Dog shows -- like most things in life -- offer opportunities for insights and life lessons; I would like to share two of these with you.
In the past 11 days I have traveled just under 4000 miles to finish Zoey's championship. I have spent more than an hour most days for almost two months on her grooming. We have practiced and planned, and been single-minded about this goal.
I calculated her rate of winning prior to Palm Springs at 88% (since June, she was Winner's Bitch seven of eight times, and Reserve once) -- and decided that it was reasonable to think she could get her two majors in five days of showing, assuming that larger shows would have a lower rate of success than smaller shows.
I was correct on both counts -- at large shows where majors were available, her rate of winning was 50% -- still very high -- and she did get her two majors in the planned amount of time.
Achieving goals is not something that just happens because we wish it -- success requires that we be objective about the steps we need to take, and then single-minded and focused on taking those steps. And we cannot plan the steps if we do not have a clear vision of where we want to end up -- this is why goal-setting is so important.
And so that is the first life lesson -- the importance of having a vision of where we want to go, and being very clear about the steps needed to get there. This is not simple or easy, but it is critical for success -- however we define success.
The second thing that I have thought a lot about relative to dog shows/life is the function of competition. Unfortunately, there are limited winners at dog shows and when one wins, many more are "losers".
I do not appreciate being a loser but even more, I do not like the idea that I am somehow better than another -- or that my dog is better. However, that is the nature of dog shows -- and life, to some extent. The Inner Game of Tennis helped me come to terms with all this...
The Inner Game of Tennis is a book about competition/life more than about tennis (for the record, I do not play tennis). The insight I gleaned from that book is that competition is not about beating others -- it is about being driven to be our best. In other words, our competitors help us become better -- they are doing us a favor of sorts.
Thinking about competition as a way to be my best changed it for me -- I am not trying to beat anyone (which makes me feel guilty) but rather I am trying to make myself better in whatever endeavor is at hand. When my fellow competitors raise the bar, they force me to try harder and do better -- and this is to MY benefit.
Not winning is part of life in all ways, but it is not the same thing as losing. Not winning is simply an invitation to do something differently -- and we get to decide what that looks like. Not winning helped me to carefully consider breeding decisions, become a better conformation handler, train my dogs for the conformation ring, and learn how to condition/prepare a dog for the show ring -- those are things about ME and not about other people and/or their dogs.
Other people show us what is possible and invite us to excellence -- those invitations should invoke gratitude and not bitterness/jealousy. And when we find ourselves enjoying success/excellence, we have to do so with humility, recognizing that it was only through seeing what was possible that we arrived in this place.
All of you who have followed Air Zoey from the time she was a wee baby are part of her story, and I hope you know that. It does seem as if we have a special girl -- as if we have arrived at a place of excellence -- but we did not do this alone, and it is not solely our accomplishment to celebrate.
And Zoey is not perfect -- my goals and competition invite me to train Zoey for the Group Ring, where she is not at all comfortable due to the presence of all those big non-berner dogs. In fact, Zoey tucks her tail and does not want to be examined when there are all those big, scary "other" dogs -- we have some work to do before she can move on to the next step of her breed ring career.
We are never finished in our quest for excellence -- we simply achieve goals, enjoy them, learn the lessons, and keep going. I hope that I never run out of things I want to accomplish, and I am grateful to those whose excellence inspires me towards things I never thought possible.
So dream those dreams and translate to goals, and then plan out the steps needed to get there. And embrace your competition as part of the journey towards YOUR excellence -- in whatever endeavors you seek to be excellent. Finally, when you are recognized as excellent -- which you will be -- know that you got there because of other people.
Thanks for being part of Zoey's journey towards excellence -- I hope that you feel my gratitude for your encouragement, celebration, and support. You may not be a dog person but that is okay -- I bet you are a person who understands what it means to achieve a goal :)