Monday, August 18, 2014

Sounds Like Life to Me.....

Oh, sheepdog trialing.......slivers of the mirror of my life....if I look closely enough; funny how running is it the dogs or me.  I owe LaCamas a debt of gratitude for reminding me....allowing me to remember things:

1. My dogs run for me...they never look at the score sheet and I'm not even sure they know a trial is a competition.  They don't always 'like' running for who I become, at times, while I stand at the post...but they always run for me. In sickness and in health.....till death do us part....they run for me.  If they don't, I had better take a good look at their health and even a closer look at me.......the answer lies somewhere between the two.

2.  Trials allow me the opportunity to practice what I need to practice....those opportunities will present themselves if I keep my eyes open...focusing on what is important.  I get to practice what I need...letting go of expectation, disappointment,  staying true to myself, finding the good in the dogs, building up and coming along side friends, working on me, being truthful with myself, allowing drama, politics, negativity to run off my oiled outerwear.....watching for patches that might need attention.

3. That I trial for myself.....the P in PR is PERSONAL.  No one walks my journey, nor I theirs.  Winning and placements only define me if I allow them to.  I won't.  If someone else allows this to be their be is their journey.  It's a choice to keep my eyes on my own journey.  And while I'm at it.....I get to make a choice to be kind to myself.

4. And while I am on the subject, scores do not define me....nor my dog.  I can look at my break down and it may or may not tell my story.....but it won't tell success of where I am and what I've been working on.  That is PERSONAL.....what I am working on.  The judge's scoring is just one person's opinion; mix in other's opinions of my run...good friends know and challenge my thinking in ways of improvement... my fetch might have been fast but I was working on not yelling at my dog and I made a bit of relational progress in it or not, that won't be shown in a score.

5.  Relationship is what I am longing for with my dogs. They are my dogs and I dabble in knowing them and how to handle them relationally.  Sometimes I fall back into habits of "make"; I'm a work in progress.  Sometimes my ego gets in the way of relationship; sometimes fear.  My heart was so filled with amazing joy to see Bella feeling good again at LaCamas.  It's been a LONG journey of rehabilitation from the cattle panel incident of April.  Fear whispered in my ear that she might never recover or trust me again.  It was fun to see her hunting her pressure points with much gusto.....and knowing that she is just a tad out of condition....we can work on that.  My handling was a little rusty.....a few miscalculations and hesitation on injury muscle memory on my part making a bit of chaos on the cross drive and a little wide turn at the cross drive panel......but we were a team.  Relationship! Today I hug that.....I've work to do, that's alright, but the relationship improves and I'm up for the task. She runs for me.

Sometimes when I run my body, I have the idea come to me to quit.  Early on, a book I read told me to embrace the idea to quit.....invite it to come running with me....let it in and let it out of my mind like the shopping list I always make.  It is just an "idea", it means nothing, I don't have to do it, I let it in and let it out...and soldier on.  With time, the idea to quit does not visit me much any more.  In fact, yesterday, after not feeling well for a few weeks, on my road run, quit came calling.  It's not been around for so long, I hardly recognized it.  I stopped, looked around and then, one step after another, I ran again.  "Come run with me, Quit.  You've been gone for a while......come run with me" and I soldiered on......bread, salsa, chicken, protein grocery list starting to form and edge out quit; it left the same way it came.  Sometimes when I'm at a trial to run my dogs, I forget all that is important.  I allow self doubt, critical thinking, ego, drama, and talking to distract me from my journey....I'm practicing allowing all that in, sitting with it and not fighting it, welcoming it along, and allowing it to move through, out the other side......those old tapes and habits and patterns are only what I allow them to be.  With practice, I'm hoping it becomes easier to not get trapped/caught up in all the distractions that want in.......with practice, I want to easily have them pass through, let them out and maybe they will stop visiting all together.  I soldier on, grateful for the ability to practice....come run with me.

