Fall has always been my favorite time of year even though the Sad typically comes in full force part-way through September and lingers well into October. This year, however, it hasn’t seemed as strong. There have been moments, usually triggered by a Facebook memory or a bout of reminiscing with friends, but the sharp edges are dulled. Although I still feel the sting of tears behind my eyes at those times, they aren’t as eager to spill over. I have to confess, it’s a bit odd. I suppose because I’m so used to having a love-hate relationship with Autumn — the cooler temps and beauty of the season constantly overshadowed by the Sad like storm clouds on the horizon — that feeling it diminished seems somehow… wrong. There’s no controlling the Sad, so I’ll accept that perhaps I have finally reached a point close to the other side, where I can see it a bit more clearly and not lose myself to its surging nature. This year has definitely been one of change and adjustment so I shouldn’t really be surprised by yet another one.
One thing I’ve been looking forward to this Fall is the ASCA Nationals. Even if I wasn’t trialing a dog I would
probably make the trip to Texas. The Nationals are a vacation for me, a chance to see a group of folks I maybe only see once a year, if that. It’s also an opportunity to watch a lot of talented dog/handler teams in the stock arena at the Nationals and at Finals. Yes, there are plenty of other events taking place, but we all know where my heart lies so I typically don’t see much of those.
This will be Finn’s Nationals debut. I’m afraid I may have rushed the boy; that we’re not as prepared as I thought we would be. Have to admit, he still has puppy moments where it’s quite obvious he’s lacking in maturity. Although we had a bit of success at the Corona Classic, the trial also highlighted the holes in Finn’s training, my handling, and the dreaded combination of the two. We got the job done (at least on sheep and ducks) but it wasn’t always as pretty as I would have liked. There really isn’t enough time before Nationals to fix things — especially when I have to add on the issues I didn’t realize we had until this past week when I had the opportunity to spend a few days training with an insightful, experienced friend. Okay, I knew some of the issues were there, I just wasn’t approaching them how I should have, even though in some cases I knew better. It’s one of the pitfalls of training alone so often: it’s very easy to fall into bad habits or not see the whole picture. Or even a tiny bit of the picture.
Come next Wednesday it will be what it will be, because at that point I’m loading up the truck and camper, packing in a handful of travel buddies and a few dogs, and hitting the road. It will be time and miles for me and the boy as a trialing team, the beginning of what I suspect is going to be a great journey.
Dillon isn’t making the National’s trip but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been doing anything. He’s my problem child and there are quite a few things I have yet to figure out. Have to admit, after the trial I was pretty sure I was throwing in the towel with him. One time out and he could lay down a gorgeous run, the next he’s looking at me like I’m speaking Greek and have horns sprouting from my head. Then at chore time, I can send him from the pens, across the arena, out the side gate to the pasture to bring the sheep back and he does it like he’s been doing it forever when, in reality, that was a first.
Granted, some dogs are definitely chore dogs and can’t take the finessing and micro-managing that an arena trial often requires. Dillon might be that dog. I don’t know. I thought I did, but then as sometimes happens, after bemoaning my frustrations to a friend and telling her I was going to just finish his Advanced Sheep title and call it quits, she sent me this:
Sometimes I hate that she knows me so well.
So I’ve backed up a few (gazillion) steps. One thing that is becoming more clear is that I can’t repeat commands with Dillon. If he knows what I’m asking, then I just need to say it once. If he’s not sure, he’ll look back, and if I tell him again chances are he’ll pull off or do the stand and stare thing (which is a prime trigger for me to lose my shit). I’m better off not saying or doing a thing when he looks back. That is apparently his cue that he’s correct. Plus, if I gave up on him now, who would I torture on ducks (besides myself). For what it’s worth, on the video below, I forgot the center pen was open. It wasn’t my intent to put the
damn ducks in there. Dillon didn’t take his ‘there’ to drive them across, which was my real intent. Hmmm, who’s torturing who? 😉