Thursday, December 11, 2014

And Then This Happened

I've spent the past few months watching my 2014 final's run with Bella.  As I've confessed, I've gone through the stages of death and dying.....shock, denial, anger, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance and HOPE. Yes, I'm still sorting....months later.  I'm grateful to good friends who spend their precious time watching, providing feedback, listening; honesty with the heart of greater good is such a rare commodity these days.  I could delve into the mirky waters to share what I have learned about myself: real deep inner ah-ha's from 10 minutes on a hay field in Carbondale, Colorado with my instructors: 5 sheep and Bella.

photo by Jenny Glen
I've been running my body, miles and miles of road running, in preparation for a half marathon in January.  All the little details of working towards the race amaze me at what I never knew I had inside myself.  Everything requires practice:  14 mile long runs getting my joints and bones accustomed to the pounding,  speed work to make me faster, lifting for strength, hills for endurance and racing to understand pace, work on mental toughness, feel what it's like to run with hundreds of other runners.

photo by Jenny Glen
Then life, running and sheepdogs meet right there in the middle of my the finals and most trials, I find myself either filming runs, asking to scribe, or sitting off watching runs....all of which equals me really watching.  I enjoy the different styles of dogs, the different ways handlers approach the course. My true confession is: sometimes I get caught up in running my dog way different than I train my dog.  Be to the fact I do train my own dogs, this can be very problematic.... and, at the least, frustrating for my dog!  I believe that is what I see most in my final's run.....a dog trying to sort out who the heck was standing at the post and what the heck she wanted!

photo by Kerri Back Photography
What's a girl to do?  

photo by Kerri Back Photography

I've taken a little break from trialing and teaching lessons; this winter I've put my name out to work in the trenches.  I really enjoy the "real work" on so many levels.  Some of my younger dogs are getting to take a turn at jobs and it's so amazing to see the understanding develop.  When I close the gate on a tough job, the level of pride I feel for my dogs is just darn right amazing. It's in the real work that I find myself again, how I train, how I communicate, all things relationship.  The sense of the job brings clarity and corrections become help, I can laugh at the ridiculousness when things go south. These are the qualities in me that I would like to take back onto the trial field.

As I live my life out.....I am really beginning to see how much mental discipline is something that is worked on and developed much like strength and endurance.  Strength and endurance don't just happen, I work at them.  Eric Orton from The Cool Immposible writes: "It is easy to perform when things are going well, but just like in life, 'real' performance is about how we act after we think, being aware, and continuing to perform when things "seem" to be wrong.But in reality, the only thing that is wrong is this flawed thinking in the moment. Can you perform when your thinking goes south?  Can you be aware when thinking goes wrong?  Can your mind perform when you want the current situation to be different?
I tell my athletes, everyone has negative thoughts; it is what we do with the negative thoughts that separate the elite thinkers from the average thinkers in sport.  This is important to understand.  We all have negative thoughts, no one is immune.  The first step is to understand this and realize avoidance is not the target.  And, when we do have these thoughts it doesn’t mean we are not mentally strong.  The mentally strong have trained and perfected how to respond to challenging times, which inevitably produce negative feelings.  So the take home here is do not beat yourself up if you have bad thoughts during your performance, EXPECT IT and then MODIFY IT."

I jump from Eric's thesis of practicing, training and perfecting response to negative feelings to practicing running my dogs the way I train...and then being true to myself when things go south just as much as when the run goes well. For me, it's something that requires work and thoughtful practice to strengthen this to begin to become my strong muscle memory.  As I delve in, I see the dogs begin to relax and give back with greater understanding, consistency and relationship.  Funny how it all comes back to me........and there in lies my hope.

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Retrospect

I look over at the right side of my blog.....scrolling down my blog list of readings that have occupied time over the years.  Some blogs provide fodder for fabulous over-thinking, others, mindless time-killing when more pressing needs required soothing.  Such is today...I have a long run ahead of me, yet I sit here, my 13 1/2 year old Jack Russell, fresh from the vets where she was diagnosed with "tonsillitis".  Ruby Tuesday (the JRT I speak of) is very persnickety, never allowing a person to look in her mouth...EVAH!!!!  This fine, if not stubborn, quality resulted in administered anesthesia to have a look around today.  I figured I might as well get my money's worth, so I went ahead and had them clean her teeth while they were at it.  Now, Ruby on one side, wrapped in a big fleecy blanket while Sis teases me with intermittent cuddles on the other side of me, Grace, needing a shower after a crap rolling session out in the back yard, lays by the door, and Snook pancakes at my feet, sleeping hard and breathing slower as time marches on.  I reflect over the blog list.....many the exact same as I left them over a year ago.  One blog in particular catches my attention on this day: Vet on the Edge.  I miss that Alaskan Vet with the wicked sense of humor.  Whenever she posted a new story, I could not wait to sit with my cup of coffee and share the beginning of the morning with her. Today, I wonder if she knew the lives she had touched over the years?  The world lost yet another amazing vet the other who touched many lives.  I did not know her, nor had I read her...but many of my friends were touched by her teachings and some called her 'friend'.  I've spent time wondering if she knew the lives she had touched; how much people truly and deeply cared about her, valued her, esteemed her and loved her?  I wonder if she knew the huge hole that would be left  in the wake of her  passing, how many people would cry? I wonder........

