Late to the party. A bit rushed this past week. This post will be annotated with my friend’s puppy, Envy. She’s kind of really adorable.
There was a Dog Agility Blog Action Day last Wednesday on the topic of Aging. I read through many of the posts; lovely thoughts, great blogs. I did notice a general trend though, these posts focused on an older generation. And that was likely to be expected, as I think most of us, myself included, are drawn to what we can relate to.
As such, I have predictably been musing over a younger generation. For quite a bit of time now, actually.
Envy and pink boot, exhibit A of young dog generation.
In dog agility in the United States there is an interesting dominant demographic in place: middle aged women. It’s pretty excellent in many ways. Having started agility when I was twelve years old, I grew up around some truly fabulous characters — my mom affectionately named my dog agility friends my grown-up-women-friends. I live in an area where I have been blessed with kind, supportive souls throughout my agility career, something I am forever grateful for.
As I have expanded both geographically and through the internet in my agility-based adventures, I have found more and more of these wonderful friends. However, through these travels I have also come across those characters who teach me colder lessons. While I am equally grateful for these lessons (though usually a bit harder to swallow), I couldn’t help but contemplate the broad impact this negativity can have.
Why be negative when there are pretty trees and puppies in the world?
While I recognize that there are those who do support a younger generation of dog agility competitors, I do not think this support is universal, and in fact see evidence all too frequently that demonstrates just the opposite. A younger crowd is intimidating.
That’s the story, anyway.
A younger generation has the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, my mistakes. He or she may be physically stronger, faster. Those who are younger than us often grow up in a world with more resources and opportunities, because of us. Remember when you decided training a dog to stop on a contact board with her front feet off and back feet on was a good idea, you genius person out there, you? Remember when you, in the red shirt over there, decided running contacts could actually work?
The people who come after these innovative ideas are already at an advantage because they no longer have to discover them for themselves. Nor do they have to get bogged down with other ways of thinking. Kids are a primary example of this.
That can sting. I understand that. Believe me, anyone who has siblings can understand that. But within a big community, all too often we seem to miss the part where we hug it out and celebrate each other. We also miss the part where we learn from each other. Yeah, learning from kids, who comes up with this stuff anyway?
That little girl who beat you in the local Steeplechase last weekend? She might be the next dog training genius who changes the way we communicate with our animals forever. She also might figure out a new jump training technique never previously explored. Please encourage her.
Envy would like to teach you how to scale dangerous slopes by creeks. Hardcore.
Sometimes it’s easier to complain that the fifteen year old can run faster than you can. Maybe you’re just being sarcastic, so it’s actually a compliment, right?
How does that saying go… there’s always truth in sarcasm? Please, be careful.
Especially with children. Especially with children who live their whole lives looking up to you. Kids who would have life size posters of you in their rooms if Target sold them — people do it with Michael Jordan, why not Silvia Trkman too?
I have idolized many an agility competitor over the years, especially as a teenager… and I have been made to feel small by many of those who I once revered.
Because of my age.
It is not an issue of ego, it is not an issue of age, or jealousy, or self pity… it is an issue of Attitude, respect and compassion.
The dog agility youth is extraordinary. I have worked with them in seminars, I have watched them run at local trials and on the big stages of Nationals, Tryouts, International Events. They have talent, they have ideas, they have passion. They are worth listening to and they are worthy of your respect.
Thank you to those who have supported both myself and others as we have grown up in this sport. While you may not have always realized it, even your smallest gestures have made the greatest impact. Thank you, thank you.