Winter has finally decided to settle in, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of training I can do right now. The ground is frozen and the temperatures have plummeted into the single digits with the added benefit of a sub-zero wind chill. However, when the opportunity presents itself to utilize the benefits of an indoor arena and an exceptional trainer, even if it means a lengthy road trip, I snap it up. I was lucky enough to be able to get up to Deb’s in November, and again this past weekend.
I had a great time in November, and got some good work on Jig. Of course, I went with the plan to work on one particular problem and found out I had much bigger ones. Deb helped us work through them and gave me more tools to address what was going on. On that trip Jig was pretty relaxed, so working on one of our major problems didn’t happen.
This time, however, I was thrilled to discover Jig had packed her crack ears. Imagine this look, intensified by about 1000x.
It’s the one I get, mostly at trials, right before everything turns to shit. It’s the expression and attitude that foretell certain doom. The one that screams, “I can do as I please and you can’t stop me, silly human! Mwahahahahahaha!”
This is the look I prefer.
Calm, relaxed, soft body, ears down, focused on her stock.
It took a bit of doing, but with Deb’s help we got that look this weekend. The ultimate highlight came on Sunday in our last session, when the culmination of our exercises resulted in the most thoughtful, calm, controlled handling of a split that dog has ever done. Not once, but twice. We were working light lambs and Jig started out with her crack look complete with googly eyes. Deb had me address that in no uncertain terms, though it took more than one such reminder of who, exactly, was in charge before she really started to believe me.
I sent her on a gather and she brought the lambs at a nice pace. As lambs will do, two thought perhaps they would like to go elsewhere. This would normally have resulted in the ol’ split ‘n chase. Instead, Jig kept her head, stepped over to prevent them from leaving, and tucked them sedately back in with the others. It was one of those beautifully golden moments that would have brought tears to my eyes if not for the fear they would have frozen solid.
I didn’t think it could get any better, but then she repeated the performance a second time.
Overall, I felt I reached a new level of handling. I was quieter, calmer both inside and out, and far more relaxed than I’ve ever been. More importantly, Jig and I had a definite break-through in our working relationship.
I’m just hoping we both remember it. For now, the weather is being how winter in Wisconsin can be. I’ve got a lot I want to accomplish with Jig this year and hope to put quite a bit of time and miles into her.
If this past weekend is any indication, 2016 looks to be a year of making strides and reaching a new plateau.