Posted by: jility | June 3, 2014

If at First Ya Don’t Succeed…

Keep on suckin’ ‘til ya do suck seed! NYUK NYUK NYUK.


When my brother and I were young, we were glued to the television every Saturday morning (assuming I didn’t have a horse show). Our very most favorite TV shows to watch were old episodes of The Three Stooges. We liked the “REAL” Three Stooges. We only accepted the original Curly and hated Curly Joe and barely tolerated Shemp. We were purists when it came to our beloved Stooges!

My favorite line from all of the nearly 200 shorts they made, was Curly’s line from Movie Maniacs, “If at first ya don’t succeed, keep on suckin’ ‘til ya DO suck seed!” Back then, there was no such thing as “to suck” as in not to be good at something, yet this quote is genius! It didn’t make sense back then really, but now that we have the verb “to suck” (as in YOU SUCK!) it makes total sense and is how I try to live my life (not the sucking part but the trying part).

If I suck at something, then I keep suckin’ ‘til I don’t! In other words, I keep trying.

Everyone has their own idea of what success means to them. Some think that only winning a gold medal in International competition spells success. Others think that only getting a million MACHs spells success. To many, having their dog run the highest yards per second is all that feeds their egos. My latest agility dog taught me that just doing a contact in competition spells success!

There was a time in my agility career when winning was the only measure of one’s success. That just never happened to me once I reached the Master level. Sure, every once in a while, all the fast dogs crashed and burned so my Poodle would sneak in for a win, but that really wasn’t the success I wanted. I wanted to be competitive with the big boys. It never dawned on me that I am old, fat and unable to run well because of polio, post polio and now cancer and chemotherapy. I was told often by one person I admired and looked up to that MACHs were stupid and meaningless. Since that was about the only thing I managed to do fairly easily, it was very hurtful to me. I was told that the only real agility was USDAA and that AKC was a joke, unless of course you were a member of the AKC World Team, then you were cool. Since AKC is my organization of choice, that too was hurtful. I felt like a loser in every sense. I was beginning to wonder why bother? Clearly, I was never going to be on the World Team (nor did I have any interest in that), or win a bunch of classes, but I loved agility! I struggled to find my motivation.

According to some, not winning made me a loser, not being on the World Team made me a loser and not wanting to compete in USDAA made me a loser. Clearly, I was an agility loser in every sense! I pouted and hung my head in agility shame.

I struggled with my attitude and searched for a better mental outlook. My friend and instructor, Stacy Winkler, kept telling me to find joy in the process. In other words, stop being goal oriented and become journey oriented. She said it over and over to me. “HAVE FUN!” was her mantra, but I kept hearing the words of others that I sucked because I loved AKC agility and didn’t give a fig about the Euro style courses or World Team stuff. I was told by some that I needed to improve by challenging myself! WHY???? That may be their idea of success, but I am SO over challenging myself. I, like the song says, “…just wanna have fu-un.” Why did that make me a loser?

I had arguments with others about the fact that I didn’t like the Euro courses. I can get around them just fine, but I hate them! So does my 25 ½” standard Poodle! It takes her a few strides to get up to speed and those crank around courses SUCK for her.

I want to see the wind whipping through my dog’s imaginary hair while she runs freely and fast around a flowing course full speed ahead! PLEASE don’t tell me to do NADAC! It is not an organization that appeals to me for many reasons, but think those who do love NADAC have every right to do so ;). I used to do NADAC many years ago, but AKC is just right for me!

Eventually, when the Universe sent me an EXTREMELY difficult and incredibly fearful dog with no drive at all in Pankies (aka UPGRAYEDD) and forced me to rethink my idea of success. Stacy’s words finally sunk in and the light bulb went on in my head. I learned to find pleasure and joy in the process. Success began to mean totally different things to me.

In the beginning of  Pankies’ training, success might have meant she didn’t bolt in fear because she choked up a treat, or that she actually played with me or tried or didn’t look at me with daggers in her eyes. Success was getting her to interact with the teeter or press her nose into my palm. I learned to accept crappy behaviors at first while I worked on her confidence. I learned to SUCK BIG time and to keep on Suckin’ ‘til we did suck seed!

Had I been goal oriented during her training, she never would have made it to the ring. I had to STOP comparing her to her littermates that were amazing agility dogs, and other Poodles that were burning up agility courses at half her age. I learned to LOVE our little tiny successes, one at a time over the years. Just being able to have her near the ring around other dogs was a HUGE success for us! While we watched others tearing around out there, setting new speed records, Pankies just struggled to not bolt in terror.

We made fools of ourselves many times in the ring. I never knew if she would run or not. I had to suck it up and suck and we sucked a LOT! I heard people laughing at us and making comments about how I was getting what I deserved for all the preaching I did on how one size training and rewarding fit all. The joke was on them though, because I learned a TON from my experiences with this incredibly spooky, unmotivated dog. I had to learn how to build drive where there was NONE and how to find a reward that worked other than tugging (I had managed to make tugging an aversive for her early on AND it hurt my back). I had to eat a lot of crow and humble pie and learn from that too.

