Don't ever underestimate the effect that losing a dog can have. I have found that every time I think I have accepted Speedy's loss and am moving forward, I was completely wrong!
Last night I felt very bad about the fact that I was leaving Bandit in his crate while I took Tessa and Dean to Rally FrEe class, so I took him along, planning to leave him in the crate in the car. Yes, it was crate vs. crate, but at least if he went with us he would not have been alone for the same amount of time.
When we got to the school, he started to scream and he sat in the crate and screamed. I couldn't leave him out there screaming and I really didn't want to try having him inside while I worked Dean and Tessa, so we all went home.
It was not a good moment for me. I was very disappointed in myself because Bandit is an excellent dog and I have not done right by him with his training. When I think back to the commitment that I had to Dean's early training, the lack of training I have provided Bandit is shameful.
I quickly came to a decision to start working with him 3 - 4 times a week on basic skills and impulse control. When we got home, I put Dean and Tessa into rooms with the Kongs they would have had at class, and Bandit and I got to work.
We started with sit at the door. I am not a big stickler for a sit at the door, but it is a relatively easy impulse control skill to train and it is a skill that I like my dogs to have for the rare instances where it is necessary.
Bandit did well with the exercise, and his eyes were lit up with interest and fun. He is certainly a willing training partner!!
Next we went to the fireplace room and I let him play a bit on a wobbly board - this isn't all impulse control skills!! Then we did spins and twirls, position work, and finally some leg weaves with a target stick. He enjoyed every minute of all of it!
Then he got put up in a room while Dean and Tessa each got a turn to train.
So, a good time was had by all and we started to make some progress toward Bandit being the dog he can be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bandit - he has a phenomenal temperament, he has excellent self control when he sees fit to exercise it, and he is super smart. If he has few manners right now it is because I have not trained them.
That is changing.
Of course, I kick myself for not doing this sooner.
But I also have to recognize that there is a reason why I did not.
I simply did not have the heart to do much training with him.
I guess when it came to training, Speedy took a lot of the heart that I had for it with him. He was the first dog I trained. He was the one I experienced the magic with as I discovered this amazing discipline. He was the one who transformed from fearful, reactive, and out of control, into a fantastic citizen of the world who met every experience as an adventure. That was an amazing ride. And one I guess I want to replicate . . . in a way, but would never really want to try to re-live.
I had very little desire to work with Bandit. What I did do with him seemed tedious, cumbersome, and there was no . . . spark . . . to it, if that makes any sense!
But something has changed. Something changed before my epiphany last night.
The change happened because of the Freestyle competition. Somehow creating that routine for Tessa was a breakthrough. In some way that I cannot explain coming up with that (which almost happened in spite of me) and then performing it, and that performance being successful changed something.
I got something back. I don't know what it is exactly. But since that competition I don't miss Speedy in quite the same way. I don't feel stuck anymore. I feel like we can all move forward - Dean, Tessa, Bandit, and me.
I didn't realize that grief was holding me back as much as it was, but now that something has changed, it is clear.
I can honestly say that when I worked with Bandit last night (and with Dean and Tessa), I enjoyed training for the first time since losing Speedy last January. There was a connection there with each dog.
Now we can do this. Now Bandit can learn his manners! Now Dean can get back into condition to perform routines for the Challenge. Now Tessa and I can get on with her training.
Something is different, and it is very, very good! We can go forward from here . . .