While the east was bracing for a winter storm, the south received reports of possible severe thunder and lightning storms that could spawn tornadoes. Yet as I pulled into the dog show site in Folsom, Louisiana the skies were barely overcast and the temperature, at seventy-five degrees, made it seem like summer. The weatherman may not be one hundred percent right all the time but he or she came pretty close this weekend.
By seven p.m. that evening I was standing outside in a torrential downpour trying to get my dogs to do their business. The wind was lashing at my face and my hair was whipping around me, covering my eyes. The rain drenched my coat, my fleece hood and finally the tendrils of water found my jeans and finished off any dry spots I had on me. The dogs were energized by the wind although they too were soaked. Yet they were mesmerized by the sounds in the marsh behind the La Quinta Inn and were torn with staying and checking out the knocking, knocking, knocking noise nearby or going inside. Finally the lightning was almost on top of us and I pulled the three Border Collies into the Inn. It was a miserable evening for man or beast but I knew the next day we’d only be left with clear skies, cold temperatures and best of all, no snow and clear roads. Did I say only?
Does anyone know what kind of frog or toad or whatever makes this noise? It is a signature sound at this particular La Quinta Inn in Covington, well worth stopping and checking out if you are in that area. I picture little children sitting in tiny chairs with sticks playing their first musical performance. It is hard to stop listening to the concert and go inside.
The next day in the predawn hours, what people call o-dark-thirty, I opened the hotel door and was blasted with cold and heavy winds. My mantra became, I can do this, I can do this. Fortunately at the show site there are several baseball fields surrounded by a concrete walkway, perfect for walking dogs. As I walked each Border Collie they made me forget the cold. They helped me forget that I had not brought along gloves, mittens, a scarf or even a wool hat. Tommie Girl ran to the end of her leash and actually bounded into the air, turned and grabbed the leash and pulled it, her tug toy. Yes, my dogs can play tug with the leash until commanded to “out”. It’s a stress reliever for them but in this case it was a call of joy, to be outside on a beautiful day, in the whipping wind and crisp air. Trust your dog to know the good moments in life. They will always guide you. After Tommie, I walked the other two dogs one at a time and each was as thrilled as the first, pulling, twirling, tugging. They slept quietly in their crates afterwards until their show time.
Leave it to me, the Rodney Dangerfield of the travel world, to come back to a problem at the hotel. Oh, I needed room service in the form of cleanup? Oops, the staff didn’t get to it. Bummer. The outlet and hairdryer in the room didn’t work? Bummer. As the world outside the hotel door got colder and colder it was hard to see the positives. But the dogs slept well and the next morning we loaded up for another try on what seemed like the Frozen movie screen set. There was more dog walking, more good moments, bad moments in the show ring, titles and ribbons and more shivering. The Breaking News app on my iPad showed messages of the winter storm hitting north of us. The wind and cold in Folsom were uncomfortable but not threatening our lives or homes. I did however, worry about my friends in the snow zone up north.
There are always lessons to be learned at dog shows. Dog training is fun for me. Dog shows are not as much fun until the moment I step foot into the ring. Then it’s like a sugar high and I’ve got to do this again and again, can’t stop, weeeee. It came to me that at some point in life as well as dog training that there has to be a test. We are all the best at what we do, or we think we are the best. We compare ourselves to others and practically break our arms patting ourselves on the back. But until you are tested in some way, you don’t know if you are the most courageous, smartest, most kind, beautiful, artist, dog trainer, mother, teacher, etc. until there is that moment where life tests you in some way. You don’t necessarily have to prove your worth to the world but you have to prove it to yourself. The world will beat a path to your door, believe me, and critique you. But it’s nice to know that you stood up and faced the challenge. Or you at least realized that, indeed, you are lacking in some areas, which in the case of dog training happens over and over.
My back was tight from three days of shivering so I decided since my dogs had done a pretty good job, all things considered like me losing my balance in one show ring, that the dogs and I would go home early. The van heater was on full blast. But first I had to make a stop at a wine warehouse in Folsom for some good stuff to celebrate the new titles. Then stop for gas in Biloxi, Mississippi at the low, low price of $1.44/gallon, where I shivered (forty degrees, not counting the wind chill) while the tank took forever to fill. But a few hours later the dogs were happy to be home and free to run in the back yard. Ribbons mean nothing to them. They were happy to enjoy the adventure and help me learn more life lessons.
Time to celebrate and stop shivering.
Tommie: new Companion Dog title
Bodie: puppy extraordinaire, first hotel, first training show, lost his last baby teeth