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Chocolate Havanese

A definition of success

A wall full of ribbons, trophies in each nook and cranny, award photos on every shelf. Wow! What a stunning reflection of accomplishments. But is that really what it's all about?

The dictionary definition of a winner is "one that wins a contest or competition". The definition of a loser is "one that fails completely". Ouch! If there can only be one winner, this then implies that the rest are losers. What a confidence defeating concept and a blow to all efforts. As with everything, varied perspectives can lead to many different understandings. In my mind, winning is not the ultimate measure of success. True success is a reflection of small steps and small successes along the way. In the dog world, there are few winners in that single sense of the word; think of only one Best-In-Show in a field of 1200 entries. If the other 1199 competitors considered themselves losers, there would be little motivation to return and do it again. Lack of winning the top prize does not mean you have to be a loser or that there cannot be a wealth of success. Success is so much more than winning. It is "the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted".

Don't get me wrong. I like to "win" as we all do and have 50+ titles on my Havanese to show for our efforts; however, some of my best memories are not of the big wins but rather they are of the small successes that got us there. You can win without winning.

Small steps

Flashback to my very first agility run; agility was just getting started, and, greenhorn though I was; I participated in the first trial held in our area after only a very few sessions of classes. It was a first for me and a first for my Havanese. I got lost on course; my dog took extra obstacles and ran through the same tunnel three times (looping around in glee). My flying furball also took some jumps in the wrong direction and we did more than a few obstacles in the wrong order. Eventually we completed the course, well over the allotted time, accumulating a whopping 120 faults along the way. Did I feel like a loser? Not at all. This was the most fun thing I had ever done with my Havanese. I went home ecstatic with our success. We won because we got out there and did it, we won because we finished the course, and we won because my social butterfly came back when called after she went visiting children at ringside even though sorely tempted by hot dogs and ice cream. Most of all we won because we both had fun doing something together. From that first run, we went on to earn qualifying scores consistently, completed many titles, and even won a Top Dog award at a trial years down the road. I can look at that trophy and recall we won it, but to tell you the truth, I remember little about it; however, that first agility run of my life will be with me forever. It was a win without winning, a stepping stone on the way to greater successes in the future.

Canine activities, dog shows and performance events are all just games you play with your dog. Games should be fun. If they are not fun, then why are you playing? Playing the game, any game, should be more important than "winning". Your dog does not care whether you win with accolades or whether your run was considerably less than perfect. Nor do ribbons, titles and awards mean one iota to them. Your Havanese would rather have a belly rub than a rosette, and would choose a yummy treat over a crystal bowl any day. What your dog, your Havanese enjoys, is being with you, working with you, playing with you and all the fun you have together.

Build on success

There are so many measures of success. Puppies and children are masters at success. They delight in discovering the world around them. Their firsts are many, and their pride in each is great. As we grow up, we forget and take things for granted, putting importance on things which really are not while forgetting the truly meaningful ones. The first time a puppy in housebreaking totters to the door to go potty . that is a success. Watching this same youngster learn to negotiate stairs, grasp the concepts of Sit and Stay, devise tricks to make you laugh, figure out that fetch is the greatest game in the world, master a difficult exercise .... those are some of the successes that winning is built upon. A puppy lacking in confidence going up willingly to say hello, a squirmy novice standing steady on the table for a brief moment, a glimmer of attention amidst distractions, a whirling dervish taking a few steps with all four feet on the ground, a furry freight train mastering the concept of "walk nice"; these are all successes.

Build on success not on failure. If you break down any exercise or game into tiny steps, you will see the successes along the way. If you only consider accomplishing the whole as success, you may never get there. Consider a formal obedience retrieve. If only a letter perfect retrieve is acceptable in your mind, training will be a miserable experience for both you and your dog. But if you can enjoy and celebrate the success of a look, a touch, a take, a hold, a carry, a turn, and a pick-up, a release, a sit you will be well on your way to taking small successes and turning them into the bigger success you hope for.

Regardless of what happens in the ring, whether conformation or performance, there is bound to be at least one tiny thing that went right, one success that can be appreciated. On the lowest of your days where you think the best you have to say is "at least she didn't pee in the ring", bolster yourself and remember that you are only a loser if you think you are. Regardless of how small the success, you are always a winner and you always bring the best dog home. Best because the Havanese you bring home is the little dog that curls up by your side and sighs in contentment at a belly rub, that gets excited when you walk in the door, that is always ready for a walk or game of fetch and that thinks you are the greatest person in the world. Best, because that little Havanese is yours!

Enjoy your successes along the way. Winning will be all the sweeter. Years from now, if all you have to show for life with your Havanese is a dusty collection of faded ribbons and tarnished trophies; you forgot the most important quality of success, and that is to ENJOY every moment of the journey! The memories will last a lifetime.