Saturday, November 5, 2016

Having faith in fate

        It has been since April of 2016 since Mickey and I have been able to trial in NW3. We keep getting wait listed. With my health, and Mickey's age, I am limiting trials to Southern California, and Las Vegas area. I had a big scare about April when Mickey had trouble with his heart. He also lost a lot of his stamina. I thought for sure his nose work career was over. But through acupuncture, therapies, supplements and trying everything I can, He has come back. he and I are ready, but we can't get in a nose work trial. This is the norm, I'm not alone in this issue. Though it is hard seeing Friends trial in three trials ni a row and nada for me. It is hard. Especially when Mickey only has months left to be able to do nose work at this level.

         With every disappointment, I tell myself, have faith in fate. I am going to get in the trial that Mickey and I succeed. With so many things going on in my life, like challenges of driving, my health etc. it is best that I get in a trial that is meant to be and have faith it will come.

         This reminds me learning the grieving process. I have read some books in the past from the Grief Institute. It taught me to grieve. That it is ok to feel sad. Everyone is always trying to tell you hte bright side or how to feel better, but in reality, we need to greive that little loss. Not swallow in it, but grieve. It is loss. It is similar when i don't tile. People trying to tell me I got to spend it with my dog, that that is more important and all this other advice that really doesn't make me feel better. What makes me feel better is grieving over the situation, study what I did to improve and practice to get better. That makes me feel better. sometimes you just have to shut the people out and not let them rob your grief. Yes it feels bad, but grief is supposed to be felt and once you feel it and work through it, you can move on. It helps you grow and become a better person.

           Since April, th e last time Mickey and I trialed, I have worked on myself a lot. This is from grieving that pushed me to be a better person. I emerged myself into the Mental Mind Management (R) program. It helped me get Divine's title and some smaller titles with Mickey. I felt myself coming back. I now know how to manage the way I think at a trial. It isn't a concept, but a practice. Now that I have improved my mental management, i really want to try it with Mickey before it is too late. It will feel as if I have grown and I Have come to a higher level of performance. Not for a title but for self fulfillment and life betterment.

              For now, I continue to have faith in fate, my time will come and when it happens, it will be magic.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The prize is not the ribbon

       Another NW3 trial finished. This was my 7th NW3 trial. It was a beautiful day in Somis, on May 21st, 2016. An occasional puffy clouds, some wind to keep it cool. We couldn't ask for a better day. The morning started out right for me. I got up on time, showered, did what I needed and was very calm. I felt like this was going to be a happening day for me. My attitude was good.

        We were #8 in the running order. For interiors they did 1 through 30. For Exteriors they split and started at #9, which meant I would be last for this section of the trial. Which I was ok with that.

        The first was interiors, three rooms. As I walked in the staging area, there was music playing. Pharrel Williams' Happy was playing. I just couldn't help myself but get into the groove. I was in the cove of the long hallway at the school and so badly wanted to dance down the hallway like they dance down the street in Pharrel's video, except I would have Mickey dancing with me. This really lightened my mood and got the endorphins flowing in my body as I danced to the song. This is really ironic because I really wanted to "HEAR" this song before trialing, but didn't want to eat up my data on my cell phone. So I didn't listen to it. I thought Wow  this song is playing for me. This is going to be a fantastic day!

        Mickey and I are up, we go in the three rooms on time at a time. First, he found two odors, second he found one, third he found two. Most of the hides were on the little chairs for little kids. He did a fantastic job. I felt confident we did well in the interiors. 

        Then a wait for awhile, and our turn for exteriors and containers. The wind had a good steady blow along this wall with the over hang. The area wasn't that large. I sent Mickey and he ran to the water faucet. I didn't call it because Mickey fixates on things that stick out and false alerts so I continued  and I figured we would come back. He alerted again, I called it, we got it. I went to the lockers, there was interest but no alerts, went to the other side and in the electrical box, an alert on odor, I called it and then called finished. I felt confident there were only two odors.

