Our first flyball tournament!

(warning: massive post ahead! 😛 )

Ladybug and I have achieved so many amazing milestones recently that it’s hard to keep track.

Her:

  • Let someone else take her leash (more than once!)
  • Let someone else pick her up
  • Jumped into a crate (her new friend Lucy was in the neighboring crate, so Ladybug wanted some of the fun)
  • Traveled a short distance in the crate next to her new friend Sky
  • Traveled a long distance in the crate next to her new friend Sky
  • Visited a flyball tournament
  • Got braver at approaching the men on our team
  • Got to join the team dogs in ZOOMIES after flyball races
  • Made new friends on the team!

Me:

  • Put myself into a situation where neither I nor my dog could leave instantly if anything or anyone threatened us
  • Allowed someone else to put Ladybug into a crate
  • Gradually coaxed Ladybug to spend time in a crate…in just one short day! (Helped that her new friend kept her company)

The first item for me might sound small, but it’s enormous. For the better part of a year, I lived in fear almost every single day. I was afraid to go to the bathroom. I was afraid to go down the stairs. I was afraid to take my puppy anywhere outside my bedroom (and, of course, she needed to go out frequently). I had to keep her on the leash inside her own house because I was so afraid. I was thrown out of the house and forced to leave her, multiple times. My safety and hers was threatened almost daily.

Whenever I enter a room, I have to be in a position with a clear line to the door. If I park somewhere, I have to have a clear path to the exit. If I’m in physical proximity to someone else, I have to have a clear space where I can leave instantly if necessary.

For my puppy, this goes double. I will never bring her anywhere (walking, car, etc.) unless I can focus 100% on her and leave instantly if she is treated badly. If anyone so much as makes her flinch, she and I will never go back. I was told for a year that everything I did for her was wrong, and she almost died. So from now on, no one gets a final say except me. I know her best, and she is my only. If the entire world tells me that I’m wrong when I think she needs safety, reassurance, or an emergency exit–the entire world can go hang.

She’s my baby, and I’ve allowed multiple people to hurt her because I trusted them. I taught her to trust them, too. So from now on, nope. Nope, nope, nope. I’m thrilled she likes flyball and scentwork and puppy yoga, and I’m thrilled she likes our teachers/trainers. But if anyone ever frightens her, I’m not giving second chances.

So…when the invitation came to attend our flyball club’s next competition, I hesitated. It would be out in the country somewhere, and I’d already subjected Ladybug to a 60-mile ordeal in 80-degree heat for nothing (when we couldn’t find a flyball club’s practice grounds). Then our new friend offered for us to drive with her. It solved one problem but created another. It added some time to our trip, which wasn’t too bad (Ladybug’s a fantastic car traveler). We’d find our location and have company for the trip.

But…what if something went wrong?

What if someone, meaning well, ignored my warnings and scared Ladybug?

What if another dog, hyped on flyball, didn’t like an impudent pup and attacked her?

What if it was so noisy and crowded that Ladybug and/or I couldn’t cope?

What if I felt awkward all day, out of place and wishing I hadn’t gone?

What if the environment was all wrong for Ladybug, stressed her out, and I had to start from zero all over again? She’s had so many setbacks in the past few months. She’s still learning basics that she should have learned as a tiny puppy. I don’t mean things like sit and lie down, but Men Are Not Monsters and I Can Let Safe People Touch Me.

I know I keep going on about it, but four months ago Ladybug was not expected to live. I brought her home from the hospital, not because she had recovered, but because the vets could do nothing more for her. It wasn’t just one terrifying night, either. It was weeks and months of terror and uncertainty. If she ever needs anesthetic for the rest of her life, we could be right back in the same place.

While other 8 and 9 month old puppies were learning basic lessons–how to play with other dogs, how to be calm in scary situations, how to read body language (both animal and human) and respond correctly–Ladybug was fighting for her life. And, because that’s how dogs are, she was worrying about and protecting me.

I love my little babybug more than life itself. Other people might claim that dogs don’t really have emotions (or at least not as valid or nuanced as human ones), they don’t comprehend things, they don’t understand, or they don’t have concepts of time, separation, or trauma.