As I tickled the toes of the Rocky Mountains, hanging out at the sheepdog finals, watching and filming, I wondered then too.  I took time to watch, really closely watch, the interactions: dog, sheep, handler, volunteers, leaders, friends.  Is it age, a place in the midst of my life well lived, finding myself closer to the end than the beginning now, that leaves me wanting just a little bit more from myself?  I want to believe that my life has been and is being lived for something bigger than my performance at a sheepdog trial. I wonder.....

I ran Bella and came off the field feeling a partnership in flux.  I "felt" like she ran over me most of the way around until that magic moment where we found our rhythm and made the most out of the rest of the course, too late.  A good friend and mentor talked to me long after my run, his version not at all like me version of what happened.  I've learned over the years that mentor's words are to be ruminated on, so I boxed them up in a larger box than I would have liked and began sorting through them on my drive home.

It always takes me a few days, if not weeks, to find my courage to watch my runs, if a friend is willing to film for me.  I lucked out and a friend stood behind the camera for my run......I'm sure I am grateful. It is not her fault what she filmed was the reality of what happened and not my sugar coated, self absorbed version that skated dog blaming.  I grabbed my box off the higher shelf, where I had stored it, hoping it might catch some dust before I sorted out the contents.  I watched my run, in amazement the first time around, then moving through the Kubler Ross stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression.  My filmed run is NOT at ALL what I remembered!  That, and my mentor was RIGHT....gasp.  My video run showed a dog that was giving everything she had to sort twitchy, difficult sheep....and a handler who needs more work.  Work at what, I'm just now beginning to sort and gain ideas about.....I've learned over the years that the changing of me is that special life challenge that I am willing to embrace with everything I am.  I tiptoe through the depression stage......disappointed in myself.  My dogs give me so much of themselves and I am more than willing to take.  The good news is seeing.....the bad news is seeing.....the quest continues. I dig deep knowing that relationships are my higher quest.....dogs, friends, me.

Friday I got a call from the Sheep Boss; he needed a field gathered and his shepherd was MIA.  I pulled up, into the field, grabbed a four wheeler, my whistle and Bella.  The second I started up the field, big and deep with a bend to the left of it, tree lined shade beginning to creep its way onto the dark fescue grass, Bella took off on an outrun.  It might have been a pretty outrun, but Bella had no idea where the sheep were tucked into the shade, out of sight, around the bend and i did not have time to leave her to her own mistake.  Today was about team work, we had a job to do and the Boss does not like his sheep to run.  I yelled at her, "Bella, Lie Down!".  She ran harder and a bit tighter.  I yelled again, a pitch coming into my voice, one of how about I come kick your ass, "Bella, you better lie down".  She was gone.  Then it hit me, I had a four wheeler and I could out gas her.....I took off up the filed, stuck my whistle in my mouth and blew a lie down.  She stopped, and looked over her shoulder, waited for me.  I pulled left, calling out a "that'll do" and together we went out and around the shaded up sheep, walking them in to the catch pen 100 acres away.  Bella took the side draw, holding the pressure, catching the runners and waiting for my to push the sore footed laggers.  As the trailers pulled away from the field, packed full of our gathered sheep, not a single one left behind, Bella and I headed to the coffee shop to celebrate.

I found my stage of acceptance on the field of real work.  I know and have known that Bella hates it when I yell at her.  She is a lot like me, and pretty much everyone I know; she does better without being yelled at.  Me, well, I have to die to my ego I guess.....ego and old habits from lifetimes ago.  I relish the days where I'm allowed time to experiment and find the answers given back.  New vision to my eyes, from the real time and filmed runs from the finals, the good news is seeing, the best news is adjusting to what is seen.'s not about perfection; it's about seeing, adjusting, communicating, understanding, self change.

"One hundred years from now
It will not matter...."

I think on this quote...what exactly will matter 100 years from now?  Will anyone remember my score or my run at a trial?  I think not, I know I am hard pressed to remember who came in third at The 2012 National Finals, let along who came in third at Heppner last year.  Knowing this and living this are two different edges to the same sword.  As I look for a concluding "ah ha" moment, some profound statement to pull this all together, I can't find words to put to my feelings.  I'll keep to the work...I know most of it is an inside dogs a mirror to my growth.

Seize the Day......make your life extraordinary!!!!!

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!