          Then containers. One row of various types of bags, center row boxes and third row square duffel bags. Total of 12 containers. Very similar to Las Vegas, but Las Vegas had 9 containers. I waited 10 seconds behind the start line in the middle, He ran right for the first box, alerted, but I just felt that was too easy, went down the row, came back, he alerted, called it. Then the square duffel back he showed interest but just wasn't alerting. I brought him back, interest but no alert. He started getting goofy with his playing with containers. In the past if he gets frustrated, he will false alert, so I took him to the side, collected and started him again. Still that one duffel bad, some interest and I was so close to calling it, but it just wasn't an alert. I was getting frustrated because I felt like this was Las Vegas all over again. I knew there was something with the container, but in Vegas he was pounding on the bag. He never pounding on this bag, got his know inside the zipper and the container, but STILL didn't alert. So I figured he is just playing because I keep presenting this to him and I'm more or less "selling it". So I didn't call it and called finish.

              Then another hour or so, we started vehicles. We did that 1 through 30. The wind was firm. I wouldn't say strong but it wasn't a breeze either. I set him out, he got the first odor and searched the second car, didn't find anything, we went to the third car and found odor. I went back to the second and he showed interest in an area. A weak alert. so I went around again, and we went there and a little stronger but not really but I called it. Got the No. Oh.......first thought, no Elite title today.

              I was disappointed but fortunately the steward said to me, a lot of dogs were false alerting there. So for the next 10 minutes I was bummed, but I was happy that I didn't want to cry. I felt ok. I let Mickey sniff along the way back to the parking lot. The one good thing is if you are going to screw up, better on the last and not the first.

               Because my mother lived 10 minutes away, I took Mickey to her house so he wouldn't have to be in a crate for another 2 or 3 hours. When I got to my mom's I played pine cones with Mickey. Which is like playing ball, I am throwing pine cones instead of balls. Mickey just loves pine cones. Not often I can do a really fun activity like this after we do nose work. My heart swelled as I watched Mickey enjoying our little bonding and play session. I thought this is sweet. This is how i should be. Happy to be with my dog and giving him a moment he enjoys.

                My timing was perfect. I got back when they put up the sheet with the results. As I looked through it, I already knew I goofed on vehicles, but oh that duffel bag. There WAS odor in that sucker. Oh, so I didn't miss the trial by just one little thing. Which actually made me feel better.

             Then of course I go into analyzing mode. The last three NW3 trials we have bombed on containers. I need to start doing some serious container work. Not boxes, but need to gather up a lot of bags. Work on them. Mickey has got interiors and exteriors down. So maintenance practice with that will be fine. But hopefully I can get with others that we can have a bag party. And of course, we need to practice when the wind is up.

            I always enjoy listening to the debriefing. I learn so much, especially if I messed up the trial. Trials I didn't title I learn so much more than when I title. All my trials I titled, I were a breeze and not a lot of learning. At the end I got my score sheets back. I decided to read them right there in the auditorium where we had the debriefing. WOW! What impressive comments. Interiors, the judge liked the way Mickey detailed the room. We got that element. She put down a P for pronounced. For exteriors, good comments on handling, on containers, I got a "VERY PRONOUNCED" The judge for this element actually came up to me and verbally told me how well I did. He said your dog wasn't telling you what you needed. He said, "I saw what you did, he didn't give you an alert and you pulled him away to reset him three times to give him a chance to tell you. That was fantastic handling" I said, "I wanted to call it but it just didn't seem right" He agreed. This judge certifies narcotic dogs professionally, so to have him come up to me after seeing 90 runs that day and to really say I did a fantastic job in handling this situation, even though it wasn't favorable I just was on cloud nine after that! I also got a pronounced on the vehicles, even though my dog false alerted, He liked the way I handled my dog on the vehicles.

            These comments and singling me out like that was the biggest boost of confidence in Nose Work I have ever gotten. I so many times doubt myself as not being that great of a handler, and in containers, I doubt myself of "did I not see the alert?" and this judge told me "Your dog didn't give you what you needed." So it wasn't my vision. I'm not a blind handler that is fumbling away in these trials. In the late 1990's when I was supposed to be a wildlife detection handler, they ran out of budget, but some of the other handlers said I was "too disabled." I wanted to get the Elite title to prove I'm not a "Handicapped" person who can't be a handler. This comment from this certifying official gave me what I needed that I thought the Elite title would, he told me I have excellent handling skills and I read my dog well. This is priceless to me. And now, I don't feel that I desperately have to get the Elite title anymore. Yes I still want to work towards it, but it isn't killing my ego that I didn't get it. No longer I feel not getting it means I'm not a great handler, that I so badly wanted to prove myself since the late 1990s. And fighing kidney disease, feeling fatigue many times, trying to over come so much, I wanted to prove I could be someone getting that Elite title, but those comments were better. Those comments gave me confidence. And I love my dog even more now.