I learned that smiling at Pankies really helped her AND me! It is difficult to be judgmental towards your dog if you are smiling at them. Pankies has taught me so much about dog training. There was a time when I WAS convinced that one size training fit all. Pankies taught me otherwise and I had to eat a HUGE portion of humble pie on many occasions! I had to go searching for answers that worked for her. But most of all, I learned to have fun and, more than anything else, it was MY genuine joy in my Pankies, my Pankins, my Pankin Pants Poodle, my BooBoo Baby, my Pankinstein, my UPGRAYEDD, that spelled SUCCESS! A Pankies by any other name…

Now I feel sorry for those who think the way I used to when I was goal oriented. What a huge burden it is to measure success by a score sheet when you can measure success by the joy in your dog’s eyes!

UPGRAYEDD (aka Pankies)went from this not long ago (we sucked a LOT for a LONG time!):

To this a few months ago (notice her extreme joy!):

In our first attempt to do contacts in competition when she was two years old, Pankies freaked out because she thought the dog walk was a teeter:

We trained for two MORE years before trying contacts in a trial again. Unfortunately, the first time we tried standard in competition, she was unable to handle the pressure of contacts in a trial. She was more than four years old before we entered her again (once again, we sucked):

We tried some different things (documented in another blog ) and they worked. Here she is a few trials later:

And a short few months later and she even picked up her first double Q:

The moral of the story is NEVER GIVE UP! No matter what happens; smile, have fun and enjoy the ride!

Over the years I have seen many top agility people go through dogs like water until they found the one that would be successful for them without a lot of effort. That is not how I roll. For me it is about the process and the journey no matter what kind of dog the Universe sends me. As the song says, I believe it’s best to”LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH!”

This blog was inspired by the Blog Agility Action Day topic for June 2014, “Success.” You can find more blogs on this subject at this link:

Please check out the other blogs. Some don’t get posted until late in the day or the next day so be sure to keep checking on the site. It will be worth it! There are some great blogs there!

Helen Grinnell King


  1. loved reading your blog! I could so relate to it. Learning to enjoy the “process and journey” is something that took me years to discover and learn. Thank you for sharing your story and the videos…what an amazing transformation!!

  2. I’ve learned so much from you Helen… especially to never give up no matter how much you suck at the time… and that having fun with my dog is the most important part of the agility game!!

  3. Thank you Helen this comes at the perfect time.
    I also have a standard and I was just about ready to pack it in. She’s just 5.

  4. Ah wowow, Helen….. thank you….At 62 I have just started the agility journey, and loving it but nervous about trials…..we just received our 1st Q in jumping about a month ago after a year of a few trials… i hear and feel we suck we suck than then it came to success in one trial. A very nice feeling to have persevered and know somehow it can be done! Thanks for a perfect blog for those who like me wonder……????Team Emi Bear and Barbara will succeed with what we need to.

  5. Excellent! Your Pankie sounds like my Novice zA Obedience bitch, Xena. Tough dog to train, but that meant I learned so much more!

    Your “keep sucking” reminds me of my “embrace the awkward”:

  6. What an amazing story! Pankies is just beautiful to watch. Congrats on your many successes!
    ps. my fave-ever stooges line is the attorneys, ‘Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe’ they were truly masters of humor 🙂 thanks for the memory…

  7. Yup, definitely resonates with me and my crew. And congratulations on all those Personal Qs!

  8. “What a huge burden it is to measure success by a score sheet when you can measure success by the joy in your dog’s eyes!” – Love that. Thank you.

  9. Yes, the lesson of the dog that we were sent. That dog was my first agility dog. Learn to love the process and the little success’s. I wish I would have learned that lesson before he had lymphoma. Loved the big boy like mad, loved his crazy antics, wish he was with me still. Kudos! Hope you and Pankies have many many more fun runs together.

  10. You must be amazingly proud of what you have accomplished. Awesome!!

  11. It makes me so sad to see the competitors that measure success as you once did … the Q, the blue ribbon, the World Team. I have never been athletic and certainly am not now as I get older, fatter, and fight cancer. But, I love agility because it gives me a chance to play with my dogs, be around acquaintances whose company I enjoy, and I get some great exercise!

    I have one dog who is a natural and one who is anything but. They both have BIG smiles on their faces when we play agility and so do I. When we come off the field, they think we won the gold whether we had a successful run or not – if we made mistakes, they were probably my fault anyway.

    We won’t go to World and we may never even earn a ADCH, ATCH, or NATCH (we don’t play AKC) due to the fact that my illness prevents us from practicing or trialing as much as it takes to win the bar … but we are winners each and every time we step to the line, run the course, and cross the finish line. Whether anyone else agrees with me on that assessment is of no nevermind to me!

    Excellent post, Helen! Go Pankies!

  12. Thank you for this article! It is so hard for many people to just relax and enjoy the experience of running with their dog. The best trial run I ever had with my first agility dog resulted in an NQ. But I asked him to do something he’d never done before on a gamble course and he did it! I was so thrilled, I promptly missed the next obstacle and sent him off course. It didn’t matter at all because we were busy celebrating our gigantic success for the rest of the day!

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