They are welcome to their beliefs, but so am I.

Once upon a time, we believed that infants didn’t feel pain. Baby boys were circumcised with no pain medication at all. Once upon a time, we believed that people in a coma had no sensations or couldn’t hear. We believed many things that may or may not be true.

A lot of dog people I know have or have worked with rescue dogs. They think that because they’ve helped a dog from a traumatic situation, they understand Ladybug.

They don’t. If you have a human in a stable situation who had no responsibility for the dog’s trauma, it’s completely different from our situation. Ladybug endured trauma, but so did I. For the rest of her life, I have to look into her trusting, sweet eyes and know that my trusting the wrong person nearly killed her.

It’s easy to say, “Oh, just get over it.” Or, “it wasn’t your fault.”

Ladybug lost much, but so did I. I watched one family turn their backs on me as I gave up everything and everyone for the woman I thought loved me. I then watched that woman throw me away.

No, Ladybug’s story with me is not a simple rescue story of time, trust, and patience healing and working miracles. I’m her rescue human, and she’s patiently teaching me how to live. To laugh. And to re-enter the human race.

The very least I can do in return?

Keep her safe.

No matter what anyone else says, “expert” or no, I will do anything to protect her from more harm.

I put her into a situation where someone grabbed and shook her, terrifying her. I trusted the wrong person, and she paid the price. She could have, if she truly had been the aggressive dog she was accused of being, defended herself. She could have bitten the attacker, or at the very least she could have fled. But because she trusted me, she allowed this person–someone I had taught her to trust (someone she’d distrusted at first sight)–to overpower and hurt her. I will never forget the look in her eyes as she went limp, cowed, and defeated as she was forcibly held and shaken. She gave me a quiet, resigned, and confused look. She gave in.

This wasn’t a random stranger. It was someone we had known for months, invited into our home, and trusted.

So with people we’d only met a few times (however nice they seemed), how could we know that something similar might not happen again?

It’s not about being an overemotional worrywart. It’s about the realities of trauma. It’s also about living in a situation for almost a year where my boundaries were never respected when it came to me or my dog. I desperately looked forward to giving her that first bath. Someone else took that away from me and terrified her in the process. I was on the fence whether I would crate train her (useful in some ways, but limiting in others). While I was still deciding, someone else threw her into a crate and–again–terrified her. Without my knowledge, permission, or presence. Again and again, things that should have been joyful first moments became anything but.

It’s been nine months since she was thrown into a crate. I’ve never attempted to put her in one since, and I swore she would go into one over my dead body. I kept my word, except at the hospital. I nearly cried when I saw her in the crate there, but it was huge. Floor to ceiling, enough room for four dogs her size to lie down and spread out, and with soft, fluffy bedding that was changed constantly. I was allowed to settle her in her crate, bring a new toy or blankie each day, and give her a kiss and treat through the wires. Plus, the nurses and vets spoiled her so shamelessly (sometimes she was the only dog there overnight), even spending a whole hour or more getting her to eat.

Ladybug may have forgotten that first horrific crate experience, and she might have forgotten the fear and depression of the hospital crate. I think, overall, she’s adjusted admirably to the ridiculous amount of changes she’s had to go through in the past half-year.

But…I haven’t. I still remember the stab of horror and guilt when I saw that horrible crate, nine months ago. I still haven’t forgiven the person who threw her into it. I may not ever be able to.

By putting her into a crate now, even if it was a lovely, well-fitted-out crate with her new friend in the crate next to her, I felt as if I’d become a conspirator in her trauma last summer.

I swore she would never see the inside of a crate again, so help me God and I will kill anyone who tries.

It’s a complicated and difficult process, separating the instrument from the perpetrator.

Crates by themselves are not evil.

Before this happened last summer, I had no objections to Ladybug learning to rest in a crate–provided that I introduced it to her, and I could do it slowly, gently, and without fear. My concerns included space (British homes are teeny-tiny, with little room for large crates) and inflexibility (if she learned to sleep in a crate, she might refuse to sleep anywhere else…and what if we had to travel and couldn’t take a crate with us?). Plus, my childhood family dog had free rein of the entire house. She could go into the bedroom if she wanted. Or downstairs. Or sniff in the kitchen or hop onto an armchair to look out the window. On the whole, I preferred to teach Ladybug how to stay home alone (safely) so that she had more freedom.

