Sometimes You Have to Make Your Own Opportunities

I was supposed to be at an ASCA stock trial this past weekend. Like so many other events this year, it had to be cancelled. Instead of kicking the ground and going into woe-is-me mode, I created my own opportunity by taking the trip anyhow, meeting up with some friends, and turning it into a training weekend. Dreams and goals take work. It’s work you need to make yourself responsible for. Blaming your failures or lack of success on others is giving them an awful lot of power over your life. True, not everyone has the same resources, but if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way. Apologies for the tirade, but it needed to get said.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances.

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want,

and if they can’t find them, make them.”

~George Bernard Shaw

Anyhow, some of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook may have met Carl a few days ago. He’s the character headed toward me and the camera.

Sorry I disappointed those who thought Carl was a new addition to the farm. Yeah, he oozes personality and character. Enough that he would have given Linus a run for his money. My fences (and my patience), however, wouldn’t survive living with goats. They are fun to work from time-to-time though, because they are just different enough from sheep to add all sorts of new challenges. The trio Dillon and Finn got to work over the weekend required a bit of push. Particularly Carl. Carl doesn’t see the need to goat. Hence my giving him the title of The Linus of the Goat World.

Until the past weekend the only stock Finn had met were sheep. And chickens, but those are off limits and the rule around the farm is No Chasey Chicky. So getting him on goats who work nothing like even my heaviest sheep was great fun. Carl did his best to convince Finn it was okay to leave him behind and only work his cohorts. I call that taking unfair advantage of a rookie. Much to Carl’s dismay, it didn’t take much for me to convince Finn Carl really was a goat and needed to work with his buddies. Overall, I think my young man did rather well. Finn doesn’t actually have a lot of training on him, so what you’re seeing here at 11 months old is mostly instinct.

Finn was also introduced to cattle. Next time I’ll try to get some pictures or video. We were working a group of 8 nice sized Herefords who would have preferred to continue grazing over being told to move. Since I really didn’t know what to expect, I put Finn in more experienced hands for his first exposure and watched from the sidelines. I certainly didn’t want Little Bastard making an appearance. Which, thankfully, he didn’t. Finn was interested but cautious. I will admit, I had hoped for just a bit more spark. The next day I was strong-armed into taking him convinced I should take him in myself and I got my spark. Nothing crazy or out of control. Although I couldn’t see what he was doing on the backside as we fetched the cattle around the arena, Finn kept them grouped and moving at a nice, steady gait, so he must have been doing okay. The cattle, like the goats, needed a bit of push. All things considered, I’d have to say I left feeling very pleased with what Finn showed me.

And what’s a weekend of firsts without ducks, am I right? Honestly, I hadn’t even considered putting Finn on ducks at all because, well, that whole Little Bastard part of his personality was sure to clash with fast and frail fowl. Nothing like a little peer pressure. (Work Finn on the ducks, she said. It’ll be fun, she said. ) Fine. Truth is, she was right. I don’t keep ducks and here was a chance to see how the youngster would do. Have to say, the boy amazed me. In fact, the first time in he was taking them out of the corner like a seasoned pro. The second time in, just like his second time on the goats and the cattle, he started getting a bit pushier in direct correlation to his confidence.

Dillon and I didn’t have as much success over the weekend as Finn did. I’ll attribute that to the fact I’ve raised the bar for him. Dillon and I have done okay in our first year trialing because he’s a very steady dog who treats all livestock the same whether we’re someplace he knows or someplace brand new. He’s very kind to his stock and not one to take cheap shots or get overly wound up.

He’s also happiest when I let him do things his way – within certain bounds, of course. The problem is, his way isn’t going to allow us to attain the goals I’ve set for us. Now, I’ve had dogs in the past that were pretty easy about switching things up – rules, training methods, etc. Quinn, in particular, would just roll his eyes and give me the “Okay, now what are we doing this time?” look. Not saying that’s a good thing to do, it’s just the case.

Dillon is not that dog. Even with our success, I’m starting to believe I’ve done him a great disservice. We’ve had such a struggle these past four years, trying to figure out how to work together, I feel I’ve let us swing too far to one side: His. Now that I’m asking for more precision, more of an out, more control, we’ve hit a bit of a wall. Dillon is questioning and unsure what I want now. Why I’ve changed the rules. How the heck it is I’ve become completely untrained over night.

