Bear with me. I scored so heavily as an introvert on the Meyers-Briggs test (the real one that is something like 1000 questions long) that I may have tipped the scale over and broken it forever. And not only did I spend most of my day yesterday preparing for (that is, fretting about) and skiing in the 3K skijor race at the City of Lakes Loppet among thousands of (mostly) strangers, shortly after that I spent my whole evening at an unrelated function with hundreds of other (mostly) strangers. As a result, my battery is dangerously low and quite frankly it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together today. Having said that, I want to put some thoughts down while they are fresh enough in my mind to be put down.
When last we met, I had decided to give Squash a chance to shine. And shine he did. Not in an action photo, legendary skijor superhero dog, “slamming against the harness and pulling the whole race” kind of way. He shone in much subtler but no less important ways: An “I’m totally chill and unworried about this completely new experience with lots of strangers” kind of way. An “I’m curious about those other dogs but not engaging with them” kind of way. A “There’s a lot going on here and I’m distracted and kind of zig-zagging but still making forward progress” kind of way. A “There are stretches where I really, really tune out the distractions, get into it and RUNRUNRUN” kind of way. And a “When I’m distracted by all the people I’m hamming it up and having a blast!” kind of way.
As per my panicky pre-Loppet ravings, I had concerns. Concerns which, one by one, turned out to be untrue. Ok, the thing about new things being scary was 100% true. But the rest of it… it turns out the rest of it was borrowed trouble, wasted mental energy of the worst kind.
Our start isn’t going to be featured on the Loppet website anytime soon. It was stuttery and full of weaving and distraction but at the same time it was wonderful. He was happy and relaxed. And shortly after we started, this happened:
That big brown dog was very excited, and charging and barking at a lot of other dogs including us. I don’t think it was mean, just really excited. Still, I didn’t want to find out what would happen if it reached us, and at the very least I didn’t want any tangled lines. This happened at right around one minute in this video (the crowd laughing is when the dog actually pulls that poor woman off her feet):
He stopped, he looked. He thought about it. And then he went on by. My heart swelled a few sizes. (Also, I love – and by love, I mean $%@#$!^ – how when he finally settles down and gets into a nice run, I accidentally shut the camera off. Oof.)
It swelled a few sizes more when we passed our first team. (Also, I love – and by love, I mean #@^!@#*& – how when I turned the camera back on it chose to focus on my skijor belt bungees and so the remaining 20 minutes of video are completely out of focus.)
It swelled even more when, faced with this large crowd of cheering, cowbell-ringing strangers, he stayed happy and relaxed and (mostly) on task.
And then it swelled about as much as it possibly can when we got to the finish. We weren’t last, but we were pretty close to last (and I could have shaved a good two minutes off my time if he hadn’t needed to stop for some stress poop). But we were together and we were having fun and nothing bad happened and WE FINISHED. That was all I really wanted: To finish, and for nothing bad to happen.
Not that it was a pretty run. For the duration of the race, he did a lot of zig-zagging back in forth in front of me, occasionally he would pick out some random stranger to whom he absolutely had to say HELLO I LOVE YOU right then, and slightly less occasionally he would find something that absolutely needed to be peed on immediately. On and off he got tired and got a second (and subsequent) wind, got distracted and then back on task, randomly stopped and came bouncing back to me like it was time to play a game of his invention called jump on mom. But what he never, ever got was overwhelmed, or scared, or stressed out or shut down or freaked out. He never interfered with other teams beyond a halfhearted attempt to sniff as we went by them or they went by us (I think he fell in love with a Newfie we passed). The things I was worried about, he never did. And all it takes to get over all the things he did do is practice. Lots and lots of practice. Practice I am no longer scared of or anxious about.
So as far as I’m concerned, despite all our imperfections, my boy shined. He shined like gold.
Next up for us is the Barkie Birkie, February 22nd!