No, I’m not personally in a dark place right now. Not in general. A good friend of mine sent this to me after the trial this past weekend because of some conversations we’d been having around a decision I thought I had made. I say thought because that same friend gave me her much valued opinion on said decision. Which, in turn, caused me to give it some more consideration in a different light.

The decision concerned my continued forays into the trial arena with Jig this year in the quest for finals points. I was using the trial as my litmus test. If we did well and got some points, we would continue on. If not, I’d still run her in Farm Trials and maybe give Post Advanced another go, but no more arena trials.

To be fair, Jig and I didn’t do horrendous. We had some really good moments, particularly on cattle. We just couldn’t seem to string enough of those good moments together to get the job done at the level it needed doing. We don’t have the finesse or consistency necessary to be truly competitive. Consequently, after our cattle and sheep runs I was ready to pull the plug and I relayed that information to my friend.

The following morning she greeted me with, “I think not trialing Jig any more is a mistake. Let me tell you why.”

And so she did. And I listened because I have a great deal of respect for her and her opinion… even when she keeps repeating it over and over and over and follows that up with a few texts…

In a nutshell, my friend felt I would be losing more than I gained by ‘giving up’. I didn’t feel like I was actually giving up, more that I was being realistic.

The experience gained in a trialing situation can’t be replicated at home or in a clinic. Those words of wisdom came from one of the others brought into the discussion.

In the grand scheme of things, Jig and I haven’t trialed all that much. For example, last year we went to two weekend trials. Two. My only goal was finishing her WTCH. Mission accomplished. Building a solid relationship and a comfort level in the arena, however, involves time and miles. Jig and I really haven’t put those in, so of course we’re not where I want us to be. One of the things my friend reminded me of, which I tend to forget, is how far we’ve come. Jig is the first straight working bred dog I’ve owned, and she has been an education to be sure. There have been many times over the past seven years when I doubted I would ever figure out how to handle her. We’re finally starting to click and now I want to throw in the towel because we haven’t magically catapulted to the lofty pinnacle I envisioned?

The truth is, 80% of the time I have a blast trialing Jig, even when our successes are only the personal, blue ribbon moments no one else realizes. I want to be competitive, though. Also, I want to do her justice. Jig is a talented dog and more often than not I fail to uphold my end of the partnership. Our shortcomings are entirely my fault. That leads to frustration and anger at myself. Hence, the dark place. The place where expectation and reality are worlds apart. The place where, maybe, just a little bit, I feel buried.

Thankfully, I have friends who help me out of those places. I’m still not 100% certain about this, but for now I think Jig and I will keep going. We can only continue to get better. Sitting on our hands won’t help either one of us.

I wouldn’t trade this dog or the journey she’s taking me on for anything. Thank you, Heather Oslie for capturing this moment.

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