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"Carry On" Competitors of the 2016 AKC Dog Agility National Championships

Kristin is a dog agility instructor and competitor with 20 years in the sport.

Author's sheltie Asher, who is attending Nationals for the third time this year.

Author's sheltie Asher, who is attending Nationals for the third time this year.

Agility Playlist

Music plays an important role in my life as an agility competitor. I have an extensive playlist of songs I listen to on the road to an agility trial. They are intended to not only pump me up for the competition, but also to push my mental game into the proper perspective.

Every year, I choose new songs to add to the playlist, and for every big competition, I choose a song that is most meaningful to me at the moment to be the song for that competition. In 2013, my motivational song for Nationals was "Carry On" by Fun.

"Carry On" is lyrically poetic with word references pointing back as the song progresses. The Gaelic rhythm builds from a beautiful piano solo to an uplifting crescendo. It's a song about conquering through simple determination. It's an "everyman's" song about beating the odds.

One of my favorite quotes for agility is from Mahatma Gandhi who said, "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” This quote matches the song, and the two have combined in my mind to become one of my agility anthems.

But I believe this is a song that can have meaning for anyone who has struggled to reach a dream. So to all of the agility competitors headed to the 2016 AKC Agility National Championships, click the video at the top of this page, turn up the volume, and read below. There is a message in this song just for you...for your team alone.

Author's sheltie, Aslan, with his Nationals qualifying ribbons from 2008.

Author's sheltie, Aslan, with his Nationals qualifying ribbons from 2008.

"Carry On" by Fun

Written by Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost, Jack Antonoff, Nate Ruess

Well I woke up to the sound of silence
The cars were cutting like knives in a fist fight
And I found you with a bottle of wine
Your head in the curtains
And heart like the fourth of July

You swore and said
We are not
We are not shining stars
This I know
I never said we are

Though I've never been through hell like that
I've closed enough windows
To know you can never look back

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Carry on, carry on

So I met up with some friends
At the edge of the night
At a bar off 75
And we talked and talked
About how our parents will die
All our neighbors and wives

But I like to think
I can cheat it all
To make up for the times I've been cheated on
And it's nice to know
When I was left for dead
I was found and now I don't roam these streets
I am not the ghost you want of me

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

My head is on fire
But my legs are fine
Cause after all they are mine
Lay your clothes down on the floor
Close the door
Hold the phone
Show me how
No one's ever gonna stop us now

Cause we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we're miles away
So we'll come
We will find our way home

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Carry on, carry on

No one's ever gonna stop us now.

An Indomitable Will

The song starts with a girl who after a little wine, becomes contemplative and tells a guy­ that she knows they are average. "We are not shining stars," she says. "This I know. I never said we are. Though I've never been through hell like that, I've closed enough windows to know you can never look back."

How many of you have had someone tell you that your team isn't quite "up to snuff." I suspect everyone has heard something similar either spoken to your face or behind your back.

"Your handling system will always hold you back."

"Your team is too slow to be successful."

"Your dog will always struggle with that issue. You'll never go far."

"Agility has become a sport for the young. You're too old to be competitive anymore."

"Your dog is the wrong breed to be competitive in agility."

"Your dog doesn't have the drive to do well in this sport."

The list is endless. We've all heard it said of others, and we've all heard it said of ourselves.

"You are not a shining star. Your window is closed, and you can never look back. Just accept it. You're average."

But, the words in your head echo, "Don't give up. 'Strength comes from an indomitable will.'"

"If you're lost and alone, or you're sinking like a stone - Carry On. May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground - Carry On."

May your past not sound like silence. May it not sound like snores as you give quietly up to your rocking chair. If you're going to Nationals, then I suspect your past sounds nothing like the slow, dying squeak of the rocking chair. No, your past sounds like paws continually running over the dogwalk. It sounds like the teeter slamming. It sounds like the rumble of the tunnel. It sounds like a dog panting heavily. It sounds like your feet upon an agility course.

It sounds like determination.

