Ep. 7: Being Mindful

Jul 29, 2019

You've got plans for your puppy or dog. A long list of dog sport activities that you will train and tackle, jammed into an otherwise full schedule. Always looking ahead, you find yourself flying through life. That is until life throws you a heart-wrenching curve ball that stops you dead in your tracks.

​In this podcast episode, we discuss how difficult it can be balance choosing WHAT you will do with your dog, WHY you are doing it, HOW you are going to it and WHEN you are going do it. No absolute answers are provided in this episode, rather a plea that we all be more mindful of how we are spending time with our dogs...since that time may be cut shorter than we care to admit.

Dianna L. Santos


Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to the, It's All About Dog Sports podcast. This is a podcast where we talk about all things dog sports that could include training tips, a behind the scenes look at what your instructor or trial official may be going through and much more. In this episode, I want to talk about the importance of not waiting. So before we start diving into the podcast episode itself, lemme just do a very quick introduction on myself. My name is Dianna Santos. I'm the Owner and Lead Instructor for Dog Sport University, Family Dog University, and Scent Work University. These are online dog training platforms that are designed to provide high quality dog training instruction to as many people as possible. And we're quite fortunate to have a client base that is worldwide for Dog Sport University. In particular, we provide online courses, seminars, and webinars. They're designed to help people who are interested in dog sports, such as agility, barn hunt, competition, obedience, this dog rallying obedience, try ball tricks and more. So if you have any questions about Dog Sport University, you're more than welcome to check us out www.dogsportuniversity.com. I should know a little bit more about me. Let's dive into the podcast episode itself.

So before I start diving into the podcast episode, let me just preface this by saying that we're not going to be talking about a very fun subject. It's kind of on the sadder side. So if you're not having a good day, you may want to listen to this episode on a different day. But basically I got thinking about this whole concept of waiting as far as what it is that we do with our dogs. When and why, because my young 6-year-old Doberman has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer out of the blue. It was a shocking thing. It just happened a couple of days ago, and it caught us completely and totally by surprise. We were not planning on that happening. And it just put into perspective the importance of really having a good approach with what it is that you're doing with your dog.

So I think to help this make a little bit more sense about what it is that, I mean, I'm going to describe what my overall plan was over the next couple of years with my dog, how all of that has kind of blown up and what I think would have been a better approach. So with my guy, we do a bunch of different things as far as dog sports are concerned. We do. We've trained for agility. It was never something we were going to be competing in, but we've trained for it. We have trained for rally. We've trained for competition, obedience, barn hunt, scent work. We've done lurk, cosing and cat tests. He's played a little bit with parkour. He's pretty much game for anything, and it's a wonderful thing. He's done herding tests and had a lot of fun chasing the sheep. So with him, everything was always on the table as far as things that we could do.

And when I first brought him home at a year and a half old, basically the world was our oyster. I could choose anything. And the plan was that I was going to concentrate on things that I knew were going to be more physically demanding of him when he was younger, and then I could do things that were less physically demanding for him later. So I was going to start training and agility to make that decision whether or not we were going to be competing or not earlier on. And then things like rally and competition, obedience would be things that if we were going to be competing in those we do a little bit later. I wasn't expecting it to be as much later as it was. It kept getting put off because then my body completely broke and we would sign up for trials and I have to scratch because I can go and blah, blah, blah.

But the moral of the story being that there were so many different things that we were doing that I felt as though I had enough time to do these other things as well. And the two things in particular that always got put off was really seriously concentrating on rally and competition obedience, because I'm like, he can do that. If he's 10, he'd be able to go and do that and do it well. So as far as our plan, as of recently, it included three things. One was to get back involved with barn hunt, and he loves barn hunt. He does great in barn hunt. He flew up the levels, got his open title, and then everything fell apart because my confidence was shot and I stopped going. I stopped training, I stopped trialing. It was just a mess. And then I was just able to fall behind, oh, well, now I have to concentrate on the businesses and I have to do the stuff with scent work, and oh, we'll get to it at some point when in reality I just didn't want to deal with it even though he really, really, really, really, really loves barn hunt.

So that was on the agenda of something to get back onto like, okay, we need to get back into barn hunt. The dog loves barn hunt. You need to get your rat together, meaning me, just go let the boy find rats. So that was agenda piece number one. Agenda piece number two and three was to really concentrate on training for rally and competition obedience so that we could actually trial for it. Now, he actually really loves doing both of these things. He really enjoys it. And this was the plan was by the time that I would start entering into those trials, I should have lost some weight. I am seeing a variety of different doctors again. So hopefully they could get me physically where I would be able to do them without too much of a hassle. All of that basically timeline wise was saying, okay, we're going to do that in about a year and a year and a half. So he'd be around six and a half, seven years old, no worries, plenty of time. His mother is still alive and doing well at 12 and a half. His father made it to 10, we're great. We are good to go here. So that was the plan.

