Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Does she know?

Bailey earned her MACH (Master Agility CHampion) title this weekend. Someone posed a question that I had already been pondering: “Does she know?” They were asking if Bailey was aware that she had just earned one of the biggest titles an agility dog can earn. I began thinking about this in earnest. Does she really know?

First, let me say that I am aware that titles are for people and not dogs. I know that in reality, even if she senses something different about this weekend, she knows nothing of qualifying runs, or titles, and is entirely unaware that the collection of letters in front of and behind her name eclipsed mine long ago. And as Sandy Mowry states in her article “What is a Title Really?”, titles are just a way to say you loved your dog, loved to spend time with them and believed in him enough to give him another chance when he failed [or you failed him].

However, I began considering whether Bailey KNEW that she had reached a milestone. For sure I can say she knew something was different. In her career, I have never reached down and picked up the last bar and then turned and begun running the course backward with it. (Her ADCH was earned on a Snooker SuperQ and we never got a victory lap around the ring!) Perhaps she thought I was running with the largest baton she had ever seen. Afterward, she probably realized that I was gushing a little more than usual. I am not sure she recognized that everyone came up and hugged me, except to note that they were keeping her from getting back to her treats at her crate. The many people that said “MACH Bailey!” to her as she ran past were probably ignored entirely. And while I know she is able to understand delayed gratification enough to know that the treats she gets at her crate are for having a good run in the ring, I highly doubt she is able to grasp that the hamburger patty and ice cream she had at Sonic on the way home were for REALLY good runs 4 hours earlier.

In a way, I hope that she doesn’t know much of a difference. I would like to think that I celebrate good runs with her all the time. Unless she totally blows me off or is really bad, she always gets treats, adoring pats and cooing praise at her crate after a run. I know without a doubt that most of the NQ’s we get are because I did something wrong. Almost every knocked bar is a result of poor timing on my part. Most wrong courses can be tracked back to sloppy body position of mine. And even for the issues that aren’t mine, I try extremely hard to forgive as graciously as she forgives my mistakes. This is not to say that I don’t get upset about a bad run (especially when I know it is something dumb I did to cause it), but I try to keep in mind that this is my dog. She is an animal who shows as much devotion to me as I can ever hope to receive. She does the things I ask her to do partially because they are fun, but mainly because I ask her to do them. She loves to go have fun with me. She barks and gets excited to run. And when we come off a course after a good run, she KNOWS we just had a lot of fun. So I hope that this was just another run where we danced around and celebrated afterward. I hope this is just another great, fun time with Mom and the only difference is the ribbon hung on the front of her crate obstructed her view just a little more than usual.

Does she know? I hope she thinks every run is a MACH run!