On Aging

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.



  1. says

    Tori – Woot!! Yes it isn’t all about “Respect your elders” we can all learn something from young people and new ideas. Do I sometimes wish I could ‘put the pedal down’ like those youngsters? Sure. But I don’t begrudge them their youth and athleticism; I know I can still improve myself and be the best I can be.

    I also have learned a lot from young people – now that I’ve turned the 1/2 century mark – there are a lot of great trainers/handlers younger than me, like yourself, who I’m grateful to learn from.

    So yes! Support the next generation w/o the sarcasm and thank you (youngster :) for your contributions to our sport!

    • Tori Self says

      Thanks much for the comment, Steve! Sorry my post was so late though. What can I say, it’s the procrastinating kid in me;)

  2. Monica says

    Another excellent post! I would totally have a Siliva Trkman poster in my room! There would also be a Tori Self poster next to it ;-)

  3. Curtis says

    Great words Tori– I have no problem with the youngsters kicking butt in Agility. For me personally it is motivating. Two of my biggest idols are named Lisa and Victoria…

  4. Amy Galperin says

    Nice post, as one of the elders, I love having youngsters around to push me. So glad we have it all – ages, types, skills and lots of room to do better.

  5. Amy says

    Oh Tori you did it once again with your words! So perfect. So right on the mark. As one who grew up in the sport, I totally identify with this and agree with everything you say. You really should write books ;) Maybe a series of 7 about a wizard and then turn it into 8 movies and then decide to write a follow up 8th book lol :)

      • Amy says

        Yes!!! God you are so brilliant! What an amazing concept ;) Maybe have a loveable giant and the most bad ass character should be a werewolf ;)

  6. Kara says

    Love the post Tori..though I am not exactly “young” at 28…I still get treated like I know nothing because I barely look 20!!! You would not believe the amount of people that have told me what to do or lecture me on everything when I have no idea what their name is or anything about them, and certainly had not come to them for advice… all because they thought I was a kid! Come on everyone- this young generation is one reason why our sport is growing. =) Help them, enourage them, befriend them- heck they may even become one of the greatest people you ever meet. I keep reminding myself often…Open mind, Open mind, Open mind. If everyone remembered to keep an open mind, there would be so much room for growth and learning throughout everyone’s lifetime.

  7. Linda says

    I am at awe of the younger generation and their talents. And it feels good to know that young people like some of the same things I like and I’m 60 (there I said it). Imagine that! You go girl because I love watching you.

  8. Tabitha says

    As someone who is on her way to becoming “middle-aged” but is regularly confused for a junior handler, this post means a lot to me. It is about attitude and respect. If the younger can respect the older why does it seem so impossible for the feelings to be mutual?

  9. Elizabeth Dott says

    I was so lucky to have known you at 12 and watch you blossom into the fabulous young woman and dog trainer you have become. I also came into the sport young. I was 20 when I found agility and I found the respect was hard earned. Most middle age women I was friends with thought of me as a kid and themselves as my surrogate mothers. It was tough, and I was not always treated kindly either. I was told once that I pissed a lot of people off with my first BC Max because we frequently won and I was new to the sport and had not earned my wins yet. It hurt but I grew and learned from it. I see the young generation as the next great dog trainers and handlers as well. I do understand the other side of the coin though now as I have reached middle age myself. That fact that there is always someone younger and faster coming up behind you to knock you off your spot. Then I realized that there are two ways to compete. One is to compete against others, and the other is to compete against yourself. I have always liked competing against myself better. I never play it safe and would much prefer to do something no one else has done in the ring, or try some new move that I am not comfortable with yet. I think it is more important to do the best you can and enjoy that run with your best buddy then to worry about what someone younger, faster and in my case skinnier is doing. {Especially for me the unlikely athlete} :0) Don’t let it get you down. Right now is your time to shine and sadly it all goes way to fast and then you find yourself middle age and someone new and younger and faster is coming up behind you. :0) Hugs

  10. Ace Russell says

    ‘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’. Dare I add ‘love’? From an (old) real-life hippie to the hippiedog girl, good post!

  11. says

    Know that many of us middle-aged women DO respect you, regardless of your age. I think Rosanne DeMascio was 11 when she started teaching, and I had no problem with that, as she definitely knew more than I did! Some people did grumble, but I think most got over it ;)

    Susan Mann, Arie and Gethin

  12. Melanie M says

    Consider me a believer… :-)

    Seriously, I freakin’ LOVE to learn. Why, oh why, would I limit myself to only learning from old people??? :-D I’ve admired you for many years, Tori…I think it started when I watched you leave Rev in the weaves down in Perry years ago….I think it was in GP Finals at the Regional maybe 3 years ago or so??? And in part, I admired you BECAUSE of your age.

    Thanks for once again saying things that needed to be said.

  13. Carol says

    I started agility in my 50s, after a major health battle. Everyone I learned from was younger than me. They still are. I love agility. I cringe at “you can’t do that,” no matter how old the person is who says it. I love what I’ve learned and am in awe of the people who led the way to what our sport was then and what it is becoming. I’m in my mid-60s now and have a good agility dog and great partner. He is teaching me to learn distance. . .not because he is fast, but because I am slowing him down. Silvia Trckman is awesome. Linda Mecklenberg & Susan Garret taught me some great stuff, too.

