Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sounds Like Life.....

On Tuesday, I said "see you later" to my best friend and helped her cross the rainbow bridge.  She had been falling, was getting stuck in the doggie door, and couldn't get that back leg up under her back end resulting in a lot of front end scooting.  I took her out to the new ranch knowing that I might find some answers out there.....and I did.  As I lifted Snook from the car, gently setting her down by the barn, she wandered a bit, falling more than usual from the terrain and rocks and rolling hills.  She wandered back to the car and asked to be put back in.  I knew......in my heart of hearts, it was time.

I brought Snook home wondering what I could do to help her celebrate her life and send her off knowing the depth of my gratitude and love.  I'd kept her far longer than any spin on the sheep, so we had a sprinkler party instead.  Her standing and snapping at the water drops as the stream flew by on it's next round.  The thing about Snook was, she was all about fun but wanted me to always be a part of it.  As she snapped at the water, she would glance over as if to ask, "did you see that?!"  My other dogs are more independent, but Snook, I was the center of her life from day one.  Being a big girl, she was always front seat ride-along dog....and I liked it that way.  She was never a dog to run ahead unless sent in fun.  She excelled in arena trials..where I could be right there....together a team of friendship and trust.  That was my Snook girl.  In later life, as age and pain made truck rides too hard on her, she would lay by the door waiting for me to return from my chores and trips.  She always knew I'd be back so she would wait.

After our fun in the water, we went to Dairy Queen, Snook and me.  We shared an ice-cream and cuddled in the back of the car.  It was a good day.  I miss her now...her bed by the side of my bed is empty.  Her food bowl sits on the counter, and the arms length of pill bottles are lined up right next to it.  I'm not ready to change much....the change will happen soon enough with the big move.  The dogs adjust but aren't as edgy as I though they would be.  I think Snook's lack of mobility had already changed the pack's dynamics.  Regardless, I miss her beyond words and I can't seem to stop missing her.  I'm working on the good and fabulous memories...which there are many....but the sadness shadows them.  I need to write her life out, sort through my pictures.....it is just taking time to be ready to go there.

But life goes on.....the dog yard is almost finished at the new place and I'm moving.  It's a good distraction, a noble distraction...a dream come true distraction.  On the day's I'm not making a load with the stock trailer, I am weeding and getting fields ready for sheep.  I'm taking the dogs out and letting them run around while I work.....getting them used to the idea of the move.  They LOVE it out there...so much to do and a bit of trouble to get into.  I have NOT taken them to the pond yet.....I don't want Sis, the water dog to know about it just yet.

As much as I love and miss Snook, I know, as long as I live.....I need to seize each day.  I am making memories and building relationships each and every day.  I think that is the passing gift Snook gave me: to not dwell on the sadness and missing and wishing things were different......instead to find the gifts in what is for the today.  For me, it is a choice....mindful living, seizing the day.  I think the dogs help me do that...it most certainly is how they live.  And somehow, I want to believe that Snook is right here with me in spirit......enjoying the move in her perfect Heavenly body........or at the least smiling down from Heaven knowing how much she is deeply loved.


Seize the Day!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New....

A couple weeks ago, I read NVShadowBCs-Noggin' Doggin blog...."not a destination, but rather a way of TRAVELING."  It's a good read....I love how she lives her life....authentic, real, focused on allowing for amazing (my view of her life).  One time, a few years back, at a sheepdog trial, we talked about creating a MECA....and here she is today.....living her dream.  She wrote to my comment,  "When I started out, there were very little resources for this journey.  I looked at what I didn't have.  Being surrounded by positive mentors/open hands opened my eyes, all the components were here all along.  Just in a different form.  The right set of glasses and viola a Mecca."

My husband always tells me, when you are mountain biking, you need to look at where you want to go.  If you look at what you don't want to hit, you hit it. But if you look ahead to where you want to go.....that is where you end up. I find life is a lot like that as well......takes some discipline to look where you want to go.

