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Just For Grins

There was a time over winter when Dillon really didn’t know if he was too fond of snow. He actually refused to pick up the Chuckit ball if it had any snow on it whatsoever. Somewhere along the line, that changed.

Out for a play session over the weekend, Dillon sought out the snow banks still lingering around the small arena, ball in mouth. He spent a good ten minutes or more running their length, tossing the ball around, pouncing it into the snow, snorkeling down to get it so he could start all over again. I spent that time watching and laughing at his antics.

We need to do that every now and again. Forget the crush of the To Do list, leave the stress of the day behind, and just revel in the moment. We need to be like our dogs and just have fun for the sake of having fun.

I’ve said all along that Dillon has a way of making me laugh just about every day. Maybe this will bring a smile to your face as well.

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When Not to Close the Gate

A couple weeks ago I was working Dillon under Deb’s watchful eye. We were taking a group of sheep out of the pen and it didn’t go smoothly. Why would it? Dillon’s just a youngster and we haven’t worked a whole lot. We got the job done after a fashion. It weren’t purty. Once the sheep were out, I laid Dillon down, and closed the gate.

“Why are you closing the gate?” Deb asked.

“Huh?” I tend to lose all ability to form coherent sentences when questioned as to my motives when I just know there’s an ulterior reason behind the query. I looked at the empty pen. Looked at the sheep. Looked at Dillon. Shrugged. “Well… I… um… I thought… um… It was a lot of pressure.” Whether I meant on me or Dillon, I’m not certain.

“So?”

Right. I took another moment to look around.

“Work through it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

I took a deep breath, opened the gate wide, put the sheep back in the pen, and began to do precisely as Deb instructed. I think it was harder on me than Dillon, but in the end, we had a great deal of success and I was quite pleased.

“If you had let that go,” Deb said afterwards, “what would you have a month from now? A year from now? You’d have the same problem, only now he’s older and it’s harder to fix.”

Words of wisdom.

I worked Jig next. Raising the bar has brought the holes in my training into glaringly clear focus. Needless to say, we’re having some issues. I was getting frustrated and on the verge of a meltdown when Deb calmly said, “Don’t close the gate.”

Even though there was no actual gate this time, her message was clear. All too often it seems, when things get tough, I tend to ‘close the gate’ and move on to something else. Maybe I don’t have the patience right then to work through it. Or I think it might be putting too much pressure on my dog (or me). Sometimes I just don’t know how to address the problem. Whatever the case, I move on, and somewhere down the road it comes back to bite me in the arse. Repeatedly.

I think I need to make some placards to hang around my training arena.

  • It’s not a big thang, it’s just a thang.
  • You’ve got your eye on the prize instead of the problem.
  • Did you love that?
  • Make it black & white, be fair and consistent.
  • Don’t close the gate.through

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Photo Friday ~ Out for a Romp

It seems like ages since I dragged my camera out. Judging by the quality of the photos and the fact I forgot to check my settings, I’d guess it has been ages. In any case, Jig & Dillon RRREEALLLLYYYYY needed to get out and blow off some steam, and the weather was actually decent. I’m just glad they can play together now. For the most part. Until Jig can’t any more and pins Dillon and I have to break things up. Before and after, they have a grand ol’ time.

There was quite a bit of this.

There was quite a bit of this. (Don’t you just love those devil ears?)

 

A whole lot of this.

A whole lot of this.

 

A focused attack...

A focused attack…

 

...and the counterattack.

…and the counterattack. And, yes, that is Jig’s play face.

 

Then there was this. O_o Not their brightest looking moment.

Then there was this. O_o Not their brightest looking moment but, hey, they’re having fun.

 

Jig even took time to show off her levitation skills...

Jig even took time to show off her levitation skills…

 

...and stake her claim as Queen of the Hill...

…and stake her claim as Queen of the Hill…

 

...while her adoring subject looked on.

…while her adoring subject looked on.

 

This is a really crappy shot, but for some reason I really like it.

This is a really crappy shot, but for some reason I really like it.

 

A photo shoot just wouldn't be complete without a picture of the Hub's big wood. Um... big wood pile. Yeah. This is only the front side.

A photo shoot just wouldn’t be complete without a picture of the Hub’s big wood…  pile. Wood pile. Yeah. Get your mind out of the gutter. ;p He’s got some cutting and splitting to do.

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

I don’t often use this blog to pimp my writing endeavors (beyond the link over there —>), but I’m doing a bit of a media blitz this weekend, so bear with me. (And if you make it to the bottom of the post, there is something dog-related. Really.)

