Finding my voice

I haven’t been writing a blog for the last several months because I haven’t been able to figure out how to put my thoughts into words….I give a lot of credit to those of you who find your words so easily!

Competing for The CKC Agility Team Canada at the European Open with my dog Cash was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I will never forget that first run – sitting him at the start line, leading out in that arena….it was truly like time stood still for me.  It was just me, and Cash, and the thought that ‘this was it’. This was the moment I have been working towards, and I was blown away by how lucky I was to be sharing it with such an incredible dog.


It is funny to me, the question I got asked most when I returned was “how did you place?” and “Did you win?” – mostly from people not involved in agility of course…because those that do know the sport know how competitive it is, and that just being there is an accomplishment in of itself.  I responded to those people that I was happy with how I did, that no we didn’t win…and I told them that I really hope to be lucky enough to go back and try again!

It was so inspiring just being there and able to see run after run of incredible teams, giving it everything they have to win.  I remember while watching finals one of the handlers had given so much of herself that she went down as she crossed the finish line just like you sometimes see Olympic athletes do at the end of a race.  Did she win? I don’t think she made the podium, maybe she did…maybe she didn’t – I can’t be sure. But what I realized in that moment is that it really isn’t the results that matter.  Sure, we all want to win…to do agility at high levels in this sport I think requires a pretty competitive personality but at the end of the day what truly matters is trying your very best, running like you really mean it, and leaving it all out there in that arena.

I know that Cash and I have a lot of homework to do in order to even have a chance at a podium finish, but I also know that if it never happens, I am going to enjoy every second of the journey, and never forget how I felt in that moment.

~ Karen

In the beginning…

Sitting here in my living room binging on German beer, and Mad Men I find myself reflecting on what has brought me to this moment. I am less than 24 hours away from getting on a plane with my handsome boy in order to represent Team Canada at the FCI European Open. Since finding out I made the team I have gone through an enormous range of emotions, from screaming with joy at the top of my lungs to sobbing with my head in my lap.  Sometimes I STILL think that I am dreaming. The one thing I know for sure? I really do want this.

I have been battling the inner voice that says we can’t, the one that argues we aren’t ready – and I think I have finally shut it down. Maybe we aren’t ready, maybe we will be eliminated from every single run over there… but I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. With the help our coach, and some very good friends I have realized that this is the beginning of my journey, and these are my 10,000 hours. I am so blessed to have this wonderful dog, and I know that we have to start somewhere. I am beyond ecstatic that *somewhere* is on such an exciting stage, at a wonderful venue, with some amazing competitors and in the company of friends.

Today, in this moment, I am proud of how far this wonderful dog and I have come – and truly excited about the future. Thank you to everyone who has helped us along our way, and believed that we can. And thank you Julie for trusting me with this handsome boy.

Could he be any cuter?

Could he be any cuter?

~ Karen

Rocky Mountain Magic

Shortly after finding out about the European Open I was scheduled to hop on an airplane & head to the West to spend some time with my husband and see the Rocky Mountains.  I was quite stressed to be leaving Cash behind when I felt like I had so much to do…but a very wise woman reminded me that in order to be truly successful you need to have balance in your life.  She’s 110% right.

I flew out of our tiny little airport on a very tiny little plane. They definitely should consider installing Holy Shit handles in those things – I was quite certain we were going down on more than one occasion! I survived both flights & landed in Calgary…a short couple of hours later and we were at our awesome hotel in Canmore, Alberta.

I have seen the mountains as a young child…but my God are they breath taking. We only had four days together, but managed to see a lot of the most talked about sights, enjoyed each others company and ate far too much yummy food 🙂  The first full day together we took the spectacular drive up the Icefields Parkway and just missed the cut off for walking on the glacier! We dipped our toes in Lake Louise, Bryan almost broke through some ice on Lake Moraine, I hiked in sandals through snow drifts *not surprising if you know me*, my bum “temporarily lodged me” in a Cave adventure we decided to go on AND we were able to see mountain sheep, elk, bears, a lone wolf (or at least he looked alone!).

The only dog related homework I did was drinking German Beer in preparation for the European Open…oh and Cash’s boy Tag did drop by for a 30 minute visit 🙂

I will post some more pictures later – the one above is from the top of the little hiking path from the Banff Gondola.

~ Karen

Am I dreaming?

It has been eleven days since I found out that I do in fact get to represent TEAM CANADA at this years European Open!! I am beyond excited & deeply honoured that Cash and I are representing our beautiful country at such an awesome event.

I got the news while I was a passenger (thank God) in Mom’s car heading to work – I am fairly certain I caused some permanent damage to her hearing and may have affected the shocks in her car. I screamed & bounced and carried on for at least an hour.  There were also some very loud voicemail messages left for friends – NONE of which seemed able to answer their phones!!