I've loved my little slice of Heaven out in the country.  It was big enough to train dogs and small enough for me to manage, mostly by myself.  As the kids left home, and I began to get a little older, the driving to and fro left me making changes to accommodate the responsibilities of home life.  Last year, I gave up on lambing; this year, I cut back on numbers.  My dream was to live where the sheep live......maintain one homestead....be able to walk out to tuck the chickens in for the night instead of driving 15 minutes one way.  The quest began about 5 years ago and got real serious in the past two.  I haunted multiple listing sights and stalked Zillow.  We checked out property in Scio; amazing, beautiful, serene...then I asked my hubby to visualize the drive home from work on a rainy winter day in December, when the dark pulls the covers up early....no good at all.

I began to feel like Goldilocks.......this one is too small, this one is too far out, this one too much money, this one is too NOT ME!  I'm country....not big beautiful show piece of a home girl.  Harvesting Christmas trees with a helicopter on the 20 acres right next to the house doesn't work for me either.  I mean who can do outruns though Christmas trees??

A realtor friend had called us two years ago about a place she was listing. At that time, I was not interested.  After searching for two years and narrowing the musts between the two of us...when the for sale sign was put at the entry....I called our friend.  And the rest is history...as they say.

I'm not a girl that cries easily but there are days when I tear up about the amazing journey that brought me to my new home.  Hubby laughs and says he did not ever think in a million years we would find a place that met both of our "Must Lists"....me needing a barn and property for the sheep and dog work....him needing a doable drive to work and room for his hobbies.  When I travel with the dogs or do outside work, the place is close enough for hubby to help with dogs left home.  All the little details addressed as if the whole place were built for ME!

The barn was built in 1863 and has been restored on the outside.  I've always wanted a historical home but knew it could be a marriage stressor.....things can go so wrong with history in a house. But the barn....sigh.....I can futz around to my heart's content, chatting with the resident barn owl and listening for voices from the past as the hay was put in, horses tended and later, cows milked.


I find it hard to put into words the amazingness of this journey.  The feelings of blessing and gratitude and amazement overwhelm me in that good deep down in my soul way.  I know there are new journeys to seize, things to sort, creativity to find....but for now.....I feel like I have come HOME.


Indeed....."the right set of glasses".

Seize the Day!!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pause Button

I've got more life lessons to write about.....important things that I don't want to forget.  The memories come back to me at the weirdest of times; night, as I lay in bed thinking, or while I am showering, and of course driving....those are the best of thinking and remembering times.

Today, I hit the pause button.  I'm sitting on the couch with my 14 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Ruby.     She was born in front of the fireplace and lived in my son's closet the first few weeks of her life.  Her mama, Summer, tried to move the whole litter under Jake's bed so many times that we compromised. Summer finally gave up the moving of the puppies to settle into the closet and Ruby grew up right next to Jake.  Ruby Tuesday is the "old girl" of my pack.

I homeschooled my son, Jake for three years, third through fifth grade.  One day, early in his homeschooling experience, Jake was watching the Animal Planet and dog agility came on.  Some of the folks were competing with JRTs and we had a JRT...must be fate.  We went on-line, ordered our free Clean Run magazine, found a local WAG competition, attended, was introduced to a trainer...and thus started our journey into the world of agility.

Ruby was a fast learner as well as a fast runner.  In practice, she rocked and Jake loved the training.  It all went to hell at trials though.  Ruby was a mama's girl and the stress of trailing had her leaving the ring to find me.  Many a run, I had to sit in the car and not watch...and many more runs,when I tried to watch, Ruby would sniff me out and leave her boy dog-less in the ring:  Not a good recipe for success.  So Ruby was bequeathed to me the day Jake was given Spark and together Ruby and I joined in the agility fun.

14 1/2 years, time has faded Ruby's red patches and her body is giving her issues.  She leans here against my leg, swaddled in a big downy comforter.  She's been off and on food for the past 9 months; I've been able to nurse her back to eating with rotisserie chicken and peanut butter.  It's been a long four days, she feels miserable and I know.  I'm digging deep to be a promise keeper again.  I cannot imagine my life without this girl, she who sleeps cuddled up against me at night.

