Nerves

It’s been simmering in my core for the last three weeks or so. That knot of apprehension, the growing seed of uncertainty, the lovechild of exciting possibility and dread. Every few hours, when I have a free moment from the distractions of real life and work, it boils up. Rising into my chest and shortening my breath until I re-focus on something else, telling myself that Saturday is too far away to be this bothered about it now.

——–

My start in dog training, and introduction to NAVHDA, began as the proud owner of a 10 week old puppy. The man who owned her sire called me up and said “We’re training tomorrow, I’ll pick you up at 5:30.”

I left that training experience in a sense of bewilderment… I remember thinking, “you’re telling me my dog can do ALL that? Seriously?”

And from there, the benchmark was set. They were training for the Invitational. And in my head I set a goal. I would run there one day, too.

———-

It’s silly really. It’s a Utility Test, not a life and death decision or event. She’s already run it once, and I know she can do a prize worthy version of the work. But can she show up and put forth a Prize 1 effort? Can she (we) qualify? How much do I put in or take away in that equation… So much uncertainty.

It’s too close now for the “too far away” excuse to work. Tomorrow. Bright and shiny and 90 degree high, tomorrow.

I’ve learned a lot in the three and half years since that first training experience. I grew, and so did the dog. She’s been great to me anywhere I’ve taken her, and she’ll continue to be, hopefully, for many more years to come.

I guess… At the end of the day tomorrow, does it really matter? Will she care about the new numbers next to her pedigree? High or low? Will she know we will, or won’t be going to Iowa next September?

Or will she be curled up on the front seat, enjoying the air conditioning, and dreaming about a cool breeze, golden leaves, and standing stock still, waiting for the sounds of the gun.

Perseverance.

Pushing forward, one foot in front of the other, through briars, over downed logs, and weaving through tomato stakes, the pull is easily felt. Chasing the rush like a junkie, one more point, one more thunderous flush, one more flash from the gun. Before you know it, darkness has fallen and so begins the trudge back to the truck.

It’s easy, really. We don’t even think about it. I know of no one who does the math on effort and funds exerted chasing birds. It’s not even a thought.

Lately, I find myself restless. I’m running a race and constantly wondering if the finish line is around the next corner or over the next hill. I try and focus on what’s in front of me, work no one else will do. Wondering where’s the pull? what’s pushing me forward?

I’d rather have the briars.

But it’s necessary. The bank account says so anyway. So I do it. Looking around the bend and over the hill. Fidgeting in my office chair waiting for the opportunity to get the next fix.

Daybreak

Lined on both sides by dark-windowed, quiescent dwellings he sips his coffee as the truck flows through the artery, extremity bound. He’s found a spot that isn’t phenomenal, but on the list of go-to’s it holds its own. The irrigation system long failed, the overgrown sod farm doesn’t look like much, and there’s a bigger tract just down the road where success is much more likely. The state increasing the odds once, sometimes twice, a week, but with those odds comes much more orange. A color he doesn’t mind, sometimes, his tolerance saved for when the guys are in town or they caravan westward.

Today the cab is quiet. The chatter from the news and the low rhythm of breathing from the kennel in the back seat barely audible over the whir of the tires. Going solo today.

Pushing the truck around the curves, his torso sways in the seat from the force. And the dog is up, she’s knows what’s coming.

Last corner now and he’s peering through the trees ahead. The headlights show no reflection, no sign of betrayal from the pull off.

He fidgets, takes another pull of coffee, and soothes the anxious dog as the sky starts to lighten. Almost girl, almost.

Close enough, he says and swings the door wide, pulls on his vest, and checks the front pocket for shells. He tops off the bottles from the jug in the bed, and unzips the case under the backseat. Light’s coming on fast as he depresses the latch on the kennel and he catches her before she can leap for freedom.

Collar on, barrels broken, rays of light starting to poke out from the east, he settles her down. This is the part he always looks forward to, the anticipation, the unadulterated start.

Hunt ‘um up.