It’s actually a good thing we don’t have any trials left this year because I’ve broken my dog and now I need to fix him. I’m not worried. We’ve hit walls before, Dill and I. We’ve always found our way over, through, under, or around them, and this one will be no different.

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do.

It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”

~Rikki Rogers

And what about the Sad, you ask?

First off, I want to thank everyone for the comments and thoughts after my last post. Putting my heart on my sleeve like that doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve written and deleted more posts than I can count. Every now and again, however, I need to put it out there (though, those posts are highly edited) and the support has always been fantastic. So, again, thank you.

Being last weekend was a solo road trip and we all know how I spend too much time in my own head during those, the Sad came along for the ride. Sometimes the universe intervenes, however, and just about the time the Sad was planning on unleashing a helluva party, a friend called. Since I was driving, we kept the call short, but it was fantastic to hear from him and I’m sure he’s unaware of how perfect his timing was. And on the drive home I had so many other things to occupy my brain that, although I could feel the Sad lurking, it never did make an appearance.

**And a quick note for those who are interested and either aren’t on Facebook, or would rather hear about posts as soon as a new one is up. If you look below in the footer you’ll see the option to follow the blog via email. NO SPAM. You’ll merely receive email notification any time a new post goes up. That’s it.**

Time for the Self

Writing is my therapy…

I took some time off over Labor Day weekend to spend on me and it proved to be a wise choice.

Fall is a conundrum for me. It is, hands down, my favorite season. I love the crispness of the air, the colors, the cooler temps, and the strange sense of urgency that comes with the dwindling of the year. Typically I am more invigorated in Fall than any other time of year.

A part of me also dreads it. I have experienced too many losses in the Fall; both human and four-legged. Normally, as those memories begin to surface, I can pay them tribute and move on with only a touch of melancholy in a season seemingly created for the mood.

This year… The Sad has made an appearance, rearing up when I least expected it, the edges surprisingly jagged. And, because it’s me, I’ve been fighting it, which only serves to make it worse. So I spent some of my time off addressing it. Well, to be honest, it was more like arguing with it and telling it to bugger off. You know, the whole stages of grief thing — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — on a loop like something out of Groundhog Day and me stuck at the second stage.

So that went about as well as you might expect.

If you’ve ever had to deal with the Sad, you know what that’s like. I don’t like it. It annoys me. I have no patience for it. In myself, I see it as a sign of weakness and I deplore that. I refuse to give into it and allow it to rule my life.

I also can’t pretend it’s not there.

Well, I can. And I do. Or at least I attempt to. In the end, however, acceptance will win out. Getting there means making and taking the time to do the things that light a fire in my soul. Creating. Reading. Yes, there is whisky involved. There is also sitting on my deck and giving myself permission to just be.

Dogs are my heart…

I also spent some of my time off working dogs. If there’s anything to help chase away the Sad, it’s doing something that sooths the soul. My dogs are my heart and the best way to heal it.

In any case, Dillon’s trial season is now over. The last two trials we were entered in both had to be cancelled due to lack of entries. That’s a bummer, but, on the flip side, it gives us more time to train and to address the issues he’s been having. After mulling it over, I think I know why he’s been getting steadily worse about allowing stock to leave pens/chutes/corners and the like when he’d been doing so well for a while.

Trials.

A lot happens at a trial that, because of its very nature, you handle differently than you would at home or in training. The stock has a tendency to want to bolt out of take pens and make a break for the draw any chance they get. Not always, but it happens enough, and we’ve been trialing quite a bit. I’m thinking Dillon has reverted to worrying about losing his stock.

So we’re taking a step back and working on some exercises to get Dillon comfortable with stock leaving while both of us are on the same side. I use heavy stock I know won’t head for the hills, and Dillon is starting to relax again. It’s going to be an issue I will need to pay more careful attention to as I know it’s something he’s always concerned about.

I also got to work Finn and… drum roll, please… got a couple pics and some video. Whoot!

Is it my turn, yet?

Finn’s in a bit of a wonky, adolescent stage. He’s gotten a wee bit sensitive when I correct him for being unruly with the sheep, and it takes him some time to think his way past it. He doesn’t quit or shut down, just gets more thoughtful. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’m not concerned. He’s a youngster, and a boy, and we’ll work through it. To help do that I’ve moved us back into the round pen. It’s easier to catch him and prevent issues when he decides to act like a rambunctious asshat.

