Believing to be More

A friend sent me the above text in a conversation regarding how Dillon had done at our most recent trial. Up until then, as seems to happen frequently, I had a different post all set to go. It was basically just a run down of why I haven’t written much of late and how the dogs were doing. (The answers to which are: I’m working on revamping the site and thought I’d post at the ‘reveal’ but it’s not happening as soon as I planned, Jig is semi-retired, Dillon is exceeding expectations, and Finn…

In any case, my friend’s text struck a chord with me and prompted this post instead of the original.

Dillon has been a hard dog to figure out, and I still haven’t got him 100% pegged, but I’m getting closer. A lot of folks I know would have given up on him. Some even suggested I do so, but that’s not how I roll.

It’s not that Dillon didn’t want to work or didn’t turn on as a young dog. Quite the contrary. He’s always wanted to work. He’s just always done it… differently. We had a rocky beginning because of that difference and we spent too much time fighting. That’s on me. Dillon was telling me all along that trying to force him to learn how my other dogs did was a waste of time. I needed to adjust my methods and play to his strengths, something I don’t think I truly figured out until last year. Bless his soul for sticking with me.

Truthfully though, there were times I doubted Dillon and I would ever trial. Those times, however, were always crowded out by the glimpses of talent I saw: his ability to read his stock, the way he could–and still does–get even the lightest sheep to trust him, the things he would do when I shut my mouth and waited him out to see what he was up to. I always knew there was more in him than I was giving credit for.

This year Dillon has truly amazed me. In 6 ASCA Arena trials over two weekends he earned his OTDs and STDcd, with one leg in open ducks, several placements, a HIT cattle and a MPS. None of which means jack squat to him but makes me feel pretty damn good. And over the course of those two weekends, I learned quite a bit about the boy. For instance, he’s a fairly laid back traveling companion and he’s just as laid back trialing. He has (thus far) walked into every arena as though he’s been there before, an attitude which serves to make me far more relaxed than normal.

I’ve also learned he needs to get very comfortable with something before he begins to excel at it. Sheep are definitely his wheelhouse; he sees those day in and day out. Cattle and ducks… not so much. The more he sees them, however, the more he learns about them, the better he gets. And it doesn’t seem to take long. In our first attempts to work ducks earlier this year he would watch me more than them. By the end of our first trial weekend, he was no longer watching me but watching and working his ducks. The same thing is happening on cattle. More slowly, but in a way even more dramatic. He’s gone from bouncing out of their pressure just a few weeks ago, to showing he will go to head and hit a heel. That second is something I honestly never thought he’d do. This past weekend was the first time I ever saw him even think about it. Not only think, but try. Three or four times. His first attempt was high and got him kicked, but the failure didn’t shut him down. Yes, he was a bit more thoughtful after that, and our next run wasn’t at all good, not entirely his fault. By the third run, however, he went for another heel when the cattle needed a more compelling reason than just an open gate to leave the take pen.

I have always felt our mental attitude and the energy we put out affects our dogs, just as theirs affects us. Our moods can often dictate our success, or lack thereof. Even though I had doubts… and maybe it wasn’t Dillon I doubted, as much as my ability to work through some of our issues… I always believed Dillon had something. My friend is right in that regard. I haven’t always believed I could do him justice, but I’m beginning to.

Thanks to Tracey Mc for the images from That’ll Do ASC’s July 4th trial.

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. 😉

Winter Interlude

There’s generally not a whole lot to write about this time of year but winter has been unusually and suspiciously mild around here so far. That, combined with some time off, has given me the opportunity to get in a bit of training. And, of course, there’s this…

Okay, on to working dogs. I was fortunate enough to talk Bob into coming out one day and bringing his camera which is one of the few times I get pictures of my dogs during training. I have a group of this year’s lambs that I hadn’t been working until recently. I’ve been using them more over the past several weeks. They’re good for helping teach so many things as they aren’t fetchy, they’re sensible, and there are at least two the dog needs to keep an eye on or they’ll leave.

I’ve been taking both dogs out on them for different reasons. With Jig it’s still fine-tuning her gather and cover with a little driving thrown in. With Dillon it’s working on a gather, getting to head, and rating better. He does a good job of that in the small arena, but out in the open it’s push-push-push.

