I don’t have time for that.

Too much lately… too, too much.

The dog is an asshole in the house. Tethered walks, no matter the distance, are no match for her unending gas tank. I’m tired… and simultaneously have a burning desire to spend some time with the wind and sun in my face and a dog zooming over uncovered ground.

It won’t happen any time soon, though. Nesting season looms and the endless suck of a paycheck will occupy my time until then. With any luck we’ll get out for a run after the group training day over the weekend, but that’s only mildly satisfying. Park at the same spot, run the dog over the same tired ground she’s run on several times a week each spring and summer. No mystery, no adventure. Same ol’ same ol’.

I’ve found myself lately really questioning what I take on, and what I don’t have time for anymore. I’m on the edge of getting to where I want… seems that way anyway. The slog to a lighter load is about 4 weeks away. Too far, but manageable.

I go to work, doing something I mildly enjoy, winding my gears just enough to not be mundane, something I’m mildly good at. Not great, but good enough. It’s anomaly in my generation to view work as a means to an end, or it feels that way.  Most don’t talk about anything but their new next best thing, how much they love it, and thinking about how they can show everyone on Instagram how awesome things are.

Maybe they are that awesome.

But if you gave me a choice between a sunny 25 degree morning with a slight breeze and a dog yawning in frustration at my side before release, or sitting in my office working on “the next best thing”… I’ll take the dog and the wandering, every time.

I’ll come back just long enough for the time and money to go back out again.

Enough.

Our last day ended with my brute of a wirehair curled up in the passenger seat, wrapped in my Woolrich licking a busted nail, worn raw at the quick, while I sat in the drivers seat, watching the sunset, and trying to come to terms with a season cut shorter than I’d like. Nine more months until we can do this again?

Over the last five years I developed a purposeful restlessness who’s worst enemy is sitting still. So I’ll spend the next month or 2 tying flies, writing, and hopefully running the dog in some productive cover, fully expecting the sideways glances as she casts by, “What gives, no gun?”

Maybe that’s one of the reasons we all love this so much. The nine months spent waiting, and dreaming, and preparing.

Some would say four months is plenty, perhaps most would. But for the handful of us who spend stolen minutes in the office plotting out new spots to check out and guarding our weekends as if we’re surrounded, figuring out creative ways to say no to the second cousins baby’s birthday and the wedding of a college buddy whom you haven’t spoken to in years, the end comes too soon. The fires still burning.

It burns in the dog, too. The crusted snow may have gotten the best of her today, but if given the option of a tomorrow before the gun her answer would be abundantly clear. And so it goes. We’ll rest up, heal up, and spend time mimicking the real thing for the next nine months while we work diligently to lower the flame to a manageable level.

She’s sprawled out on the couch now and is running in her sleep, and I choose to think she’s running toward the blaze of autumn, full out, poised for her best season yet.

Patience, I remind myself. Soon enough.

 

 

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.

Stagnant

If pressed, I would argue that the next 6 weeks are the absolute worst in the 52 week calendar for the American bird hunter/dog person.

Heat, humidity, and time form the trifecta of terrible.

Heat and humidity make simple and enjoyable tasks just downright annoying, and the already annoying ones that much worse. It introduces an otherwise unacknowledged variable into anything done with the dogs. Ruining my happy places… not cool, madame weather.

And time… This is the crux of it for me. Already annoyed, the season opener is not close enough for excitement and not far enough away to put it at the back of my mind and pretend to forget it. I can see the finish line off in the distance, but looking at the road ahead there are still a few heat hazed hills to climb.

September will be here soon, the finish line for the race to October one downhill slope away.

But for now, pardon my irritability as I begrudgingly continue the sweaty slog towards fall. What else am I supposed to do?

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.