    Forget the turkeys. They are everywhere no matter how young or old you are.

    You are coming to South Florida soon. I hope to learn a thing or two from you, the good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. See you then.

    • Tori Self says

      Gah, you rock. I *love* that attitude. One of the coolest things about our sport is the range of people who compete in it. Looking forward to December!

  14. says

    You continue to amaze me, Tori! I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you grow over the years; your maturity, your insight and your unending accomplishments. You, and some of your young friends (yes, everything is relative) make me smile because I relish the delight you bring to this game of agility. While I tease you, and will continue to do so, know that it is done with love and not ill will. You, young lady, have and continue to inspire me!

  15. Jessica says

    Tori, I am 17 years old and this post was just so perfect! I have been helped by so many people but also criticized in this sport…. And you are my idol…if you ever got on a poster in target I would be that person who buys it and hangs it on my wall :)

  16. Kristin says

    You words are always so wise! My crazy life doesn’t always allow me to “follow” blogs, but I look forward to agility action day and honestly was disappointed when I didn’t see one from you at first. Late is always better than never – thanks for sharing!!! As a coach and teacher in my “other” life, I am passionate about having a front row seat to watching the younger generation change the world in so many ways – I LOVED getting to watch you in live action at AKC nationals and I have been a huge fan for a while. I love the amazing things the “younger” handlers can do and even if it looks a little goofy when I try the same “moves” – I definitely try to emulate you guys!!!

  17. Dudley says

    Hmmm…. poster for the wall…. first thing that comes to my mind is cheesy bread. Then wookies. Have you seen wookies??? Chocolate chip cookie dough cooked in a waffle iron. Def poster-worthy. That is my lesson to you, young grasshopper. Be totally passionate, but don’t get too serious.
    Love you…. have for ages. :-)

  18. t a poodle says

    as one of the elders out there, i so totally applaud this post. if we keep an open mind, continue to learn from each other, treat everyone with respect, it enriches our lives and our worlds. watching innovative young handlers from around the world, seeing that diversity and creativity, how could you not be thrilled and encouraged for this sport? yes, i’ll never run as fast as i did when i was 20, but i can train smarter and maintain the best physical shape i can. i go to my friend in her early 20’s for dog training advice, and friends older than i for handling training, and all ages in between for support in this sport. i love that we have this kind of opportunity to share across such a broad spectrum, to make such great friends and develop amazing relationships. thanks for being the spokesperson for more awareness and tolerance, tori.

  19. Kathy Miller says

    Age is just a number. . . Figi’s Cloudbreak is an awesome Big Juice. . . I respect all living things. Competition doesn’t have to breed contempt, though it sometimes does, and so I remember what Gandhi said, “forgive and let go”. . . We miss you! & hope to see you soon. . . Hugs!

  20. says

    Great post! The conversations rueing the skills and speed of young handlers do ring a sour note. When I got started in agility it was interesting to be around a lot of women my age who didn’t have kids. (Actually, talking dogs more interesting than talking kids, so I prefer this crowd! But still…what’s the point of being negative about anybody?) I love that the 20-somethings I know (or parent) can climb higher and run faster than me…would be sad if they couldn’t!

  21. says

    Great blog subject, Tori. I have youngsters in my agility program and wish for each of them to work hard & smart, to learn much, and do well. I am so proud of my youngsters :-) I want them to be grounded in positive thinking and to hang with those that are not negative. The youth in agility are the future of the sport and we should all take care to nurture their excitement and passion!

  22. Suzanne Wesley says

    Such a thoughtful post Tori. I have always had such respect for you! You have always taken the time, even if for a moment, to acknowledge people around you with your broad smile. And, you are learning all too quickly the darker side of human nature and how egos can and do inhibit those people from being open minded and open to learning new things. But most of all, it inhibits them to be kinder to people “they” consider less than them, and it is sad as those very people look up to them. It only takes a moment to be kind. It is the easiest emotion to have but the hardest for some.

  23. says

    Excellent post – I’ve worn every hat you’ve described in this post. Some of those hats worn with pride, and some, I’m not so proud of. Thanks for the great reminders :)

  24. Matt says

    Wonderful post, Tori.

    Agility can certainly be an “interesting” playground sometimes, what with all the different personalities and such – often far too insular to my liking, but it is what it is as they say. To the point: anyone who dismisses the twenty-somethings does so at their peril, for it is precisely their (your) passion, creativity, fearlessness and even “irreverence” on course (I mean – Ketschkers?!?! Blind crosses?!?! Blasphemy, am I right?) that will evolve and sustain the sport. I suspect much of that dismissal derives from fear but regardless, rest assured that for every one who would dismiss you and your ilk, there is another who draws significant inspiration from what we see you guys do. As it should be.

  25. Katie says

    “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?”

    That was brilliantly written. Captures it perfectly.

    -A 23 year old who’s been involved in various sports and the general “dog world” for over a decade.

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