Patrick started today by saying that if he had to sum up what makes a great handler in one word it would be 'Observant'.
I was hoping that he'd said 'A Servant' and I thought, not for the first time, of adopting a child with both viable organs and an affinity for dogs….but that's twice as many words and if I had to chose between a spare liver and a decent run at some future trial…well, it's a child, not a choice. Way too much trouble for a small check and a figurine, or whatever; I'd take the liver.
Patrick described a great handler as someone who notices all the details and makes adjustments to his
run accordingly – little things like the movement of a sheep's ears
indicating a potential future effect and correcting for it.
"Be offensive, not defensive."
It's never been suggested that I should be wanting in the offensive area. AND I am observant, though its usually that the details are absorbed and I don't reflect on them until later. Sometimes much later. This isn't helpful on the field or with dogs in general. Or my life. I wish I had a servant to keep track of these things and to secrete bile. Pass me little notes….
The other thing Patrick said today, and has said before, and I know I've written about it because it is really what I love about this stockdog work more than anything else— is that "training" your dog is really not about teaching your dog the technical details of what moves livestock so much as communication — between you and your dog. Your dog was born knowing most of what is required. You need to learn how to communicate with your dog.
I'm not a good communicator in any traditional sense. Some people who have met me recently really seem to be surprised by this…but trust me. I am not. It's actually almost clinical how shy and introverted I have been and can be. I'm not at ease around most people. Most people I will just avoid. Socially I really *fuck up* a lot. The people I seem to communicate with are not your Dale Carnegie graduates. It makes sense to me that, just as I can't (or won't) communicate with many people effectively, its likely that for all of us some dogs will be easier to achieve a good relationship with than others, and very few, if any, will be truly great. One person's great dog might be another person's furtive little beast.
Pat and I had a good day. We really need to work on our 'aim' … He listens though, and is easy to correct. It only takes once with him because he doesn't like to be wrong. Which is perfect because I JUST DON'T HAVE IT IN ME TO BE ANGRY OR TO SCREAM. Not unless someone makes me watch back to back Battlestar Galatica because 'it's a great show' or I'm on fire.
I love Pat. He's a sweet dog with a huge heart. He's overly sensitive and old and Humps like someone you'd find skulking around the oversized book section of the public library with his fly unzipped.
Patrick and Dianne exchange looks when I ask if they might breed him so I can have a puppy.
"Tell Patrick how you've taught him to use the doggy door!" Dianne prompts, giving Patrick a look.
"And how you took him into the bathroom with you while you took a bath so he wouldn't have to go back in his crate!"
(Pat can't be trusted to run free in the house and I didn't want him to have to go back in his crate, after he'd just spent a few hours in it already. He was confused and fascinated by a tub of water. It was pretty funny, actually. Uhhhh…fuck you. I mean that in the nicest way possible.)
Pat learned to use the stairs in GL so I wouldn't have to go in the basement alone. He's laying on my feet right now, his big fat flat paws crossed. He goes home tomorrow, after the clinic. I will miss him. I want a dog just like him someday.
So neither of us knows our flanks under pressure. I think we could figure it out well enough. Until the child comes.