Seize the Day!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Thrill of It All.....

I'm preparing to head up the road to one of my favorite trials....LaCamas.  It tops my list for a number of reasons: lovely field, challenging sheep, local.... really, though, it was my first every big open trial I attended way back in the beginning.  I remember hanging out by the open field, after my non-existant pro novice runs with Snook...who would not lift sheep off the setter from an old was outrun, glance at setter, same trajectory all the way back to the post to pick me up and take me to the truck.  I sat at the open field, off by myself, and watched run after run after run, dreaming of the day I would send a dog on that field at LaCamas.  Those memories of the years following, the dogs I have been privileged to send, the runs, the dramatic end of a grip in the shed, the gambling cone of last year.....and now I load the truck for another opportunity to live my dream.  Crook, check; lucky leash, check; security blanket whistle, check!  I am off.........

My goals:

*run the dog I am taking to the post
*stive for that magic of team work: appropriate corrections, clear whistles, sharp timing
*know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
*Seize the day!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Death of a Blog?

Nope, it ain't happenin' here!  I will write until the days my fingers can hunt and peck.......

My life with dogs is one part letting go....mixed with two parts of being okay with letting go.  Bella is still off from the accident.  She is sore and still does not stride out correctly on a wide open Come Bye flank.  I'm working on that......including taking her to acupuncture tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to seeing what that might bring to the picture of Bella's health.  Bella and I sit on the list for the finals....waiting (and letting go of expectation) to see if we get in. Bella, Nell and I sit on  the waiting list (letting go) for LaCamas.  It's a big huge "let go" experience right now.....and I'm passively, okay, okay, I'm ripping my clenched fingers from my expectations that I attach to my dreams.  Oh, life......the lessons are always interesting and reveal more of me to myself.

Dot is coming along....somebody posted a quote from Buck Brannaman about being willing to go back to the beginning every time you take a horse out.  Indeed, I have to be willing to go back to the beginning every time I take Miss Dot out.  For me, this is about helping Dot let go of tension, and with that, we have days of square one, and days where I see the glimmer of open.  Letting go.....of expectations and allowing the day......again.

Sis is ready to go....a little more than peeks once a month.  However, the summer heat does not cooperate with me and so I let go, once again....same theme different dog.  When the temps cool and the month of pneumonia fades to fall....Sis and I will have our lifetime to train.  Instead, we work on that'll dos, lie downs, relationship mixed with fun.  I love her disposition and take on life...she fits me.

Letting go....and working on enjoying the art of all that entails does not make for the most exciting of blog posts.  Instead, it is life!

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


e·piph·a·ny: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality oressential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

The weeks have unfolded, revealing a common theme in my relationships:  dogs, running, friends.  It's that double edged knife....when to push, when to let go and allow.  I just came back from a KK clinic; as I watched a young dog start its lifelong journey of sheepdogging, the first steps in the round pen, I listened as Kathy encouraged with a hint of warning, "Let some things go with this dog" Ah the mystery of knowing when to clean up with correction and when to allow for confidence.  

This actually started two weekends ago at a sheepdog trial.  One I attended because, once there, I find a bit of refuge in the shade of the trees, wind always chatting up the leaves, the newly mown grass easy to relax into.  This trial gives back to Nell some of what I have taken from her by asking her to do things for me she would rather not, given a choice in the matter.  The sheep like Nell, they move off her, providing her with the opportunity to enjoy her job.  Her first run was stop-less...I'm pretty sure I did not get a single one.  I do know for a fact that i stomped my foot in frustration at this little bullet of a dog; seven years old, trained to decent partnership, running as if she had no idea who I was, or at the least what the whistle meant.  I played it out in my mind, back and forth, what would serve Nell best:  should I walk?  make a point in having her know that I was large and in charge?  She was not rogue by any means, but she was not a partner and I actually tried a few things to see if i could get in her head a little, or at the least between those ears.  (Perchance a BEAR test was in order?) We finished the course with thoughts of "I'm going to take this little rocket out and show her what a stop looks like when I get back to my Bed & Breakfast"!!!!! running through my mind. Thank God the drive included a ferry ride and lasted long enough for me to think about all that Nell had been through in the past two months.  I changed my mind about the schooling and looked to myself instead.

