Training and competing with my dogs has been a huge part of my life. I started obedience classes when I was seven and agility classes two years later. Besides being active in the 4-H dog project for 10 years, I've been competing in AKC agility since I was eleven with my English Springer Spaniel "Hallie" and "Surge", my Sheltie. Hallie, now almost 13 years old and still loving agility, earned a MACH title and took me to the AKC National Agility Championships!
I am now a student at the University of Minnesota working towards a degree in Veterinary Medicine. As a veterinarian I hope to influence dog owners to train their dogs and share with them the joy of spending time with your dog doing canine performance events. I still enjoy teaching 4-H dog classes and plan to be involved with 4-H Dog Project youth for many years to come.
My "dog life" has given me many opportunities and experiences that would have never been possible otherwise. I never tire of telling people about my dogs and encouraging them to get involved in dog events. In fact, for my high school commencement address I shared with the audience the "Top Ten Things I've Learned from My Dogs":
- Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Do you ever notice how easily dogs are pleased with a simple pat on the head or a good roll in a dead, stinky animal? We humans, however, are often guilty of packing our days with so many things, that we forget to enjoy the simple things in life. So, "Carpe Diem!" Seize each day and live every moment as if it were your last!
- Don't accept your dog's admiration for you as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful!
Every morning I'm awakened by slobbery kisses from Surge. I'd like to think he simply adores me, but he really just wants breakfast! When someone gives you a pat on the back for a job well done, your confidence is bound to go up. This is okay, but don't let your head get as big as a hot air balloon. Yes, we should relish our successes, but consider the reality that we will stumble and fall on our face from time to time. Being humble will get you much farther than having a big head.
- There's a saying, "Money will buy you a pretty good dog, but it won't buy the wag of his tail"...Happiness is not about money!
Free choice food and all the toys you can buy won't necessarily give you a happy dog. The happiest dog is the one who has his owner's undivided attention, not material possessions! Don't we all want to be "RICH?" A common assumption is that money can buy happiness, but family and friends will likely give you more pleasure. MONEY does not equal HAPPINESS! By the way, do you know why dogs have no money? No pockets!!!!
- "A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself"
I push my dogs, training for hours and hours. They could just lie down and quit, proclaiming they've had enough. But they never quit working for me because their primary goal in life is to make me happy. Putting other people before ourselves is not easy to do, and I'm as guilty as anyone. I love Sweet Martha's Chocolate Chip cookies from the Minnesota State Fair! One year I brought home a whole bucket of Sweet Martha's Cookies, but I was determined to save them all for myself, so I hid them under my bed. Several months later I found them...untouched, and hard as rocks! I learned a lesson about selfishness. When you put someone else's needs above your own, you will make yourself happier too!
- "Some days you're the top dog, some days you're the hydrant."
This one explains itself! We all have really good days, AND really BAD days. Days when your cell phone battery dies, you're late for the most important meeting of your life, or you step in dog "do-do" on your way to school are bad days. My advice is learn to suck it up and accept that these days do happen!
- "When loved ones come home, always run to greet them."
My favorite part of each day is the greeting I receive from my dogs when I get home from school. Their jumping, barking, and slurping always makes me happy. We appreciate special greetings, pats on the back, and acknowledgements for being who we are. Don't take your family and friends for granted! Thank them and tell them you love them today, and every chance you get!
- Be loyal.
Dogs are often called "Man's Best Friend". Why? Because dogs can be counted on to be there for you whenever you need them! Whether I'm crabby, depressed, angry, or jubilant, my dogs still want to be with me! Be there for your friends, just like you hope they will be there for you. Your loyalty will be rewarded when you need it the most.
- Never pretend to be something you're not.
Sometimes my dogs embarrass me. They may not listen to me in the show ring, or the worst is when they poop in the ring! But, do they care? Of course not! Dogs never worry about other people's opinions! Have you ever met a dog who's afraid to scratch in public or who is humiliated when he passes gas??
Many of us wear a "shell" around ourselves to impress other people. We act differently when certain people are around. We wear designer clothing. If we pretend to be someone other than who we really are, how will people ever get to know us? It's very difficult to ignore what others think, but be true to yourself and don't change who you are.
- If you want what lies buried, dig until you find it.
My dog, Surge, has a serious obsession. He views the kitchen garbage can as a fast food restaurant! Despite our determination, he continually devises new and creative ways to get into the garbage. Surge is a perfect example of one who keeps trying and trying and trying until he attains his goal, which in his case might be an empty yogurt container or an old piece of pizza tossed from the refrigerator!
We all have big dreams! Don't settle for something less because you don't want to work for it. Go after what you want! Sure, there will be setbacks. We tried setting mousetraps in the garbage can. Surge tipped the can over, the traps were sprung, and he got lunch! When we put bricks in the bottom of the garbage can so he couldn't tip it over, he decided to "dine-in". He jumped inside the can and ate his snack right there. Hard work and persistence are investments that will take you far in life. Don't risk living with regret because you didn't chase your dream.
- "He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
My dogs are my teammates, my best friends, my family. My sister says I'll never get married because no guy will have a chance against my dogs. They look to me for sustenance, love, and protection. I don't want to disappoint them anymore than I'd want to disappoint my human friends and family.
We all have family and friends here who have supported us because they love us and believe we have great potential to succeed. It is our job to achieve our goals to the best of our abilities. Be worthy of the trust and faith others have put in you by making smart life decisions.