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Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Joy of NOT Trialing

For 18 years I chased ribbons and AKC titles for my dogs in obedience and agility. I spent many thousands of dollars on gas, hotels, entry fees and dog show "souvenirs." It was an expensive hobby, but it was also a tax-deductible business expense since I owned a dog-training business and could justify just about every dog-related expenditure.

If you'd asked me then if I enjoyed it, I'd have said, "Of course." But if you'd asked me to elaborate, I'd have a tough time telling you what I really liked about it. Oh, it was kind of fun to get out of town with my favorite dog, to go somewhere and show him off, to stay in Super 8 motels and watch TV half the night with him snuggled up with me in a king-size bed. And it was fun going into the ring with him, when confidence and expectations were high. I was always proud of him, so being with him was fun, wherever we went.

But I really didn't love getting up at 4 a.m. to head for the obedience trial in Seattle in the middle of winter. I really didn't like the stomach butterflies that had me searching for a bathroom as soon as we pulled into the show grounds. And I REALLY didn't like coming home empty-handed (without ribbons) on a Sunday evening, after spending $250 or more on a weekend trial.

Some things have drastically changed in the past couple years. My well seasoned traveling companion (Atlas) died. I've retired. I no longer have deductible "business expenses." I no longer have income! And the price of gas has gone through the roof. Plus, I live in an area where trials are few and far between. So I don't trial anymore.

But I no longer have to prove anything to anyone either. The title chase has ended. Ironically, I now have the most talented dog I've EVER had (Lizzie)...but no trials to prove it, and no one we must impress anyway.

Except ourselves, that is....
...I've made a GREAT discovery the past few of potential value to thousands of dogfolks just like me to who used to spend all their spare time and money going to dog trials: YOU DON'T NEED THE AKC to enjoy your dog sports. YOU DON'T NEED NADAC, APDT, UKC, USDAA, or any other large sanctioning organization to tell you how to have fun at agility, obedience or rally. Best of all, you don't need money to spend on entry fees and gas.

Rally, obedience, and agility matches can be enjoyed on your home turf, with your friends, and with dog friends from close-by communities. Play by whatever rules you want, make up your own ribbons, and charge an entry fee that will help pay for some prizes. If you want recognition, call the local paper or TV station and invite them out.

Dog show entries are down nationwide due to increased gas prices and less discretionary income. This is a great opportunity to rediscover the fun of competing against only yourself and your close friends in backyard venues and neighborhood dog-training facilities. The pressure is off, the expenses are down, and you even get to sleep in your own bed at night, next to a happy dog who'd rather be at home anyway. Or course I know this isn't a great revelation to many of you...but it's just a reminder that there is "life without AKC." Today it's called making the best of a bad economic situation...and you know, it really ain't half bad at all!!

It's great to stay home and play!

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