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Author’s Note: All the lyrics in italics belong to Taylor Swift, not me 🙂 Enjoy the fluff!

 

Joy. Unbridled joy. The kind of happiness that is not bound by the sins of the past. Unbridled – it means free. That’s what this happiness was – pure, innocent, freedom. The butterflies shot up in my stomach, my face flushed. I hadn’t felt such purity since I’d been on Jules’ back, uninhibited, unvexed, completely in tune with myself, with nature, but most importantly, with Shelby.

In this moment, everything seemed to matter. The landscape, the hill in the back, the barn to the right, the driving pen behind us, the sheep in front of us, Joe and Carolyn in her golf cart, the endless, abounding hills to our left. The pasture smelled like laundry left in the wash too long – wet sheep. And hay and dirt and scorched earth. It smelled like fresh manure, not horse (I knew that, Shelby most likely didn’t). My palms were dry, my face was flushed. I was nervous, anxious, excited. Two fingers sweat out my last moisture around the clicker in my right hand. I could smell the odor of liver treats wafting from my left pocket, Shelby’s favorite. I rubbed my fingers together over the clicker, smooth, cool plastic on top of sweat.

I watched as Shelby moved – graceful, beautiful, yet struggling with the weight of the line, eager to get to me. This was the picture of a dog who loves you, eager to follow in a strange place, even with all the distractions. She picked up a piece of sheep fuzz, tangled in a briar and trotted after me. I wondered if she thought it was one of her de-stuffed toys and was anxious to show me her winnings.

Still a puppy, in so many ways, but a puppy that loves me, above all things, ready to follow me to the ends of the earth.

I smiled. This is my baby. This is why I have trained her so arduously. And she was about to prove herself.

I said remember this moment, in the back of my mind

The time we stood with our shaking hands

 

Shelby fled the pen, then returned, emboldened, sniffed, “Good!” Carolyn shouted.

The crowds in the stands went wild

 

It mattered that Shelby was doing what she was bred to do, that this moment was happening at all. It mattered that she was an American German Shepherd, that her back was straight, that she stood with her head tall. It mattered that she did well, that she followed me, that she grabbed the straggling sheep and brought them back. It mattered that she had a choice to herd, and that she was choosing to do it, to overcome whatever fear she might have initially had. It mattered that people were clapping for her, that Joe was beaming, that I was laughing.

That certificate in my hand, the one with our names on it, it mattered too. She could have failed, but she didn’t.

We were the Kings and the Queens
And they read off our names

 

The moment changed my perception of my dog. Suddenly, she wasn’t so much of a puppy anymore. She transformed in front of my eyes, and I could see the dog she would one day become. She was more confident, surer of herself, more focused. Everything seemed to be more somehow, as if the whole world was changing right in front of us. We weren’t puppy and mom anymore, we were a team, taking on this new challenge together. She checked in with me constantly as I watched her watching the sheep, but she didn’t need the kind of direction she seemed to need in obedience class. She just needed the extra confidence that was pouring off of me. Every step she took became stronger, and I became more proud as I watched my puppy grow up in front of my eyes, tail held like a banner, head high, sun glinting off her tan back. She was breathtaking.

The night you danced like you knew our lives
Would never be the same
You held your head like a hero
On a history book page
It was the end of a decade
But the start of an age

 

It mattered too that she was the first Omorrow dog to be in this place, in this moment. It mattered that she was younger than many dogs, and doing better. It mattered that Carolyn said we could go places, and that she was a natural. It mattered that my puppy was a working dog, like I’d said all along. It mattered that we were doing something, and that she loved it.

Long live the walls we crashed through
All the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
I was screaming long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
One day, we will be remembered

 

I thought back to the nine week old puppy chasing the RC car, and how it seemed then that she would want to be here someday. Even with my untrained eye, I knew what she wanted to do with her life. I wondered if she appreciated having a family that listened to her when she spoke with her body. I knew it was too complex of a thought for a dog to have, because she didn’t know any other family than the one she had, but I couldn’t help but think that somehow, she knew, and she was grateful.

I said remember this feeling
I passed the pictures around
Of all the years that we stood there
On the side-lines wishing for right now
We are the Kings and the Queens
You traded your baseball cap for a crown

 

“You should be proud.” Carolyn handed me our certificate, and I smiled and looked down at Shelby, “I am.”

When they gave us our trophies
And we held them up for our town

 

It mattered most of all that we were doing this positively, even though we were told it couldn’t be done. It mattered that we were breaking ground, and I knew we were going to be driving the cynics and the doubters insane with our success. It mattered that all the training had come to mean something more than parlor tricks. It mattered that I hadn’t fallen back on aversives just because I wanted Shelby to herd, and all the herders told me that it couldn’t be taught without them. It mattered that I never had to hit my dog to get her to do something this wonderful. It mattered that when Shelby gathered up the sheep, that when she stopped and stared Freddie down, that when she came to me after the test was over, I never had to think about guilt, or the cruel things I had to do to get her where she is. It matters that I will never have to think about that, and that Shelby’s success will be all her joy, instead of all her fear.

And the cynics were outraged
Screaming “this is absurd”
Cause for a moment a band of thieves
In ripped up jeans got to rule the world
Long live the walls we crashed through
All the kingdom lights shined just for me and you

 

Two days later, and I’m still on a high. I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it. In some ways, Shelby is still my puppy, but in many ways, I look at her differently now. We both gained confidence, in ourselves, and each other.
I was screaming long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
I’m not afraid

 

She’s my champion.

Long live all the mountains we moved
I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you
I was screaming long live that look on your face
And bring on all the pretenders

 

And we’re just getting started.

One day, we will be remembered

 

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