A common saying in retirement is, “Where did the time go?” It seems like only yesterday that I was full of hope for new titles on my young dogs. Now it’s almost 365 days later and we’ve done so much.
My life has been full maintaining two acres and a house still full of my parent’s possessions, plus finding time to train my dogs. I’ve come to the realization that no one person can do everything to perfection; something has to suffer as each day is only twenty-four hours long. In the end this year I chose to concentrate on showing and training my three Border Collies. One does not make memories while mowing the lawn or doing house cleaning. Those are mundane chores. The dogs are living, breathing beings that make my life whole and give me a purpose in life.
Quite possibly Bodie and Razz and I have gone into the obedience and rally ring at least thirty-five times this year. I’ve traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, Orlando, Florida, Tallahassee, Florida, Perry, Georgia, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Grey, Tennessee, Decatur, Alabama, Folsom, Louisiana as well as shows here in Pensacola, Florida. I’ve stayed at four star hotels as well as places I called Felony Flats. I’ve witnessed numerous highway accidents, had a minor vehicle breakdown and recently was directed off an Interstate highway to parts unknown due to an eighteen wheeler hanging off the edge of a bridge and a car fire that closed the main road.
I’ve discovered the beautiful state of Tennessee and driven along the NE side of the state, through the fog covered, green mountains during the early morning dawn. I’ve discovered yarn shops and bead shops and places that I’d like to visit someday without the dogs. Most of all I’ve discovered that getting “there” is NOT half the fun. If I could have entered thirty-five shows five minutes from my home I’d have gladly done that. Alas, in the southeast, shows are few and far between and travel is necessary.
My blond Border Collie, Bodie, finally earned his first High in Trial ribbon in March in Orlando, Florida and his second HIT ribbon in November in Decatur, Alabama. He earned both his Preferred and regular Open obedience titles and his Intermediate, Advanced and Excellent Rally titles, his Graduate Novice title and two legs on his Graduate Open and Versatility titles. Finally in the late fall there was no were to go but up…to his Utility titles. I use the new Preferred classes to proof my dogs before entering them in the regular classes. Bodie found fifty ways to flunk the Preferred UD exercises until finally at the last two shows he earned his first two legs. Each time the judge said we had qualified I threw my hands up into the air. SCORE!!
Little brown and white Razzie either gave her best effort in her classes or gave me the paw. There is no in between with that dog. It’s all or nothing. So in the end I gave her time off for bad behavior. She is getting ready for her Utility titles which she can perform in the privacy of my own training building but not at shows. We’ll get there. Meanwhile she fulfills the role of stable pony to Bodie, who I discovered does much better when he travels with her by his side. I’m glad I figured that out at one show in November where he was acting very depressed showing alone with me. The next show I loaded up the Stable Pony and Bodie was seemingly jubilant.
I do my best thinking on the way to and from dog shows, traveling along the major north or east or west interstates. I’ve driven with tears in my eyes from laughter (listening to the Comedy channel on Sirius Radio) or from depression. Competition is by definition not meant to be easy. There are winners and losers. Losers quit and never become winners. They become whiners. In the comfort of my van I cried a million tears. In the comfort of my van I resolved not to quit. What do multi-obedience champion titled competitors do when they run into problems, I wondered? The answer is that they ask questions, train, train, train and never give up. Is the problem a training issue, a normal “right of passage” that all (in my case) Utility dogs go through? Is the dog in pain, bored, confused?
Sometimes in order to fix problems you have to break them down into smaller pieces and retrain. Sometimes you have to get inside the dog’s head and make the exercise clear and fun.
I decided that dog training is a lot like knitting. It has been a frustrating year for me as I’m a novice knitter with no one next to me to fix my mistakes. But over time, as I continue to knit, make a mistake, rip out, start over and knit again, the process has become easier. I’ve found teachers who are patient and wise and experienced to help me. In knitting classes I am the dog, learning a foreign language. I am Bodie. Using that comparison I can understand how Bodie needs experience and repetition and confidence and clarity.
There are other revelations I’ve made on the road to and from dog shows, life changing decisions in one case. One cannot escape old age but I have not been happy with how much I have slumped into the role, becoming lethargic, exhausted and frumpy. It was time to take my health decisions away from my doctor and into my hands. I joined a new gym, hired a private coach and push myself to do both strength and cardio training. Florida is one of the lucky states where the public can order their own bloodwork and pay out of pocket, which I did. My white blood cell count and platelets are falling, which contributes to my exhaustion. My doctor says it’s genetic, which is correct, but how low do I have to go and how tired do I have to get before it’s a serious problem? This week I see a Hematologist.
My doctor has admonished me for complaining saying that I am lucky to have such good health, no heart trouble or cancer. But I’m a competitive, stubborn person and therefore want to feel the best or at least know why not. Seniors shouldn’t have to settle. We too deserve answers and deserve a voice. I may have a few days or a few decades left to live but I’m not going down without a fight.
My goals for 2019 are to Purge and Clean the house and property, remembering that less is more, and to earn the highest titles with my beautiful, smart Border Collies. I’d also add that I’d like to be able to do all the exercises that my gym coach, Bill, tells me to do but right now my body refuses to do. Someday I’ll do twenty push-ups, fifty seconds of The Plank and lift weights equally with both my left and right arms. Probably not this year though!