And then we get this diagnosis literally a couple of days ago, and all of that blew up in my face. And then I had to sit back and be like, okay, what am I going to do as far as how am I going to deal with this that my young dog has this terminal high grade, high replicating cancer with a prognosis of two to four months is as long as he's going to last. And again, that's give or take. There's no definitives in any of this. First of all, I'm not going to let the rest of his life going to be consumed by treatment. I don't think that that's fair. I want him to be bouncy and happy and as long as he can be. But how am I going to be filling up his days from now until whenever the end is, and immediately my brain went to, I can't believe that you didn't let him find rats.

All this time. It's been probably at least a year and a half since we've really done any barn hunt for no darn good reason. I mean, honestly, there were reasons, but they weren't good reasons. I could have just taken him for fun barn hunt and we didn't because I was working or the body was broken or there was always some reason. But he loves chasing rats. So this caused a big downward spiral thinking pattern of, I can't believe you didn't do these things with the dog. What is wrong with you? You're terrible, dah, dah, dah. Completely disregarding the fact that it's not as though he was doing nothing during all this time. He was doing lots and lots of scent work, which he also really loves. He was doing lots of trialing with cent work. He was doing a ton of trick training at home, and he's the star of almost all of my training videos for all my businesses.

So he's had a lot of really fun things going on. Just he didn't have all of the fun things and there were things that he really, really, really loves that we did not do because I just assumed we would have time to do them and now we don't. So that's where I'm coming from when I'm talking about this stuff and whenever something like this happens, usually bad things, I like to share them in the hope that it helps somebody else. And it got me thinking about dog sports in particular, how it is that we may as a community or just as people who are involved in dog sports, how it is that we choose what it is that we're doing with our dogs, when and why and how. I do think that it requires us to be a little bit more thoughtful about the choices that we make and determining why it is that we're doing a certain thing at a certain point in time.

So I'm hoping that people can think about is that everyone's journey is going to be different. No two dog and handler teams are going to have the same journey, but how can you balance things that your dog may really, really love and things that you want to do, but they're like, I'll do it. You asked me to, but it's not really on top of my list. Along with maybe you have certain goals as far as maybe you want to get a certain title or maybe you want to accomplish something within that given sport within a certain period of time. How can you balance all that with what your dog would really like to do? And also with just the reality of their lifespan, while not becoming totally bogged down with, oh, someday my dog's going to die. I don't think that's a good way of approaching things either.

So I'm not posting this podcast saying that I have any answers. I don't. I just think that these are important things to think about and it helps. It caused me to reflect on how I know other people have done things with their dogs and things that they've said over the years like, oh, I regret this and I regret that. What is it that you can do to prevent those regrets? For me personally, I regret having been such a workaholic and trying to get these businesses up and going and running when I could have on those times, I said, okay, sweetie, here's a bone. Please go chew it. I have to do some computer work. I could have gone out for 10 minutes and I could have done a quick training session, or I could have done a play session with him instead. I did the work.

Those are the things that eat away at me at the end of the day. It's not as though he was completely ignored. He wasn't neglected. Nothing like that happened. He was totally fine. He took a nap, he woke up later, and then we did stuff. But that still will eat away at me. That now that I know that his life is now compressed a lot more than I thought it was going to be. I have a human approach to it of there are things that he would've liked to have done, but then I have to remind myself of the same token that he's a dog and he has the wonderful gift of living in the moment. And that's the great thing in seeing him now bouncy and throwing his toys and doing all kinds of great stuff. That's why I chose not to do treatment is because I don't want to diminish that.

I want him to be happy, and he's absolutely adoring our no rules approach that's been put into place where he can have whatever he wants whenever he wants and is however much he wants of it. He thinks that's, so I only wanted to post this podcast, and I really went back and forth about it because I'm hoping that it can get people thinking. It's not to provide a definitive, this is what you must do. It's just trying to figure out what do you think would be the right thing to do for you and your dog? And at the same point, not trying to jam in too much stuff, particularly with really young dogs. So we're talking puppies, and I've been seeing this a lot lately. It's just been a trend where puppies are turning six, seven months old and their handlers are competing with them already in a variety of different dog sports because they can per the rules.

Just because you can doesn't mean that you should and your puppy is going to be grown up before you know it. And that time is just, it's so limited to begin with. And I'm sure there are some people, I can't wait for my puppy to grow up, but I'm sure there's a lot of things that come along with puppyhood that you would like to remember, that you would like to cherish. Just even the way puppies run, the way that their little bodies move as they're trying to get from point A to point B, the way that they discover things the very first time, the way that they're perplexed by things that maybe your older dog is like, oh yeah, that's fine, but the puppy's like, what is that? And it's not a fearful thing. She's like, what could that possibly be? Could I put it in my mouth?

