Saturday, December 15, 2018

Find Inspiration! Be Inspiration!

Today I am going to talk about something that I have held back from sharing for a long time.  It is my hope that through writing about this, you will take away something good.   💜

When I look back to my earliest days as a dog trainer and dog sport handler, there was a "spark" that drove everything that I did with my dogs.  It was fresh.  It was exciting.  I had a lot of hopes and future expectations.

I used to pack my dogs up and dash off to Rally, Freestyle, and Agility competitions, and I simply could not get enough of any of it!  Even working with "challenging" dogs did not deter my enthusiasm, drive, and high interest in training and dog sports.

In recent years, however, some things have changed, and I came to a point where I continually struggled to find motivation and drive to continue on, especially with Canine Musical Freestyle, the art and sport with which I had once fallen head over heels in love.

This was somewhat confounding to me because I was not able, for quite a long time the exact problem.  I realize now that I did not yet know what the issue really was.

But I have come to a point now, through something totally unexpected, and completely unrelated to dogs, where I realize precisely what was lacking, and what I needed to finally make positive changes.

What Happened?

Looking back, I would say that there are two particular things that led me to the low point where I found myself.

First, Speedy's death.

When it came to training, and especially to Freestyle, Speedy was my inspiration.  There was something about him that always made Freestyle a dynamic adventure.  Whether we were noodling around to music by ourselves, or training something, or filming a performance to enter in a titling event, or performing in front of a live audience, Speedy brought something to the experience that made it come to life.

When I think back to the time and the work and the struggle that I put into training and performance with Speedy, I almost find it hard to believe that I was that driven!  Something about Speedy always brought forth the best in me, and giving up on him and on the things that we did together was unthinkable!

I found it incredibly difficult to continue in the sport after losing him.

One bright spot in my life after losing Speedy was the continuing quest for Tessa's C-ATCH.  Tessa and I both put heart and soul into chasing that down, and that accomplishment will always be one of the high points of my collective experiences in dog sports.

It was not long after - just the following winter - when I hit an unexpected wall.

This had nothing to do with dogs directly.  I had to deal with some unexpected medical issues.  The issues themselves were not serious.  There was never anything life-threatening involved.  But .... the issues had major consequences in my life.  And, within the course of a couple of months, I went from someone who had gone out with Tessa to trial a couple of times a month to someone who could barely get out on a weekend.

Even though the situation did improve, I was no longer the person that I had been before.  Remembering the things I used to be able to do was disheartening and depressing.  I no longer had the energy to get out there all that much.  And, when I did, I was usually left completely exhausted.

I lost a lot of my creativity, and even the ability that I had always had to express myself in writing diminished.  And, when it came to training dogs and participating in dog sports, I found myself going through the motions most of the time, without a whole lot of heart or interest.

I am deeply grateful that Canine Parkour came into my life at this time.  It was something new that had no connection to Speedy.  All of my dogs could participate.  And, I was able to train and film Parkour entries when I was able, and at my own pace.

Parkour got me back "out there" to some extent.  Sometimes, when I was out filming a Parkour entry with one of my dogs, I felt glimmers of normalcy and I felt like the person, trainer, and handler that I used to be.

Finally .... a Change!

So, this past summer, I found myself at a place where I was feeling unsatisfied.  On one hand, I missed involvement with Freestyle, and other dog sports, and with being a more active person in general.

But .... I did not really see any way to change the situation.  On occasion I would try to push myself forward, but to little avail.

And then something happened that I never expected.  Everything changed.  I never saw it coming, and I still almost cannot believe the degree to which things turned around.

I was spending a lot of my time last summer watching YouTube videos.  Various and sundry YouTube videos, about all different topics.  Dead malls, urban exploration, and .... people living in different parts of the world.

Following a somewhat random and complicated chain of YouTube video recommendations, I ended up landing on a channel full of videos created by this South African guy who was living in China.  Yes, China.  I had absolutely zero interest in China, but I found myself watching video after video and learning things about China that I never knew I wanted to know!

Of course, it was not China that kept me watching him over and over.  It was the man himself.  Something about him resonated with me.  Something about him brought a part of me that had gone dormant back to life.

I know .... this sounds really bizarre .... but it's true.

I do not really understand why, but all of a sudden, after watching his videos for just a couple of weeks, I found myself suddenly wanting to get up, step back into the world, and start living life more fully again.

And, I did.

At first it was incredibly difficult.  I did not have the energy.  But .... then I did.  And I found that I was suddenly able to do more and more and more.

Not only that, I rediscovered creativity, and I started to be able to write again.  I found myself interested, once again, in getting involved with Musical Freestyle, and I have real hope that Bandit and I will have a rich future in the sport, as we explore many, many ideas that I have in mind for us!

What the heck happened?

All I can say is that in this man who I do not personally know, who will probably never know that I exist on this planet, who talks about topics that no direct connection to my life this man I have found inspiration.

Find Inspiration!  Be Inspiration!

Since that time, I have thought a lot about inspiration.

I have noticed that we rarely talk about inspiration, and I am starting to wonder exactly why that is.

Maybe we do not discuss it much because inspiration is something that is going to be a little bit different for everybody.  You could watch the same videos that have changed my life in dramatic ways and they could have no effect on you whatsoever!  And you could find inspiration in people or places that would have no effect on me at all!  Different people are inspired differently.

In spite of that, I am starting to think more and more that inspiration is something that we need to start talking about in the dog sport world.

As time has passed since I started watching his videos, I am continually amazed by the ongoing positive effects that he has inspired in my life.  😎

So ... inspiration .... it matters!

And I want to start talking about inspiration, and hearing about inspiration from others!

What inspires you?  And what effect does that inspiration have on your life?  I am keenly interested in this!

Of course, this is not the first time in my life I have been inspired.  And, I have certainly found inspiration much closer to home.

Years ago, I found my inspiration in Speedy, especially in our shared experience of dance.  When Tessa and I were running for her C-ATCH, I found my inspiration in her, and in our mutual goal.  In Parkour, I find inspiration in the filming experience, and - with Tessa - in the beauty of what we create together.

But, given the difficulties of the last couple of years, I am starting to think about inspiration in new ways.  I see now that I need inspiration.  As a dog trainer, as a handler, as an instructor, as a creator, as a titling venue owner, as a participant or competitor, as a presenter .... all of it!

And, when I think about what I want to give back to the dog sport community, I would say now that the very best thing that I could do is to strive to be inspiration to others.  Granted, that is not something that I can strive to do as an end in itself, but it is an effect that I can hope to have along the way!!

This is a new mindset for me, and one that I am grateful to have developed.

I owe my South African inspiration in China a debt of gratitude I can never quite repay.  So, maybe I can pass on some of what I have gotten from him to others.

At least, I can try!

Find Inspiration!  Be Inspiration!