         Since Mickey is getting older and doing an Elite Division competition would be too hard on his body, when I get the Elite, no more nose work trialing. So, since he didn't get it, I get to play more nose work trials with Mickey. I will keep going until Mickey gives me that look, this is no fun mom.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A full day of bang!

     I am not letting barriers getting in the way of my practices. I cannot drive, and throughout the day, I get different intensities of fogginess in my field of vision. I was able to walk to a morning practice, Santee Trolley Square, about a mile from my house. Mickey and I walked there with only a bowl for water and odors kit to set hides. I met up with two others and we each set two search areas, which was a total of 6 areas for us to work our dogs.

     The first two were near the bus stop. Hides were either two or three in the area. An interesting discovery was, Mickey targeted on two areas where there were a piece of gum. I'm wondering if the gum has either birch, anise or clove mixed in their formula. I could tell Mickey was getting a bit frustrated me not treating him and he kept hitting on both pieces of gum. When Mickey doesn't get rewarded for an odor, he starts doing a lot of fringing and false alerts. And it was hard to get him back on track in the search area. I just don't know what was in that gum, and I should do a little research to find if there is a gum that has one of the or all of the three odors in it. I do know Virgil's Root Beer has all three in it, birch anise and clove. When I open the jar of my birch odor, that smell always takes me back as a kid when I use to eat the candy cigarettes. But Mickey did decent on his other search that it was a confidence builder.

       The next hide was bicycle lockers. This turned to be both difficult for Mickey and myself because there were 4 set of lockers and they all looked the same. Odor was drifting over to the other side which trapped Mickey and I in an area. There were 4 hides in this area. Interesting challenge.

       The hides I set, was one in a turned off water fall, fountain. It had a long bed, that the water would go over a metal flap in a gravel pit. I put the odor underneath the flap where the water flowed over. All dogs had a difficult challenge on this one because the odor kept sinking and pooling into the gravel. A good puzzle to work. The other odor was around the corner, wedged between the wall and the decor pillar. Tight corner. Good practice.

         The other I put two odors in line with each other on a bench with a tree in the middle. The odor kept going up the tree, which was what the dog's showed, and I did a ground hide. Good practice for all.

          Then the afternoon, I went to a practice Sniff 'n Go. Four rooms. I took Mickey and Divine. Mickey had a bit of a challenge, but I had a hard time seeing in the rooms. The glare was so intense, it was a white out for me. Mickey knows when I struggle and he turns into a concerned for mom and not really caring to look for odor. So it was a challenge since Mickey was so distracted. This is a good lesson for me. I like having Mickey off leash, and he is better off leash, but when I do not see well, the best thing to do is put him on leash. I have talked about this with my instructor, Kim, and just went into old habit to have him off leash. The conversation i had with John confirmed i need to keep Mickey on leash when I can't see, but if I see fine, have him off leash. My goal is to try to be as calm and laid back as possible. Very difficult when I can't see and I have a white out or a black out. This will be my challenge for my next trial.

           Divine was on fire! She did fantastic in the rooms. I kept her on leash because she gets a bit too excited and yee ha runs around with excitement. The leash really does help her keep focus. So for her trial, I will keep her on leash.

           I had a great learning experience. And my main thing is to try to stay calm when I can't see. At the trial I will spend the day in my chair getting into a Zen mode and remembering I need to make this fun for Mickey. Even if I can't see, there is no reason why I need to get tense since it doesn't pay for me to get tense if I see or don't see. It messes up Mickey. He is so sensitive. But we will give our best shot for the trial. Have fun, and if you can learn and have fun, you have accomplished a lot.

          With the mile walk to the first practice, practice, mile back and the four interior rooms for each dog, I could really feel it hard on my body the next day. But, just another barrier to get through, I'm going to succeed all the way!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Trying to get it together

    One of my goals in today's 3 hour workshop was to get back into my self-compassion and calm state when I run Mickey. I thought about setting myself up right and getting back into t his practice. Unfortunately, I fell back into bad habits. To understand what I am trying to achieve with self compassion and getting to the calm, read my previous blog on "Getting the Right Focus".

