My second NW3 trial was a full day of learning. My desire to title over rode my decision making process right in the middle of pressure. Here I am headed towards dialysis and being put on a kidney transplant list, I wanted to show the world I was a woman than could conquer all. I could be that person that everyone admires for having such difficult challenges, over coming them and succeeding. I also wanted to prove to myself that this End Stage Kidney Disease was not going to take me down. The past several months I've been fighting fatigue seeing my life slip away and be buried by being overwhelmed. I wanted to feel like I still had it in life.
Many of those Olympian stores are so heartwarming. The surmountable challenges they h ave over come, not letting anything get in their way. I wanted to be that. But that desire for that title is what destroyed me at the first get go, not that I have kidney disease, having only 35% left of my vision or having a 90% hearing loss in the speech range. It was my ego and head that got me into trouble.
The trial was in Boulder Creek, CA tucked in the southern range of the red wood forest. The tallest trees in the world that make it slightly darker than any other forest. The moisture allowing the red wood trees and the beautiful green ferns to thrive. It was a perfect setting, a YMCA camp with the only access is a winding road. It housed many creative ideas for the various elements in our trial. It was raining through most of the morning creating a damp enviornment.
For all NW3 trials, you do not know how many odors that will be hidden. You will have up to three odors in each search. In interior there is an exception, there could be zero to three odors. At this level we search three different rooms. Interiors is the only place you will have a blank search area. Not knowing how many odors are hidden is a huge challenge from NW2 to NW3. NW2 you know how many hides; NW3 you do not.
I was # 3 in the running order. My first element was containers.The containers were in the center of a cabin, with the perimeter with bunk beds. The theme Christmas. Mickey and I stepped into the cabin and off we went. Mickey went around the various containers and he alerted on a container. I said, "alert" and I heard the voice of the judge, but I couldn't tell the difference between "Yes" and "no". So I asked the judge to repeat. This took a little flow out of the search, but Mickey is experienced and we went again. But after that, I started to have panic set in just a little bit. One trial I did well in containers that if I didn't drop food, I would have gotten first place, ok, we have this. Then the thought of my last trial where Mickey brushed over a bag and didn't even show much interest and we missed it. Then the thought of my last practice with Mickey having a difficult time with a small leather backpack. Over thinking in the middle of an element, I started pushing Mickey on the containers. If there was a second odor, I didn't want him to miss it, but under the stress I pushed him too much. My brain was in a repetitive record mode. Spinning around in circles checking each container. He went back to the first odor and alerted a few times, but at this point, I couldn't remember which container Mickey has checked and if he did, did he check it well? At this time during this element, I was not in the zone, but complete zoned out.
Mickey was getting really frustrated and started biting a few containers. Me being in "trail brain", I called alert. Judge said "No". At that split second, I came back in zone and realized the biting wasn't an alert, it was frustration. I know better than that. I worked on this in practice so we wouldn't get here. I know how quickly he can get frustrated. I pushed to long, but being worried there was another odor because he has missed odors, I pushed. Mickey did his best in this element and as I walked away from this element, an overwhelming feeling of guilt came over me. I let my dog down. I was more worried about a title than connecting with my dog. We lost our dance.
The next element was interiors. Three rooms we needed to search. The first room we went in, Mickey started sourcing, but doing his brush by alert. This is really hard for me to read as sometimes his brush by is how he fringes. Fringing when he's dawdling, checking things out and not right at the source of the odor. Mickey was also burned out from our last element. which was apparent by his brush by alerts. His heart wasn't in it. Mickey knew I was feeling a bit disheartened from letting him down. He's so sensitive, he knows my moods before I'm aware. As Mickey jumped up on the lower bunk bed, he sourced. It was like he was chasing odor to one end to the other. Undetermined and didn't clearly pinpoint it. I called alert on an area of the bed, and it was a "no" from the judge. This was hard to hear the second "No" so soon. It was beginning to break my spirit and hope.
Second room. Went in and rather soon, I called finished as Mickey showed no indication of sourcing. One of the rare moments of that day I felt confident and I didn't over push Mickey. I found out at the debriefing we were right! So I can pat myself on the back that every blank room at a trial, I called right! The last room, Mickey found the odor under the bed, but he had to go under twice. At this time with two "No"s and my spirit down, I was too gun shy to call it the first time he went under. I didn't know at the time, but there was a second odor and I called finished before we found it.
Four searches and only one success. That was a blow. But good coaching and good sport psychology always tells you focus on what you did right. You learned. Although it was major, in reality because Mickey and I have been practicing a lot, it is just small tweaking. However, my logic knows this, my emotions were feeling a lot of defeat.
At lunch time I tried to get my head back in order. I tried to tell myself that we had two more elements that we can get points for our NW3 element title in Vehicles and Exteriors. We have a chance to bounce back. I told myself that this is a very good experience to train myself to dust the dirt off and get going like nothing happened. I have another chance. Good experience people have to fall many times and remember, we are here to have fun with our dogs! I started to think about the next two elements and think of a strategic way to approach the searches. It is tricky because I always let the dog lead first, then when they get stuck, or I see we haven't covered an area, I need to start thinking strategically how do I cover the area. This brought some calmness and hope to my mind. That we can do it.
