Dog in Pink
Do the best you can, then when you learn something better, do that.
They say ignorance is bliss and I find no shame in ignorance. Ignorance is no excuse to do wrong but it's a reason. This means to me that we must always do the best we can based on what we know and always seek to know more. Never apologize for your ignorance, not knowing something is forgivable. What is unforgivable is closing your mind around what you know leaving no opening to learn what you don't know.
No where in my life has my ignorance been more exposed then with nose work, nor have I been so unconditionally forgiven by my dog for my ignorance. The greatest most valuable piece of advice to combat the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy came from our original nose work trainer, Mary Swinyer. Volunteer, she said. So that is what I did. From the time Winnie got her ORTs on April 14, 2018 in Grass Valley, CA I have volunteered at more trials than we have participated in. Emersion is the greatest way to learn, and learn I have. Understanding what happens before we search, during the search, and after have brought me to a level of comfort on trial day. I also have found out no one works as hard as the Host. The NACSW staff also work tirelessly from one weekend to the next, and the judges as well. They all work to build a trial. The volunteer coordinator and her/his list of unsung heroes fill in the meat and flesh between the bones of the trial and there is where I find my comfort zone. Doing any job they offer, I have been putting together a picture of what it takes to put on a trial and consequently find it easier to be in the trial. With each different volunteer positions I've been given, from parking lot and check in to judge's steward or timing I have learned things I didn't know. Piece by piece, I keep adding knowledge to the puzzle. There is one puzzle piece I didn't even know acquiring it was in the realm of possibilities. It was a volunteer position that included me and Winnie together. With eyes wide shut, Winnie and I got to volunteer this weekend in a way that enriched our knowledge and added yet another dimension to the overall collective experience. We got to be the Dog in White.
I had no idea what was expected, I knew what the Dog in White meant but had no experience watching what the Dog in White does, it is a very behind the scenes volunteer position. I read about Dog in White on the NACSW website, I feel honored that Winnie was chosen, and I probably should have been nervous about it but as usual was too ignorant to be. I figured as always I will know what I need to know when I am told. So instead, I focused on what I knew I didn't know in hopes I could find out a few things; Why is it called Dog in White? Where did the term come from? It is a fun way of saying demo dog. Who gave it the fun name? Inquiring minds wanna know.
Winnie and I had a great time being Dog in White, this went down as one of the most fun times we have had. We got to do some fantastic searches, with challenges for both Winnie and I. We worked things out, learned some more, and even would probably have titled had we been entered (at #86 on the wait list, we hadn't stood a chance of getting in). One judge asked me what I thought about handling the Dog In White to which I replied, "It feels great. It is so much fun." When the judge then began explaining the differences between when you are just sniffing like it's a practice compared to when you are trying for a title and how there is no pressure being Dog in White, I just nodded. Truth be told, it felt the same.
For Winnie and me, when it comes to NoseWork, I have adopted what I call the ignorance philosophy, the less I think about things the better and with the lack of knowledge comes no expectations. Our experience, from ORT to Seminars to Trials, has been to dive in and learn. There is no mystery about scent work, no one is trying to keep secrets. This is one sport where one is really only competing with one's self and everyone seems to genuinely wanna help share what they've learned. Other than Element placement ribbons on trial day, no one can take your accomplishments by beating you. There are titles for each team, handler and dog, and all we have to do is earn them. So if titles is what you seek, take comfort in knowing they are waiting for you.
I find comfort where I always do, not within the outcome, but rather the experience. And with another adventure to add to the Puggle's story, we still don't know the origins of the term Dog in White but we know how it feels to be one. Pretty fricken awesome!