If you read epic fantasy (with just a touch of romance), or even if you don’t but might like to try it, now is your chance to get my complete Darkness & Light Trilogy as one bundled e-book, complete with six, full-color illustrations, currently on sale on Amazon for $2.99. That’s right, all three e-books, one unbelievably low price.

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Have you already read the books, or just want to whet your appetite? You can get access to a private gallery of the illustrations by signing up here. You will also receive a free, short story entitled A Brief Interlude.

What is the trilogy about? Glad you asked, here’s the blurb:

 “You cannot have Light without Darkness any more than you can have day without night.”

FIRST OF HER KIND: For Ciara, learning how to control the two powers she possesses before they rip her apart and destroy all she holds dear won’t be easy. Especially when there are others who seek to lay claim to them. Others like Donovan, whose past is tightly interwoven with Ciara’s, and whose secrets could be her undoing. And then there’s Bolin, the man sworn to protect her. There’s no denying the growing attraction between them, but is it Ciara he wants, or her power?

EMERGENCE: As Ciara’s power grows stronger and more chaotic, the Emperor demands Bolin escort her to Nisair. It’s a journey made far more difficult with Donovan hounding their steps with his new allies, one of whom wields a dark magic that has literally gotten under Bolin’s skin. When Donovan makes a play for Ciara’s power, she must finally embrace all she is or lose everything, and Bolin faces a sacrifice that could well break him.

EDGE OF DARKNESS: In the aftermath of Donovan’s attack, Bolin struggles to find peace as he and the Emperor travel to the Greensward. Ciara is left to face the ire of the Council of Mages unless she can find a way to bring Donovan to justice. Darkness, however, has made itself known, and desires to claim all it once was. To do so, it needs to turn Bolin to its side. When Donovan seeks out Ciara, his insistence they need to work together against a common enemy forces her to place trust where she never believed she could.

THE DARKNESS & LIGHT TRILOGY: Loyalties will be tested and lives lost, as the lines between Darkness and Light blur.

Please feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.

Okay, that’s the end of my sale’s pitch. If you’ve made it this far, I will now reward entertain you with a short Dillon story.

It turns out Dillon likes ice cubes. He can keep himself occupied with one until it melts or he decimates it, whichever comes first. He’s gotten to the point where he’ll come stand by me as soon as I open the freezer, hoping I’ll grab a tray and pop an ice cube out for him.

Friday morning, as I was getting ready for work, Dillon was amusing himself with one of the seven tennis balls we found when we moved the couch. (Who put them there, I wonder?) As soon as I opened the freezer to get my ice pack, he bounced to my side, looking up expectantly for an ice cube.

“Not this morning, buddy,” says I.

Freezer closed.

A moment later I hear the hubs asking Dillon where his ball is. I’m not paying them much mind as more important things were claiming my attention. Namely, coffee. It wasn’t long before I got dragged into the mystery of where Dillon’s ball had gone to.

“He keeps looking at the fridge,” says the hubs.

I look at Dillon. Look at the fridge. Shrug. (I’m not the quickest before I’ve had a chance to marinate in caffeine. I’m sure the rest of you already know where the ball is.) The hubs kept up the search for the missing ball, and Dillon kept staring at the fridge, and finally it came to me.

Yup. Opened the freezer and there, in the bottom shelf of the door, one fuzzy, mauled, only slightly chilled tennis ball. Guess he thought he could trade it for an ice cube. Better luck next time, Dill.

Remember…

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That Time of Year

It finally arrived, complete with single digit temps and sub-zero wind chills that freeze the snot in your nose. Winter.

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Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I like winter. Seriously. I love the nights when the silence is so thin a single whisper fractures it, the way the stars sparkle, and the way the wind dances with the snow across the open fields, spiraling it upwards in crystalized waterspouts.

The thing I hate about winter is that, for the most part, training comes to a grinding halt. Sure, there are those rare days when the temperature is bearable, the ground’s not a frozen accident waiting to happen, and I can actually swing the gates, but those are few and usually hit during the week when the dayjob sucks up all my daylight hours.

Our teamwork is starting to pay off. Our first open Farm Trial leg and a High in Trial along with it.

Our teamwork is starting to pay off. Our first open Farm Trial leg and a High in Trial along with it.

This year it’s going to be even worse. Not winter, per se, but my impatience with being unable to work the dogs on a regular basis. It’s going to be worse because I ended the year on a high, which is saying a lot considering the numerous low points I struggled with over the course of the trialing season. I feel I made great strides with Jig’s training but, more importantly, with my attitude and handling. She and I are finally coming together as a solid team. The sport has once again become fun for me. Really fun. So fun that even thinking about it puts a stupid grin on my face. I can’t help it.