Updates All Around

Isn’t it the way of things? You prepare to your utmost, follow all the steps or guidelines to a tee to ensure a smooth go, and then the tiniest of things causes what should have been a walk in the park to become more like this…

…while wearing shorts… in the middle of a steamy afternoon… beneath the blazing hot sun.

As prepared as I was my web migration should have taken, at most, an afternoon. Instead, it became a hair-pulling nightmare that took the bulk of my spare time (and some not so spare time) over the course of a week and a half but finally the new website is up and running.

Browse around, give it a look, let me know if you find any missing/broken links or things just aren’t loading correctly (because that always makes my day). Things are close to the same as they were with a bit of a face lift; I added a new page for Digital Doubles (some of you may have seen those on Facebook), and the footer section has been expanded to show the latest Shadowdance news flashes, current posts, and Instagram feed. Individual dog pages are a work in progress.

And, speaking of dogs…

“Trust him. He’s shown you over and over if he has an inkling of what you want he’ll try to do it but it has to be his way, which we may find unusual, but it works.”

That was told to me by a good friend after I expressed my concerns about entering Dillon on ducks in the 3 Sheeps Farm Trial last weekend. She’s been along for the ride with Dillon and has seen him from the beginning. Funny thing is, several days later, after watching one of our trial runs, another good friend told me, “I’m proud of you. You kept trying to get Dillon to do it your way and he kept fighting you until you finally just backed off and let him do it his way. And he did it.”

That, and a comment from a third person on how my problems at the farm trial were a workable issue but that Dillon “isn’t really wrong”, prompted my reply that Dillon truly is a lesson in not being able to fit a square peg in a round hole.

We’ve come a long way, Dillon and I. Little more than a year ago I had doubts we would have much success in the trialing game. This year, his first full season in the ASCA trial arena, he’s managed to finish 7 titles including last weekend’s AFTDs, OFTDm, with one leg toward his OFTDd. All of this despite my sometimes inadequate handling and several battles of will. Once I pick a fight with Dillon, I may as well just put his leash on and walk away because neither of us is going to win. At most, it will be a draw.

At the recent Farm Trials we got the job done and there were aspects of it that were damn purty (those were mainly on sheep and mainly our sort and pen work). From my point of view, however, there was too much that wasn’t so purty.

What I saw as our biggest problem, and the thing that caused me to lose my shit more than once, was Dillon’s insistence on not letting the stock go once it was trapped somewhere. You know, like in a pen, or a chute, or a corner. At one point I had to trick him into thinking I wanted a flank, just so he would allow the sheep through a chute. Otherwise, he gets them in there and no amount of flailing, pleading, or swearing will get him to allow them to leave and suddenly it becomes all about me and Dillon and no longer about the stock and that’s never a good thing.

That’s also totally my issue. Not his.

Ducks were more of a problem than sheep, as expected. Though, to be fair, Dillon worked them. I mean truly worked them. Still, I fear they will forever be the bane of my existence.

Dillon at the Outback ASC trial in August, showing that he can work ducks, despite me. He finished his OTDd and bumped to advanced.
Photo courtesy Bill Mikkelson

For the most part, our gather and the hold were okay. Once I allowed him to do things his way. Take them out of a pen, however? Not happening.

Let them come out of the crate? Are you a complete nut case, silly human? We just put them in there!

Out of the chute? Hells to the no. What’s wrong with you?

And if I tried to position Dillon somewhere and made him lie down or stay? As soon as the stock twitched, so did he, which is all it takes with ducks.

As was pointed out, he’s not entirely wrong. No one wants the stock to escape. We do, however, on occasion, need to give them the opportunity to… oh, i dunno… exit an area maybe?

I’m guessing part of the issue is Dillon either doesn’t trust he can control them, or he doesn’t trust me and thinks I’m setting him up to lose his stock. Maybe a combo of both. We’ll figure it out. In the meantime, we have two more trial weekends before our season wraps up. I’m hoping to finish with all our open titles but Dillon needs more experience on cattle and I’m not sure we’ll have that opportunity this year.

On the subject of cattle, did I mention Miss Jig finished her OFTDc at the Outback ASC cattle Farm Trial in August? As usual, she hated having to travel and was certain the camper was going to eat her. Nothing like a herd of bovine to make her perk up, though. After which she got spoiled for the remainder of the weekend.

