My family went to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show this last weekend, in Long Beach, California. My wife, Gwen, is a long time dog obedience trainer and has shown dogs in the conformation ring as well. She and my son, Ben, have also done agility training with our yellow labs.
We spent some time watching the obedience competition and became interested in one particular competitive team, Donna Rock and her Doberman Pinscher, Annie. At this high level of obedience, competitors do several exercises with their dogs. They heel their dogs with no leash. They take a small dumbbell from the judge, throw it over a jump and ask their dog to retrieve it, going over the jump to get the dumbbell and over again to bring it back, sit and give the dumbbell back to them, when asked. Then the competitor hands the dumbbell back to the judge and goes to the next exercise. Three identical gloves are dropped in the ring. They ask their dog to retrieve a particular glove by pointing to it. The competitor then takes the glove from the dog's mouth and hands it to the judge. They send their dog away from them and ask them to sit about 25 yards away. Then they give no voice commands, only hand signals to come, stop and lay down, sit and finish coming to sit in front of them. Each exercise is judged as to how precisely the dog does each exercise and how well human and dog work together as a team.
We were not the only ones keeping our eyes on Donna and Annie. In fact, all eyes in the arena were glued to them as they performed. The reason, you see, was that Donna was born with no arms. This meant that while other competitors wore shoes in the ring, Donna went barefoot. While the others took the dumbbell from the judge and threw it with their hands, Donna used her feet. All of hers were "foot" commands. Donna and Annie won their quarter-final competition. We later found out that in 2005, Donna lost her home, belongings and even her place of work to Hurricane Katrina. We couldn't stay to see how she and Annie fared in the semi-finals, but she is a winner in our book.
As a man and a husband there are so many times when I feel like whining and complaining (sometimes, I do whine and complain). I look for ways out of uneasy or distasteful situations. I'm not motivated to get creative to get difficult things done. But when I see someone like Donna Rock...well, I understand why there's "no whining allowed." No excuses either.