The Ribbons that are Never Given Out…

by | Jul 31, 2021 | Uncategorized | 5 comments

When you're scrolling through your social media, you see a lot of excited dog sport handlers showing off their weekend loot: clean runs, qualifying scores, winning runs, and new titles. There's usually a lot of engagement on the post with likes, loves, and champagne emojis.

Social media has placed us all in a vacuum, where we can only hold our audience's attention for around 60 seconds, so training videos get spliced down to the most person minute of the five minute session, again, cheering and kudos.

What if it feels like you never have those moments to share? Do you feel isolated? Not good enough? Not worthy of sharing your “so so” run? 

It's gotten slightly more normal for handlers to post their not-so-awesome days of agility too, and yet, that's not the content that fills my feed the most. It doesn't get the same attention as those blue-ribbon moments. “You'll get there!” “You'll be unstoppable when you get it together!” And all the other unsolicited advice that comes with posting something that has any flaw.

Not to mention the handlers that scratched their runs, or the dogs that thought they wanted to go in, only to determine that competing is too much that day, and the handler asked to be excused mid-run. Where's that person's medal?

There's no photo-op for those moments. No one is congratulating you for not completing the run. It's hard to not compete. Maybe harder than competing and winning. It is for me. It's harder for me mentally to be unsure if my dog will want to run today, or be able to once he decides he wants to. It's not hard for me to stay at home and snuggle on the couch with him. There are no ribbons given out for snuggling, or showing up and “failing”. The paper outcome of those two events is the same, and one feels better at the end of the day.

My point is, there is strength in not showing up. There is strength in knowing when to walk away. There is strength in putting yourself first. There is strength in knowing yourself and your partner well enough to know what's best for you both – mentally and physically.

The next time you scroll past someone sharing about their struggles, choose to acknowledge their strength.


  1. Kaydeen Franey

    I’ve been admiring your strength and commitment for years, but especially lately as you stick to your goals and commitment to your “partner”!

  2. Kathie Cybulskie

    Thanks to you I have discovered the strength to make the right decision for my dog although it is difficult at times. I think there is a slight shift towards making those types of decisions for the dog’s sake.

  3. Marian Snapp

    Great post Megan. There is strength in knowing when to walk away, something that I’m learning with my current dog. Even when I’ve planned to run FEO, it’s hard to let go of the obstacles and the challenge of handling. Today, I did that, not just once but three times. It’s been a long time coming. I learned so much from having done that today and believe my dog was happy when we left. One step forward.

  4. Joan Rivett

    I made the tough decision to pull Stevie from a Regionals because she was so stressed. I promised her we didn’t have to do it again. It was made even tougher as her half brother Stanley lived for the excitement of agility.

    I know it was the right decision but it is hard when you’re reading how well your friends are doing.

    Thanks for this Megan

  5. Elaine

    Just read this, Megan. What you’re talking about here has been what a lot of my agility journey has been like, at least since I’ve had Allie, my ten year old Toller. From puppyhood she was high drive, moody, environmental and independent. This combination was often expressed through reactive behavior. It was almost impossible to keep her under threshold. I remember the first time we went dock diving outside. Trying to create distance, I walked Allie out of sight a quarter mile away and even then she never quit screaming. Aalthough I was an experienced trainer and handler. my toolbox didn’t have all the tools I needed to fill her need She had a ton of agility talent and skills, but so often reacted to other dogs and the general chaos of agility trials. Every time we trialed I was wracked with anxiety and eventually she started shutting down. So many times I quit trialing and training to just to focus on trying to repair both wounded souls. This dog has taught me so so much. One of our hard won and most precious prizes is that I no longer care that other handlers might be judging me and titles or even ribbons are not really my goal. A joyful run for both me and and my dog is my objective each time we enter the ring. PS Allie, now ten years old, is finding her agility groove, just as I am finding mine. and agility is joyful again for us both. Sorry this is long, but your post really resonates with me and somehow my spilled out. I’m grateful for your post. You’re such a skilled trainer and handler, it’s hard to imagine you’ve been there. Grateful for your words.


Megan Foster


I have been training in agility nearly my entire life. With seventeen years of experience, I have had the opportunities to work with hundreds of dogs within a large variety of breeds.

I began my agility journey with an American Eskimo and a Westie. In 1999, I began competing with my first Shetland Sheepdog, Buddy. Buddy’s lesson to me was about connection and bond. While running him, I knew that agility was what I was meant to do.