     The first run was a container search. I did collect myself and had it going right. We did good. Not perfect, but good. The exercise was designed to see how we can read a dog when they are sniffing distractors and odor. I did learn I need to be a little more patient before I call. I am calling too soon. Although normally I need to call it quickly. I think with my decreased vision, I need to call it later. This is just something Mickey is just going to have to learn during this time.

      My second try with the distraction, odor in containers, I went into my panic mode. I didn't start off well, I just brazenly started. I didn't set myself up, I didn't get my head right or let Mickey look at the search area and think. And it showed to be frantic at the end. Mickey was bopping on things and getting a little confused a bit, bopping on distractors. Wanting to get paid, but bopping on anything. This behavior is common when I frantic, he turns frantic. A reality that I need to work much harder of getting my mental state together.

       My confidence is shot with my less vision. It is harder to read, and I need more information, thus I wait longer. Just what Mickey and I have to deal with right now.

      The next exercise were about 6 maybe 8 odors on chairs that were in a circular pattern. Simulates a vehicle. We started out using our non-dominant food hand.  and leash in the hand we normally do not have the leash. This was awkward. My left hand had a hard time trying to get into the bait pouch. Then treat deliver was not that smooth. Being blind in my right eye, when I was working on that side, ti was difficult. We went counter clock-wise, then clock-wise. Then when we went around we did it in the hand we normally treat and hold the leash. Wow, this was much better. It is good to be put out of our comfort zone. This is what helps with practice and thinking on your feet when you trial.

      Then we went outside and with a row of chairs on a wall, odor was placed on every chair. Went through, then back, then the last run, the last one we did not treat right away. Wanting to get that 'Hey pay me look". Mickey stayed by his odor.

       Whew, I was tired at the end. Mickey's hinds are getting weaker. The race to get his Elite title.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Getting the right focus

      As I think back on the past five years of my involvement in nose work, I have seen a lot of growing. Not only my growth, but the growth of the sport of Nose Work. We are experiencing new territory, the growing pains, and the excitement of how this sport is evolving. Even with the pains of waiting lists with nearly 180, the sport has enabled many people to catch the Nose Work fever.

This sport has also enabled me to grow as a person. Learning about myself and gaining my confidence. 

      I have succeeded in nose work trials with Mickey. I have gone further in Nose Work than any other dog sport. When I first started NW3 (Nose Work level 3) trials in the fall of 2014, it was the highest level of competition before Nationals  at that time. I felt so honored to finally reach the highest level of competition in a dog sport short of Nationals. That feeling did give me the confidence I could perform with the top. I could do this. I may not be the best, but I was right up there side by side with the National winners.. An exhilarating feeling. 

       Mickey and I have titled two times out of the 5 times we competed at the NW3 level. On the days we titled, I was relaxed and with a carefree attitude. I had been to a sport psychologist, read up on how to get me in the right frame of mind for competitions. I had the attitude of what ever happens, life is good and most of all I love my dog. Last June, Mickey took 5 months to recover from an injury. Two weeks before his trial, he stopped limping. We didn't practice much, but we titled. We danced that day. I set the mood. I listened to music that put me in a good mood, I didn't focus on getting everything right. I just flowed. Waiting my turn I read something to get my mind in a calm state. I also meditated. No mapping search areas, no over thinking the day of the trial. My focus was to set this up so Mickey had fun in a relaxed way. No forced fun; relaxed fun.

          So after two titles in NW3 in a row, I really thought I had gotten it all together. How could we not get our Elite title at the next trial? As time past, NW3 was no longer the highest level of competition before Nationals. A new level was introduced to Nose work, the Elite Division. Getting the Elite title in NW3 now no longer meant a ticket to Nationals. The sport has grown that Elite Division was born. Getting the Elite title in NW3 now means going to Elite Division. I now was not in the highest level of competition. I felt the pressure to try and get to the next level.

             Last Thanksgiving weekend I trialed in Sacramento. Now my goal was to get into the Elite Division. I was a little pressured because Mickey was 10, soon to be 11 years old. His eyes have the slight frost look of an older dog. His hinds legs are not as strong. His age is showing. How much longer can I trial him? I want to still stay in the highest level of competition. I also was struggling with some serious health issues. With all this on my mind, it was boring into my brain as my relaxed state was dissipating. I started to lose my competitive edge. My mind was cluttered with the wrong thoughts.

