been in dogs and trained dogs, the less the actual competition and the more the relationship has come to mean to me. I tend to adopt mixes and we run into our fair share of “when you get your purebred.”
But our joy is in our journey, not the brand of dog we acquire or the external validation of human concern.
My heartfelt condolences to Maeve’s partner and handler.
Well said, Susan. Thank you.
Your post gave me permission to stop making excuses for what we have not done as a team and just enjoy each of my dogs for who they are – amazing in their own way – sharing my journey with each of them is a blessing.
A wonderful and very timely post, thank you!
Great post…as I was just defending my brilliant dog who may never achieve what he could/should in agility but is a spectacular dog nonetheless…but too many people don’t want to see past the dropped bars, or crap startline….still a brilliant dog who has forced me to learn so much….
Thank you for such a wonderful post.
Though she will be missed at least part of Maeve will live on in her progeny for us to see and help us remember what a special dog she was.
Thanks Susan for the beautiful post.
And for Chris…I am so sorry. I remember talking about Maeve’s cancer with you and hoped she’d be around for a good long time to come. She was one awesome dog and it was always a joy to watch you two…you were definitely connected on many levels.
Thoughts and prayers with you…till you meet Miss Maeve again. She may not be with you any longer on this plane, but will always be a part of you and in your heart.
Sleep well Maeve.
-Marcy, WoofAngel, Bandit, Echo, Rocky, BB, Pax and Smudge
Thank you Susan; your post echos and reinforces a (slightly weepy) conversation some friends and I had at a trial this weekend. It is hard to perpetually feel outclassed by your dog! The first few years I ran my last dog, the most common thing I heard coming out of the ring (including from several of my instructors) was “will he run for anyone but you?”. Well, yes, he’d run for ANYBODY, but that’s not the point; this is a TEAM sport. I know he has way more potential than I will ever realize with him, thank you for pointing that out! Now I have his son and I’m a dozen years older with worse knees; deja vu. Some friends and I were talking and I said how I always feel bad because WE can always get another dog, but our dogs are stuck with us as handlers; but their comments I think were true. They all are sent to us for a reason at a particular time in our lives, and have as many lessons to teach us as we have to teach them. Thanks again Susan.
As I sit here crying over this post because of its relevance to my Lab who could have done so much in agility but for a major injury, and a handler who did not know better (ME),I recognize what he has given to me just by being himself and the journey we have shared. Jean’s “polite” answer says it all.
I love it, when you take a step back and look at the big picture.
thank you for totaly validating ME
I have gotten to know Chris and her dogs very well as we train at the same facility in NH. Thank you for eloquently putting into words what I wanted to say to Chris.
What a surprise! another beautiful photo appeared on this post today !
What really struck me was the thought: There’s no dog out there disappointed in their person.
That is absolutely beautiful. I had my dog’s trainer said to me once “if he was mine…” I can only assume in his eyes, I did not live up to my dog’s potential. That DID hurt. All I wanted to do was to bring up my dog the best way I could, to provide him with the best opportunities I know. So I tried, then I tried harder. And I felt I’ve failed him (my dog that is)
And then, as I trudge along and learn, together with the dog that I supposingly have buried his potential ;just because he was mine; I realized that that might just not be true. The trainer or others sees my dog once a week, I see him 24/7. He might look like he was a could on so many things but I knew he couldn’t.
As I learn more and more about dog training, I also found out that the many FAILs that my dog couldn’t do was not because I didn’t put in the effort, but it was simply because he was NOT ready YET.
We’ve left the trainer because his belief that my dog is a genius had led to many positive punishments during times when my dog couldn’t perform, and of which I disagree.
Today I shudder to think what might have been for my dog “if it was his”. I am so thankful for your post today, Susan. Although through the months I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the unworthy owner he said I am, but you re-affirmed it today. Of which I’m thankful. And I know my dog is too.
Titles & championships or WT selections are there for the owners, not the dogs… they are the ones that are truly doing it just for fun. I’ve seen many a talented dog at least as good as the ‘best’ in the country at local trials & such, but the journey their handlers are on is one not with a quest to attain a status the dog doesn’t care about.