The next element was vehicles. There were four vehicles all parked in a row, bumper to bumper in a straight line. At lunch time I took a little time to get into deep thought how I was going to process this search area. At first I thought serpentine, then I thought no, run down one side, up the other side to let Mickey catch the odor to lead. If we didn't catch anything, then we would go in-between. This served me well. We started our search and went down one side, but Mickey was still a little burned from the morning. He wanted to play sticks and he knew there were many around. I had to nag him to stay on the vehicle. Once in a while he would go about 3-4 feet from the vehicles to search for sticks. I brought him back to the vehicle and he started sourcing, I sighed with relief! Then he found one odor on a bumper. We went to search the other side and there are more sticks and fun stuff. Again had to really push Mickey back on the vehicles. I hated to do this because we were having a bad day already, and didn't want to be in a constant nag, but he wanted to play sticks. We found the other odor, I searched the area well and called finished. Later at the debriefing I found we got this element. Yes, another success!
Our last element, exteriors. Another big area. You had a lot of ground to cover. We had four minutes. Mickey and I set out, Mickey shows interest in the benches but doesn't do a strong alert, he does a brush by. We went to the other side of the long string of benches, and he still did a brush by. I didn't call it, as he really didn't do a strong alert, but I knew something was there.
We went to the grill area and Mickey showed interest around the counter, again he did a brushed by. Then he went to the coiled up hose on a pole, and did a better alert. I called Alert, the judge said "@x$" I had to ask him to repeat because I couldn't hear what he said. He said "@x$" again. I had to ask him again. Thirty seconds goes by and we are completely out of flow. I finally hear the judge yell "YES!" Ok, on we go, and then I heard a "thank you" which means I didn't hear the 30 seconds warning. When everyone came up to me and standing around, I said, Oh and I guess I missed the 30 second warning? They said, "yes" then I said, "oh, even though I timed out, I guess I should say finished and I said, 'Finished!'" and everyone laughed. As I walked away, again felt disheartened feeling so bummed I messed up three elements. The overwhelming feeling of, this is the worst I've ever done. I worked so hard to get here, I worked on my dog, conditioning my dog, worked on my frame of mind, worked on being positive, and it felt like this test didn't show the efforts I have put in. The feeling was overwhelming.
Going back to the parking lot, no statement or positive thought made me feel better. I had to be alone. I let others talked about how they didn't make it, and I didn't say much, just letting them tell their stories. I heard from many people when they didn't title, "I'm here to have fun with my dog." I heard it so many times it is becoming a cliche'. It seems mechanical in a way that when someone didn't succeed, they tell themselves that to make them feel better.That you really shouldn't be down because you didn't title. The social atmosphere is you must be happy and positive when you do not title. We all know that disappointment goes down the leash. That we need to be happy for our dogs. But even thinking of that didn't help. Burying how I felt and pretend I was happy wasn't going to do it. Believe me, I tried. My whole life is about trying to direct my brain to a positive outlook. But this time, I needed a break. I needed to mentally work through this so I could come out clean in the end. Otherwise suppressing my disappointment only leads to more disappointment in the future. This is grieving. When you lose a beloved pet, stuffing the feelings aside doesn't help you. I learned this when my father died. When I allowed the pain to come in, felt it, process it, no matter how painful, I felt more healed and stronger at the end. I was ready to move on. This is what I had to do with this trial. Really feel my pain, give my emotions some care. My logic, as usual, had it down pat, my emotions need for tending.
I had thought about if I didn't make this trial, should I go to Vancouver, WA for my trial? Talking with a friend, she just came out and said, "Maybe you shouldn't go to Vancouver, WA." She knew my kidney situation and that confirmed that I should cancel. My health has been deteriorating and the travel to Eugene, OR and Boulder Creek, CA had taken a toll on me. It takes me a lot longer to bounce back. I can barely keep up the energy for my regular life. The 2 1/2 days drive up and back to Vancouver, WA, I knew was not going to work. Feeling defeated at this one, I didn't have the drive to overcome this huge obstacle. I also knew I needed my dialysis surgery and should set up that appointment as soon as possible. I need to take care of myself instead of chasing titles. No title will ever hide the fact that I am in End State Kidney Disease (ESKD).
When I backed out of Vancouver, WA and a lot of stress lifted and disspated in the air. I'm human, not super woman. And not winning at this trial which resulted in not going to Vancouver, WA probably saved my life. I also gained back leave from work, which is now being used for surgery. I will be trialing at the end of the month, so all is not lost.
I pondered Mickey's health, how me being sick affects Mickey, and several other ideas. Is him being more concerned about me as a service dog interfering? Reflecting back on my best handling, I say no. When I'm doing well, Mickey does great.
As heart wrenching this event was, and it being my worst trial to date, a week later, I can reflect on it and see the beauty of it. I learned and being humbled is always a good thing. I have to realize that the sight limitations, the hearing limitations and having complications with End State Kidney disease, for me to get out there is an amazing thing. That people without those issues still do not title. That I should be proud I am competing at one of the higest levels. For me to keep trying is what makes me beat this disease, not that I win a title.
I learned that, I don't hear the judge sometimes.
I learned that, I don't hear the 30 second warning sometimes.
I learned that, my head needs to be right, no matter how much I worked on this, it is still something that is managed, not cured. You write a new mindset plan for every trial.
I learned that, Mickey and I need to trust each other. He lost trust in me, I lost trust in him.
I learned that I know a lot more than I give myself credit. I can read Mickey well. I did some good reading in my first two elements at my first NW3 trial, I learned all my weaknesses in my second NW3.
All of the above I have solutions and have recouped and tweaked. I should do significantly better the next trial.