Dot came to me at the end of January. I really was not looking for a dog, but she came anyway. I love the challenge of starting a dog and winter was really getting to me. Taking a young dog in for some time and miles was a fabulous cure for my short day, lack of sun blues. Dot unpacked her bags and decided to stay. She is out of a little bitch from Ettrick Sheepdogs and her daddy is Marilyn Volpe's Tan, a son of Derek Scrimgeour's Ben.
Starting Dot has been a journey of me. I had to die to any agenda, any time frame or expectation of what she should be doing. It's taken time to work my way into this little dog's heart, developing relationship and desire for teamwork. In the beginning, she had her own M.O. Corrections made her try harder doing exactly what she was doing to get the correction. Pressure sped her up and created the challenge of "beat". "That'll do" meant, 'go back to the sheep and bust 'em up and don't get caught because you might never, ever see sheep again!' One of her saving graces is: she is not grippy. I've taken my time...working on relationship and respect, working her on sheep and allowing her to learn without forcing it upon her. She is my first "latten learner"; there will be days where I'll put her away without feeling any accomplishment of learning and the next time out, Dot has sorted her answers in the off time.
Since coming home from the finals, little Dot's "window of learning" has been wide open. I've been working her every day on lambs. Watching her sort, figure things out, finding her wanting to work with me and even calling off with the joy of "what's next?" Dot has taught me to allow things to unfold without "make", finding ways to help the sheep to show her answers. I'm enjoying the journey with her trying to not care so much about when we "get there" but more "the beauty along the way".
These are the things that make my heart sing......
I'm settling into my post Finals days.....my muscle memory is not developed for the knowing of what the days after a big, year long event goal look like after the passing of that event. A part of me whispers "push on, trial hard, find points for Carbondale" and another part counters, in a little louder whisper, take time. I'm taking some time......
Yesterday I went to the memorial for a 22 year old young man. I can hardly type those words, feeling the absolute grief of a mom who knows in her marrow this was not the way it was "supposed" to happen. This young man grew up along side my boys: indoor park in the early single digit years of life that feel like the beginning of time and yet just yesterday. Endless days at the Hoop, the basketball court beckoning the boys, teaching them about the game on one level though really, deep down, unaware, showing them the meaning of life. Same song next verse on the football field, early double digit years, where this young man became the team manager. Some might think it a glorified name for "water boy" yet looking back he was the ultimate "manager". He, who taught these boys, those who grew up along side of him, so much about everything important. The sports bringing them together, the learning sneaking up and into the boys' hearts. This young man was special, as all of us moms know our boys are...but this one extra so. He's mom shares: "When he was very young, he was diagnosed with Dyspraxia, a movement and sensory integration disorder that made everything he tried to do more difficult and time consuming. From moving his eyes along a line of print, to holding a pencil to write, to forming clear speech, he had to work very, very hard - often to exhaustion" Maybe those boys on the football team never knew how hard this young man worked, yet they saw him: every day at practice, every game, every rally. He was different.....they all knew that for sure, but the boys sorted through the different exterior and found underneath a kid just like them. One with a wicked fun sense of humor, my youngest saying he was one of the funniest guys he ever knew. A boy passionate about living life to its fullest and finding fun in everything he did.
As I prepared to go to the memorial of this special young man, I thought of my words. What could I say to begin to share my gratitude to this boy for teaching mine about looking past the differences to see the real person? What a gift! What a gift that's been given to a group of boys at an early age. I see compassion and understanding in both of my boys and am really thankful to the manager who helped nurture these qualities in each of them. It's the fruit of a life well lived, the sharing of a gift of this magnitude. Fingerprints that last a lifetime in those lives the manager touched. As I looked at the group of men who formed the high school football team just a few years back, hugging the manager's mom and sharing in her deep grief, I was so proud of who the manager helped them become. I hugged his mom too....told her those words of deep thanks for the gift that was given through the living of her boy's life. He changed a group of boys and in so doing he changed the world! May that knowledge be balm to the loss and missing and the knowing that this is not supposed to be......I know we will all miss the manger.
As with the passing of each of my days, I dig a little deeper to make sure I....
I am trying to finally get my body back onto West Coast time. Maybe it is the age, maybe it is the let down of the event being finished but, I tell you what, I wake at 4 and fall asleep at 7! That said, I had the best of times at the 2013 Finals in Virginia.