The past few days, I watched and listened intently as dog after dog was evaluated and worked under the skillful eye of one whom i would call "mentor".  Between Kathy and Jack, my foundation was formed with the "method" and mission statement they live and bring to the start of dogs.  They are the rare few that bring the sheep into the forefront of what we do and why we do it when it comes to working sheepdogs.  "The sheep will tell you when the dog is wrong." I study my sheep to hear what they tell me.  I've also been challenged at so many clinics to be open to what the dogs are telling me too.  Then it comes right back to me, whiplashing me into looking at what my pressure is doing, what my correction and tone is doing, what my timing (or lack there of) is doing, what my perfectionistic nature is doing.  

"Get versus make" has been an argument I've had with myself, and Jack for that matter, since that very first double Knox clinic I attended, years ago but it might have been yesterday.  My epiphany came in the form of what I felt was correcting the wrong and leaving the right, never once doing the corrections to keep the dog out of trouble.  My intentions were pure, however, the end result a mirror of an outcome that did not care one hoot about my intention.  The dog was not understanding the "why" of the job.  All the corrections of wrong were taken, the piece I was missing was the lack of understanding.  And the dinger dings: Every now and then I have to give it all back to the dog and see if they have sorted out their part of responsibility.  

I go back to looking at own dogs understand me, although I've had to do some unconventional work with Dot, I've been brought around to giving back understanding to responsibility and am not afraid to go there with her. I see more readily when she is doing what I say without taking responsibility for much of anything herself.   Now my journey of digging a little deeper into myself to begin to pass this baton to others and their dogs begins.  I add to my over-thinking thoughts of "get vs make" including "get vs give".  The journey continues.....

Seize the day!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Right Here in the Middle

This post has nothing to do with sheepdoggin' and yet it has everything to do with sheepdoggin'.  It's a bed time, fairytale of a story that starts like this:

It began last fall, when I sat down and really thought about the fact that, in 2014, I would celebrate a milestone birthday.  As always the good and disciplined over-thinker, I started pondering my life and what I wanted to do to celebrate the amazing unfolding of my story.  I wanted to do something very radical, something way out of anything I thought I could ever do and so I decided to run a half marathon at a Disney Park.

Now, having never really run before, and for sure, having never liked it the few times I tried, I knew it would take a lot of courage, digging deep and sorting out of myself.  I bought a "couch to 5K" book and read it, from start to finish.  I then lamented to a friend, "I can't do this!  I can't run a 5K let alone a half marathon".  She gently suggested I start reading the book again, but instead of hurrying through to the end, maybe just turn one page at a time and live that page. She assured me the rest would take care of itself.  And so I began, running a minute (sure my iPhone timer had broken because, truly, it was the longest minutes of my life) and walking three; round and round my back yard with the dogs cheering me one with glee.  My minutes began to get longer, so I moved it out to the ranch where I walked and ran (my coach calling it "wogging") around my pastures.  Yes, I hired a coach to guide me and hold me accountable....somebody who had been there and done that to hold the hand of this serious never before runner.  My son "caught" me one day and I had to confess to him my shenanigans.  As the minutes of running got longer, I began to hit the road.

Eventually I had to get my family involved in my plan.  There were races to run to prepare me for the big dance and I needed help to pull my plan off.  It's not like I wanted to be secretive, it was just that the journey of finding myself was so private.  I did not want anyone "trying" to hold me accountable or quizzing me on my progress.  I wanted to dig deep and do the hard work for myself.  I found myself taking baby steps into the knowing of the world of me.  My first race was a 5k to benefit the K-9 police unit in biggest fear of being last with the race closed down before I could cross the finish line was just unfounded fear.

