I’m not much of a fashion icon and that’s for sure. I dress for utility and comfort and wouldn’t know a fashion trend if I sat on one. Here’s a man, for example, who buys three dozen white tube socks all of the precise same size and make and throws away all the old socks all at once when packing the new ones into the drawer.

Lately I’ve resumed the habit of wearing suspenders. More accurately I’ve taken to wearing suspenders in lieu of a belt. Any man that wears both belt and suspenders trundles through life with a honking display of primal insecurity; the fear of losing one’s pants!

In the past few decades I’ve noticed in younger men especially a habit for wearing pants low, in major slippage, and prone to a display of arse cleavage; with the roomy bit that should cover the buttocks sagging half-way down the upper leg like an infant’s poopy diapers. No man with any sense of dignity whatsoever would slough through life in this fashion.

Back in my early 20s I wore suspenders, mostly because a belt wouldn’t really do the trick. I was a lean thing then with narrow hips and no ass to speak of. When using a belt it would have to be cinched mightily, else my pants would droop away like a baggy sock that has lost all its elastic.

Then, as my body assumed the musculature of a mature man, it became an easy and practical matter to wear a belt. A waist subtly slighter than the hips is what makes it work.

I miss the suspenders of my youth. Those were the just-post-hippy days and even mundane things were flamboyant and colorful. I had a pair of suspenders colored like a rainbow; and another like an American flag. I also had neat dress suspenders that attached to buttons on the waistbands of my suits. I loved the button suspenders because I always thought of the ones with metal clips to be cheats, kind of like a clip-on bow tie.

Here I am in my late 50s and I find myself returning to suspenders. While I’d be thrilled to report that my hips and ass have dissolved to a narrow 28”; I honestly can’t tell that lie.

Truth is, the girth of my midsection has overpowered my hips. My belly literally wants to push down the waistband of my trousers to a lower latitude no matter how tightly the belt is cinched. Once again suspenders have become the practical accoutrement.

Nearly my whole wardrobe of trousers will go into a box now. I’ll put a big label on it that says “38″” and should my appetite for exercise ever overbalance my love of ice cream, comfort foods and certain beverages… I may get to open that box and assume the bygone wardrobe.

In the meantime I’ll work at building a comfortable and dignified wardrobe that works with the body I have. And, I’ll wear suspenders.

Course Design

Someone asked what I meant by “bloody minded” in my minor diatribe a day or two ago. To tell you the truth it’s an expression a lady from the U.K. used in a discussion with me about course designs that demand the handler to be an Olympic athlete in order to attend a dog through control challenges on a course. Often these challenges are positioned in opposite corners of the ring with a sharp and fast transition from one to the other. At any rate I took a fanciful liking to the expression. So now it’s mine.

You can just imagine the course designer/agility judge sitting at his computer, smoking a cigar (and complaining about his suspenders), feeling arrogantly superior because he designs a wickedly bloody-minded contraption of a course. After the course runs he’ll point out how a handful of 20-somethings managed the course just dandy; and so “train don’t complain” yadda yadda yadda.

Technical courses are guilty pleasures for me. Here’s a bit I concocted using some of the interesting challenge configurations we see in competition these days. And since I design to my own strengths (as I’ve previously confessed) I try to take care to manage the transitions between technical moments so that the dog can continue to be directed to work without onerous trick ‘n trap while giving the handler a reasonable opportunity to come back together with the dog for the next technical moment.

I guess what I’m after is a sense of course design that puts the old folks in our sport on the same technical footing as the young athletic 20-somethings; allowing the cunning and guile of the aging dog trainer to come to balance with the long legs of young kids. The game is about the training foundation and athletic skill of the dog… and shouldn’t require the same from the handler.

I’ll attempt to explain how that philosophy works in this course. You’ll note that the first technical bit really begins on the dismount from the teeter. The handler pushes the dog into a 270° turn from #7 to #8 while maintaining a position for the pull-through after jump #9 back into the teeth of the discrimination riddle. Now thank heavens the handler can rest a bit while the dog is directed at some distance from jump #11 all the way back to the collapsed tunnel at #15. The handler will be in position for sweetening the approach to the weave poles and will race the dog down the length of the poles to attend yet another pull-through from jump #17 back to the pipe tunnel at #18.

Are you following my logic?

Chances Are

Chances are that I will relent when putting this course into competition. This is a terribly challenging design and should be held back for a super-class that tests mettle against mettle and in which nobody cries about the unfairness of life and not getting a Q. Sounds like a job for the USDAA Masters Challenge class to me!

I admire the wide open simplicity of NADAC-style courses for a fine romp with the dog. So at the back of my mind I’m always trying to incorporate expansive flow into a course. And of course in NADAC we have the most awesome distance trained dogs in our sport.

On the other hand, I dismiss the NADAC notion that agility courses should not have technical challenge.

If you want technical, the USDAA is the venue that will curl the hair on the back of your neck. Often USDAA courses are so relentlessly technical that “releasing the dog to work” is a negligible element of the game. I strive for a design somewhere between the magnificent flow of NADAC and the technical challenge of USDAA.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

4 Responses to “Suspenders”

  1. Deb Auer Says:

    Because I had a pair of rainbow suspenders, too (in fact, I think I probably have them in a box somewhere, still):

  2. Barbara Mars Says:

    I’ve just given all the pants I will never fit into again to Goodwill. And I’m going to use all the “worn to perfection” old jeans and corduroys in some interesting quilts. I figure I can always by new ones.

    And thank you for this….”The game is about the training foundation and athletic skill of the dog… and shouldn’t require the same from the handler.”

  3. Linda Says:

    As one of those aging handlers (who began agility 10 yrs ago, after entering retirement), I’m delighted to now see many elementary school age and young teenage kids competing. Many of them have their grandparents as mentors. At one recent trial, grandma was walking the course with her grandson, helping him plan his handling. The judge encouraged this, but before the walkthrough was over, he shooed grandma off the course so the grandson could rehearse his plan without grandma’s distraction. Not too many sports where those in their 60s and up can compete in the same class with 10-yr-olds!

  4. Courtney Keys Says:

    Oh but I’ve heard plenty a whine about Master’s Challenge classes. 🙂

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