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February 8, 2014: Horse and Dog-Related Insights

Mr. Siggi sent Ryder our way for some very specific reasons. I’ve become increasingly more convinced of this as time’s gone on. Of course, Ryder is not Mr. Siggi reincarnated. Otherwise, Ryder would be like Siggi, and she is not. She’s her own dog. Also, Ryder took a more earthly form long before Mr. Siggi’s death.

Mr. Siggi knew that I had many shortcomings, and so he sent Ryder my way in order that she might assist me in addressing some of these. He also knew that it would easier for me to learn what he thought I ought to know by my working with a dog instead of with a horse. (His rationale was that as far as it goes with me and horses, it would be the same old same old.) Those who know me well will raise their brows when they read the above insights, because I until recently I have come across as what I’ve always been – a down to earth person who (at least until recently)

has been dubious about the concept of animal intent. Dogs have always been dogs, horses have always been horses, goats have always been goats, and chickens have always been chickens. Woof, neigh, baah, cluck cluck. I now believe that all the animals here, past and present, are spirit guides – and as such their life’s work in part centers around bringing out the best in me. This is no easy task, for in some respects I am damaged goods.

Right now Ryder is my main teacher. This summer, when the weather’s better, others will step to the forefront. In thinking of this, Hrimmi comes to mind. I’m going to be teaching her to be a scent horse, and to do agility work. I’m not sure yet what I’m to learn from her.

The past few days have been extremely revelatory. It began with the court case. This took place over three afternoons. Animal Control Officer Darla Erskine and Victoria and I testified on Wednesday. And the horse owner testified on Thursday.

I did not, when I testified, say anything negative about defendant. Rather, I exclusively focused on what constitutes good horse care, and I made note of what I saw (in this particular instance) to see as a lack of it. The same held true for Darla and Victoria. The horse owner was more wide-ranging in comments, and essentially said some things about me and about the situation that are untrue. It was (for me) hard to take for my character took a beating. I had to restrain myself from jumping up and saying things like “I did not speak ill of you on my Facebook account because I don’t have a Facebook account!”

By the time I left the courtroom my head hurt. Unfortunately, I had no time to put what had been said into a perspective that I might live with because I had to go directly to dog obedience class. I was of course very upset, and I know Ryder knew this. I recently read an article about human stress being contagious. Well, human-animal stress is equally contagious. And if you, like I, own an extremely sensitive border collie, well then you and your dog are shit out of luck.

Class went badly for us both, as Claudia finally said “Ryder and you are not connecting this evening!” Huh. It was just a bad situation all the way around. I finally had to have her do the exercises with Ryder that I might normally do.

The following day, Friday, Darla was to present the final testimony. I garnered support for her and for me by requesting that a representative of Alaska Equine Rescue and my friend Vickie Talbot attend this portion of the hearing. They did not disappoint.

Judge Wolfe didn’t allow Darla to testify. Rather, he cut to the chase in a way that only a judge can do. He noted that there were five citations, then after summarizing what each one was, provided a verdict. Essentially, she was found guilty of four of five offenses. She said after that she’d appeal. So that was where we stood after three days of testimony. I was okay with this, although I wish that instead of being fined, that she was instead required to do public service.

Today, Saturday, began with agility. This time, I felt clear headed going into class. And once I was in the classroom, I decided to put all of little consequence out of mind and focus on the task at hand. Collectively, the course participants set up the obstacles. Then we got to work. The first obstacle was the tunnel. The handler sends the dog to the opening. The dog then enters. The handler then, in a very excited voice yells, go! Go! Go! The dog emerges from the other end, and is given a treat on the target. Ryder did well with this, going into the tunnel each and every time, and emerging from the other end. She was not fast, but then again she was not slow. I pictured her moving at a fast trot.

Ryder did equally well when we worked on the dog walk, the table/teeter totter/ and weave poles. However, the high point came after we’d worked for a bit on the hoop/jump sequence. Claudia, after seeing that the six or so of use were doing just fine, said that we were to go through the hoop and then have the unleashed dog come to us rather than go over the jump. Ryder did as told, coming directly to me after going over the hoop. I of course praised be to dog. This (in the great scope of things) may seem immaterial, but actually was very material. I have been working with Ryder on the come command in a variety of situations, including log daily walks. Furthermore, I’ve been setting her up for success, by calling her when I know she’ll come. Quite often, this has been on the tails with the other dogs.

I had my doubts about today, but fortunately, all our training came to the forefront of her consciousness. It was not coincidental. With this obstacle, as well as with the other obstacles, I was focused, attentive, calm. My attitude became “Well, we most certainly can do this!” Having a positive attitude was the most important thing of all. And I conveyed this to Ryder, who like all the other animals here, can read me like a book.

Later in the morning, we went to herding class. I let Pete work with Ryder because this would reduce the likelihood that Ryder would be waylaid by inconsistent commands. At the same time, Pete didn’t get to work with Ryder in agility class. Neither dog nor handler disappointed. Ryder understood what Pete was asking her to do, and how she was to go about doing it. For example, she needed to put herself behind the sheep rather than at their head, which is what she did.

To conclude – on Thursday, the second day of court testimony – Pete got a package in the mail. Unbeknownst to him I’d had our mutual friend, Fran Bundtzen, paint a portrait of Mr. Siggi on a wood plate. This plate (right now) is in the kitchen, on the counter adjacent to our table. It was no coincidence that this plate arrived on a day of duress. Well, when I now look at it, I’m reminded that although Mr. Siggi isn’t here in an earthly form, he’s still here in another form. And it’s in this other form that he’s elected to teach me some major life lessons, the above-mentioned one included. For this, I am incredibly grateful.

Next: 40. 2/9/14: Dog Training: My Training Continues