Once we had a safe space, I began doing this as soon as she was well enough. Little by little, minute by minute, she has achieved one milestone after another. It’s quite sad she is learning these lessons at the ripe old age of 13 months, but it’s still amazing considering everything she’s been through. To her, a crate has been:

1. A prison

2. A hospital

Not very nice associations.

But, with sheer luck, she got introduced to crates again. This time by the lovely, tail-waggy, happy-go-lucky springer spaniel, Lucy.

We went for a walk, and little baby Ladybug pestered Lucy to play. Over and over again. I kept worrying that she needed to stop (I don’t want a rude dog!), but Tracy promised that Lucy would tell her off. Nicely, but firmly. Indeed, Lucy barked right in her face…and Ladybug listened! (These are lessons she needed to learn as a younger puppy, and she would have if she’d been well enough to interact with other dogs.) After that, Ladybug played on her own while enjoying some interaction with Lucy now and then. For a few minutes, I even let her off the lead so the two could play together.

At the end of the walk, Lucy jumped into the crate at the back of her van. It was her comfortable spot, and she liked getting into it.

Guess what?

Ladybug jumped into the crate next to her!

By herself!

(If this hadn’t happened, Ladybug would still be steadfastly crate-free.)

The next time, Ladybug rode in the crate next to Sky while we went to the woods for a walk. Just a 10-15 minute drive each way, but this was huge. Tracy, not realizing what a sensitive issue this was, picked Ladybug up and popped her into the crate. I nearly had a meltdown (unless it’s a case of danger, I always give Ladybug a choice, ability to consent, and the option to escape)…but Ladybug was fine! Surprised, but this was Tracy who cuddled her, fed her sausage, and played with her. A Safe Person. On the way back, I guided Ladybug into the crate (just like she hops into the backseat of our car–I never pick her up unless she’s too ill to jump). She was fine! She had a moment of uncertainty when she tried to come back out, but she calmed down when she realized her buddy Sky was in the crate next to her. (Ladybug has a hero worship thing for older border collies. It’s cute, except she gets heartbroken when they won’t play with her. Sky was very patient with her, overall.)

Well. Guess what our fearless puppy explorer did?

She rode in the crate for the 45 minute trip to the flyball competition. She only squawked once we got to the field, and she always squawks when we arrive at a field with dogs (or where she knows we will walk). This was her border collie OMG LET’S GO! THERE’S SOMETHING EXCITING COMING! Not a cry of distress.

I walked her for about half an hour before the first race (when she would stay in the crate while we went ringside), and she met her first sheep. It was soooooo cute! She didn’t know what they were at first. (They were safely in a paddock, and she saw them through a fence.) I thought she’d get scared because they’re bigger than she is, but Tracy thought collie blood would make her want to herd them. Probably both were true. Ladybug pricked up her ears, stared at them, and sniffed hard.

I wanted to get out my camera to take video of Ladybug’s First Sheep Encounter, but then she barked. I couldn’t tell whether it was fear or trying to boss the poor sheep around, but they did not look happy. Out of pity (and teaching puppy some livestock manners), I dragged her away. I really wish I could have gotten a photo of her first sheep! Then when we walked back, the little madam barked again. This time, the poor sheep bolted. It was a hot morning and they’d been comfy under the shade of trees, so I had to drag Miss Pleased With Herself away again.

Such a bad girl. But it was hilarious. I think she would have failed puppy shepherding class. Rule number one has to be don’t frighten the sheep. 😀

We walked back to our “campground” (circle of chairs next to a big tent, with cars parked in a row), only to see the team already waiting for the first race…fifteen minutes early. I panicked, as I’d purposely gone back early enough to ease Ladybug into her first time in a crate alone (Sky would be racing). I tried to settle her in (I’d brought her bed, blankie, toys to make the space seem more familiar), but she got skittish and wouldn’t go in. I tried to keep calm, as she would pick up on my anxiety.

