Recovery Box for the Handler
I have always considered myself a non-competitive person, and often can't understand them when I witness others who are the opposite. I raised two daughters who both participated in highly competitive sports; Gymnastics, and Dressage and Three-Day Eventing on horseback. My girls were encouraged to do their best and I advised them to pay little attention to those around them, but rather to try to get better by measuring their progression compared to their own previous performances and not the performance of others. In my old age, I find myself in the somewhat competitive sport of Canine Scent Work and am enjoying it without getting caught up in the competition of it and trying to practice what I preached about gauging one's success. It is hard, though, to stay out of the competitive mix when one's natural human desire is to do well and it is also natural to be our own worst enemy when we let ourselves feel inadequate compared to others. I fell into the trap at the NACSW Trial in Riverside, CA hosted by Linda Buchanan of K9s Love to Search.
Winnie and I have entered 13 NW3 Trials since April 2019 and had gotten into only two where we earned her first and second NW3 Titles. Doing our usual thing, using what works for us, concentrating on not thinking about much at all, we have fun and I manage to focus no attention on the outcome. Staying in the moment is our secret weapon and I am pretty good at it. Our third try for NW3 title at March Field Air Museum came and Winnie was prepared, I was excited. But nothing about the trial felt familiar, there was so much extra-curricular activity and my head was full of thoughts.
Our trip to Southern Cal began two days before the trial. On the first night we stayed with family half way down before driving the rest of the way the next day. That was the first distraction. Trial day dawned and started with us participating in an emotional, pre-trial ceremony as all participants gathered around a War Dog sculpture honoring military dogs and handlers throughout history. Distraction number two. The searches were set in and among the exhibits; on planes, around war crafts, and all kinds of artifacts and displays. I was looking more like a museum tourist durning the walk thru than a handler getting info for searches. When the searching began, Winnie did her part but I was incredibly distracted. Needless to say, and without going into too much detail, we did not earn Winnie's third NW3 title but did come away with two Element titles, Containers and Interiors.
I was in unfamiliar territory as I felt disappointment and couldn't rationalize the reason. Winnie had searched well, our Containers and Interiors searches were something to be proud of. Winnie missed settling on one of two hides on vehicles and I kept her in both exterior search areas too long after she had worked, decided and let me know she was done resulting in my calling a "false" when she found something that was not odor but was none the less interesting. My fault! Add failure to the disappointment. And follow these two negative feelings with the frustration of anger at myself for FEELING failure and disappointment. After all, Winnie had found 8 out of 9 hides and earned two titles. I felt embarrassed that I wasn't satisfied. How could I be so ungrateful! Wow, what a mess I had become and I thought I KNEW better.
Today Winnie and I got to go to class with one of our wonderful instructors, Candy Bennyi. It was our first time back in the saddle since getting "bucked off" in Riverside. We searched with enthusiasm and joy. We were in sync and reading each other nicely. We are back to learning new things while confirming and reestablishing what we know. Candy's searches gave me and Winnie the opportunity to work with no residue from the past, and my resolve to return to what works well for us has whittled down the negativity so it can be carried in the tiniest of bags: big enough to only hold the lesson and nothing else. Today's Nose Work class was our Trial "recovery box".