Wednesday, July 7, 2010
YES, the 1/2 Day Agility Trial is Possible!
See the empty chair* pictured on the right? That symbolizes my home on weekends when I'm off showing at an agility trial. Imagine the possibilities...I could be at home reading a book, holding my husband's hand or snuggling a dog.
Don't get me wrong, I love agility.
There are times I spend hours thinking about a particular agility-thing, entire evenings spent enjoying it with my students and 4-day weekends watching it while judging. That's my choice and not only am I comfortable with it, but most importantly, I love it.
However, as a competitor, the continued trend of spending entire days sitting around at an AKC agility trial for more than 5 hours waiting to do a 60 second run is not one of the things on my 'love-to-do-list'. To be honest, it easily falls onto my "absolutely-can't-stand-to-do-page".
Why? Well, if it were just me hanging around it would fall into the "who-cares-area" of life, but it's not. It's about my dogs. It's about life-balance for all of us. It's about being well-rounded as individuals. It's about doing laundry, spending time with family, weeding the garden or simply cleaning the house.
Specifically, I'm not fond of having to get my dogs to a location by 7:00 a.m., then asking (no, it's more like requiring) them to wastefully wait around for 3+ hours until their first run, followed by more mind-numbing downtime for up to an additional 5+ hours until their second run, leaving by 4:30 p.m. (if we're lucky), driving home, getting in late, snarfing down dinner, sneaking in a few chores and then doing it all over again the following day.
Sure, I could use my trial-waiting-time to practice tricks, do some training, visit with folks, network and assist with the trial event (and believe me, I do all of those things). But imagine a trial where I wasn't required to devote my entire day waiting around while my other life obligations and commitments were asked to take a back seat to my hobby.
Specifically, I miss the days where AKC, Excellent classes (all of them) were run first (there were a few trials where I was back home by 10:30 a.m.). Open folks arrived around 10:30-11 and Novice folks showed up around noon. Sure, the Open & Novice folks might have to wait around for a bit until it was time for their classes, but they weren't required to arrive at O'-too-early AND stay until O'-last-dog. The schedule I mention here is far more dog-friendly, ensures handler-happiness and most importantly, life outside of agility goes on as usual.
I've heard the argument that this type of schedule makes it harder to obtain volunteer workers. Honestly, I say bull-hockey! Why? Well, the other schedule (where Excellent is first and last of the day) falsely assumes that because Excellent handlers (the largest group) are forced to wait around, they are more likely to volunteer. First, you can't force anyone to volunteer. Second, they already feel they're making personal sacrifices just by attending for the lengthy day and third, they're hyper-aware of the already looming time commitment and simply don't want to take away from their personal lives any more than they have to.
Case in point, if on Saturday small dogs run first and there is a separate walk-thru for the large dogs (after small dogs are done). The large dog people won't show up first thing because they know they're already going to be there until the end of the day. Even showing up late, that means they're probably going to be forced to hang out for 7+ hours. Since they arrive later, that means they won't be available when the first dog enters the ring. Vice versa with the small dogs. They were forced to arrive early and so when their runs are completed (6+ hours later), they want to go home and so they're not available to help at the end of the day.
The other argument says that there are more conflicts when Excellent is running in both rings. Again, this is not necessarily true since there are just as many, if not more, conflicts when Novice and Open are running opposite Excellent. At the very least, there is more pressure since on Novice and Open since those tend to be smaller classes and if you miss your run there, you may be out of luck if they are already moving on to the next course change. And who wants to be rushed with a young dog? (hint: nobody!)
No matter what the running order, there is no doubt that volunteers are hard to come by and conflicts will arise. However, forcing people to stay and volunteer just isn't the answer because this doesn't create the pay-it-forward, feel-good moment everyone wants in agility.
I'm an optimist and while this might come back to bite me in the butt (especially if I'm judging and need ring crew), but I think we should allow people to make their own decisions and handle their time as they see fit. People may surprise you. One day someone might not be in a rush and so they stay until the end. Another day they may have an obligation. Either way, it's a win-win for everyone involved and we're encouraging and facilitating BALANCE.
Whatever the running order, the days of spending 10 hours a day waiting for two agility runs needs to end. Nobody (or dog) can remain sharp, fun and relaxed for that amount of time and who wants to be held captive at an agility trial. (again, nobody!)
* If you like the chair pictured, go to this link to learn how to do it yourself.