This weekend I got to meet one of my heroes at the Mid-Atlantic Agility Showcase. His name is Jaakko from One Mind Dogs (Finland), and if you are an agility person you know who this is.
I have a tendency to be anxious when I have my first runs later in the day. My mind races with thoughts of, “Is the trial moving fast?”, “Am I going to be late?”, “What if I miss my run?!”. So, to ease my unsettled mind, I often try to get to the venue earlier than necessary. I was milling around since I had many many hours before my runs, and noticed a lot of OMD apparel. I know OMD clothing is awesome, but the concentration of it here sent up odd little flags in my brain. I shrugged it off. I knew that OMD was doing their east coast tour of seminars, which I unfortunately can’t afford financially to attend right now. So, it made sense that everyone was sporting their super cool threads from the seminars.
I was watching someone’s run and thought one of the ring crew looked a lot like Jaakko, who also coincidentally looks a lot like my dad. Then, out of nowhere, like a rare endangered wild cat just waltzing in front of a conservationist in the middle of NYC… Janita passed in front of me to check the scores table. I froze. Mentally checked to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and began wildly looking around for someone I knew to check my facts. Jaakko and Janita at a trial I’m at?! What?! I quickly found one of my friends and she confirmed that it was, in fact, the One Mind Dogs trainers. I may have geeked out a bit. I’ve spent hours and hours watching and learning from their videos. They’ve done amazing things for the sport of dog agility… and they were in the exact same geographical location as me?! Eeeek!!
I should preface this next part with: I have general anxiety disorder. It’s something I struggle with constantly, but I refuse to let it control my life. I like to say it gives me my unique quirks.
So, I steeled my nerves and walked up behind Janita as she looked at the score computer. I was about to introduce myself and…. nothing. My words dried up on my tongue. I just stood there. Staring at her. Like some awkward, blue haired statue. My stomach twisted in nervousness. This is Janita. I thought to myself. What do I say to her? What if she doesn’t like me? What if she’s not nice? Yes… I realize I sound like an insecure teenage girl working up the courage to talk to a cute football player. But, the One Mind Dogs trainers are my heroes. They are what I aim to be… some of the most amazing dog agility handlers in the world that can communicate with their dogs beautifully. So, after standing there for what seemed like forever (which was probably only about 30-40 seconds) I lost my nerve and walked away. I berated myself as I made my way back to my pups crated on the far edge of the facility.
I kept telling myself that I might not get the chance to meet them again for quite a while and should try again. What’s the worst that could happen? No, wait, brain… don’t go down that path. Just grit your teeth and do it! I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t at least introduce myself. I decided to talk to Jaakko since he looks a bit like my dad and that made me feel a little less nervous. (I know how weird that sounds.) I took a deep breath and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and looked at me. Say something stupid! My brain yelled as I just kind of stood there for a second…. not saying or doing anything. “HimynameisBritneyandI’mabigfan!” I blurted in a fast jumble of words. He smiled. 😀 It’s amazing what a smile can do. The fear and trepidation in my brain melted into excitement. He talked with me about agility, his dogs back home, and their time in the US so far. Someone pinch me! I was chatting with one of my heroes! (No, come to think of it don’t pinch me. I severely hate being pinched.) He held and let Bilbo lick all over his face. (Bilbo was quite smitten with him!) Jaakko was amazing, humble, and so kind! He gave me wonderful advice, “Make sure it’s fun. It’s okay to have goals and strive for accomplishments in agility, but above all have fun and don’t take it too seriously.”
It was beyond incredible. Not just because I was meeting someone that I greatly admire, but also to put the human element to him. I think we often put our heroes up on some inaccessible pedestal, and that almost takes away from them. He wasn’t just some international top level agility handler; a flat character with nothing else to him. He’s a person that has achieved great things, but also a great person. He was kind to and took an interest in a nervous fan. Something I’m immensely thankful for and hope that if I ever got to that level, that I too would be the same way.
(Also, Foxxy came with us. This was her fist time crated at a trial. I was SO proud of her!)
Think of the happiest things. It’s the same as having wings!