Knowledgeable eyes on you while training is always a good thing and that opportunity also presented itself a few days ago. (Thanks, Janna!) She pointed out several things I was doing with Dillon that weren’t helping our cause any. Like, trying to fix the gather at the end instead of at the top where it needed fixing — which would probably take care of the rest by default. Also, I was moving my feet to try and make Dillon right, instead of moving my feet to make him more wrong which would cause him to correct himself. And, lastly, um… “He’s looking at me way too much.” Hmmm… how would I know that unless I was also looking at him? And where should I be looking? Yeah, not at my dog.

Me, not watching my dog. This is one of the times when I guarantee he wasn’t looking at me in return.
I was thinking of setting up a parallel drive here, but Dill was being Mr. Pushy and that needs fixing first.
Miss Jig got some camera time as well, doing a little driving.

And before I forget, I wanted to share an example of how our focus and what’s in our heads can influence our training and our dogs.

I was working Dillon and had very clear expectations for our session. I was focused and completely in the zone which, honestly, doesn’t happen that often. When I gave Dillon a flank he took it without hesitation. We were really working well together. I wasn’t watching him, he wasn’t watching me. I was not only cuing him verbally, but my intentions matched. I was, quite honestly, lost-in-the-moment.

I broke him off to set him up for another gather and that’s when I spotted two figures in camo walking our lot line. I stopped to watch them and see if I needed to ask what they were doing, but they headed off into the neighbor’s woods. I continued to ponder what they were doing, what hunting season it was, and who they were when I asked Dill for a go-bye. He started, paused, curved back. I redirected, but I was still looking in the direction of the figures and my mind was now completely on them. Dillon stopped his flank and stood there, watching me. Yes, I looked at him in return, then pushed him out into his flank. It wasn’t his best but, then again, at that moment neither was I.

Just something to keep in mind for the future. The right mindset can make all the difference. Especially with a dog that’s really tuned into you, which Dillon definitely is.

New Beginnings

Many of you already know our latest news.

Over the weekend we added this adorable guy to the family.

I wasn’t actively looking to add a pup yet. I knew one would be coming eventually, just not yet. It didn’t feel like the right time, for multiple reasons. Even though my plan was to wait until spring and a breeding I knew was in the works, I did look into this litter when I heard about it. I’ve always liked Killi ever since the first time I saw Becky working him as a young dog. There’s just something about him.

In any case, we all know what they say about plans, right?

A couple weeks ago I received an email that changed mine. There were two Killi boys available yet, did I want to come and see them? Yes! But no. But Yes!! But…

So I went. For some reason or another, the Sad came with me. I don’t mind road trips. Solo road trips give me far too much time in my own head though, and that’s generally not a good thing. I’m not always the best company for myself. And, honestly, as I sat on the kitchen floor trying to make up my mind between the brothers, even though I was pretty sure I liked the blue, I felt the Sad creeping up again. I doubted my readiness to give another piece of my heart. I almost said no to both.

Then the little blue boy picked up a toy, brought it over, and climbed in my lap. His brother came over to steal the toy. The blue boy went to get another, brought it over, and climbed into my lap. My decision was made.

The Sad beat me up on the way home. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Guess I just have to accept the fact I’m still a wee bit emotionally unstable. The as-of-that-moment unnamed blue boy rode pretty well. He’d break into song about every hour and we’d have a talk about what a pretty song it was. I tried out several names on him during the ride until he finally told me they were all wrong — (Not as wrong as Lucky Wilbur, however. Inside joke.) — and told me who he was.

And so I officially introduce Finn, Starstuff For My Heart’s Sake, who has settled in as though he’s always been here, the beginning of a new journey.

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”
~author unknown

Teamwork & Communication

More teamwork.

Due to circumstances we were forced to keep the cattle longer than we wanted (BTW, we still have beef quarters or halves available for any of you local folks who might be interested – message me for info). Anyhow, keeping the cattle over winter meant dividing the barn so they could be fed inside. Not something that thrilled me since four large beef cattle make a mess in a hurry. Thankfully, they prefer to spend the majority of their time outside, even in inclement weather, and only come in to eat. They’re a pretty mellow group but still… large and pushy.