All those kinds of new discoveries, those are the kind of things that you should be reveling in when they're happening and not rushing ahead. And at the same point, not setting yourself up to regret later when your puppy is then suddenly two years old and they're not a puppy anymore, and now they're actually an adult. Things are going to be different. And again, for some people, they're going to be like, yes, for the better. But I would think that for most, there's also a little bit of sadness. It's the same thing when anything that's a baby grows up, that baby time is limited. So on one hand, you don't want to just keep putting things off because your time may be shorter than you had expected, but at the same point, you don't want to jam too much in where you aren't able to really appreciate what you have right now. None of this is easy. All of it's actually really darn hard. And with so many dog sports at our disposal, there are so many things to choose from. So to wrap this episode up, before I blab around for too much longer, just take a moment to just sit back and just evaluate what it is that you do with your dog and break it down to fun stuff that we do, actual concentrated training that we do, actual concentrated training that we do, maybe towards competition or titles, and then how much trialing that we do.

And then on top of that, add in what your free time is overall, and are there any places that you may be able to change the priorities of how things are going? Again, for myself, if I'm trying to decompress and I just want to sit and vegetate, that's fine. I don't think that anyone is wrong for wanting to do that. Sometimes you just need to just kind of power down. But if I'm going to be doing that for an hour, maybe I could do that for 45 minutes, but I can spend 15 minutes with the dog first. That's what I'm talking about is how can you restructure things so that you're still getting the most out of the very limited amount of time that you have with your dog in these certain stages of their life and of the time that they're going to have with you so that you have as many memories as possible.

The one thing that I'm very grateful for is I was able, because my body fell apart to change my whole life in creating these businesses and so on. But I'm home basically 24 7, and I have been for the past almost four years now, maybe three and a half. But that's actually been a good thing because that means all this time I've been spending with him, I've been spending with my boy, and he thinks it's the best. The more time he can have with the mama, the better. But it's also been really good for me to be able to see all the things that he does throughout the day and to pick up on all his little quirks and all the little things that make him who he is and to really deepen the bond that we've had. And sadly, I think it's gotten deeper over the last couple of days because now I'm even more in tune to him and everything else.

But I have those memories. I don't just have ribbons on a wall that I'm then trying to connect some memory to. The ribbons on the wall are pretty, and sure, I mean, there are some memories attached to them, I guess, but I have so much more than that. And it's the photos and the videos and just the actual memories of the things that we've done together that's going to hold over a hell of a lot more than the ribbons and titles that we have. So again, not the happiest of episodes, but again, I went back and forth whether or not to even post about this, but I do think that's important for everyone to really evaluate their time with their dog and to figure out what is the best approach for them and understand that there is no absolute correct answer. What works for one of your dogs may not work for another, what works for you and your dog may not work for someone else than their dog.

There's no absolute correct way. But I do think that it's much, much better to be mindful in how you're doing things than to just simply allow time to just get away from you and turn around twice and suddenly you're in a situation like mine where you had all these plans and you had all these intentions, and it's all taken away and you're caught flatfooted. And I would be in a much worse state if I had focused on merely titles or I hadn't spent the time to develop our bond, or I hadn't spent the time just being home and just being able to enjoy him. This would be a million times worse if I didn't have all that. If it was really, I would be, if I was in a situation where I didn't have any of that other stuff to fall back on, this would be an absolute and utter nightmare.

Instead, it's just a slight nightmare. It's lesser than, it's still heartbreaking. It's terrible, it's awful. But I still have all this other stuff that we can fall back on, and I have the ability to really just focus on him right now and to try my best to enjoy the time that we have. But if I hadn't had all that stuff built in, I would be so riddled with regret more so than I already am, because I'm very easily to be riddled with regret anyway. But if I hadn't done all this other stuff, if I hadn't had the approach that I did, it would've eaten me alive. I don't think that I would be functioning right now. I think I'd be a complete and total mess more so than I already am. So I just want to make sure that people are mindful of these things.

I don't want that to happen to anybody. I don't want you to have a situation where who knows what happens, but suddenly your time is cut shorter than you thought it was going to be, and to be in a position where you're then beating yourself up about it. If you can avoid being in that situation, that's basically what I'm trying to talk about is how can you restructure what it is that you do with your dog, evaluating what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how you're doing it so that it works out for both of you. So again, thank you so much for listening. I'm sorry this is a little bit more on the Saturn note, but I do think it's important things to talk about. Happy training. We look forward to seeing you soon.