Apparently, being within the bowels of the beast is fine. No stressing about the camper when you’re snoozing under the table…
…or when you’re curled up in the bed, stealing a corner of the pillow for your very own.

And Finn… I haven’t had a lot of time to work the youngster lately. We’ll be kicking his training up a notch this fall, I’m sure. Until then, he gets to hang out, learn some off stock stuff, and occasionally play with his girlfriend Ziva.

Another Farewell

As usual, this isn’t the post I wanted to write. I started it earlier today when I was still merely contemplating making the call for Grady, our gentle giant, Tank Boy.

When I was merely contemplating I was (mostly) okay with the decision, after all, it’s not like it comes as a surprise. Grady turned 15 in April and, honestly, I was amazed he made it this long. He’s had a few issues in his old age, but the good days have always outnumbered the bad.

Over the past week, however, the scales tipped. Grady’s appetite waned. He was still eating, but without his usual gusto. He slowly stopped galumphing across the yard in an attempt to keep up with Jig. And though he tried his best, he fell down frequently and needed more help getting back up. The walk in from the yard became a slow, stumbling event, and there were times he had such a list to the right he would have walked circles if not for my leg to lean against.

Grady’s age, as it will do, has caught up to him.

And I was (mostly) okay until I actually made the call and sent the texts to those who know Grady well.

That circle is small. Grady didn’t trial. His trips off the farm were mostly to the vet, visiting, or going camping, something that won’t be the same without having to go collect him when he wandered off, making apologies for the old dog.

Around the farm he was the gentle greeter, the big, goofy guy with the perpetually sunny outlook, and the tamer of wild puppies.

I’m still (mostly) okay, though tomorrow will be hard. It sucks. This habit some of us have of giving a piece of our hearts to creatures we know we stand a good chance of outliving many times over. Yet we do it again and again, even though the letting go never gets any easier.

What an empty existence it would be without them, though. The laughs, the unconditional love, the frustration, the heartaches, the friendships they lead us into and the adventures they take us on.

We will miss our Tank Boy. Safe journey, old man. Tell your Bruncle I said hi.

Dancing in the Rain

You would think this forced quarantine would give me more time to write and more to write about. Turns out, when I have a lot of free time I also have a lot to fill it with. There’s a long list of chores on the side of the fridge waiting for decent weather and time, things like fixing fences, rehanging gates, cleaning the barn, spreading manure… And when the weather isn’t conducive to those chores, there’s plenty on my rainy day list. Also, I have to admit, it took me a while to wrap my head around the current situation. I’m not incredibly social, but I do have a tribe and I miss getting together with them, sharing some drinks, food and laughter, and working our dogs, or talking about working our dogs, or venting about life in general. So while it’s great to be getting a taste of what I can (hopefully) look forward to some day when I get to ‘retire’, it’s also a bit depressing to be doing it with only virtual camaraderie.

I guess I can take solace in the fact we’re all in the same boat.

One of the events cancelled for me when all this hit was a trip to Cow Camp with Dillon. I was really looking forward to it. Not only because it was a road trip and week of working cattle alongside one of my closest friends, but because I was really anxious to see how Dillon did. I still suspect I’m reading him wrong and there’s more going on than I give him credit for.

That’s become more clear thanks to the virtual trialing group I’ve joined, the brainchild of Jaqueline Tinker at The Instinctive Australian Shepherd. Jaquleine posts a new course to the MeWe group each week. We set them up as best we can and video our runs, posting our best attempts. We’re coming up on the third week. Jig and Dillon did respectably the first week given my sheep were off the wall frisky and we were a but rusty. Last week… not so much.

However, going back and watching my videoed attempts really serves to highlight areas that need work, which gives me more focus when training. In Jig’s case, I need to figure out what happened to her away flank which seems to have disappeared entirely. For Dillon it’s rate, rate, rate. He’s got a bit of what I call the Energizer Bunny Syndrome: he keeps going and going and going…

You won’t see that in the following clip, mostly because I resorted to lying him down. What you will see is some of what I mentioned earlier–the things he does that I don’t give him credit for. From the beginning of the split to when he got them back together I wasn’t giving him any commands. He made the mess, it was up to him to fix it. The cool thing, from my original viewpoint, was watching his eyes. He only glanced my way to see where I was, otherwise he was watching the sheep and trying to figure out how to get them grouped again. I really need to pay more attention to moments like this and stop attempting to mold him against his strengths.

