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.

The past couple of weeks have been tough. No doubt about it. Cian isn’t the first dog we’ve lost and he won’t be the last but, in many regards, he was the hardest. I want to take a moment to publicly thank all of you for the kind words, the private messages, the cards, the hugs, the support and the understanding. I’ve been riding the roller coaster of grief as best I can, trying not to think too much, bouncing erratically from tears to anger, most times settling somewhere in-between as I remind myself to live in the moment.

In any case, healing is coming, though it’s taking its own sweet time. I read somewhere that if you can tell your story without crying, you’re well on your way. Guess I’m not too close to that point yet, but I’ve been attempting to help it along by doing those things that always prove good for my soul.

The weekend after losing Cian we took one of our yearly family camping trips that had been planned for quite some time. Nothing like campfires, hiking, drinks, food, laughing, hours of table games, and the company of some of the most important people in my life to help reclaim my happy.

There wasn’t as much of this as usual. High winds, rain, sleet…
…and even some snow, gave us only a few short windows to enjoy sitting around a roaring camp fire.
There was, however, quite a bit of this, regardless of what Mother Nature tried to throw at us. Nothing like losing yourself in nature to soothe the soul.
And of course, there were shenanigans.
This is what happens when you don’t behave on a hike.

This past weekend, more soul food as Jig and I road-tripped to Michigan for the SEMASA trial. As usual, we got to see people we don’t see nearly often enough. There were hugs, more tears, more healing. I will admit, however, I almost lost it altogether after Jig’s first cattle run. In a very un-Jig-like fashion, Miss I-Love-Me-Some-Cows barely looked at the steers. As I headed to the re-pen after accomplishing next to nothing, I had to fight back a wave of frustration that found energy in some grief to give it even more impetus.

Here’s where being surrounded by the sort of camaraderie present at the trials I attend is a wonderful thing. The certainty that if I had to have a meltdown, the folks there would be the ones to have it in front of because they understood and would be my strength if my own faltered, made it possible for me to smother the surge of emotion. I took their strength, added in some constructive input from a good friend and what she thought was happening during our failed run, tossed in more than a few deep breaths, and created a new game plan for our next go. I’m pleased to say it was a vast improvement.

Jig and I had quite a few ups and downs over the weekend. It’s funny how things always seem worse from the driver’s seat. I felt as though Jig was being fast and pushy, not listening, and I was handling like crap. To those watching, it didn’t appear as bad. In fact, I received several nice compliments on Jig and one offer to take her off my hands if I didn’t like her. As sorely tempting as that might be at times… nah, it would never happen. And, even though I didn’t think we’d accomplish anything, we somehow managed to collect a couple finals points (one in ducks, of all things!) and take High Combined WTCH for the weekend.

When all was said and done, I felt pretty good about the weekend. Yeah, there’s a lot we still need to improve on, but we’re making progress and that’s always a good thing. One of the suggestions that made the biggest impact was for me not to come down on Jig so hard in the trial arena. I have a tendency to go straight to the Level 10 Felony correction. If, however, I remained calm but firm and kept things at, say, more of a Level 3 Misdemeanor, it made a great deal of difference in how Jig responded. It also made a great deal of difference in how I handled by keeping my stress level down.

Image result for meerkat meditating

So life, as it always will, goes on. Someday I’ll be able to tell Cian’s story without tears. Until then I need only remember…

Only in the darkness can you see the stars. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

This appeared in my Facebook memories this week..

It’s hard to believe that was only a year ago. It feels like it took forever to reach that milestone. So much frustration and self-doubt. So many times I thought about throwing in the towel. I won’t stop singing the praises of those closest to me for their support, encouragement, shoulders, ears, and swift kicks in the arse whenever I said stupid things like, “I’m done.” I need to remind myself I was on a very steep learning curve. And by ‘was’ I mean ‘still am’. Jig isn’t through teaching me things yet.

