As Tessa and I close in on our C-ATCH, of course I am very reflective. I think quite a lot about what Tessa was like when she first came to live at our house as a foster. I think about starting Agility training with her and how she struggled with those tunnels! I think about our early days of trialing and how it took work for us to become a real team at the same time that I was mourning Maddie's loss. I think about silly Tessa doing puppy bows on the course and jumping over tunnels! I remember certain trials that stand out in my mind - eating salad in the car with Tessa at a Friday night trial at Bella Vista while watching the skiers on the mountain up above, Tessa and Dean hopping through the long grass down the hill to the pond together at Periland, the bittersweet experience of our first time at Barto this past fall. And, of course, running and running and running and running and running together!
I love that Tessa and I are accomplishing this together. There is such a sense of satisfaction, even now when we are not quite finished.
The thing that strikes me the most, though, is the bond that Tessa and I have forged through it all. When we are together, whether we are sitting around on the sofa or playing Agility or hiking in the woods or riding in the car, there is such a sense of closeness and mutual appreciation between us.
Tessa really is my heart-girl.
It struck me a few days ago that there is something very special that develops with a dog with whom I have put in years and years of dedicated work.
Speedy and I had something like this, although for him it was centered much more on the ability that he developed to interface with the world with confidence and comfort than it was on any sport.
This is a very good thing for me to realize as I just start to get started with Bandit.
Last night at Rally class, I realized for the first time that he and I are becoming a team. And we are our own team. We are not the team of Kristine and Speedy, nor of Kristine and Tessa. Bandit and I are ourselves and we have our own journey to take together. And there will be bumps in the road, but if we work and work and work and work, and then work a little bit harder, we will go places I can only imagine right now!
If I stop to think about it, I can remember Tessa in her earliest days with me. I can see her, in my mind, trying to hide on the furniture, averting her eyes away any time I looked at her. I remember how she would panic if I tried to touch her collar, and how she would run out of the room if I held a treat over her head. I remember when she could not deal with anyone being behind her where she could not keep eyes on them. I remember rejoicing the first time I saw her run across the yard, chasing Dean as he ran. I remember when she actually put just her head inside a portable crate to snatch up a treat that I had tossed in there.
I remember sitting down on the sofa next to her after I got official word that we had been approved to adopt her, and I told her that her name was "Tessa" now and that she would always be mine. I promised her that I would open doors for her, but that I would never push her through.
If you had told me then that she would run happily through so many of those doors and that we would ever be where we would be now, I don't think I would have quite dared to hope to believe it!
This is something that I need to remember always. The fruit yielded by the work done with these dogs is always far beyond anything that I could ever hope or expect back at the beginning.