Actually many handlers at nationals are disappointingly ordinary whereas the dogs are extraordinary.
Yes, our dogs aren’t any less than those whose owners have chosen a different path & we the owners are better for such diversity & the pleasure of the dogs that want to play with us.
Well Scott I would have to respectfully disagree with you. Until you have a dog at the World Championships you will never know but they DO recognize this is different and they DO rise to the occasion and turn their game up a notch. I think it is important for each of us to not only enjoy our separate journeys, but also not judge the paths that others have taken. No path needs to be better than another as different is not bad. While there may be people at the top of the sport (and actually through all of dogs sports, not just the top) that appear to not care about their dog as much as their ego they are far out numbered by those of us that love our dogs whole heartedly.
Beautiful words of truth susan.
Please give Chris our condolences, Maeve was a gorgeous dog and extrememly talented. I met her a few times at your camps and know some of her siblings from various Score/Quid litters and they are all amazing dogs. I always thought she was particularily special and I know Chris thought so too.
It is such a tough thing to lose our dogs too early like this. We will be thinking about her….
Susan, it is scary how you seem to know exactly what to say at exactly the time I need to hear it.
Kay– your comment echoes my own situation perfectly! Thank you!
Susan, this is my favorite post, yet. Thanks.
Thanks Susan. If I may echo your thoughts with my own story…please visit http://www.wholisticvet.com/TheWholisticVet/Pranks_Page.html It’s funny, the way life sends us what we need, even though it may not be what we asked for.
Absolutely true, and I think we all need to be reminded of this from time to time. My girlie hasn’t been the easiest, and I realise that for us agility stardom isn’t meant to be, but we have had such an amazing journey so far, I’ve learned things and met people I probably wouldn’t have if I’d had any other dog. She’s a very special little girl!
this blog could not have come at a better time thank you
Thank you, your entry touched the very depths of my heart. I used to think my dog could have been “something” had he not been my first agility dog. That has changed. I am his biggest handicap and champion. He thinks the sun rises and sets on me. I am blessed.
I appreciate this very insightful and intimate post.
Way to say it. I don’t compete but have a certified therapy dog. When she walks into a room of people with disabilities who can’t speak but light up when they see her, I know she at her best. And to top it off, she loves me dearly. Can you really ask for more?
Thanks Susan. Sometimes its hard to remember that every dog is special and despite being a “beginner trainer” and a klutz my dogs are right where they belong.
Another brilliant post, Susan. Your words speak to my soul and I appreciate your willingness to share them.
Hear, hear, Susan.
The older I get the more I understand about handling but the less I can physically do so I train my best and love my dogs to pieces and feel good about whatever we can accomplish but I don’t for a minute think they would be better off with a better handler who might be able to ” get more out of them” because nobody but nobody could ever love them as much as I do.
Thanks Susan. I really needed to hear this. I will for sure look at my dogs in a different light from now on.
Made me cry as I have one I thought could have been/done more if only I knew more. He has taught me lots about myself and is still my Shadow.
Great post Susan!
Thanks Susan. I needed to hear this as I pass through a period of fustration with one dog and need to remember the joy she brings along with it.
Thanks susan, I really needed this one.
Wow, this one hit home.
I have to say I needed to hear this. One of my dogs was once an obedience competitor, until I went away to college. When I came back, she’d lost her manners due to loneliness, and I felt I’d never let her live to her full potential- I kept wishing I’d given her to another competitor so she could be her best!
Even though she and I have our issues, we’re working them out- going back to classes, doing some agility in our backyard, and enjoying her declining years with dignity and trying our damndest to drill impulse control (that NEVER got through her head, I was a young, young handler that couldn’t grasp it myself) into her head. We’re doing better though, and she’s an amazing dog, a great pet, and a good companion that knows just how to push me over to get kisses and ear rubs.
Not a whole lot more I can ask for.
Jean’s response is beautiful. Thanks for the bonus smile moment.
So true. They’re all different and take us along different journeys, even the so-called ‘naughty’ ones. Love the dogs that are allowed to have character.
Amen, Susan. You said it all, and I thank you for saying it.