Is It Me?

I’m frustrated.

I’m discouraged.

And, I’m not sure how to make things better.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been trying to set up a training session with the Border Collie Lady. We haven’t had a chance to continue our agility lessons since the end of May because of various scheduling issues. She competes in agility and conformation with her dogs, so a lot of her weekends were full. Then when Phoenix got sick, I really didn’t want to be away from him more than necessary. Over the past month though, I’ve been trying to set up a couple of sessions with her, but keep getting this excuse and that for why she cannot get together.

I understand that she is probably busy, but I also feel as though she is not truly interested in helping me. During our training sessions, I got the impression that she didn’t feel as though I could truly succeed in agility with limited sight, but I thought I could prove her wrong with time. I really enjoyed our sessions and felt as though she had tons to teach me, if I could only get past her preconceived notions regarding my abilities.

As far as I know, she has a sister who is blind, so I thought it would only take a bit of effort to win her over.


I’m now feeling as though I was sadly mistaken.

I don’t think she truly wants to help me. And I’m feeling discouraged.

I really, really want to compete in rally obedience and agility with Canyon, Cessna and Rogue, but I feel as though my skills are somewhat limited. I feel as though I need someone to watch me in action with each of them, and offer suggestions and advice regarding the areas we are struggling. I know I can succeed in these dog sports, but am really not sure I can do it without guidance. I find it helpful to have someone providing training structure and suggesting areas for improvement and new ways of overcoming challenges, but there really is no one else in our area except for the Border Collie Lady and a training program which seems to constantly cancel group classes they advertise on the radio.

After my experiences with the Border Collie Lady and previously Sue Alexander, I’m really beginning to wonder if I’m just too much work. I know Sue didn’t ask me to leave her program because of disability related concerns, but having negative experiences with two dog training programs, has really done a number on my self-confidence.

Is it me?

Are there things I need to change about myself?

Is it them?

Am I expecting too much of other people?

Should I just avoid dog training programs all together, and just educate myself?

These are things I need to consider, because the status quo is not working. If I want to achieve my dreams of competing, then I’m going to have to figure out where the problems lie. And, if it is me, then I need to figure out how to stop and change whatever I’m doing to scare off the people who can help.

Or, figure out a way to teach myself the things I need to know.

Any thoughts? Or words of wisdom?


  1. I’m not sure if you saw my blog post/stuff on Twitter about my flyball drama but I’ll retell it here. A couple months after Cole and I were partnered I realized I had a great candidate for dog sports and thought flyball would be the best because of his ball and retrieve drives. I e-mailed quite a few people and connected with the leader of a now broken up team. The team she was a part of had a class but it was full so she started giving me private lessons. After meeting Cole and I and seeing him work, she was excited for us. She just knew Cole would be a great asset to the team and that our partnership would give us a huge advantage.
    I finally got to go watch a class and practice with her. She was so excited to introduce us to everyone but was surprised that some people, especially the leader, were rather cold. At the time, we thought it was because they were underestimating Cole since they met him while he was in harness and he is very serious and aloof when working. I emailed the instructor the next day asking when the next class was so I could sign up. A week went by with no response. I tried again and finally heard back a few days later. She thought that me being in a wheelchair was too much of a risk in the lane. Did she see me move in my chair? Nope. Did she know how fast my chair was? Nope. She decided to make the decision based on stereotypes of disabled individuals and people in wheelchairs. What made it worse is that another team in our region has a competitor that competes in a scooter and has never had an accident or problem.
    Needless to say I was upset and wondered if any team would accept me. Maybe it was me that was the problem. Then I heard back from 3 teams who all welcomed me with open arms. The class we are in now is better than it ever could have been at the other place (I saw the instructor tell someone to alpha roll their dog after it was the victim in a fight) and the team has already welcomed me and is so supportive. I don’t always think things happen for a reason but in this case it did. I found an instructor and team who could see beyond my disability to the dog and my abilities. Keep looking, don’t get discouraged and no, it ISN’T you.

  2. Hi Brooke. One thing I have noticed since I started following your blog and with some of the email conversations you and I have had is that you have big dreams (which are great) but don’t have the basic step foundation to achieve those as of yet. You seem to have a tendency to want to walk before you can run, so to speak. When you have competition goals, every single brick you lay in your training foundation is key and those bricks take time. If you start skipping bricks, your foundation crumbles and you never achieve your goal. For example with Canyon. Your goal for a long time was “stud dog.” That’s not really an appropriate goal for a person with no foundation in the breed or having any formal, validated successes with the dog (ie titles) to prove that your dog is worth being a stud. Rather than jumping right to the goal of “stud dog”, and OTCh, a more appropriate goal to start would have been setting the foundation and training for CD, then CDX, then UD, mentoring with a competition obedience person seasoned in training obedience dogs whose methods you agreed with and then seeing where things progressed and developed from there. You can set lofty goals, and high goals are great, but you have to know how to get there and that takes time, work and brick by brick. So perhaps, a better way to approach your agility and obedience dreams is to approach a trainer with the goal of setting a solid foundation with your dog in hopes of competing. Start laying the bricks, one at a time, until you can reach your goals. Don’t try to run until you can successfully, solidly walk.

  3. I’ll help you! I’m not expert, but with Rally at least, I can help teach you the exercises… Send me videos of your practices and I’ll send you feedback!

  4. Hi Ashley, Thanks so much for the words of encouragement 🙂

    Katrin, thank you for pointing out some of the areas where I need to improve. I think it’s a good thing to have big dreams, or you really don’t have motivation to work harder or achieve more. It’s just frustrating when you can’t find someone to keep you on track and to fall back on when you are stuck.

    Kelly, I will see if I can figure out how to make videos with my phone. We’ll be in Guelph/London around the 11th of November, maybe we can get together and you can tell me where I need to work.

  5. I really encourage you to join the training levels list, based on the training levels by Sue Ailsby. There are other blind handlers on the list, as well as people in various parts of Canada (Sue is in Canada, so a lot of listers are, too). I’m not sure where anyone is in relation to you, though. However, the Levels are designed for people to train their dogs themselves, and, as Katrin mentioned, to start with foundation work and build up. THe original training levels are on the website already. THe new, improved ones are in a book. i don’t know if the book is yet available in alternative formats. I know Sue definitely is working on that, but I’m not sure if they’re done yet or not. But you can ask. And you can start with the old levels, which I’m still using for some things and which are mostly designed for people who want to work in agility or rally or other dog sports. The list is a great source of support and information and expertise. I never get the “you can’t do that because you’re disabled” attitude there. In fact, sometimes people encourage me to compete in things when I tell them I really cannot!

  6. I think you just need to find a trainer who is a good fit, and with your limited northern options, you may have to wait until you move back south. The good news is that dogs don’t forget – I can ask Ace to do a trick he hasn’t done in 6 months, and he still remembers how to do it! I’m sure your pack is the same 🙂

  7. I’m very new to your blog, and I have no idea how far you want to go in Agility. I’m moderately new to agility, but have all kinds of local resources. If you wanted to try working by video, I’d be willing to see how it works! I am not sure if you can watch video, or need written instructions, but if you want to play around and try some stuff out, let me know!

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