I was thinking the other day - I forget about what, exactly - but within that train of thought I figured out how long Tessa and I have been competing in live events together.
It doesn't seem possible.
On Sunday at the competition, I was eagerly anticipating going into the ring with her. I knew that she knew her moves, and could give a solid performance.
That makes me think back to that day, back at the very end of December, when we were driving to our fist live competition - the New Year's NADAC trial. It was only six months ago, but it feels like about two years ago! I remember being so nervous, wondering if I was moving this along too fast. Wondering if she was going to be able to handle the environment, if she was going to be able to function.
I was downright shocked at how well she did, and how comfortable she was!
And how I felt on our way to our first Freestyle competition, again, not knowing if she was really ready, although by then I knew that she would most likely do fine in the environment.
And she did her best and then some!
The thing that rattled me so much was the feeling that I really didn't know what to expect from her in a competition setting. Speedy and I started trialing in 2005, and I know what to expect from him in the ring - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the stunning! I pretty much know what to expect from Dean - brilliance or brain freeze!! And Maddie was like an old shoe. As long as she was in the mood to run, I knew I could depend on her to be solid and consistent. And if she wasn't, I knew that pretty much right up front!
Tessa was such an unknown.
The Agility was probably harder because I was missing Maddie every time Tessa and I trialed. It wasn't until this last one, right here at our home training facility, where Maddie and I had never trialed together, that she and I moved beyond that and finally found our chemistry as a team.
Freestyle has been easier because Speedy is still with me, and dancing. Rally, too, because Dean is still at it.
I am getting to the point where I know what to expect from Tessa. Not every detail - of course, that is always a surprise. But I know she is going to be attentive. I know she is going to try her hardest to do what I ask. I know she just may be a little creative!! I know that tail will be waggling! I know that if something spooks her, she can recover. And I know that if a mistake is made, it is probably my mistake!!
And, when I think about it, the fact that this has happened in six months is extraordinary. And I'm not tooting my own horn here - I'm tooting Tessa's!! I'm the same handler who slams into brick walls with Dean on a regular basis. Tessa can do things after less than two years of training that Dean can't do after almost six! And I don't say that to put Dean down - a lot of his difficulty stems from an anxiety disorder that neither of us chose. Dean and I make the best of it, and I am very, very proud of him.
But it does make me appreciate Tessa.
If she doesn't go into the higher levels and succeed, it will only be because I didn't do the work. I don't know if I'm equal to that challenge, but we're going to try!! I guess if Tessa can survive life on her own for 3+ months, learn to trust again, learn to find joy in life again, and, after all that, put her heart and soul into learning, performing, and running, I can acquire some discipline and do the training!!
I couldn't ask for a better training partner!