There is a lot of change happening in my life right now.  I am getting ready to move...the dream come true sort of move.  I have hoped that my old girls would get a taste of living my dream.  I wrestle with myself...over and over...not wanting to fail Ruby, or Snook for that matter, with extra days of pain on my behalf but not wanting to shorten their lives by one day if it is not time.  How does a one know?  I read about the dogs that get to spend the last days doing what they love before they cross the rainbow bridge.  I know I have taken both my dogs past living those days.....Snook's back end won't allow her to work sheep and her pain won't allow her a truck ride while Ruby won't eat so Dairy Queen is out.  I sit here, hugging her and petting her and whispering my sweet gratitude into her ear.   This little neurotic, separation anxiety filled JRT who wormed her way into my heart, deep into the middle and filling up so much room.  She has loved sick days....any warm body on the couch was her definition of the best of days.  When Jake had knee surgery....she felt bad for him but was so happy for herself.....she has loved each and every couch day with any of her boys.  She has chased my lawn mower with gusto and barked herself horse at me.  She has thieved the garbage can under the sink so many nights that it is tied shut in her honor.  She has welcomed in all of the dogs that have crossed my threshold, tolerated some and embraced others.  I know there are days before Ruby, but I don't remember them as vivid as the days since she came into this world....my little Bat Girl.

Change is coming....some of it so amazing I'm left breathless but I tread slowly hitting the pause button for just a few more days with one of my best friends.




Seize the day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Even More - 5

Life lesson five could be the title to a song...oh wait, it is!

LIFE LESSON FIVE: LOVE THE ONE YOU'RE WITH

It is that age-old habit of wishing for a different dog; a better and more talented dog.  This lesson holds hands with lesson three of "looking in the mirror" because I can't separate the two.  But then all these lessons seemed to be knitted together in a way that, removing one chink, the whole masterpiece unravels.

I've been reading books about "mindful living" these days......working at living in the moment of right now and being whole-heartedly and whole-mindedly right in this very moment.  On the one hand, it is wrestling the biggest dragon, taming my mind to be calm and not race around to what I've done and what needs doing.  On the other hand, it is as easy as jumping off a cliff and relaxing into what is.  Back in the day of training up my Snook, she would have benefitted from some of this mindful living.  It would have allowed me to see her for what she was instead of what I thought I desperately wanted her to be.

I think back to that one clinic where the sheep were running hard into a draw.  I kept opening Snook up on her flank, in my mind, thinking the sheep might slow down and Snook could catch them.  Snook never did and I was pretty bummed at her.  A very good friend came over and talked to me....we talked about the sheep and the draw and why the sheep were running into the draw.  It really did not have anything to do with Snook and opening her up allowed the sheep to really run uninhibited by no contact from my dog.  Truth be told, I could not hear my good and honest friend that day at the clinic.  Pride and Ego have stumbled me on my path many a time.  Today, I can look back at this mind video and see so much of the good in my dog.  There are days when Snook's whole-hearted commitment to me amazes me.  She was trying so hard to do all that I wanted her to do.....every dog since reaps the reward of this lesson learned years later while Snook lays at my feet while I type our story.

Today I am thankful I started my journey with this red-headed rescue dog.  Had I started with a naturally talented winner, I might not be who am I today. Who am I kidding?  I would be ego filled, boastful maniac if I had started with a "WINNER".  I do know that I have to die to "I wish I had THAT dog" syndrome that comes into my mind at trials and clinics on occasion.  I believe it is human nature to think that something else, outside of myself, will bring me happiness....or that something I have now "makes" me unhappy.  I see it lived out every day:  a different spouse, a different job, more property, better sheep, weighing less, running a 10 minute mile; this list of "I would be happy if only" could go on and on and on.   With this, I am not saying change is not good....it is just that the inside needs to be healthy for any change to be functional.  Okay, that is pretty philosophical and deep for a blog but it's where I am at.

Patrick Shannahan once told me that "not every dog comes into your life to make you a winner, but every dog comes into your life to teach you something."  I am sure I have paraphrased the heck out of this quote but I believe the sentiment remains.  I lift my eyes from the lap top screen and look at my pack, each of them sleeping and waiting on me to see what adventures we will have today.  I know some of the life-learning gifts they have given me and I know there are learning gifts yet to unwrap.  I also know that in these last days of Snook, she continues to teach me about the nuances of growing old and unconditional love, being brave and a promise keeper.

