Today, to surprise my husband with his favorite dessert, I made a sour cream pound cake from my grandmother’s recipe. A. As in one. One pan. That is unusual for me. I always figure if I am going to the trouble of making a pound cake, I should make several. In fact, the recipe is marked with the measurements to make three at a time. So, why did I only make one? Didn’t I have friends or family who would like the extra cake? Disregarding that this is the first of the year and almost everyone I know is on a diet, I only made one cake because this year, I decided to seek balance. And seeking balance to me means avoiding excess.
I am an all or nothing woman. I don’t take on projects that I can’t give 100% of my attention. If I like something, I buy one in every color. If one will do, I collect 100. When I focus on something, I focus on it completely, too bad if something else needs my attention, it will have to wait. In my younger days, that approach might have worked, but now, I recognize that in my search for the most, the best, the over the top, the perfect, I miss a lot of joy. Of time spent in the moment instead of always looking ahead. Of recognizing time to just sit and appreciate what I have instead of longing for more.
This weekend, Cory and I went to another Nosework trial. For those of you who don’t know, Nosework is a dog sport using a dog’s best sense, the nose. A hide or hides consisting of a small metal tin with a single end of a q-tip infused with a drop of an essential oil is hidden in a container, on a vehicle, in a room or outside, and the dog, using their nose, seeks out that smell, alerts the handler and the handler signals the location of the odor. It is a team sport as the dog must know what to look for and how to let the handler know and the handler must recognize the dog’s “alert” and properly identify where the odor is hidden.
But Nosework is more than a game. Not only does it build relationship between the dog and the handler, but it stimulates the dog’s mind, warding off boredom, anxiety, and fear. The game teaches the dog confidence and focus. When played properly, Nosework can bring joy, not just to the human, but to the dog.
I started Cory in Nosework to help her with anxiety and fear. She has soared in the game, passing three levels of competition. She loves Nosework. When I pick up the harness she wears, she exudes joy by barking, jumping, and racing to the car. She is happiest when she is searching.
But I have found as we moved up levels that the rush of competition prevents me from finding a similar joy. In my all of nothing attitude, I seek to be better, faster, smarter each time we compete. Success breeds not success, but the desire for more success.
The last time we trialed, Cory amazed me by getting a 100% score finding every hide and not giving a “false alert”, signaling a place where there was no odor. But yesterday, not only did she false alert but I rushed her through two searches, and we left two hides unidentified. We only passed three of the six searches. I felt dejected and bewildered. How could we get 100% one day and only 50% the next?
As I am wont to do, I took to Facebook to express my frustration:
Nosework friends, do you ever find consistency as a team? I know this sport can be affected by so many things: dogs state of mind and health, handlers state of mind and health, practice, experience, weather, wind, no wind, hot, cold, humid, dry, travel distance, time of day, are a few. But do you ever get where you feel like you are in a rhythm that you can depend on? I know you will tell me no, it’s not a science and neither you nor your dog are robots, but is there something you can do to be more comfortable? I know it is impossible to create the same circumstances each time. I know. I REALLY know after today. But still, I wonder.
In response to my post, I received a lot of great responses. Everything from, “We all feel your frustration,” to “At least you had a fun day with your dog.” But here’s the thing, I didn’t have a fun day with my dog. I was frustrated and upset. Things didn’t go as I expected. We messed up. I was tense and unhappy. Now, to be clear, I didn’t yell at my dog, hit her, or throw things as I have seen handlers do at dog competitions of all types. I continued to love her, pet her, and talk softly to her. But I wasn’t having fun. Which means as attached to me as she is, she probably wasn’t having fun either.
It was Bobbie Bauwin who hit the nail on the head and brought me up short. She said, “Perhaps the destination is not the point. The journey is where the joy and memories are… When all is said and done will the regret lay in lack of a title or the enjoyment in shared learning and the relationship?”
So, what were my goals? Was I in it to win it? Or was I in it to enjoy the time with my dog? Not that you can’t do both, but for me, the out of balance woman, I was focusing too much on one aspect of the day.
Where else do I just sit and rub her fur and smell her special Chessie smell? Where else do I listen to her snore without the sound of the television in the background? Where else do I feel the wind and watch the clouds without thinking I should be doing laundry? Where else do I just glory in her abilities for the pure joy of watching her work?
Finding balance is not easy, but with help from my friends, I am muddling through.
Today, I made one pound cake. I can smell it cooking now. Later, we will enjoy it, savoring the flavor of almond and butter and remembering all the times my grandmother served the same cake. The fact that I made only one cake and just for him, may escape my husband. But I will remember.
I will try to remember balance and the sheer enjoyment of doing something simple and fun the next time I go to a dog trial. Maybe, I will bake a pound cake the day before I go and take a piece with me.