And what about Finn? A week or so ago the boy accompanied Dillon during chores. The sheep were, as always, eager to get their food and mobbing the wheelbarrow so I had Dillon push them out of the barn. I didn’t pay much attention to Finn because up to that point he’d shown far more interest in the chickens than the sheep. No sooner were the sheep out, however, than Finn darted past me, went around them all and brought them right back in. I managed to avoid getting trampled by becoming one with the gate post and as soon as the sheep were past, stepped in front of Finn to check him up. As fate would have it, I had recently washed my chore jacket which meant emptying my pockets and they’d yet to be refilled meaning I didn’t have a lead handy. Fortunately, I can still carry Finn so I scooped him up and lugged him into the barn. The whole time his eyes were on the sheep and his ears were doing a fine impersonation of Jig’s crack ears. I knew then the fire had been lit.

This clip is from the end of his first formal session on sheep. It started out a tad rockier than I expected. You may notice I had to resort to the boogy bottle. Not something I’d normally do with a not quite 6 month old, but Finn’s a bit of a hard pup and he’s more mentally mature at his age than most males I’ve had. We’ve been doing a little off-stock work, giving to my pressure, down, that’ll do… nothing too excessive or demanding.

Yeah.

Well, he’s told me he’s ready for more. Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping in mind how young he is.

Stay safe, everyone! I’m hoping we come out of this coronavirus stronger than we went in, and looking forward to the day we can all get together and do the things we enjoy.

A Dog’s Eye View

When I ran agility (which, for those wondering, was eons ago), one of the things we did while walking the course was to squat down to our dog’s eye level and survey our intended path. It no doubt appeared strange to onlookers. Heck, it felt strange the first time I did it. It also made it instantly clear that what I was thinking and what my dog was going to be seeing were two vastly different things. That, in turn, usually altered how I originally planned to handle that particular sequence.

Honestly, I haven’t given this much thought since those long-ago agility days. What brought it to mind now were some images I shot last weekend when Jig and I had some work to do.

It’s tough getting pics of my dogs working when I’m by myself. My phone is getting old and the camera in it isn’t what it used to be. So I brought out the big guns and did a lot of one handed, focus and rapid fire, holding the camera against my leg so I didn’t need to try and keep an eye on things while tracking a dog in the viewfinder.

Going through the images gave me a whole new appreciation for what our dogs do for us. Things like going into a packed pen to bring stock out.

Even from my vantage point there’s not a whole lot of room to be working in that doorway.

Usually it’s Jig who gets this type of job because she’s a tough-ass and it doesn’t bother her when everyone’s facing her off. In fact, she rather enjoys the confrontation. Sometimes too much.

Dillon isn’t as confident. To be honest, when I sent him in the other day, I wasn’t sure he would do it. It’s something we struggled with last year. To my surprise, and delight, he took my ‘go bye’, went to the fence, made his hole, slid into the barn, and brought everyone out, even with several of them giving him the stare down.

Needless to say, he got a ‘Good boy!’ before we continued on. I can’t give him much more praise than that or he gets all wiggly and excited and comes off his stock. We save the parties for when we’re done.

After looking at my dog’s eye view pictures, I went back out and set up one for the above scenario just to see what it looked like.

Guess I can see why Dillon was a bit hesitant about tackling that. Nothing but legs and noses and deep, dark shadows.

I took a few more shots, just because I had my camera handy and it’s fun to take a look at things from a different angle every now and again. Like the times the sheep need a bit more push in the chute where things can get tight…

…and occasionally a bit crazy.

It’s a blessing to have working dogs that can get in there when I need them to and help get things done. They’re a lot more successful at moving stubborn stock than I am. Not to mention being far quicker and exceedingly more nimble, athletic, gumby-like… all those things I sometimes think I am, until I try something to prove me wrong. 😉

Shaking it off…

I realized it’s been quite a few weeks since I last posted anything. I’ve been meaning to, I just haven’t had the energy or the motivation. It’s a late-winter-not-quite-spring thing. This time of year, with the promise of nice weather right around the corner yet not quite within reach, I tend to get impatient with not being able to venture out and do the things I most enjoy, which leads to being more irritable than normal, uninspired, and generally frustrated and restless. Besides which, not a whole lot happens this time of year and I don’t have a lot to share.

