As the day drew to a close, I felt recharged. I had successfully moved on, I was ready to face the new day.
I had the whole crew with me this past Sunday morning and I was ready to bring it.
Knight had the best opening speed at a trial so far for jumpers! Usually it takes him a few jumps to settle into his full run, not this time! He was kicking and nearly screaming to go as soon as I stepped into the ring.
He's really starting to feel at home out there, he's showing some sass and getting a little bossy. I absolutely love it!
He listened to me like a very good boy in standard, but I sent him right past a jump we were supposed to take. I could see a flicker of doubt pass over his eyes when he came bounding straight to me, completely ignoring the jump 10 inches away. All I had to do was shift my shoulders to the left a tiny smidge, or I could of given him a vocal cue and he would of taken it without hesitation. I did neither of these things, he did exactly what I asked and he finished that course like a boss. Bad bad Handler, but such a good little man!
Then my amazing Lilly-girl brought home QQ #5. I don't know exactly when it happened, but all of the sudden I know what dog I'm handling when I step out on the course. You know, that feeling where each time you step out on the course everything just clicks into place. You have this unshakable sense of confidence that your dog will be exactly where you tell her to be. You don't have to worry about them wandering off to say hello to people, she's always right there, exactly where she should be.
It is so wonderful. I made adjustments to my handling after my stupid mistake with Knight-man and Lilly ate up the course. It's been a long journey to get here, but it has been worth every single second. I'm so proud.
And then came Mia. With my other dogs running so well it was much easier to keep a positive attitude about our runs throughout the day. I allowed myself to be disappointed yesterday, today we were moving on. Our footing was a little shaky, but I have faith that we are on our way to finding some solid ground.
Mia was my first run of the day. As I knelt down next to the warm up jump to chat with Mia a fellow handler approached me. "I just wanted to let you know that I really loved watching your runs yesterday." I was lost for words, I might of mumbled a "thank you" in response, I'm quite certain my face reflected one of disbelief. She paused for a second, and then elaborated, "It was just so nice to see you keep things fun for her, you kept it positive the whole time. My daughter is having some similar problems with her dog in standard and you set a wonderful example for her."
That was just the encouragement I needed. As a trainer and a handler, I know I'm doing the right thing with Mia. When she runs she does not make mistakes, my enthusiasm does not waver, and she has consistently gained confidence by the end of our run. Even though I know I'm doing the best I possibly can for her, I still get that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that people are judging me because my dog is slow and stressed. I don't like that feeling. It makes me feel like I'm suddenly worth less in the eyes of my peers. Rationally I know that is a silly thought because who the hell cares what other people think? I am doing what is best for my dog so one day she will be able to shine her brightest. We aren't pretty now, but I know we will be.
Needless to say, I was so thrilled to hear that someone recognized what I was doing for Mia's problems and took the time to let me know it was awesome. That made my day. Right before our turn in the standard ring another handler whom I have never spoken to before came up and gave me a similar comment. "You are doing such a great job with her! You just keep on going if she makes mistakes and pretend that nothing went wrong. Lots of experienced handlers don't even do that!"
It was in that moment that I was so grateful for every single bad day I've ever had while trialing. Between Lilly and Knight I had a million tricks up my sleeve to get Mia up and happy. We still NQ'd our standard run, but we had a much stronger start that just kept getting faster and faster as the run went on. I walked out of the ring legitimately proud of all that we had accomplished that weekend. Sure, we still have a long way to go before she's breaking 5 yps again, but she was visibly happier and bouncing back from moments of doubt so much faster than she had been on Saturday morning.
We're not always the prettiest, but no one can doubt the amount of fun we're having out there. I'm so grateful for every day I get to spend with these spectacular dogs.