And Dillon? He’s ready for more serious work. Thanks to getting a few opinions on my work with him, I finally know what I was doing wrong. Of course, it was my fault and not his. He’s just a pup. What does he know? Only what I tell him. And when I’m not clear, or try to tell him things far beyond where we are, whose fault is it if he doesn’t understand?

Oh sure, there is dry work we can do to while away the time, and we’ll do some of that, I’m sure, but that’s not the fun stuff. Not in their eyes or mine. At least Jig gets to help with chores every day. Maybe I’ll start hauling Dillon out to do that from time to time. Not much to it, but it’s something to keep us going until we can start regular training again. Until then, I’ll take every opportunity Winter offers up, and try to wait patiently for the first glimmer of spring.

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Influence, Control, and How My Dog is Like a Kite

For those of you who don’t know, when I’m not at the dayjob, spending time with family & friends, or doing something dog-related, I write. (If you’re interested in knowing more about that, please visit my author site and, if you’re extra crazy, sign up for my Guaranteed No Spam newsletter.) Because I write, I read quite a few author blogs. One of those I frequent is terribleminds, the home of Chuck Wendig who, according to his intro:

“…is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. This is his blog. He talks a lot about writing. And food. And pop culture. And his kid. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.”

In any case, Chuck recently wrote a post entitled Control What You Can Control: Good Writing (And Life) Advice that struck a chord with me (as his posts frequently do).

Like me, Chuck is somewhat of a self-proclaimed control freak, which is actually a difficult thing to be due to the fact there is just so much we control freaks cannot control, even if we like to claim otherwise. What helped Chuck was a bit of advice he was kind enough to share:

Know the difference between influence and control.
Then, influence what you can influence.
And control what you can control.
The end. Game over. That’s it.

It was one of those duh moments for me because even though I like to think I control my dogs whether they’re doing chores, trialing, or just being good dogs around the house, the truth is… I don’t. That doesn’t mean they’re ill-mannered brutes, but let’s face it, at any given moment they can choose to do something completely random. They have. Repeatedly. Occasionally at the most inopportune moment. Quite frankly, I can’t control that. If you take a look back at some of my posts, you’ll see what happens when I make the attempt. My handling and trialing suffer. My relationship with Jig suffers. We don’t have fun.

Know the difference between influence and control.

109759-sparky-dog-easy-flyer-kiteChuck likens it to a kite:

I go to the kite metaphor, because when you’re flying a kite, you don’t control a fucking thing, and yet, the illusion is that you remain in control, right? You’re the KITEMASTER with the spool and the string and you feel like that gives you an element of control, but it doesn’t.

Ultimately, we have to accept that our dogs, sentient beings that they are (and most often too smart for their own good) control themselves. What we do during training is merely influence their behavior in such a way that, hopefully, it will have a positive impact on just how they control themselves.

Influence what you can influence.
And control what you can control.

Which brings me to trialing and my journey to stop handling like an incompetent, sometimes erratic, foaming at the mouth, idiot.

Walking through that gate into the trial arena I can control one thing, and one thing only.

I can’t control my dog.

I can’t control the stock.

All I can really, truly control, is me: my thoughts, my attitude, my posture, and my mouth (although that last one is debatable at times).

Of course, I want to argue that fact. I want to pound my fist and assert that I MOST CERTAINLY DO CONTROL MY DOG. To accept anything else is equal parts humbling and terrifying.

It is also oddly liberating.

I can control myself. Sometimes more successfully than others, but the possibility exists.

I can only influence my dog and she, in turn, can influence the stock.

If I’ve done things right, my influence will pay off. If not, we go back and work on firming it up.

The Coyote Classic is just around the corner. I’m going to work on controlling that which I can and try to remember that even the Kitemaster can’t control the wind.

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Jig’s Journey ~ Altered States Part 2

I love when a trial photographer is on site. It’s usually the only time I get shots of my dogs working. It also helps me realize that perhaps my runs weren’t as bad as they felt from the inside. It’s always extra special when Dick Bruner is that photographer. Not only is he a great guy, he has a talent for catching those moments when it appears things are actually going good.

Here is some of that calm, flat-footed duck work I mentioned in my last post.
Here is some of that calm, flat-footed duck work I mentioned in my last post.

The drive up to the panels in one of our better sheep runs. For as reactive as these sheep were for Jig, she remained fairly relaxed. I, on the other hand, was a bit twitchy. No way could I give commands quick enough to keep things under control. Thankfully, this girl knows how to read her stock.

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And, finally, one of our best cattle moments happened slightly after this shot. Not only did Jig stop the cattle without turning it into a rodeo, but she held pressure on the heads until the cattle turned away. Nice to see those glimmers.

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