October marked three years since Shine and I were first introduced to herding...
Three years, since we were introduced to the most humbling endeavor I have ever set out upon with any of my dogs. In that time, we have learned far more than I can write here in a single post...
I have been overwhelmed, humbled, exasperated, humbled, dumbfounded and did I mention humbled? While in the span of the same lesson, I have also felt accomplished, amused, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. As crazy as it may sound, that mix of emotion, with both the highs and the lows is what keeps bringing me back for more.
While my intentions with herding have always been quite simple, I never embraced the idea of Shine and I stepping to the post together in a trial. It just wasn't my intent. I was comfortable with the idea of Shine and I growing as a team, as we learned something completely new together. It suited us when we first began and I like to think that it still does.
In the summer of 2019, the smallest wisp of an idea was brought to my attention. The idea that Shine and I were reaching a point in our training where we were ready to trial. I'll be the first to admit I scoffed at that thought right from the get go. Not because I didn't believe in us, but because I didn't want to place any unnecessary pressure on my little dog.
Through the summer and into the fall we continued to travel to lessons and clinics but by February, herding was put on hold as Shine raised her first litter of puppies. That in itself was quite the experience, especially with COVID rearing its ugly head. By the time her puppies were ready to go to their new homes, the world around us was basically on hold. Yet ever-so-slowly we found a new norm, which just so happened to include herding.
As we resumed our lessons, that wisp of an idea about trialing was once again brought to my attention. For a while, I was able to brush it off, as herding trials were also put on hold. That was until August, when a trial just happened to take shape in Wisconsin. While I felt less than ready, I did find myself dropping our first novice entries in the mail.
I'm sure some would say I ended up waking up far too early, to drive far too far, for those first two walks to the post. I'll be the first to admit, our runs weren't what I would call pretty, but we ended each much better than we started and the second was greatly improved upon the first. So in the end, to me it was worth it.
As summer moved on, more trials started back up again and from August to November, Shine and I were able to walk to the post 11 times. With each and every run, I came away with lessons learned, more than my share of questions and most importantly a greater appreciation for Shine and her ability to put up with me as her handler.
In the end we scraped out six firsts, two seconds and two thirds. If I felt the desire to, I could continue running in the Novice class but for now, I feel like I got everything out of my Novice "season" that I had hoped to. Shine and I got some experience on new sheep, on new grounds and with different course set ups. For now that is enough, as we refocus back on lessons to chip away at skills such as driving and those pesky whistle commands.
As I mentioned before, my intention with herding was never to trial but now that we have had a taste of it, I hope we will be able to move forward enough to one day set our sights on Pro-Novice or even Open.
Note: A huge thank you to our friend Patti Sumner for the great photos!