I once crunched numbers to see if I could decipher how many teams attempt agility but give up before even reaching competition. Based on the numbers of students I see start agility classes and then drop out and based on the number of current competitors, I did the math. I admit. I'm no mathematician, but I made sure my numbers were very, very conservative. I came up with around 5,000,000 teams that had done agility at some level across the country. Five million. Even if the numbers are half that, it's astounding. Almost all of these gave up their dreams. They did not "carry on." They chose the rocking chair. They chose the closed window. They chose the easy route.

Now, consider all the teams that compete in just AKC agility. A number crunch done a few years ago by someone who is good with math showed historically about eight percent of these teams reach the AKC Nationals. Eight percent.

Welcome, Nationals competitor, to agility's very elite. You did not choose the closed window. In spite of the girl with the wine bottle in her hand telling you that you are average at best, you chose instead to doggedly keep putting your feet upon the ground. You chose to carry on.

Now, the guy in our song goes to a bar with his friends, and with some wine inside him, he becomes contemplative himself. He and his friends think about how it will all eventually change. All they know will eventually die.

But what if you can cheat it all, even for a moment? What if you can make up for those times you've been cheated on and called "mediocre?" What if you could find a moment where you were a shining star? Could a moment like that exist for your team?

And what if, after being left behind as just another casualty to agility, somebody finds you? A friend. An instructor. A family member. A dog. What if that someone grabs you and tells you that you are more than your agility issue?

What if somebody says you are not the ghost others have said you are?

With the help of another, the guy in the song begins to believe that the girl was wrong. Indeed, he is going to believe that "no one's ever gonna to stop us now."

The song goes, "Cause we are, we are shining stars. We are invincible. We are who we are."

Yes, you ARE shining stars. And you are shining stars simply because you are who you are....competitors at Nationals. Others - perhaps millions of others - chose to listen to their demons and naysayers rather than their feet determinedly hitting the agility course over and over again. They chose an easy route. You chose the difficult one. You chose not to listen to those who said you couldn't, and instead you chose to carry on.

You are not dead. You are not the ghost the cynics hoped you'd be. On your darkest days practicing, when whatever issues assail your team were clouded over your head, you chose not to quit. You chose, instead, to fight.

Heading to the start line.

Heading to the start line.

To those teams coming to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 2016 AKC Agility National Championships, you deserve to be here. As you step with your best friend and teammate to the start line, remember all of the times others doubted you. Remember all of the times you doubted yourself. Remember all of the times you heard your dog's paws upon the practice field. Remember all of those you know who gave up their agility dreams - who quit, and chose not to carry on.

Then remember those that lifted you up and told you it was within your grasp - who said you were not a ghost.

And remember your dog, who always believed in you. Who, in a myriad of ways, said you both could. That it was possible.

And then step out into that National's ring and listen carefully to the sound of your feet upon the ground. Those footsteps are the soft sound of one team's determination.

They are the sound of your success.

Nationals Qualifications


Kristin Kaldahl (author) on March 01, 2013:

Congrats to you and Jet on qualifying for Nationals. I may see you there. :)

Have a blast!!!!!

Cynthia from SLC UT USA on March 01, 2013:

This is the first year I've qualified for Nationals after 9 years of agility. My first trial with my collie was February 2004. He taught me a lot, as did my border collie. But not until Jet, my current Danish-Swedish Farmdog, have I been able to pull it all together and qualify. Thanks for your article. It's been a long, fun, challenging road full of love tears and laughter.

Kristin Kaldahl (author) on February 26, 2013:

I know many people reading this will not have qualified this year due to injury, illness or they are just not quite ready. However I also know those teams won't sit back either. Like you, they'll carry on and qualify next year. Good luck, and thanks for dropping by!!!!

Nicole & Cel on February 26, 2013:

Made me cry Kristin! We didn't qualify this year because of an injury in September, and very well could have... Well done friend! Well done! Hope to see you in Wichita this coming weekend!

Kristin Kaldahl (author) on February 25, 2013:

Thank you torri. And thanks for dropping by to read it. :)

torrilynn on February 25, 2013:


really interesting article that you have composed of here.

it is very motivational and inspiring. thanks.

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