It was my first time flying two dogs and I admit, I was a little nervous. So much out of my control....but the girls did just fine. I can't thank my friend Joe Haynes enough for picking me up at the airport and sharing a ride all week. He was a trouper stopping at old houses
and Civil War Cemeteries.
and driving through every single puddle I could find on the side of the road!
As I walked the fields with my girls, stretching them out and letting them run, we walked among the fallen dust of the civil war. The Battle of Cedar Creek is memorialized in a field adjacent to the Plantation.
I ran a camera, filming runs for friends and my own personal homework. I love filming because it makes me watch meticulously while keeping me from getting distracted...well for the most part. I only have a few pictures of the trial...and none of me and my girls from the post. That makes me a little sad but then Joe & Bryan filmed my runs so I have video AND commentary!
There was a small stream bed that ran through the course, being dry the first few days, it would become an issue as the trial progressed. I walked the cross drive to see what the sheep would see and grabbed a shot of the post, pen and two tents for the handlers and expected crowd.
Dude at the post while I walked the cross drive
The set out was done by horse back and what a job they had! These ewes were some of the wiliest sheep I have ever met!
And then the skies opened up and the rain came....rain much like the Pacific Northwest but the January variety.
Pictures just don't do it justice! The trial committee was just darn right fabulous...hauling loads of gravel and straw, building a bridge for the camping handlers to leave by, and hiring a tractor to haul out those stuck in the Virginia mud and needing tractor rides!
My only side-effect from the heavy rain was having to buy a new pair of jeans, a new rain jacket, a pair of boots (as I did not listen to my friend who told me to pack mine) and another suitcase to haul all my wet clothes home in.
My girls ran well...both getting scores. Nell handled the pressure of the ewes well without a grip; although I know she wanted to, she did not. Much progress has blossomed between the two of us on this journey. Bella drew a persnickety ewe and handled it so well! There were places on the course where, in days gone by, she might have taken a sheep out.....instead, she was cool as a cucumber! Me, well, I continue to have work to do. Hence why I taped so many runs! After watching the likes of Larry Burch and Alasdair MacRae handle the sister ewes to my Bella's run, I see ways I might have stepped up and helped my dog. Time and miles and miles and miles.
I loved the Virginia finals. So many fabulous dog and handler teams, all of which I got to sit at their feet and learn from by watching. I also had a lot of fun laughing and listening to the banter of those I call friends and mentors. Now it is good, no, GREAT to be home. Working dogs yesterday was better than the best chocolate and I know great chocolate!
As I leave more years behind me, I've begun to really appreciate the value of a true and good friend. I'm not one to collect "friends" as if they were flower arrangements; the bigger the better in quantity. I've also come to embrace the fact that I am a pretty private person, my journey is one of becoming, and the word "friend" holds a special definition of quality, accountability, transparency, authenticity, loyalty, truth, with a smidge of unconditional love. I love that line in the song, "your best friend sticking up for you, even when they know your wrong."
As I prepare to head out to the Finals in Virginia....it was good to take time and work dogs with friends.
Shedding on lambs at my little slice of Heaven.....
Enjoying the beauty of the dogs, discussing the goods and needs works....
I love the opportunity to get out and work as many places as I can. It might sound crazy but it makes me happy to see the dogs sort out new sheep and different situations. Even when it does not go as planned, the ride home sorting and evaluating and digging deeper to find ways to help the dogs find the answers with me, is one of the great pleasures of my life.
Gyp is just sure Mary needs her help!
I'm also finding some flexibility with age.....though that flexibility comes about much like birthing a 10 pound baby: lots of pain!!! My thoughts of driving to the finals changed with the reality of autumn weather; shorter days, unsure of route to get there and back, changes at home requiring attention, grass needing planting, lambs needing sold. Maybe all the above are just excuses for my butt not really wanting to sit in a truck seat for 3 days to Missouri then 2 more on to Virginia, but heck, I am now flying. To be honest, there were a few days I contemplated not going. Then I gave myself the pep talk about not letting fear dictate what I do and don't do with my life. I really could not have gotten to this decision if it were not for my friends. Nell, Bella and I are flying across America to experience the finals in Virginia. I'll try to blog my adventure......probably not much on Facebook because I am trying to take that is smaller doses these days.
Friends.......I'm so thankful for my good ones......