Race #1
I've now finished three 5K's all together, my favorite one run on Mother's day where I ran like a mother and had a good strong plan that I stuck to.  I'm headed to a few 10K's to see what is next with the added milage.  I love the long runs of my training....they ground me.  I find my mind wandering all over the place, solving dog training issues, working through thoughts until I find my mind settled into a good rhythm of footsteps and breath... a stillness that I have longed for.  I've cried a few tears over my speed work.  I want it right now and perfect by the way and I have to find forgiveness and compassion for myself and my shortcomings.  I am my hardest and most critical evaluator....I'm working on that.  I see so much of the dogs and their work in my running; although they are genetically gifted for their task.

My trip to Wyoming turned out to be something other than what I had dreamed of when I made those original plans.  Bella was sore, Nell was sick of me....the journey was more about me finding joy in the journey than it was about any placement, point outcome.  My runs were priceless:

running in Idaho
ranch running outside Buffalo, Wyoming
running the trails of Buffalo, Wyoming
Kaycee, Wyoming's red road running
I'm over half way there: 9 miles being my longest run at this point.  As I look at myself from the inside out, I know I have only begun to scratch the surface of finding myself....little bits of me are picked up on the roads I run.  My speed work shows me those dragon parts of myself.....the doubts and other feelings I find hard to put in words.  I know I don't HAVE to do this, but then again, I know I do.

the roads of home
I'll be running my half marathon January 18th 2015 at family cheering me on.  I have both inside and outside work to do....I continue to pick up the pieces of me.  I'll be running for St. Jude's Children Hospital......for every day I have lived the most amazing life, I want to join in helping to allow others to do the same.

If you want to become a part of my team of sponsors here is the link to donate:

If the time is not right, I understand but I could still use your moral support as I train.

This journey of life is truly amazing.......made ever sweeter by those who share the road. Thank you for sharing mine.

Seize the Day!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Back in the Saddle

I really loved how the girls ran for me this weekend.  Yep, I'm back in the saddle, hanging out at the post, running the girls at sheepdog trials.  Nell has become such a partner; we are finding the ability to get things back together when they go wrong which has been and will always be a goal of mine.  Not that I don't strive for "perfect" mind you.....but when things go wrong, the getting it back together is progress from the stinking it up the whole way around we've seen.

Bella got around twice and I am so happy to have her out running and trying.  We have work to do.  Today we head back to the PT's office, as it might be physical work that needs done.  Her runs were like driving a car with no breaks (our go-to under pressure maybe) and the ability to turn only one way well.  It's not like Bella to not open up a come bye flank close at hand...say the pen......when I make my point. I'll go have her checked out and see what I can do to help her be more comfortable with the stride out on that left side.  I cannot express how thankful I am she ran and ran sound!  The detailed picking of that flank is the best of starting points for trialing....we will find our rhythm and get back into sync and I will do the physical work necessary to get her back to feeling 100%.

Stepping back into the trial world after a brief hiatus was a bit like being sugar free for 8 months and going to a grocery store........the bakery isle whispers to me: german chocolate slices of cake, maple bars, blueberry muffins, and even the darn bagels can look at me with bedroom eyes.  I've learned to just not go there.....I don't even use the bakery section to get the the deli section....there are safer routes to travel.  I can and do spend time in the produce section and allow myself to go hog-wild with honey crisp apples and kale.  Such is life at sheepdog trials.....

