Sunday, October 16, 2011

Out of the Well

I love sitting and watching the Dog Agility trials- there are always surprises, inspirations, heart breaks, startling achievement, bitter failure, joy, despair. Nearly every aspect of the human condition can be symbolically expressed in less than one minute runs. But my favorite ones to watch are the surprises- the dogs that have struggled to stay focused, the owners that have wearied of ever 'getting it', the sudden inexplicable gathering all one's wits and training together to coalesce in victory. Those are the runs that make me remember this is a world of hope.

So my picture today on this post is not too great. I was distracted by the dogs, but also trying to draw in blinding sunlight. I was having trouble seeing the iPod screen.

One of my favorite dogs is a big standard poodle- Drew. We met Drew years ago when we started with our club. Drew has boundless energy and loves everyone. He is forever racing wildly around the field, and distracted by the desire to visit and lick the ring crew. I remember his owner, Carol, once telling me after another wild run at a trial that she felt like throwing in the towel. He just wasn't getting it.  Carol is a saint- a tireless worker at our club, and a caregiver for her aged, failing mom, while holding a full time job as well. She never complains, and is always smiling, at least when I see her. So I always try to watch Drew when they are at a trial we are attending. I always pray they will overcome their struggles.

It was time for Drew's Open Jumper's Run. I stopped at the sideline, as I was passing by, glad that I hadn't left and missed him. It started well, and then on the third jump, Drew veered and began his typical exuberant, happy to be alive sprint around the jump. Carol stayed calm, and kept calling him back. I think he circled the area three times, then noticed Carol, and cleared the jump he had initially refused. In Open level, the dog is allowed 2 mistakes. Despite the large time expenditure Drew's romp devoured, it only counted as one mistake. I could see that Drew could have broken off on another wild romp at any moment; he had that joyful edgy look in his bounding run. But Carol stayed confident and controlled, and kept signalling him to the next jump, then the next, and then finally the last. The rest of the run, which had started so likely to end in failure, had been clean, and masterfully run.  So many handlers would have panicked and given up after that out of control race around the field, thinking it was no use, they would never do well now, and the dog was obviously not focused on the handler anyway. The run would have gone from bad to awful. Instead, Carol ran the rest of the race as if the first bobble had never happened. She ran as though she knew she could succeed. And the wonderful surprise was not only did Drew Qualify in that run, he placed first, finished his Open Level title, and moved up to the Excellent level.

We have all been like Joseph of the Bible, languishing in the bottom of a well, thinking our world couldn't get any darker or more hopeless. And then when we are pulled out of the well, we become slaves. And then we are unjustly accused and thrown in prison. And sometimes, we think that means it is all over. There is no reason to try any more, there is no hope, and the unfairness of life has finally battered us to the point where we decide to give up. However, in the end, Joseph ended up the right hand man of the King, and singlehandedly saved his people from starvation. And Carol and Drew won first place, believing that when you don't give up, wonderful blessings ensue.

Genesis 24: 56
56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”

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