The silver lining? Moving them off the feed bunker has become one of Jig’s regular jobs now. It’s one she thoroughly enjoys and I’m seeing vast improvement on how she handles them. No rodeoing, very matter of fact. She’ll walk in on noses, hit if necessary, release pressure as soon as they turn off. If they ball up with their backs to her, she hits the heel. I love seeing that.

The other silver lining? Dillon gets the benefit of job shadowing. Jig’s a good teacher and Dillon is getting a little bolder each time. Instead of hanging back as he did in the clip above, he’s been moving in, shoulder-to-shoulder with Jig, more watching than doing but hopefully it will make an impression.

The dogs are generally around when I’m doing chores. At one point over the weekend, Jig was off doing something (probably making a snack of chicken feed) and Dill was with me while I was filling water troughs. Being that they’re insatiably curious, one of the cattle wandered in and presented Dillon its nose. I encouraged him to walk up, intending to help him move the steer if needed so he could be successful. I gave him my ‘get-em-up” whistle to encourage him and that’s when the stealth bomber appeared. Jig brushed past Dillon, hit the nose, steer left, Jig left (presumably to go back to her snacking), and Dillon looked up at me as though to ask what had just happened. I shrugged and told him, “That’s how it’s done.”

**Editor’s note: the Farm Hand relayed to me yesterday that Dillon moved the cattle off the feeder for him during morning chores because Jig was “nowhere around”. I grilled him on how Dillon did it and if he really did it or if the cattle just left because… dog. Sounds like Dill really did it. Proof the job shadowing is working.**

Clear Communication

An ongoing issue with Dillon is getting him to slow down at the topside when I send him on a gather, a flank, into a pen, or pretty much any other time he brings stock in my direction. This results in the sheep running past me. In the arena or the field this also results in the sheep leaving. You can imagine how pleased I am when that happens. Granted, Dillon will collect them up again, but, not slowing down… aaaaaannnnnndddd they’re gone.

I’ve tried the usual methods to indicate my displeasure. I have stepped through my stock and put pressure on Dillon to slow him down. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I used a flag. I used a shaker bottle. I used a pocket rocket. He would respond by popping out of my pressure, trying to flank around and beat me, all while staring at me as though I’d sprouted horns. As soon as I released the pressure he’d get to pushing again.

I pondered other methods and last week employed the silent version of a pocket rocket: a plastic bottle weighted with enough water to make it throwable. Silent, and hopefully effective.

I set Dillon up for a gather and as soon as he hit the topside and aimed the sheep at me without ever once breaking stride, I whipped the bottle his way. My aim is notoriously bad, however, this time it was spot on. The bottle bounced off the ground in front of him and Dillon sprang backwards. He eyeballed the bottle as though it might leap up and attack, looked at me, looked at the sheep and offered a down with no further input from me.

That was the one and only time I had to throw that bottle. Every gather after that, he’d hit the topside, slow to a walk, and as soon as the sheep were within 20′ of me, he’d down on his own. In one or two cases he chose a stand, usually when the sheep were looking like they might veer off.

Wow. Success.

Well, sort of.

As is sometimes the case, success with one problem brings up new ones. Now that I had Dillon understanding he needs to think a bit when bringing me the stock, I had to convince him to walk into the pressure of me and those sheep to bring them closer. I liked his thoughtful approach but there are going to be times I need the sheep… well… a bit closer.

And, yes, that is Linus watching from the other side of the fence.

As you can see, he’s starting to get it. We’ll keep working it until it’s smoother, he’s surer of what I’m asking, and then we’ll move to a bit bigger area.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Be safe if you’re traveling. Eat, drink, hug the ones you love. Take time for yourself.

Always remember to forget
The troubles that passed away.
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.
Go raibh mile maith agat.

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.

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 occurred to me that Dillon hasn’t gotten a lot of press this year. It’s been all Jig and Cian, Jig and Cian. In fact, it appears my last Dillon update was in October. Poor boy. Trust me though, he hasn’t been ignored.

Between my schedule and the weather, we really haven’t had a lot of opportunities to train this spring. Yeah, I’m calling this ‘Spring’ even though I’m not entirely certain it’s not still Winter, or possibly Fall. Could be Midwest Monsoon Season for all I know. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t something I can do anything about.