Jig appears to have similar issues as she’s been moody lately. Actually, she’s been a downright bitch, just ask Finn. Poor guy can’t even look her way without her curling a lip. Seems Jig and I are both suffering from the winter blues. Thankfully, Saturday was gorgeous. A good thing, because I had some chores that needed doing regardless of whether or not Mother Nature wanted to cooperate (which she did). And Jig and I really needed to spend some quality time together.

First on the list was moving the ram. Have to admit, Jig has a bizarre relationship with Cello. She’d rather kiss him on the nose than tell him to move. When she does need to get stronger with him, she opts to grab his ruff and pull. Kind of counterproductive. For his part, Cello never seems to take offense and has never once thought about fighting with her.

He wasn’t thrilled to be relegated to the hill pasture. It puts him too far from the other sheep. No more touching noses through the fence with his girls. Still, he claimed his pasture like a king.

Next up was sorting out the bred ewes and tagging last years ewe lambs. Something I’m a bit behind on. I feel the need here to give a brief introduction to Linus because he always makes chores a bit more interesting than they sometimes should be.

Anyone who has been here has likely met Linus. He seems to have quite the fan club. He was a bottle lamb two years ago, a preemie twin who my niece’s daughters named.

He’s the white one. The red was his sister, Cry Baby. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive.
Somehow, Linus became Dave’s buddy and shadowed him around, which probably explains his attitude.

In all honesty, I didn’t expect Linus to make it through that first winter. He had a weird shape, like he was perpetually bloated, and a very distinctive baa, which he still has. It puts me in mind of Marge’s sister on the Simpsons.

In any case, Linus did survive and eventually even started to look like a real sheep. Something that still amazes me. Unfortunately, he doesn’t act like a real sheep. Downright refuses to. He’s got my dogs believing he doesn’t need to obey the same rules as all the rest. Even Jig will just ignore him unless I press the issue.

“Yep, just go about doing your job, Jig. Don’t mind me.”

Much to Jig’s and Linus’s dismay, I do insist he be treated like a normal sheep.

Linus, “You don’t really expect me to move, do you?”
Jig, “You know I’m going to have to bite your nose if you don’t.”

Once the chores were done, I had just enough daylight left to take take Finn for a walk.

Being nice out, I’d left the barn open. Something Finn discovered on the way back to the house. He also discovered the chickens were out and about. Finn likes the chickens. More and more every day. Maybe a bit too much. His feelings are one-sided as I’m fairly certain the girls aren’t all that fond of him.

A little bit of stalking…
…followed by an excited bounce. Fortunately, he never tries to make contact with them.
He seemed particularly interested in the black one.

Nicer weather and longer days… a great combination that hopefully go a long ways toward yanking me out of the doldrums.

The Healing of a Heart

It’s been a bit over three months since we let Cian go. The Sad still lingers. It likes to raise its head when I’m tired, stressed, feeling overwhelmed, or driving somewhere alone. Too much time in my own head. I keep his picture at the base of my monitor because I need that little bit of him with me, though it’s gotten to where most days I can think of him with smiles and not tears. On others, I’m not as successful.

It’s been a bit over a month since Finn claimed me. He snatched his piece of my heart with both paws and I’m afraid I love him too much already. I’m not sure I was truly ready for this because I’ve become extremely paranoid something will happen to him, which is very unlike me. It’s to the point where, the morning after Dave told me Finn took off in a game of puppy you-can’t-catch-me, I sent him this text from work…

It’s irrational and, being me, I find it unacceptable, but, there you have it.

Overall, Finn makes me smile, a lot. Okay, sometimes the smile is actually more of a grimace because he’s chomping on my arm or pulling my pants leg. He is the most gator-like puppy I’ve ever had, and nothing seems to convince him otherwise.

*Chomp, chomp, chomp.*
Me: Knock it off.
Finn: What? I’m not doing anything.

Because, you know, the poor puppy doesn’t have any toys to play with. Tell me again why it is my living room looks like a toddler’s playground? Hmmm….

Finn is a smart boy. With very little input, he has learned the best way to get treats, dinner, out of puppy jail, or most other things he wants is to offer a down.