Thing is, she’d done great in the van crate so far…but this was with Lucy or Sky keeping her company. How would she do on her own?

I lured her with a treat to the back of the van. She skittered away as soon as she ate the treat. She didn’t seem scared, though, so I kept trying. (More uncertainty or nervousness than fear.) Good thing I’d brought the tiniest treats I could find. 😛 First a tiny bit of a treat on the bumper of the van. Then another bit a few inches higher. She skittered away. Then another treat high enough that she had to put paws onto the bumper and get the treat.

It took time, but I’ve learned from Ladybug’s experience with the head collar. She was perfect with the canny collar at first, but I used it out of desperation. It helped break the downward spiral of fear and reactivity, but it also caused problems. We’re now almost 100% free of the canny collar, but I’ve learned that early compliance may mean later fear. Meaning, it sometimes takes her a while to process her reactions. She needs time and space to think things over, whether it’s learning something new or getting used to a new situation. Once she’s clear in her mind, then she reacts. It can be good (suddenly learning baby box turn work with no effort), or it can be bad (suddenly realizing she dislikes the canny collar).

If we’re going to do the flyball thing long-term, crating or something similar would also be long-term. That means going excruciatingly slowly now so she won’t reject crate time later. Our coach thinks that Ladybug has forgotten the early bad experience with the crate, but I doubt it. If nothing else, I haven’t forgotten. My memory affects how I feel about the crate, and this indirectly affects Ladybug.

Not to mention, putting her into a crate makes me feel like I’m just as bad as the person who threw her into one last year.

Intellectually, I know that I’m not…but emotions don’t listen to logic.

I am culpable.

No matter what anyone else does to her, she’s my dog.

It’s my say.

And it’s my fault.

If she’s going to spend time in a crate now, it will always be her choice. If she wakes up one day and can’t cope with a crate, then we will either quit flyball or find a different way to manage. She will only enter a crate of her own volition, and she will only go in because she chooses to. I don’t mind using a treat to guide her in, at least at first. Goodness knows, she’s perfectly capable of snubbing a treat if she doesn’t like the associated responsibility. 😛 But she will choose to walk/jump in, always.

I promise you this, Ladybug.

I will never force you in against your will. And if it causes you so much distress that it affects your well-being, we will stop.

If anything (or anyone) about flyball, in any way, negatively affects your well-being or causes you fear, we will stop.

Your safety (physical and emotional) matter more than anything else.

After just a few tries, Ladybug jumped into the crate. I sprinkled a few treats onto her bed, which she ate with relish. Then she jumped out, and I let her. (I wanted her to know that she wouldn’t be trapped.) I gave her a minute to think about it, and I made the crate as nice as I could. Soothed her, reassured her, and gave her some cuddles. Then asked her to go into the crate again.

This time, she let me! I closed the door, gave her another treat through the wires, and gave her our special good-bye routine. (So she will know I’m coming back, not leaving her.) I stepped next to the van so she couldn’t see me but I could hear her, and she began to cry. Not very much, but still a cry.

(For reference, she never cries when I leave her in the car or at home. Thanks to the wonderful smart cam our friend sent us, I’ve been able to check many, many times that she is fine. If she normally cried a bit after I shut the door but then settled down, I would have expected it. But, nope. That’s why I do our little routine with her, so she’ll know I’m coming back.)

I hesitated, but by this time I was quite late. Maybe late enough to have missed our team’s turn in the ring. Against my better judgment, I walked away. Ladybug’s cries increased. I started crying, too. I wondered if I’d been ridiculous to think that a few minutes in a crate with a friend nearby meant she would be okay on her own.

When I arrived at the ring, I found out the times had gotten mixed up and we still had a while to wait. I went back to check on Ladybug. She had settled down, but she was desperate to come out. So desperate, in fact, that she charged out of the van while I was still trying to hook her leash. Why do I have to have the dog with a death wish?? I clipped her onto the leash, let her run around for a little while, and coaxed her back into the crate.

This time, there were no tears!