Unfortunately I’m not as smart as Jig and I sometimes don’t retain lessons very well. Fully evidenced by the sound thrashing I received from Deb last weekend. Deb is allowed to pound on me. She’s one of the people mentioned in the paragraph above. Anyhow, Deb had been watching me trial and saving up all sorts of questions as to why I was doing what I was doing. The answer to which has a tendency to be something like…

She started off by asking me what I thought my problems with Jig were, to which I replied, “Mushy Theres and not taking her flanks.”

Deb smiled and replied, “No. Now let me tell you what your problems are.”

In reality, there weren’t a lot. However, being as I train alone most of the time, I have a tendency to get sloppy and probably a bit lazy. I do things without realizing it. I say things without realizing it.

Me to Jig: blah blah blah.

Deb to me: Why did you say that?

Me: …

Among other things, I accept grey in place of black and white. I’m grey — and we ain’t talking my hair, here. Jig doesn’t have mushy Theres, I have mushy directions and corrections. Or rather, mushy directions and ineffective corrections.

Perfect example: I gave Jig a Go Bye. She thought about it for a time. I repeated the command. Jig finally took it but she was rather flat and looking back at me. I took several steps forward and waggled my stick at her then looked at my sheep. Jig frowned, moved a bit more on the flank, looked back. I took several steps forward and waggled my stick at her then looked at my sheep. Jig cut in front of me to go Away instead. I gurgled something unintelligible and threw up my hands in frustration.

Image result for the definition of insanity

After which there was some discussion between Deb and I, a few pointers, some suggestions. I implemented them and after a bit of time in which Jig questioned my seriousness, I started to see the results. Jig stopped being mopey about taking my directions and wasn’t confused on what I was looking for. It’s not that I was doing anything new and earth shattering. Jig and I know this stuff. I had just let it slide.

Unfortunately, the same mistakes I was making with Jig, I was also making with Dillon and Cian. Jig has a lot of experience and a pretty big collection of tools to chose from when I’m being ambiguous. We have more history. All of which only means that she handles it better than the boys. And by ‘handle it’ I mean she guesses. A lot. The boys have a very limited toolbox and less history. Cian is more like Jig (I think he’s actually a red clone) and is easier and more forgiving when I muck things up. Dillon… not so much. He doesn’t do grey very well. When I remember to be very clear, and very black and white with him, he doesn’t watch me or come back to me. Oh, that. Yeah. Um… no more allowing that for him or Jig. That’s on me because I’ve been all sorts of confusing to my dogs of late. And, apparently, when I don’t know how to handle a situation, or can’t think of a command, I have been resorting to calling my dogs in to me.

Bad idea, that.

So, as usual, much to work on!! My brain had turned into a smoldering puddle of goo by the end of the weekend. I think I need to make myself some flashcards, or maybe some signs to hang around the arena reminding me of what I’m supposed to be doing. The biggest needs to read:

One, One, and Done.

Meaning one command, one correction, then move your feet and fix it.

Spend any time on this blog and you’ll discover the overlying theme is all about the journey. Specifically as it pertains to living with, training, and trialing my dogs. Like all journeys, this one has had its shares of ups and downs. Sometimes the rough patches seemed like they would never end and made me question the sanity of it all.

I believe a lot of journeys are like that. We fight with them because our focus is on the end and we lose sight of the fact that it’s everything happening along the way we need to pay attention to. Even the little things. Especially the little things — the successes, the failures, the stories, the laughter, the tears — they’re what’s important. They’re what shape us and our journey.

Hard to believe, I know, but I can sometimes be a bit impatient.

I have, in the past, fought the process because I wanted to somehow bypass all the in-betweens and magically teleport to what I envisioned was the goal. When I had just one dog in training, that seemed easy for me to do. Not that it was very conducive to… well… just about anything, actually. Forget living in the moment, forget paying my dues in time and miles, I wanted that damned brass ring and I wanted it NOW!

Yeah.