Back to Dill. The first several times I took him out this year one thing became very obvious: one of us had regressed terribly. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t Dillon. Toward the end of last year, after some observations by a friend, I realized I can’t use a lot of verbal commands with Dillon. For some reason, a verbal command causes him to look at me and, in some cases, come back to me. He responds far better with visual cues and pressure and release. I can’t quite figure out the ‘why’ of that, but I’m working on it. In any case, I totally forgot that and so we did a bit of arguing until I remembered. After which, things began to click again.

For both our sakes, I also took a step back. We’re in the small arena, working on solidifying flanks, his There, and rating. That last is a biggy. The boy has two speeds: down and let’s git’r done. Even when I step into him to get him to slow as he brings the stock barreling toward me, as soon as I release pressure he’s up and pushing again. Fixing that is high on our To Do list.

A couple weeks ago the ground actually firmed up enough for me to bring the cattle over to the round pen. Dill met steers two years ago, but since then hasn’t been on them. We need to work on his confidence, as he’s not keen on holding pressure on the noses to turn them. Next time in I’ll put him on a line to help him out a bit. This time, I wanted to see what he’d show me so I have a gauge on where we’re at. He did a nice job of driving them around the pen, kept them grouped, even kicked out several times to tuck in the one that wanted to break toward the gate. He did get himself into trouble at one point by being stupid less than smart, and discovered being rowdy can get you under hooves. I admit, I was worried he would shut down when it happened, but he rolled out of it, looked at me, then kept working, albeit, a tad more cautiously. Perhaps a lesson learned.

This past weekend we took a road trip and discovered Dillon’s favorite stock. Turns out, after an initial puzzled look and a few sniffs, he’s decided goats are da bomb. I’ve never seen him so enthusiastic. I talked Dave into doing a bit of filming. He’s pretty much a rookie at it, and just learning the ins and outs of his first Smart Phone, but he managed to get enough footage for me to piece together a few clips. I’ll leave you with those.

If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you will know Dillon has been a challenge. There have been times when I questioned if we would ever overcome our many issues. Many times frustration overcame good sense and I took it out on him by being blatantly unfair. All I can say is it’s a good thing Dillon loves me as much as he does. He’s willing to forgive and forget just about all my transgressions. And it’s a good thing I pulled my head out of my backside and started training to his strengths instead of pounding on him for his weaknesses.

I’ve gotten in some steady work on all the dogs the last week or so. None have shown more improvement than Dill. He gets to do the bringing in and sorting, then I’ll give him a break and take him out after Jig and Cian for an actual training session. Suddenly, I have a dog who does that thing he never wanted to do… gather. It’s far from perfect, and he’s only good for about 75′ or so, usually with a redirect when he starts to pull up short and look back at me. He also has a tendency to slice. And he does it all at warp speed. At this point, I don’t care. He’s doing it. I can finesse it once it becomes more fluid. Right now, I’m working more on getting him to SLOW THE HELL DOWN once he gets behind the sheep. He still doesn’t realize the point of the gather is to bring the sheep to me, not just round them up and take them blasting past.

You get two clips today. In this first one I send Dillon on a short gather then attempt to get him to lie down part way in and walk up nice and steady because, as those who know me are aware, I like mashing things together working on two things at once. Please note, it’s an Away, the direction we’ve had problems with in the past. Dillon wasn’t taking my downs, and we’ve got lots to work on, but it’s all about baby steps (something Dave reminded me of when I told him how things went).

We’re also working on the take pen. Dillon is more than happy to help in the pens, he has no qualms about being in tight spots, but no way, no how, does he want to bring sheep out of a pen when he might lose them. When having him take stock out, I generally have to open the gate only wide enough for him to squeeze in, then quickly swing it open when he gets around. Opening the gate all the way and doing what I do in this next clip has never provided these results. Yeah, he’s pushy. Yeah, he’s fast. And I don’t particularly like the way he wears behind me as we do a bit of walking about, but we’ll get it sorted out in time. The ultimate goal is to have him enter the pen without me, of course, and control the stock calmly and slowly right from the get-go. It’s something I’m working on with Cian and Jig as well.

It feels like Dillon and I have had a long overdue breakthrough. Or maybe we’re just starting to understand one another a bit better. Whatever the case, I promised him a kiss on the lips after our last session, guess I better pay up.

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.