(From either of us. :P)

She did need the treats as enticement to go in, but she was willing to sit down while I closed the door. She happily took the treat once the door was closed, and she looked reassured when I gave her our good-bye.

In a much better frame of mind–and with a much lighter heart–I went back to the ring.

I became the ball collector, which was confusing. Someone gave me a bucket, and at first I didn’t get to see any of the dogs racing. I was too worried about retrieving the tennis balls without getting in the way. I also couldn’t figure out what was happening. After three sets (called “legs”), our team called out “thank you” and it was time to take our equipment down.

We went back to our area, took the dogs out for a play, and had a little break before round two. This time, I had a little better idea to watch the dogs first and pick up the balls later. It was fun seeing how excited the dogs got, and how (as I’d been promised) no one cared at all if they barked. They barked because they were collies and excited (lol, same thing), and they wanted to work. The spaniels and labs were a bit more relaxed. 😀

An unexpected bonus of Ladybug resting in the crate:

I got to cuddle other dogs without her getting jealous!

Most of the time, she’ll slip in between me and the dog I’m trying to pet. She’ll bump her bum against their side to get them away from me, and she’ll try to play with them. Fortunately, she doesn’t bark or get aggressive…but she’s still crystal clear that I may not pet other dogs. (Sigh!) At the races, though (well, waiting outside the ring, as they were too focused inside the ring) I could pet, cuddle, and kiss whatever dogs would allow it.

Our labs weren’t too sure about this stranger encroaching in their space, but I did get a paw and a kiss when their dad asked them to. Ollie the little stubborn cocker spaniel flopped onto his side for a belly rub. He looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but he was determined to jump onto the picnic table. Probably for no other reason than his mum said not to. It’s always funnier when someone else’s dog misbehaves. 😀 He was very quiet about it, but he had no intention of listening.

One of the best parts was coming out of the bathroom (while everyone was waiting at the ring) and seeing Sky coming toward me! I opened my arms (my gesture to Ladybug for “come”), and she came for a good cuddle. Kisses and everything. She has such a soft, rounded chin. Much nicer than Ladybug’s pointed one, at least when giving a jumping kiss. 😀 (Sorry, baby. I do love you, but your jumping kisses hurt!) I’d wanted to pet Sky since the first day I met her, but she was always busy training or playing with Lucy. Turns out she’s a sucker for a cuddle and a treat. Another affectionate dog was Bonnie, a sweet little spaniel who was happy to give cuddles but not come onto my lap. And Harry, of course, always wants a pet and a treat.

A nice surprise was finding Reuben had come, too. He’s still at the manic playful puppy stage, and he had a great run or two with Ladybug. I grinned so hard as I watched them fly around the field. The entire trip was worth it just for that!

Another great first–Ladybug made friends with Poppy (or was it Lollie?). I was quite nervous as Ladybug was doing her pesty little sister act (playwithmeplaywithmeplaywithmePLEASEplaywithme!), but Nicky reassured me that things were okay and Poppy would tell her to back off if necessary. She did, Ladybug listened, and they started playing. Just a few minutes, as Poppy had to rest before the next race.

Even better, the last run of the day saw Ladybug play with several new friends–Scout, Birch (who tried to hump her, lol!), Poppy again (unless it was Lollie :P), and a few others. Just wow! Her first day running with the big kids, and they welcomed her!

Each time going into the crate got better and better. By the end of the day, she happily jumped into the crate without any treat at all. She also sat and waited for me to fasten her leash before letting her out (our typical leash/walk routine since babyhood–leash doesn’t go on or off until she sits politely). This was great! It meant she was more comfortable, but it also showed she trusted me to let her out.

Here’s how amazing this little dog wonder was…on our way home, we got caught in a thunder-and-lightening storm. Plus a flash flood that submerged part of the highway. We were stuck without any way to go around the water or turn around for 45 minutes. I didn’t mind for me (have lived through monsoons and lots of thunderstorms/flash floods), but I was terrified that Ladybug would freak out. It’s probably a good thing she was back in the crate instead of close enough to sense my fear. She’d had a long and busy day, conquered fears, and achieved new milestones. She’d been beyond fabulous, but an extra 45 minutes in a strange crate was too much to ask. Once she started crying, there would be nothing I could do.