Having three different dogs, with very different styles, strengths and weaknesses has finally forced me to slow down and focus on the here-and-now. Dillon, especially, does not deal well with rushing things. A hard lesson for me to learn, but I think I’m finally catching on. In any case, I’m beginning to learn to not only enjoy my journey, but to trust it as well, even when it seems to be all steep hills and rocky roads.

This is one of the two bracelets I wear when trialing to remind me.

This change in my attitude hasn’t come easy (stubborn control freak here) and it hasn’t come because I’m suddenly seeing oodles of success in the trial arena. I’m not. Yes, Jig and I are starting to click. Yes, she’s gotten some Final’s points over the last several trials. I’ve seen good things from her and from Dillon in his debut in the trialing world, and Cian continues to excel in his training. All of which are good things. All of which are those little steps along the way that I tend to want to race past.

Maybe it’s age and wisdom. Well, age, anyhow. Racing to the finish isn’t the be-all and end-all I used to think it was. I’ve started to take pleasure in trying to figure things out. I no longer leave the trial arena downtrodden and depressed even after a terrible run. Maybe it’s only that I’ve finally figured out how to drive the Ferrari (most days — some days the steering’s still a bit loose), maybe it’s the challenges Dillon has provided, could be Cian’s doing. I can’t say. All I know for certain is I’m glad I stuck it out because, overall, it’s been fun and it has taken me places I would never have gone, and brought people into my life I otherwise never would have met. And, honestly, I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

It’s been a long time since I left a trial feeling anything other than disheartened, slightly beaten down, and wondering why I keep throwing uncooked spaghetti at the wall. That’s not whining or a plea for sympathy, just the facts. My attitude was based solely on my mindset which, admittedly, was far from good. I was so focused on all the wrong things, I could no longer see all the good things that were happening.

If you’re a regular reader, you might remember my mentioning a good arse kicking I received from several of my friends and mentors a couple months back. Obviously I carry my brain in my arse, because that tough love served to reset my attitude and that caused a chain reaction.

This past weekend was Outback ASC’s fall trial. Along with two days of arena trials, they held a cattle farm trial. No secret Jig and I love to work cattle so I jumped at the opportunity and entered. For the first time in a long time, I went into our run not worried about a score or getting a leg, just excited to have the rare opportunity to work a larger group of cattle on something other than an arena course. Have to say, I had a blast. I’m pretty sure Jig did as well even though she took a hard kick in the pens. Usually a kick trips her trigger and it’s hard to get her to stop the fight once it ensues. This kick was enough to momentarily shut her down, and she wasn’t too keen on going back into the pens after that unless I went with her. My tough girl had her confidence a little shaken. We persevered, however, and saw it through. The icing on the cake was not only qualifying, but placing second by just two points behind a talented pair.

Second place seemed to be our theme for the rest of the weekend in cattle. It’s no longer all about the scores and placements for me, but I have to say, it felt damn good to finally be having some success. To see the training begin to pay off. Jig’s confidence returned quickly and by Sunday we even managed one of those elusive 100+ scores I had been so focused on earlier in the year. More icing and once again missing first place by a mere two points behind another very talented pair.

Oddly enough, our sheep runs weren’t so good. I’ll take most of the blame for that. I micro-managed the first run and Jig let me know in no uncertain terms exactly what I could do with that handling style. The next run we had a challenging group of sheep and I did slightly better. I think Jig was still feeling the effects of her kick, however, and wasn’t 100% in the game. By Sunday we’d both come around. I handled her like I train her, (what a concept, right?) and she worked like I knew she could on some lighter sheep who needed a bit of space.

In all honesty, I don’t even remember what the score was. I didn’t care. Crazy, but true. We were a team once again and it felt awesome. I felt awesome. Even in the areas where we failed, I saw changes I could make, training we still needed, ways to fix it instead of just kicking my toe in the dirt and going home with my head hanging.

Best of all… I had fun. And that’s what it’s all about.

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.

