Performance Anxiety

Blog post by Josie's mamma Sara N.

Josie will be tested for her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification tonight.  For those of you unfamiliar with the CGC certification, it is basically designed to tell the world that your dog will consistently display basic good-doggy manners while faced with various distractions.

For Jo, the CGC is a stepping stone to achieving the Therapy Dogs International (TDI) certification, which will allow her to participate in various aspects of the thriving ARLP Education Program.  It is also just one more stop on her journey from former Iowa bust dog to Therapy Dog and Pit Bull Ambassadog Extraordinaire.  This is what I believe she was born for; as ARLP president Rachel once said, Josie is “love, tenderness, and compassion personified in the fur.”

However, before she can fulfill this destiny, she – along with her dedicated but novice and slightly neurotic owner, yours truly – will have to pass the test.  And I am nervous.

Conversing with a close friend about the upcoming assessment, I rambled on anxiously about the steps of the test, explaining that while most aspects would be a piece of cake for her, others might pose a challenge (e.g., her tendency to express heartfelt enthusiasm toward approaching strangers, or as Josie calls them, “new BFFs,” in lieu of following my instructions).  As any good friend would, she listened patiently as my imagination ran wild about my potential to be an utter failure as the guardian of this very special dog.  And, as any good friend would, she reassured me.  “Don’t be nervous,” she said, kindly.  “If she doesn’t pass this time, there will be other chances.  It’s just a test!”

Despite her gentle (not to mention admittedly accurate) reassurances, in that moment, “just a test” sounded a bit like the famous poem, “Just a Dog:” “If you, too, think it's ‘just a dog,’ then you probably understand phrases like ‘just a friend,’ ‘just a sunrise,’ or ‘just a promise.’”

Similarly, to me, tonight’s “just a test” is “just a responsibility” that I have to the lovely Josie, who underwent so much suffering at the hands of her previous owners before being handed the lucky ticket out of that world by her Iowa and Minnesota rescuers.

It is “just evidence” to the world that a dog born with the literally deadly combination of bad breed reputation and bust-dog upbringing can be an extraordinary gift to, rather than a burden on, the community.

It is “just gratitude” to everyone who had a hand in Josie’s bright future before I even met her – the Iowa shelter workers and ARLP volunteers and donors whose countless hours, dollars, compassion, and patience brought this amazing companion into my home.  And it is “just respect” for the tears they shed over the many other dogs that they tried to, but ultimately could not, save in the same way.

Finally, it is “just an indication” that I am doing my part, however small, to make sure their efforts will not go to waste.

Josie, of course, has no idea what the meaning of tonight’s test is, aside from another opportunity to prance around in front of a throng of people, ears stacked proudly on top of her head like a crown.  As for me?  I can’t help but feel that it means something more.

Update: Josie did not pass this round but she'll be re-testing on the 19th and trying her hand at the TDI test at the end of the month.

She wants to know when the official "look cute and investigate all interesting surroundings" test is. She says she totally would have passed that one.



2 thoughts on “Performance Anxiety

  1. Leila

    Sometimes just having the opportunity to be the prancing, wiggly, bundle of gleeful joyful energy is passing the test. She just needs more practice in stranger crowds. But that being said. Just be patient and find your zen.

    Dogs are funny, when you are zen, they pick up on the zen thing. Cranking back on the wiggly thing enough to show the world how amazingly zen they can be.

    BTW, she is too cute for words.

    Passing all the zen energies your way for success.

    Leila & Quizz
    Richmond, VA

  2. Paige

    “Finally, it is “just an indication” that I am doing my part, however small, to make sure their efforts will not go to waste.”
    Bugger that attitude right this second and remember Dizzy’s wonderful words, which I quote here:
    “Just remember the Golden Rule of Competing: At the end of the day, you get to go home with the Best Dog there. They have yet to make an award or title as important or precious as that.”

    Sara, you are kind and wonderful and worthy of Jo’s fantastic ears and charming personality and devotion, and every day with her is a gift from you, by you, for opening your heart and your home to such a beautiful little girl. Bless you for wanting her, loving her, and saving her!

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