From October to November 2015, I entered five trials, four with Mickey and one with Divine. Titled only in one Level 1 element for interiors. What happened? I was supposed to have it made.

             My health was deteriorating. November I started Kidney Dialysis and my eye had experience two traumatic events and I was developing haze in my field of vision. I was being bumped out of my comfort zone with these changes. Changes of not seeing people's faces, not being able to drive, being dependent on a dialysis machine that took about 3 hours from my evenings. The complications I had with dialysis also didn't help. I had some major events preoccupying my mind. I was off kilter and dissociated from my relaxed self. I tried hiding behind positive statements and positive thinking, hoping that could pull me through. In many situations it did, but it didn't help me to keep my right focus for competitions. 

             I started to create a fear of handling my dogs. Going into rooms were darker than usual, my eyes wouldn't adjust, glare disturbed my ability to see and the haze made me lose clarity. My ability to read alerts diminished. I slipped. This made me tense, which affected Mickey. He started to change. I wasn't going to quit, so I realized I need to start practice over again to get use to the "new" way.  Even though my confidence was disturbed, I still had the desire to go forward. My handling wasn't up to par, but I kept going. Denial enabled me to continue to move forward and ignore the pains of what was happening. I lost my dance with Mickey. We were not in sync. But I still kept going like nothing was lost.i was still driven to move forward. My desire was still alive, I had a new component I needed to figure out. It would come, but I had to go through the process of learning how to live a different life.

               This new challenged taught me a lot. In life we are all going to have something to knock us off our balance. This was mine. For others it could be a loss of a job, a divorce, loss of a spouse, a loss of child and the list can go on. We all will have a curve ball thrown at us, this was mine. The strong people learn to work through these and become stronger. I had to go back and relearn how to focus. I had to remember how not to let fear take over, and ego take over. i needed to be mindful and step in again. I was learning how to be stronger.

            When we do things from our ego, it isn't genuine because if we don't succeed, our ego gets damaged. All those trials I was devastated for not titling, was my ego. It is not productive. It isn't right to put our dogs through that feeling. they really have no concept or idea of a title, they just know when mom or dad is happy or when mom and dad is upset. I did this to my first NW3 trials. It broke my heart seeing how I affected my dog. I knew I had to change. Then to have it happen again last Thanksgiving, really taught me how I always have to manage myself.

              So now I need to get back on track. I need to train my brain to get back into the right focus. Let go of ego, let go of title, let go of fame, let go over thinking, and let go of fretting. Let self-compassion come in to Mickey and priority is to make this fun for Mickey. I should also extend that self-compassion to my fellow competitors, the host of the trial, the volunteers and to the sport of nose work. It is amazing what this shift of thinking does. It brings peace, calmness and relaxations. Finally, we need to remember to have self-compassion for ourselves. Be our best friends and good to ourselves. When we can do that without criticism, we become a much better person over all. We can extend the compassion to others.

I have had this state of mind before, I can do it again. I will practice, but not over do it. I will continue my regular classes and keep my happy. My mind will be clear, not trying to be a perfectionist. Iw ill develop a regime. In practices, I will have a routine of what I do at the start line. While there, I have a breathing pattern. During that time I take one deep breath and let it out slowly. It is about 10 minutes. This allows Mickey to scope the area. I will have good thoughts for Mickey like what an awesome dog he is. While at a trial, I will not think about the trial, I will read things not related to nose work. Sometimes I will quietly sing a silly hip hop song. Helps me get into a grove and relaxes my whole body. While walking to my element I will do happy talk to Mickey. "What a HAPPY bay" in a happy voice which Mickey really does respond. I ignore the volunteers and everyone because to "hear" them say something me I have to take my concentration off Mickey. I will only pay attention to instructions that direct me to my element. When I go to the start line I do what I practiced. When I let Mickey go, I follow him, but give him space. I stand back and "let go". This let go is like letting my 6th sense take over. That gut that already knows from several practices. It enables me to dance with Mickey. When this happens it is beautiful. We are in sync. I did this with my last NW3 I titled. We can do it again. Now that I'm getting back on track, we are going to have success again. We will be able to handle anything that comes our way.