First Trial of the Season ~ Part Deux

If you read my last post you know how the end of the weekend went, but how did the rest of it go? Of course I’m going to say it didn’t go as well as I wanted, but it seems I always want more than I’m realistically prepared to achieve. I had to remind myself (and be reminded) that last year Jig and I went to two weekends of trials the entire year. One in the spring, one in the fall. That’s it. This year we were able to train maybe 3 or 4 times prior to the trial. So expecting to lay down some awesome runs was me being unrealistic.

Image result for expectations vs reality
Story of my life.

Not to say I wasn’t happy with a lot of what Jig did. She showed me the training we’ve been doing is paying off. No crack ears, quiet, calm, responsive (for the most part). We would have had the best duck run of Jig’s career if not for me opening my mouth at the wrong time. Yeah, imagine that.

Even so, we had a superb center pen and the best center to re-pen ever. A couple of things I should point out. I absolutely hate ducks. Jig feels ducks are so far beneath her it’s hard to get her to look at them when they’re upright and fast. And these were Call Ducks. If you’re not familiar with Call Ducks, picture a wild mallard about the size of a large kaiser roll. Honestly, I tried to stay well away from them for fear we’d have to scrape one off the bottom of my boot when the run was over.

In any case, these are my take-aways from the weekend:

  • I need to learn to shut my mouth when things are going good, and not yell when they’re not.
  • Jig and I need to go back to training in a smaller space. We’re used to working in more open areas. When we get to a trial with minimum sized arenas we get too close to one another and neither of us knows how to handle that pressure.
  • (This one is a theme, I think.) I need to solidify what ‘There’ means. At the moment it’s rather soft and mushy, and subject to where Jig thinks I meant her to turn in as opposed to where I really wanted her to do it.
  • I need to be a better handler. Which, by the end of the weekend, I actually did accomplish once or twice.
  • I need to firm up our flanks. (No, not the physical ones. Though mine could use it, Jig’s are very nice.) The issues here will be partly helped through getting a firmer ‘There’.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, but overall Jig and I have come a long way since our rather rough and rowdy beginnings. There may be hope for us yet.

The Year of Training Pays Off

At the end of last year I was so frustrated and upset with how the trialing season went, I decided to take a year off. Not so I could sit in a corner and lick my wounds, but because I was determined to fix as many of mine and Jig’s issues as I could. I’d had enough of our melt-downs and non-qualifying runs. She’s a better dog than that. I like to think we’re a better team than that, though I’m definitely the weaker partner.

I gave myself one trialing goal: finish Jig’s WTCH. We needed only one cattle leg to do so. Jig and I both love working cattle though our methods are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I want nice, quiet control, power when required, and no rodeos. Jig seems to like rodeos, and has been known to actively go looking for a fight.

After our failed attempt at getting that final leg in the spring, I worked even harder at preparing us for the next one. It was difficult because my plans to get us both off the farm didn’t transpire, and we didn’t get to do any training on cattle. Still, I sent in my entry for the Coyote Classic over Labor Day weekend. To be honest, going into the weekend I was thinking, “If we can’t get this one last leg, with these cattle, on this course, then I’m done.” And by done, I meant throwing in the towel and never trialing again.

Well, I’m pleased to say Jig is (pending official ASCA verification), WTCH Heartsong of Shadowdance OFTDs DNA-VP.

We finished her WTCH on our first run, which took a lot of the pressure off for the rest of the weekend. Our last run of the weekend, though not qualifying, was some of the best work we’ve done on cattle. We missed a Q because I took the opportunities to make things right, which meant some parts of the run weren’t as smooth as they could have been. It all started with the take pen when I refused to allow Jig to Go Bye because that would have put her immediately on the noses. Have I mentioned a time or two how much Jig likes to hit noses? Yeah. To prevent that, I insisted she take an Away. She fought me on it, but ultimately I won. By the time we finished our run, Jig was actually holding her position on the drive and not creeping up, taking her stays to hold pressure until the cattle moved off, even if that meant she was nose-to-nose, and there were a couple instances where she hit a nose and I was able to get her to stop right there and allow the heifer to move off. That last one was a huge victory for us.