Guess what?

She was absolutely fine!

*jaw drop*

Absolutely, perfectly, amazingly, beautifully fine.

Partly thanks to sweet Sky resting calmly beside her, partly thanks to the crate only happening at Ladybug’s insistence (not mine or anyone else’s), and partly just to wonderful good luck…she was fine.

She only started crying after Sky woke up, thought we were home (as the engine was off to conserve gas), and whined to come out. Ladybug gave a tiny cry. Normally I’d have let it go, but I was too much on edge. I jumped out, took her out…and saw that the road had cleared! People were backing up and exiting our side of the road to cross to the other side. This meant driving down the wrong side of the road (turning a two-lane one-way road into a two-way road), but it was just a short distance.

Ladybug was perfect the entire trip to Tracy’s, and then our trip home.

There were so many other wonderful moments yesterday (the Rice Krispie treats eaten with enjoyment, learning more about the racing, watching everyone give Ladybug special treatment and fuss, and watching Ladybug grow more comfortable and confident with everyone else), but there are too many to name. I loved the balance of closeness (people caring for each other) and familiarity (people picking on each other, but in a funny way). I especially like that this group almost always has at least one kid around, often learning to train the dogs.

The best moment for me, though, is a toss-up.

A. Watching Ladybug zoom around with all of the dogs–and playing with several of them. She’s more likely to pick one dog (in this case, Reuben) to like, love, and want to play with exclusively. It’s unusual for her to be willing to play with another dog, let alone three or four! Huge accomplishment for her. It’s a testament to how comfortable she felt, and how welcoming everyone was to her. In fact, several people stopped me when I was going to pull her out. (She’s started stalking Sky, which ticks Sky off…lol! So poor Sky couldn’t play if Ladybug was out.) They said to let her enjoy herself, and she did. Seriously, the whole entire trip would have been worth it for those ten or fifteen minutes. She was just a normal happy dog with other normal happy dogs.

B. Going back to the crate, while we waited for an escape from the flooded highway, and seeing she was completely okay. She was happy to jump out for a few minutes, but she was equally happy to jump back in once we could move a few minutes later. She wasn’t stressed, scared, or worried. This moment wasn’t the sheer, satisfying exhilaration of A, but it would have been unthinkable until yesterday. It’s still hard to believe, a whole day later.

I don’t know what the future will hold for our brave little puppy. She might try this for a few more months, get spooked, and refuse to set foot on the field again. We might find that the more serious training later on is too difficult and/or stressful for her (or me). We might find, which is my most significant worry, that the risk of injury is too great. I was deeply distressed to watch poor Sky have to run and re-run the same lap 5 or 6 times because the other team kept having a problem (dog running over to Sky, running into the jumps, etc.). It’s not fair to her, and I never want Ladybug to be in that position.

I don’t want her training so hard that she pulls a muscle, or tweaks her back, or damages her paws or joints. I can’t afford physical therapy, hydrotherapy, or extensive medical care for her. I’m not even sure how I’ll pay for her spaying, especially if she needs extended in-patient care afterward. Or if, God forbid, the anesthetic kicks off her kidney damage so we’re back to square one.

I think my biggest worry after yesterday (besides fear of injury/strain, which has always been my concern about flyball) is whether I will miss signs that Ladybug is no longer enjoying flyball, or that it’s not good for her. Or, on the flip side, that she’s dying to do it…but that it’s wrong for her. Too much stress, too much pressure, or too much something. I tell myself that everyone knows I want a long, slow, and steady training process with absolutely no guarantee that she will ever compete. I suppose it goes both ways, though. Clubs must train lots of dogs who turn out not to be right for competition, for any number of reasons–even if their owners really want it.

I want the friendship, training, and socialization for Ladybug. I think it’s been the best thing in the world for her, and I’m excited at all of the lessons she’s learning. She’s found a few men to tolerate (she’ll be wary for a long time, although sweet Clive has almost won her over), which is more than I’d ever hoped for. She now pesters Tracy, Cat, and Lina for treats and cuddles. (I’m allowing this just for now. Once she adjusts to the new environment and relaxes, we’ll be back to enforcing basic manners. But if I want her to trust in a strange situation, I have to give her slack in other areas.) And, hip hip hooray, she’s made some doggie friends.