He’s also insanely quick and agile. Which he proves by turning our sectional into his own Puppy Parkour course. Anyone seated there at the time becomes an obstacle. Yes, outrageous, bad puppy behavior. How can I allow such mayhem? Well, because he does it with so much joy and enthusiasm it makes me laugh, and laughing does my heart good.

He’s getting so big. He used to fit under that coffee table. Soon he’ll weigh too much to pick up and hug so I take advantage of puppy snuggles whenever I can get them.

Around the farm, Dillon is Finn’s best bud, at least for now. They wrestle and romp until Dillon has had enough of puppy exuberance and signals he’s done. Finn doesn’t always heed the signal, however, so there are times I have to intervene before Dillon loses his cool.

Jig has no cool to lose. She wants to eat Finn. Literally. Chomp first, ask questions later. All is not lost, however, because she was that way with Dillon when he was a puppy and now they play all the time.

Grady prefers not to be bothered. He’s feeling his age and puppies are obnoxious.

The hole in my heart is still there; some days larger and more empty than others. It isn’t Finn’s job to replace Cian, or make me forget him. Neither of those things could ever happen. Finn has no job other than to be a puppy, make me smile and laugh, and take me on a new journey.

It may have been too soon to bring in a pup, but it’s also too late. Come what may, this little guy isn’t going anywhere.

Photo Friday

I haven’t done one of these in a while. It was gorgeous today and we’re due for a winter storm tonight and tomorrow because Winter has finally chosen to make an appearance, so, I decided to do one of those feed-the-soul things and take my camera on a little walk-about.

This little guy was one of the few birds I saw out and about.
When you have hair sheep, you have spindles of wool on fences.
Linus… need I say more?
When you’re a ram that hangs with cattle, and you can’t control yourself, sometimes you need to be reminded, “When a girl says no, she means no.”
And then there’s this guy…
…and the moment when he discovered the chickens were out.

Stay safe this weekend. There’s a lot of nasty weather brewing.

2020

Happy belated New Year!

I hope 2020 brings you more good days than bad, more happy than sad, more stories, love, and laughter than you’ve ever had.

(I’m a poet and I know it and I’m not afraid to show it.)

Moving on…

2019 was a rough one. No doubt about it. Especially the last quarter. The year wasn’t a complete wash out, there was happy as well, we survived…

**Shout out to all you geeks who know where this gif is from.**

In any case, I’m not one for the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing. I figure if something needs starting or changing… well… get to it. Don’t wait for Monday, someday, or January 1st. I do, however, take a look back over the past year to see how far I’ve come (hopefully), what lessons I’ve learned or re-learned, and to figure out where I’m going. Or more precisely, where I’d like to go. Those two are not always the same and have nothing to do with where others might like me to go.

Okay, getting serious for a moment. If my 2019 had a theme I think it would have been letting go.

There are things we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we don’t want to live without but have to let go.

~unknown

There were plans, ideas, directions I thought I wanted to go. The hardest to let go of, by far, were the bits of my heart, and there were a few. What’s difficult for me to remember, especially when the letting go involves a relationship, is that doing so doesn’t mean we no longer care or won’t be there for the other person, it just means we have to realize when we’re no longer as important in someone’s life as we once were; when we no longer have a seat at their table. People change. Relationships change. Accepting that hurts, but it’s also necessary if we want to move forward.

Moving forward is important. To do so takes acceptance of those things outside our control. That’s one of the goals I’ve set for the coming year. Admittedly, that’s going to be a toughie (control freak, here). There are other goals as well. Some regarding the dogs, other aspects of life (those really do exist), other’s are more of an attitude adjustment. There are things like: get Jig’s WTCH-M, Dillon’s started titles, more farm titles on them both. Start Finn when he tells me he’s ready. Make more time for the people who are important to me. Laugh more. Dance more, because I love to dance and I don’t do it nearly enough (though it is a normal occurrence when I’m washing the dishes or cleaning). Don’t sweat the small stuff. Accept what is or do something about it. Change what needs changing. And, as Cian tried to teach me, live in the moment and approach life with gusto.

Then there’s this. This quote really jumped out at me because I allowed myself to lean into the ‘too tired’ excuse over the past year. Oddly enough, when I started doing more of the things that light my soul, that tiredness left. So I’ll being doing more of those things. Without explanation. Without apology. Which could mean more posts because writing is one of those things. 😉

So, there you have it, whether you wanted it or not. Now, go forth and light up your soul.