Of Hair and Holes

Hair, hair everywhere.  When I got a SMOOTH coat border collie, I mistakenly thought there would be less hair than on a rough coat.  WRONG.  Hair grows under my chairs and around Tai’s crates.  It’s on my clothes and on my couch.  It’s everywhere.  Not just hair…but dirt that comes in on paws – from our sandy backyard soil or the muddy hole we step in on our walks, or the hole that must be dug.  Sigh…I’m learning to like sweeping my floors – not with that old noisy vacuum cleaner … but with a good old-fashioned broom.  I find it relaxing, actually…the arc of the handle, the soft swish of the bristles, the challenge of catching that soft sheltie undercoat hair that flies ahead of the broom and the satisfaction of seeing all that hair and dirt gathered up and ready for the trash.  Even knowing there will be more tomorrow.

But I also love burying my face in the hair of my dogs…so soft; to dig my fingers in behind the ears and neck as I massage and feel their pleasure as they lean into my hand.  To stroke their flanks…firm underneath but so soft to the touch.   To pat their hairy heads and feel them lean against me.  I guess dog hair isn’t so bad after all.

Now, of holes.   I set up a challenging international style jumpers course for Breeze today and we nailed it first time out.  Then we took a little break and ran it again with a little different handling and it felt even better.  Next?  Tai man’s turn to came out to play….to work the course in pieces.  This course had it all…push-thrus, threadles, send dog and run hard to position, double fronts, serpentines, rear crosses, wraps, push out of weave poles.   How did it go?  Well, let’s just say I was laughing a lot, amazed at his skills some of the time and only a little dismayed to find we have some “holes”.  Well, that is kind of harsh, I guess.   Let’s just say our near term training plan got some additions today.

Now, it wasn’t just Tai, either.  One of the nice things about working with a young dog like Tai, is how he can teach me.  Out of position?  He’ll tell me.  Late arm change?  He will tell me.  No forgiveness makes for a better handler.  The really good news is that I was able to get to all the positions with Tai that I made with Breeze.  Just needed to use a bit more distance…ok and maybe run a little faster.

So, tomorrow, we’ll be sweeping hair and filling holes.  Not a bad plan.

A Deep Breath

This past month has been busy, fun filled and full of learning.   At one end of the month 20 month old Tai and I stepped into the ring together for the 1st time.   I took a deep breath… not knowing quite what to expect, not sure that his skills would hold up under the excitement of trialing and still getting in the groove with our teamwork.   At the other end of the month, I stepped to the line with 7 yr old Breeze at the USDAA Nationals in Louisville, KY, full of confidence in his skills and our teamwork.  Preparing for every run, I took a deep breath to get centered, to focus and to stay in the moment.  Both dogs gave it their all every time and ribbons or not …I was full of pride in their efforts and glad to see their excitement on the start line and joy on their faces as we celebrated our runs.  Here is a video of 2 runs book-ending the past month.  Both dogs having a great time.

Now it’s time for another kind of  deep breath, time to reflect on our recent journey and time to make a plan for the weeks ahead.  For both dogs…number one priority is to get back to our normal conditioning routine.  Over the past week they have spent way too much time in a crate!  Time to get hiking the hills around home, chasing chipmunks and enjoying the fall weather.

Time to get out the jump grids and re-balance those skills.  And for Tai, time to keep building his jumping skills (and my handling skills) for the challenges ahead.  Watching the runs of the top 22″ and 26″ at the Nationals, I saw dogs  jumping with fluidity and grace, with just the right amount of power in their turns and just the right number of strides between jumps and who could manage to solve all the puzzles the judges put before them.  And there were plenty of challenges for handlers and dogs … tight lines that required extreme slices, 180 degree turns, speed lines with changes in spacing between jumps, threadles and serpentines.

Time to *finish* training Tai’s contacts and proofing weaves before the snow falls!  Well, at least make as much progress as possible.  My running contact journey is a whole ‘nother blog post.  Those top dogs at Nationals had great contacts to start…with some pushing the limits with running dog walks, teeters and A-frames. Great weave entries and independence in the poles.

Time to find matches to proof all those skills and be able to reward in a trial like environment.  Time to continue working on Tai’s motion sensitivity, a daily effort.

Enough of sitting at this computer…time to get outside and start training.  I think someone is waiting!