Coming Up For Air
I’ve gone through lulls on the blog before, but I find it hard to believe I haven’t posted since February, especially given my ‘restructured’ schedule. Though, admittedly, I’ve been rather preoccupied with navigating the changes we’ve experienced over the past seven months. A great deal of time and energy went into developing and launching my new venture Journey Impressions (if you need any Stockdogs Rule items or other embroidery or screen printing that’s the place to go). Not enough of that time and energy went into the launch of my latest fantasy novel Bound in Shadow (available wherever e-books are sold with signed paperbacks available here). Whatever remained was taken up with the dogs, dog events, everyday stuff, and the general stress exacerbated by all of the above. Needless to say, most of my days have felt like this…
And though I typically love roller coasters, especially the very first seat, being on one 24/7 gets to be a bit much (rather like this gif). I thought about posting numerous times over the past months but, quite frankly, I couldn’t find the energy. I’d like to say things are levelling off now that I’ve cleared some bigger items off my plate. Isn’t it always the case, however, that as soon as there’s an empty spot, it gets filled?
I hazard a guess that just like mealtime, switching to a smaller plate would prove to be beneficial in more ways than one.
And even though I thought I’d have lots of time to spend with my crew given my new schedule, the truth is, I haven’t. (My new boss is quite the taskmaster.) The dogs are getting more individual and group attention than before — more walks, more play sessions — Jig has begun to accept Finn more times than not. Dillon, after a stretch of time wherein he thought Finn was arch enemy #1, has now gone back to not only playing with him, but instigating the play.
That makes me smile. A lot. Because Finn really just wants a buddy to play with and for a while it looked like he wouldn’t find one here.
As far as training, however… well, outside of the mental fatigue — a great deal of which is, admittedly, self-induced — I haven’t accomplished as much on that front as I intended. Add to that the fact I’m pretty much a weenie when it comes to heat and humidity and we’ve had more than our fair share this summer. Other places have had it worse. I really do try to remember that, but when I break out into a sweat just walking across the yard, there’s no way I’m going out to work dogs. I like to think the dogs appreciate that particular trait, but I know they’d all work till they dropped, weather be damned.
Apparently it’s handler be damned, as well. Because even at the lowest points, my guys have no quit. Which is really a good thing because Dillon and I have hit a wall. We trialed in Michigan over Memorial Weekend and it was one of the most frustrating, disheartening performances we’ve ever laid down. What made it worse was that I had high expectations going in. Yeah, Dillon came out of it with his Advanced Duck title and one Open Cattle leg, but we were not a team. Not even close. It was as though we were speaking completely different languages. The more Dillon didn’t respond how I thought he should, the more irritated I became, and the more Dillon reacted unfavorably. It was a vicious circle and I couldn’t break out of it despite a great support team and lots of encouragement. I’m not proud to say, it took a while for me to work through that once we got home. At least I was wise enough not to start working him again until I changed my mindset. I wanted to avoid taking it out on him. Whatever our disconnect, it’s my doing.
Our next venture into the trial arena came at the 3 Sheeps Farm Trial the end of July. Some good, some bad. We finished Dillon’s Open Farm Trial Duck title and got one leg toward his Advanced Farm Trial Mixed title. Our problems, however, had not gone away. If anything they were worse.
And, so, Dillon and I are taking a giant step back. We likely won’t trial the rest of this year. I need to fix what’s broken and that means going back to the beginning and taking some time to figure things out. Pushing him right now — pushing us — would be counterproductive. I got us here, I’ll get us out again. He shows me too many nice things to give up on us now.
I’m hoping (and trying) not to make any of the same mistakes with Finn. Like Dillon, he’s providing me with a whole different set of challenges to work through. He’s got a lot more eye than I’m used to and likes to stick in corners. We’re working through it. He debuted in the ASCA trial arena at the Farm Trial and earned his Open Farm Trial Sheep title. We’ve a lot of work to do yet, but from what Finn has shown me I suspect he’ll be taking over as the Big Gun once Jig is fully retired. Turns out he loves putting sheep in the chute, and when they don’t love coming out, Finn’s more than happy to persuade them otherwise. Unlike Jig, however, he has an off button.
And what about Miss Jig? Well, she’s enjoying semi-retirement to the fullest and leaning on my buttons any time I haul her out to do some work. I wouldn’t want it any other way because I’d have to wonder what was ailing her if she didn’t.