After the excitement *started* to settle I got down to business to book my flight overseas & found out we were going to get to go a little bit early and stay a little bit late… That’s okay though! Cash and I are going to make a little European vacation out of it.  I immediately googled “Things to do Alone with Your Dog in Munich”. I’m not sure I’d recommend that search.  LOL.

55 Sleeps until the competition begins!!! AND…less than 7 weeks until we leave. I feel a little bit overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done between now and then but am thankful for the support of all my friends and family. You know who you are 🙂

~ Karen

Video, Connection, and Nowhere to sleep

Almost every trial I go to I have someone videotape my runs. I do it because I want a record of those amazing moments – the runs where it felt like perfection, where time slowed down and it is just me and the dog doing our dance.  There is so much magic in that connection, and I think it is a big part of what drives me in agility.

The last few days I have decided that it is time to go through ALL of my video. I would say that at this point I am about 50% done editing, reviewing & compiling the last years worth of agility trials.  I have always had a hard time reviewing my video. I find it difficult to watch the runs where I’m making mistakes, have poor timing, or am not showing up 110%.

You know what I’ve realized? I need to do this. I REALLY need to do this. I need to watch every single minute of this video.  It is good for me to SEE what I am doing wrong, and to realize that NO MATTER how the run turned out that my dogs are always bringing every ounce of their beings. Watching my dogs attempt to understand what I want when my timing is bad, or when I’m making mistakes shows me just how lucky I am to have them and how much HEART they have.

The dance of agility might not always BE perfect, but tonight as I watch myself stumble along in some less than spectacular runs I am thankful for my canine partners.  They don’t understand outcome, or have expectation. They live wholly in the moment, and once and awhile I am lucky enough to truly join them there.

Off to bed now…although if you see the picture above you’ll see I have nowhere to sleep 🙂

~ Karen

Dog is Good

I saw these words written on a sweatshirt at a trial I was at recently, and loved it.  The company is “Dog is Good” – – anyway, I thought I would share one of my favourite pictures of my Red Dog Miss Maya with these words.

Dog truly is good, great, and absolutely everything.

So lucky to have them in my life.

~ Karen

A different kind of spring

Here’s the thing. Normally every spring I travel around the province of Ontario shearing sheep, alpacas and llamas. I began my career when I was 12, and am now almost 32. I’m not doing the math. But it’s a long time.

Things that have come with turning almost 32 include:

….A somewhat cantankerous rotator cuff & desire to sit on ones butt occasionally and relax!

Spring has always created full and utter chaos in my life. I work 7 days a week, shearing animals, running my orthotic business, and trying to fit in all the things that I love – Oh. and Sleep!

Here’s what I have come to know:

i) I want my rotator cuff to be happy

ii) I am no longer able to keep up with this pace of life….AND I think its time to STOP living for other people and START living for me.

So this year I said no. To my clients, and their animals that I’ve grown to care for. It’s one of the hardest things I have had to do.  Shearing has been such a huge part of my life for so many years – but I feel like I am stepping away from it and into my future.

Baby Alberta

Cash was bred for a second time to a beautiful bitch named “Grand Oakes Capture the Moment” aka Leica – she produced 7 healthy puppies AND I was lucky enough to be there for the birth of most of them.  It was so incredible to be involved, and bear witness to something so  magical.

I knew that I could not take one of these puppies for myself, as I have my hands quite full with two young dogs under a year of age…but the Universe smiled on me and let me spend 48 hours with one of the boys.  We picked him up from Julie’s house on the way home from the USDAA Chicago Regional, and kept him with us in our home as one of the gang for a couple of days before he got on a plane with my husband to head to the Wild West.

I could not believe how much he reminded me of his father at the same age, and how quickly I fell madly in love with him. He is one special little puppy, with the most incredible eyes, and sweetest personality.

Having him for the short time that we did was a blessing – watching him get on that airplane with Bryan was SO hard! However, I know that he has a very good home in Alberta &  I am so excited to see all of the amazing things he and his litter mates will achieve 🙂

~ Karen

Being More, Doing Less

Love the part about spending more time “being” and less “doing”. So much truth to that.

The Cognitive Canine

Things are changing in the sport dog world.  We are suddenly immersed in activities to do with our dogs.  We can participate in scent work, dock diving, barn hunt, and more.  Just having one measly agility class a week no longer needs to cut it; we can now attend a dog-related function, be it class, seminar, or competition EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.  So, should we?

I feel that dog guardianship falls on a continuum these days with most pet dogs still not getting enough in regards to mental stimulation or exercise and most sport dogs being run utterly ragged.  Yes, I said *most* sport dogs.  If you attend a dog-related sanctioned activity that requires enormous amounts of mental stamina from your canine companion every single weekend and one or more nights a week, you might want to reconsider.  Why is it harmful to do too much?  Besides the risk…

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