I hear stories told of the dogs that might not be as talented as another dog, but they win big trials because of the partnership with their handler.  That is what I am longing for....the relationship built on time, miles, trust, belief, work, and appreciation for the lessons to becoming more of me.  This also brings me back to myself. I see pictures of those runners that run 6 minute miles and long for that in myself.  There is no way I will be that girl...ever.  No matter, I am still a runner.   In all things: my dogs, my body, my relationships, my journey......Love The One You're With!

Seize the day.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

FOUR!!

I come from a long line of grudge holders; my Granny being the best one I know, next to my father but those are stories for another time.  I remember her frustration as a great grandchild of hers would not eat dinner but instead snuck out to the strawberry patch to feast on the abundant, sweet, red fruit from  Heaven.  My Granny spoke of that incident, with the ill behaved three year old, all the way to the end of her life....when the child was, at least, 20.  I did a few things in my life that really pissed Granny off good and long.  My Gramps would try to smooth her feathers but my Granny always held her ground....grudge included.

LIFE LESSON FOUR: WHEN YOU HOLD A GRUDGE YOU MISS OUT ON A FEW ADVENTURES

Snook was, and is, a serious grudge holder.  In fact, I believe her ability to hold a grudge surpasses my Granny's abilities.  Being a rescue dog, I have no idea what happened in Snook's formidable months but she came to me hating yelling (lesson 3)  and abhorring yelling men.  One of the first sheepdog trainers Snook and I went to was a yeller.  I'm not sure he realized how much he yelled, or that anyone, dog or person, perceived him as yelling....but Snook did.  She detested him and it got to the point where, if he ran before me at a trial, I would have to sit in the truck until he left the post to exhaust.  During my mad dash to the post, I would pray that the exhaust would go well, because if he yelled at his dog, Snook would go back to the truck.  I would bring her back out and attempt to run her, but she would never run well.  It was much like a thunder phobic dog, the thunder storm had passed but the tension in the air was palpable.

Snook did not like growling men either.  One of my friends was quiet as a church mouse but he could do a mean growl at his dog...and his student's dog for that matter.  He set sheep for a big trial that Snook and I participated in one year.  The sheep were tough to set with a huge draw back to the set out pens and a little less draw to the exhaust.  I sent Snook on a big, beautiful outrun, while my friend growled at his dog at the set.  Snook got to the top, stopped and radioed down to me that her big bad growling enemy was setting sheep.  I whistled her on to walk up.  She radioed back down that I did not understand the severity of the situation.  In typical Snook fashion, she gave me the doggie finger and kept coming around, all the way back to the post. She sat by my feet, looked up at me and pretty much told me to go get the sheep myself.  That was my last big field sheepdog trial with Snook.

I came to the conclusion that neither of us were having very much fun.  Possibly, I could have worked Snook through her fear or yelling and growling men.  Instead, I graduated Snook to "front seat ride along dog" and every now and then we would volunteer to exhaust.  I'd run her at my yearly arena trial, where I could be right there with her and the sheep were tame and light.  And there would be the occasional days I would leave her home; not enough room for the luggage and an extra dog on the longer weekend trips.

I think about my ability to hold a grudge and wonder about nature versus nurture.  Wether is has been genetically coded in my DNA strand or passed on by example, grudge holding has been one area I have been working on letting go.  I read inspiration that when I hold a grudge, the only person it hurts is me.  I also know my grudge can be based on a perspective; which may or may not be reality.

I ponder my training up of my dogs and see how there are days I hold a grudge in that realm of my life too.  The dog who used to be full of tension, that lingers in my mind as I train her and when I see her fall back into an old pattern, I can snap.  My mentor reminds me, she has changed and the slip can be dealt with in a more functional way if I can let go of my grudge against the old her.

All these Snook lessons tie together, applying to all aspects of my life.  Mindful living....living what is here, right now and finding gratitude.  Though a grudge holder, I believe Snook does a great job of living in the here and now.  As she lays at my feet, I'm pretty sure she does not worry about the yelling, growling men of her past or wonder if there will be more in her future.  Although, to be very honest, I bet she would still be holding a grudge if we went to a trial and the yelling started.

The good news is, I still love her even through her imperfections....and that is freeing indeed.

Seize the Day!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lesson Three

I've wrestled with myself on what I should call this lesson: "no one likes a yeller" "who wants to work for mad?" "try a little self control, baybay!" I'm still struggling.....

