Monday, March 22, 2010

Training in the singular form.

The dog box sits in the back of the truck, empty and unused, a two-hole reminder that I now live in a one-hole world. So I unload it and set it out by the formerly plural kennels that are now singular in form.

I drive down to the farm supply store and buy a plastic kennel small enough to fit in the back of the wife's old Subaru. No sense wasting the gas driving the truck when I can fit everything in the Forester. I load up a bucket of bumpers, tell Tess "kennel" and she hops in the front seat. Sorry, Tess. Dog hair and slobber in my truck is part of its character. Dog hair and slobber in a car my wife still sometimes drives is grounds for an argument.

She hops out of the seat and into the plastic crate with a sigh. I close the hatch and we're off on what is ostensibly the first training session of the year but what is, in reality, a trial run for the future. I've put it off long enough. I have no plan, no blueprint for training objectives I want to achieve, no goals other than to throw a few bumpers, watch the dog work and get through it without dwelling, without crying, without feeling lost.

I drive to the local soccer fields. They are, thankfully, empty. Just me, a few overturned soccer goals, the wind and a few early robins probing for worms. I take the bucket of bumpers and slowly set up a double T. It's all stuff Tess knows and what I should be working on are long marks and blinds, steadiness to shot, but I just don't have the energy to do it.

I unload Tess, line her on the T and send her. On the sit whistle she loops around in a slow lazy arc that puts her a good five feet to the right of the line. Should be working on fixing that. When I give her a left "over" to the pile she ignores me and bolts straight to the right pile. Another sit whistle, another slow, looping arc. Another left "over" and this time she goes to the left pile, picks up a bumper and comes to heel.

It's rough. There are a half-dozen things I should be doing, and I'm doing none of them correctly. I take the bumper from her mouth. She looks up at me. She's hardly been out of the yard since Lewey died.

Screw it. That's enough training for today. Let's go for a walk and a swim. We've got all spring and summer to work out training issues. I throw her a happy bumper and she prances around with it as I pick up the others. It's a start.   


  1. Thanks for the update, Chad. The first steps are the roughest, I think.

    A friend of mine has a 7-year-old Brittany, still in her prime, whose kidneys have suddenly been failing the past couple days. I'm still holding out hope, but it's not looking good. I can hear the heartbreak in his voice.