Running away into my heart

At first, I wasn't worried. Daisy had never run away before. I trusted her. and she had been loose up on the farmland before. But, after calling and walking the land, and looking out past our land to unplowed neighbors' fields I really could not see my little yellow lab, and the feeling hit me straight in my chest. Daisy was gone. I had called and searched for over an hour and a half. All the bad thoughts that I never give a voice to flooded over me - how will I find her? will the coyotes get her? How many miles will she wander - my little lab with the pink collar...

I put the other dogs in my van and left the spot where she'd been lost, and reluctantly drove to the nearest farm. The farmers were getting ready to get in the tractor - "no, they hadn't seen her - but she will show up!" I wasn't sure, but drove back to the spot north of the slough where she'd run away. Off to the right, 30 yards or so, I saw the butt end of a yellow lab entering the neighbor's CRP field. Another 3 seconds and I would have missed her. An act of God! Oh, we were mighty glad to be together...

And I saw her for the first time. It's funny, my younger obedience dogs seem to be in the shadow of an older obedience show dog - it wasn't until Chip was 3 that all of a sudden I turned around and noticed him. The older dog had taken my energy. Nellie, another OTCH dog, was 3 when I started showing her - again with an older dog by her side - this time Chip. I have trained Daisy, now 3, to the Open level of Obedience - but, now that time seems to have flown by, and I ask, "Did I even know her?" 

I think that a lot of successful dog training is honesty between you and your pet. An honest day of reckoning - here is where you are, here is where I am - how are we going to do this? Together. To learn the go-backs, scent articles, hand signals. I know I am not perfect with my dogs. Sometimes I lose my temper - which each dog interprets differently. The border collie just narrows his eyes and looks at me - the little Daisy lab gets stubborn and scared at the same time. And I think, for me, that is where honesty comes in. They see me at my raw self. And sometimes I say to them "I am not perfect but, neither are you - so let's try to figure this out together." Yes, I have apologized to my dogs verbally, and I try to mellow my approach. I would a thousand times have a connection with my dog, especially gotten while learning a new exercise or even perfecting one - based on honest trials and effort rather than glossing things over with treats. I really feel a connection with my pet when we struggle and come through and it feels like just an honest bond with me. I do use snacks to reward and have fun - but I try so hard to get to know my dogs and the basics of what makes them tick and how we can become a team and be successful. 

And that is another part of honesty. It is almost a high - to be in a run-off or to place in Open B. And, to be honest, with Daisy I was putting the cart ahead of the horse, because she had done so well in Novice, I assumed the good times could roll over into Open B...Maybe they will - when we really become a team. But seeing her, after I thought I'd lost her - it was like I saw her for the first time and she me.