We still have a lot of work to do. A. Lot. A WTCH may be the end of one journey, but it’s also the beginning of another. Not only are we going to make a run for the 2020 Finals, but I’d like to get Jig’s Post Advanced titles next year as well. That means I’ll be hitting a lot of trials in 2019. It’s all time and miles, but I finally feel as though we really can do this.

Jig’s Journey ~ A Bump in the Road

Okay, honestly, it feels like way more than a bump. It’s more like a wall that I’ve hit at full speed. Or, better yet, the mother of all potholes with spikes in the bottom. No, really hungry alligators who aren’t even going to spit me back out once they’re done chewing me up. Or this…

Yeah, there we go.

I could pretty much just copy my last post with only a few changes. I’d worked hard between SEMASA’s trial and the Coyote Classic, and felt I made some good progress with Jig. Then I stepped into the arena on Friday morning and it all went to hell in the proverbial hand basket. It never did get much better. I threw away any chance at finishing Jig’s WTCH or even getting close to a qualifying score by sprinting over the handler’s line on numerous occasions to remind Jig that I was, in fact, in the arena with her. And that I might, just might, prefer things done my way as opposed to the rodeo she thought we were attending.

Those who know how Jig can work and weren’t at SEMASA to see that catastrophe were a bit like…

Because, to be honest, it looked (and felt) like I was trialing an untrained dog with zero control as opposed to the advanced dog who knows how to read and handle her stock and can do some pretty nice things.

To say it caught me off-guard would be the understatement of the year, because we’ve been doing really good during training. Yes, I always expect some regression when going to a trial. This, however, was beyond my comprehension. Even after I got up in her grill numerous times, she still didn’t stop pushing. Okay, maybe by the 5th trial she started to tire out and realized I might not be pleased. Maybe. But she was still pushing.

One of the best things about the trials I go to, however, is the people. I had a great support crew on hand, and a couple folks whose opinions and knowledge I value. It kept me from exploding. Or melting down. Both were possibilities and could have easily occurred simultaneously. In fact, I’m pretty sure at one point they did.

Now that I’ve had a couple days to stew mull it over, and I’ve worked Jig again, some of which I videoed, I realize I have to take a fraction of the blame. Yes, only a fraction. As was pointed out to me by a friend who saw the video, my demeanor, tone of voice, and overall attitude are totally different when training vs in the trial arena, and she’s right.

I thought I was over the bulk of my trial nerves. Apparently, I’m not. I use commands I don’t use at home, or overuse commands I use only rarely. Lie Down being chief among them. How many times did I tell Jig to lie down during a trial run???? Every time I panicked. And the way she was pushing, that was quite a bit. I was also loud. Like we-can-hear-you-three-counties-over loud. Something else I have tried, over the years, to not be.

In any case, we have Nationals looming before us and, I admit, I’m slightly terrified. I’m anticipating the train wreck even as I train for success. Or at least a competent showing. At this point, I’d take a bit of calm, quiet control. I’m spending time training us both in that.

I think I need to take my recorded training sessions to Texas and watch them prior to my National’s runs to remind myself that I can be sane, rational, and quiet, and can use minimal commands and that, when I do so, Jig is quiet, calm, and working like I know she can.

If that fails, I’ll have a nice long winter of soul searching. Truthfully, at one point this weekend, I was ready to throw in the towel. Yes, I wallowed in a pit of self pity, doubt, and depression. I told myself I wasn’t a good enough trainer or handler to do a dog like Jig justice. Then I kicked myself in the arse because if I didn’t, I knew my friends would, and they kick harder.

“So you hit a bump in the road,” said one of those friends.

“Feels like more than a bump,” I replied.

“Fine. You fell down and landed on your face. You get back up and you fix it.”

I love my friends. And, all things considered, I still love my dog.

And, for those of you who saw her at her worst, here she is at something other than that.

**Editor’s note: at no point should this be read as or construed as a pity party. My only purpose is to vent, and to share my experiences with those who may have been, or might find themselves, in a similar situation.**