This memory is etched into my mind and comes from the days when I had an all breed trainer teaching lessons at my slice of Heaven.  I would get to my place early and move the sheep around, dividing them into little groups and putting them in pens for the day's lessons.  After a few months of this...the sheep absolutely knew which day was terror Tuesday and they did not want any part of the moving and separating.  My 5 acre field feeds into a 300 foot long alley way where I had set up pens under the line of big shady trees.

It was lesson day, so I grabbed Snook to gather the field and that is where things started to go wrong.  The sheep did not want to move towards the gate feeding the alley and I was under the gun.  Lessons would start soon and I needed to be ready.  I was so frustrated and my voice began to show my feelings....clearly.  I heard my main gate rattle and looked up to see my husband had arrived, dropping off something I had forgotten before heading to work. Snook looked up and saw him too.  At that moment she decided she was done with me.  I was frustrated and yelling at her and she would just rather go home for the day.  She took off running, jumping five foot fences and climbing gates all the way up to my husbands car. She slipped through the open gate and loaded herself in through his open door.  Me, well I walked the walk of shame......covering 10 acres to go fetch my one and only work dog from my husband's rig.  He did not even have to ask what happened.

I was thankful for the gates and fields I had to walk through to get to my dog...it allowed me time to cool off and realize that if I were going to get anything done, I absolutely needed Snook.  I took a deep breath and grabbed a grain bucket as I headed back to the field to accomplish the tasks for the day ahead.  Nobody wants to work for anybody that yells and demeans and shames.

LIFE LESSON THREE:  WHEN FRUSTRATED....LOOK IN THE MIRROR FIRST.

I think most of the time things went wrong with Snook, I could look at myself and see how it was my preconceived ideas of how "it should be done" that started the whole situation down a slippery slope of not getting anything done.  There is that one time a ewe went to take Snook out and I yelled at the sheep....that ended up poorly as Snook had no idea who I was yelling at and only knew I was mad.  I had to go to the truck and talk her out on that day as well.  Now some people will say they would never keep a "quitter and a sulker" but I am thankful today that Snook was both.  She taught me so much about self control, emotional control and looking in the mirror at me before I got mad at anyone else in the picture.

Life lesson #3 is one that I keep learning over and over, to varying degrees with each of my dogs.  Thankfully I am getting better and seeing my part in a frustrating moment quicker....not always before it comes out in my voice or mannerisms but quicker.  As I struggle with this life lesson it reminds me to give my dogs patience and they work through theirs.

Seize the Day!!

Monday, May 25, 2015

More Lessons

Last night, for the first time, I carried Snook up the stairs to sleep on her bed next to mine.  She had made it about a quarter of the way up before her back end gave out and she could not figure out how to get anywhere else.  She waited for me, patiently and with no complaint.  I laid on her bed with her, remembering.......

LIFE LESSON TWO:  GIVE ALL THINGS TIME

I might have learned this lesson with Snook although ever new-to-me dogs reinforce this; deepens and mellows the idea of taking time like a good Scotch or Bourbon.  Me, the ever perfectionist, coming from the world of agility where practicing wrong makes for wrong muscle memory.  I've always been that trainer who wants to "fix" every wrong which allows no room for the dog to figure it out.

I'm decluttering my house right now, which is taking forever because I stumble upon old pictures, old score sheets, notes taken from clinics gone bye.  Jack Knox once told me, "just because Nell is wrong does not mean what she is doing is bad."  Poor Snook lived her life being cleaned up and, well, basically told what to do by someone who was not as well qualified to read the sheep as she was.  Back in my Snook training days, I never thought about sheep or the difference in sheep at each trail.  i never thought much about terrain or grass or set out people and their dogs, or even horses for that matter.  I did not realize what experience brought to the relationship or how confidence on the trial field could be cultivated with help and partnership and trust.  Giving all things time.....allows for learning.

As I laid with my Snook last night, stroking her thick old dog coat and whispering in her ear, I thanked her for this lesson of "giving time".  I used to wonder how much better Snook could have been had she not been my first dog sacrificial lamb:  the dog I made so many mistakes with.  Today I know that there is always a first dog.....and I'm grateful mine was Snook.

Snook's first AHBA trial 2005
Seize the Day!!!!