A week has passed since the Athena trial. I have had a chance to gather my thoughts and defrag my brain.
It didn't work.
I have been struggling with how to write this post and how to tie the trial pictures into a smart neat little package - with the objective to make you smile.
I have failed miserably. I suck.
The preceding picture was shot by my loving husband right after I called Beth the wrong name, gave the wrong flank then tripped over a rock. Which pretty much sums up my state of mind. Perhaps it is peri - menopause? The economy? A democrat in the White House? Who knows. I just know I can't think.
Speaking of the economy. My husband is now unemployed with me. I have a good idea of what retirement will be like. Will our marriage survive? Will he? I can say our house has never been cleaner. Not a weed in our yard has survived his full on assault. I have been hiding in my office trying to stay away from him and all sharp objects.
I didnt want to come home from Idaho. When I got into my car at Athena - I sat there for a bit and seriously contemplated pointing the car east and keep driving. North Carolina sounded like a good destination. I had the tent, my air bed, a cooler and two dogs. I was good to go.
Sanity prevailed...and I turned in the direction of home.
The Trial in Athena was eye opening for me. After a week spent sleeping on an air mattress I reached the conclusion it is more comfortable than our $1800 mattress. I also learned I really can sleep in a tent. Who knew? I would prefer it not be as hot as the surface of the sun - like it was during the day in Athena - but as long as it cools off during the night - it is definitely doable and I will do it again.
Can I write a full sentence without a hyphen?
What was I saying?
Oh yeah...the trial.
Athena is a trial that has been run for the past 27 years on the high school football field during the Caledonia Games - a Scottish Highland festival. Obviously the trial field is small - which offers new and different challenges for dogs that are used to running in larger fields. Other bizzare things happen, which do not typically occur in a field trial. Like the case of disappearing sheep.
Uhoh...where did my sheep go?
A little investigating is in order...
Sheep under the bleachers. Sweet.
Always a new experience.
The "Post" really is a POST. The goal post.
The course director was Don Couch. Open did not have a shed, instead they had a chute. Open had to negotiate it from the post. Pro-novice was allowed to go to the chute and help their dog.
So many beautiful dogs
Look at the peepers on this one! Red Top Star run by Susan Lindstedt.
Dianne Deal's Fame
Ron Green's Kane
Sue Wessel's Tess
Sue Wessel's Lexi or Kate...not sure...but gorgeous dog still the same.
LJ Estes's Petal run by Dianne Deal. I overexposed the back ground so I threw on a texture. Not sure it works.
Red Top Vangie run by Susan Lindstedt. Who is quite possibly the funniest woman I have ever met.
Vangie is a joy to watch.
Smiling faces like Mary Ann Lindsay's gorgeous grin after her run with Tan.
I learned many new things at this trial.
I learned that I really like Bud Light Chelada's. They are yummy, especially when accompained by Wasabi chips which helps you mask the taste a smidge. Salad and relaxation in a can. Who can ask for anything more?
I learned how the crowd acts when you have a good run. I learned how the crowd acts when you have a REALLY bad run. They won't look at you. Her is a hint: if the announcer goes silent - then you are most likely doing something bad.
On Saturday our runs were okay. Beth placed first and Brynn placed third. The biggest challenge for everyone in the trial was the nightmare at the set out. The sheep were being set out at the far goal post by two teenage boys and a man with a flag. They meant well but by the time the sheep were somewhat settled - they were already rattled beyond belief. Chased around, kicked, slapped with a flag, harassed by a dog that was slicing and gripping. It was ugly beyond description. It was a challenge for Open and Pro-Novice. For Novice dogs it proved to be too much for many of them.
For Brynn's run on Saturday they recycled the sheep from the previous run - but swapped the one out that got stuck in the fence. They gave us a new one that the kids dropped on it's back from the truck - it only fell upside down about 4 feet. It took them 5 minutes to get them reasonably settled. In the time we were standing there waiting for the chaos to subside at the set out I watched Brynn begin to vibrate - building tension.
