It is 4:00 in the morning. It is dark and I am tired, but I drag myself out of bed and finish loading the car. The dogs are let out, fed and happily go back to bed, sleepily confused at the change in routine. All dogs except one that is. She is waiting by the door. She knows.
My phone's weather app is talking about rain. I turn on the radio as I head down the road in the darkness. I am hoping for better news, but the weatherman's forecast is the same - rain. I sigh. My dog lifts her head and looks at me. I can't help but smile in spite of feeling more than a little bit sorry for myself.
"Sorry girlie. We're gonna get wet today".
Vermont Public Radio is broadcasting an interview with a woman who has written a book about seeking desperately for somewhere to belong. The author comes from a mixed race family and sets out on a journey to find her people... her tribe. She does DNA testing on her family members. She travels to Burma and Ireland. Long story short, after a lot of searching, she finds out that, as a person with such a crazy mixed up heritage, she will never truly find "her people" by looking at her past or her future. She comes to the realization that her tribe are the people that she spends her days with. That her people are the ones that share her experiences today. It is an interesting piece and it keeps my mind off the weather forecast. Before I know it the two hour drive is done and I'm pulling into the campground where our agility trial is being held. And it is starting to rain.
There is some good natured grumbling as we all don our rain gear and try to convince our dogs to go potty on the wet grass. We huddle together under tarps and canopies if our dogs will tolerate the close proximity to other dogs. If not, we alternate between visiting with friends and hanging out with our own dogs in our cars where they are comfortable. We study the courses. We discuss the best footwear in the rain. We run our dogs and we watch each other do the same. We cheer each other's successes and we commiserate our failures. We get pretty wet.
At the beginning of the trial, the judge (who truly will be standing out in the rain ALL DAY) greets us with a huge smile. "We are here with our dogs and our friends and we are playing agility. What's a little rain?"
And of course she was right.
As I look around at all these people milling around in funny looking rain hats and wet sneakers I realize that this is MY tribe. These are MY people. We are a very diverse group. We are men and women; grandmothers, sons and sisters. We are straight and we are gay. We are Democrat and Republican. We have big dogs, little dogs, purebreds and dogs of mixed heritage. But we are all bound together by one shared experience.
There is a moment of indescribable joy, of feeling that all is right with the world, that happens when you do agility well with your dog. It doesn't happen in every run. Sometimes it a comes when a difficult sequence is cued and executed flawlessly. Sometimes a perfect contact performance will bring it on. And every once in a while you have a run in which you and your dog are completely in synch with each other, like dance partners in an intricately choreographed routine. When that happens you leave the ring breathless and humbled and everyone watching knows without any explanation exactly what you are feeling.
This is what binds me together with my people. This shared experience. This is why the next time it is 4:00 in the morning and dark outside and it is raining, my dog and I will get out of bed, I will load the car and we will go to join the rest of our tribe and we will search for joy together.