Me?

I made Rice Krispies, my dad’s favorite treat in the whole world. I shared them with people who enjoyed them. It was my first “baking” (not real baking, but close enough) since moving in. I’m not me unless I’m writing…and feeding people. 😀 I’ve stopped cooking for people ever since the horrible incident last winter, and this was a first for me. First time making something for people to eat…and it was a success. I proudly brought home an empty pan and requests for more next week.

I was able to take my puppy with me, and for the last rest period of the day I had her rest next to me. She wasn’t perfect, but she handled it very well. No barking, no lunging, no yelping. She even relaxed enough to lie down several times, and she nudged Jamie and Doug for a treat. (She tried to snatch a treat from Doug’s hand, even though she knows full well that’s not okay. Little madam! She even got away with it, as Lisa tried to intervene. I was scolding Ladybug for snatching, but Lisa thought Ladybug was doing something good in trusting Doug. Ladybug’s fear of men only applies to adults, though. She loves every child in the world and wants to play with all of them. She was snatching the treat just because she could. She knows she’s supposed to take it gently, especially from a child. I’ve drilled that into her since babyhood because I was so afraid she might accidentally hurt a child in her enthusiasm. Little booger. 😛 )

It was fun having an actual team job yesterday. I mean, I needed to and did focus mostly on my puppy, but it was nice to feel part of the group. Picking up tennis balls was a little thing (someone told me that I had to start somewhere, lol!), but it was also something I couldn’t screw up. Just like Ladybug needs slow, sure-to-succeed baby steps when learning something new, so do I. It really is amazing how much we are alike. She shuts down if she can’t get something right on the first try, so I have to make things simple enough that she can. When that happens, she gets so excited that she wants to keep working for ages.

I wonder if she would have had that personality all along, or if it’s been my influence. Her illness? All of the stuff she’s gone through? But her personality has stayed consistent since I met her. The only differences are degree, like becoming more affectionate/cuddly since the hospitalization. She’s always been both timid/skittish and having an attitude, right from when she was a tiny puppy at the farm. (“She’s trouble,” said the farmer’s little girl who helped raise her. “She sticks up for herself.”)

I still have huge reservations about flyball and its potential for injury. I’m still not sure if I ever want Ladybug to compete. Maybe, after a good long while, it would be fun to let her try the baby version with all of the safeguards. Maybe I’ll feel differently after I watch her progress, see a few more competitions, and get a feel for how the team works. It’s nice that the team has quite a few dogs already, so there’s no pressure for replacements. It’s also nice that the minimum age for “open competition” (misleading name that means the most competitive division) is 15 months for one league and 18 months for another. I can’t imagine Ladybug being ready, emotionally or technically, in that short amount of time anyway, but it’s good that it’s not even allowed in the rules for her to compete yet. She can try the easier/less intense divisions if she’s ready (starters/intermediates for BFA and pre-cadet/little league for UKFL), but that won’t be for a while.

For now, she’s learning how to be one of the team. She’s learning to accept new people and dogs into her pack. We’ve been a tiny pack, just the two of us, for a long time. It’s a terrifying but exciting process, peeking outside.

What will happen next? Will we get spooked and run for safety?

Or will next week’s competition be just as fun?

I can’t wait to find out.

3 thoughts on “Our first flyball tournament!

  1. rozharrison says:

    Hi Ana, oh wow, this is awesome, so many great milestones! Well done to you and Ladybug 🙂

    As for crates, we found crate training our young puppies at home (mainly for house training purposes and ovrrnight) to be invaluable. The crate quickly became their little cave which they went into by themselves when they were tired, overwhelmed or just needed space. We didn’t use the crate for that long, once they got a little older. In the car my ex built crates into the back of the truck for travelling. We used to travel alot with the dogs and having them in crates is safer. They were also their bed at night while travelling.

    Hugs
    Roz

    Liked by 1 person

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