Regardless of the zoo at set-out Beth and Brynn handled it reasonably well, which I was happy with. The lifts were pretty much non existent and the fetch was crazy for both of them. We were able to get it under control - a little - round the post and attempt the first leg of the drive. Then to the pen. On Saturday both Beth and Brynn got the pen. Beth's score was 49 and Brynn had a 43.
Sunday - they changed how set out was done (THANK YOU!)
Chaos did not reign at set-out...but it certainly did in my brain. Beth was first up and we managed a decent run for another score of 49 and second place. Brynn was another story.
Remember that woman that was give that award for "Most Promising Novice Handler" at a trial a few weeks ago? She was the gal who got that award because she calmly and quietly helped her dog through something difficult and finished with a positive result.
Yeah...that woman wasn't there. In her place was a yelling, shrieking monster who whacked the pen with her stick a few times. This woman should have seen her dog was having issues and dropped the rope and taken care of it. Instead she hung onto the rope - escalated - getting more frantic. Then after getting the pen (who the hell knows how?) she continued with the bad behavior - told her dog she was going to "strangle" her and played keep away around the pen.
Things did settle down a bit and we exhausted the sheep into the trailer. By that point everyone was silent. The announcer was quiet. I wanted to crawl under a rock. Brynn got a score of 41 & third place - I should have gotten a zero.
The adrenaline was still going when I walked off the field. To be honest...I was blaming Brynn at that moment. After talking to Dianne Deal - she gave me a well deserved verbal thrashing - in her kind and gentle manner. Remember when you were a kid and that kind teacher or relative would sit you down with the "I am disappointed in you" talk? Being a mother, Dianne excels at that talk. Given that I truly value her opinion - it hit home.
She reminded me that Brynn plays off my emotions. She was doing everything I was asking and all she wants to do is please me. I was just asking the wrong things. I was laying her down at the wrong time, flanking her wrong, not allowing her to cover the sheep, then getting angrier and angrier...which only served to speed her up and made her try harder and harder. Which I perceived as defiance.
Sometimes Brynn can run right over the top of me - she is A LOT of dog.
It wasn't defiance. It was Brynn trying harder and harder to compensate for me. It is my responsibility as her handler to give her direction to do things correctly - not get angry and think she is taking advantage of me.
Dianne also pointed out that my goals for Brynn are not to win a novice trial. They are to go further. A novice trial is not important in the big scheme of things - and if I keep putting this type of pressure on this baby dog - I will ruin her.
I deserved every word she said. Shortly after that they started calling my name. I was hiding behind the trailers & someone came to find me. It was for awards. As you already know from an earlier post - Beth placed first - high in trial & Brynn placed second over all (both days combined). It was one of those bittersweet moments. I was very proud of my dogs yet deeply ashamed of myself.
We feel shame for a reason. Some people wallow in the shame - others use it as a motivation to affect change. To me, the shame is painful and icky - it serves as a wake up call - a necessary evil encountered on a journey to improve. A good swift kick in the pants in the right direction.
This week has been spent in thoughtful evaluation of how I handle stress and tension. I am creating the problems my dogs are having on the trial field & oft times on the practice field. The only way this is going to improve is through myself. I need to overcome ego on the field. I thought I was impervious to the ill effects that ego can bring about. I have to confess - once I realized that we stood a chance at doing really well at the trial - I jumped on the ego train until it derailed during my run with Brynn.
My goal for the next trial - to walk away from the post to help my dog at the first sign of trouble. Never again will I allow my ego to get in the way. Nothing is that important.
In practice this week I clearly saw how letting Brynn get away with some bad behavior at the pen during a trial has turned into something that needs to be fixed - hopefully it can be fixed when Dianne is here this weekend. Now when working Brynn my biggest fear is ruining her. What was fun...has turned into a stressful thing and that is scary.
I need to adjust my attitude and enjoy my dogs.
After all...isn't that the real reason why I am doing this?
Remember what is important & focus on that.
To see pictures that I have processed so far (only about 1/2 way complete) please visit this link
Athena - Caldedonia Games Sheep Dog Trial - LINK TO SET ON FLICKR
If you want to go directly to the slide show click below
Link to SLIDESHOW of ATHENA - CALEDONIA SDT on FLICKR
4 hours ago