I got an email from a sports psychologist I love reading just before I headed out the door to run dogs Saturday morning.  She spoke of a disease I've actually contracted in the past and one I have to work to prevent relapse in's called the Disease of Me.  "When you have the disease of me, your confidence is not real.  It's not based on your skills, your results, or your resilience.  It is based on your PERCEIVED superiority to everyone else." This disease seems to be more prevalent in the world of competition; its not isolated to any one sport and sheepdog trialing is not exempt. "All unhappiness is caused by comparison"

I also see a secondary, and almost more fatal disease beginning to rear its ugly head.....the Disease of You.  That's where a person will have the Disease of Me and want to have company in their misery so the PERCEIVED superiority is shared with others that have not asked for any input.  Not that handlers don't need mentoring....just not from those who do it from the point of making themselves look like Gods.

I was talking with a gal at the recent sheepdog trial, and she confessed to me that, this year, her goal is to really enjoy her dogs and their runs.  This was not the excuse of somebody who can't get around well; instead they focus on the good in their run and don't address what needs attention.....this comment came from a top competitor who routinely puts down runs that make a person sit, watch, and make notes.  This weekend, her runs were astounding!  Was it the change in focus or did her dogs just mature over the winter?  Did her dogs feel the release of pressure and find their best in the support coming from the post??  I do believe that this might be one of those magical moments where "right focus" creates winning.

It's that double edge sword can't say, "fine I will have "right focus" so I can win".  "Curing the Disease of Me can free you from envy, unhappiness, and under-performance. You see other athletes as an inspiration, not a threat.  Of course the quickest and easiest way to cure the Disease of Me is to stop living in fear that someone else will surpass you.  This means concentration on your game, not someones else's game." ~L Brown

That and stay out of the bakery section at the grocery store......

Seize the Day!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Drinking Lemonade...

The valley has been unseasonably hot and I keep a watchful eye on the flock: radical temperature changes seem to invite the likes of pneumonia and cocci and the dreaded "just lay down and die for no good reason" disease that sheep seem to get on occasion.  My culls keep their gifts to themselves and I wonder if I might be that "crazy sheep lady"...obsessed with udders, vulvas and watching.  This year, I have new neighbors and a smaller flock than years gone by....I now have three nice, tall green grass fields with trees for shade and that makes for happy sheep that can't quite get all the mowing done.    I'll wean this week and with that, phase one of the Rocking Dog Ranch plan for the future starts:  cull hard, no lambing, small flock over winter, buy in lambs and culls for spring.  Doors begin to close...and I'm back to the theme of watching for windows.

Bella is doing PT now.....that plus laser twice a week and massages every night before bed has promoted Bella to Princess Bella, thank you very much.  She still has a hitch in her giddy up on a few steps but I wonder how much that might be habit as it is a dab of tender.  I do 'close at hand' work with her; easy work and she opened up her come bye flank last night without my reminder......she is getting there.

Dot has had a very exciting spring with her meeting three top handlers and getting their autographs.  With Dot, I continue to dig into the "make" versus "get" theory of life through dogs with a new twist; I've added "tell".  That 'tell, make, get" is a heady cocktail; the fumes from the mixing rising up and almost making me lose my way into the world of responsibility and understanding of the job.  My biggest challenge right now it to look at what my correction and my asking is doing to my dog(s).  And in the blink of an eye, I am right back to this whole darn dog journey being about me.  I soldier on, I know what I want with each of my dogs and that is: relationship and each of us understanding the dance of being accountable for our part of the journey.

I've pondered many a moment of pondering about "gracefully letting go of what is not meant for me".  How do I know what is meant for me and what is not meant for me?  When I sign up for a trial, I get into the mode of sports psychology, dreaming of how the trip will unfold, visualizing runs, preparing for the good and what might happen in between.  I don't vacation in the way others might, so often my road trip trial extravaganzas become my getting away from it all vacation time.  Sometimes I find when the going gets tough, I need to just dig deeper, want it more, find out who I really am with letting go of all distractions to get there and run.  Then there are other times when I need to let go, change plans, rest.  Finding the balance in all that is challenging me right now, but it is a good challenge.  I know it is life....not just dogs but all of life.

Lemonade is very refreshing!

Seize the Day.