It’s Coming

It snuck up on me. I had shoved my hopes and impatience so far down that I actually hadn’t recognized it for what it was.

It rained into the mid-afternoon, poured, deluged really to that point where you crank the wipers so high you worry they will fly off out of control. The rain eventually let up, to the joys of those preparing for the party, and the sun shone through while everyone was busy fussing and primping. This wedding would have sun shine, big clouds, and a strong breeze keeping the humidity at bay and the water on the lake softly rolling. My suit, the corona in my hand, and distraction of good company belied the underlying importance of the earlier storm and the reprieve it brought from the typical August hot & humid.

Bleary eyed and obligingly I woke to her soft whine. The old shorthair, still holding on despite the departure of her hearing and a few teeth, needed an early morning bathroom break. Standing there in the orange wash of the garage flood light with a liver pendulum in my hand I felt it. My fresh buzz cut heightened the sensation as the cool air put a grip around the back of my neck and a near shiver ran down my spine despite the long sleeve T I wore. Still hazy, I half recognized it & half brushed it off.

The old girl must have sounded the alarm to her comrades, I returned to a bedroom very awake save my Wife. Stepping out for their morning routine, a bit earlier than normal for a post-wedding Sunday morning, I found myself thinking of standing at the tailgate feeling that same chill and knowing that 5 minutes of weaving in and out of high stem density will have me enveloped in warmth quickly. While it only dropped to 60 degrees, it felt like the mid-40s. Who knows what the weather holds for the next few weeks, but I’m taking comfort in knowing I weathered the sticky parts, most of them anyway, where a short run has the dog panting hard and my shirt drenched in sweat. The first cold front came through. And with it came the flood of excitements, anticipation, and the motivation to start the preparation. It’ll be here before we know it.

It’s coming.

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.

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.

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?

Rooster Dog

Her eyes grow wide, peering up at me from her half-cocked head, tense. Coiled spring. Front paws splayed out in front with hind legs quivering.

Ready to bolt.

She landed this way after attempting to jump on the bed, inadvertently landing on the queen bee of the pack, the 12 year old shorthair with personal space issues. A move that does not come without consequences.

So much for a few more minutes of faux-sleep. I’m out of bed now and here she is staring at me like a rattler on the verge.

I give her a nonchalant “let’s go”. Bad idea, the spring unloads.

Rocketing out the bedroom, legs spinning tires in a drag race struggling for traction, into the next, up and off the back of the couch, bouncing back to the floor and hurtling into the bedroom again, up on the bed, and now she’s fixed back into her tight coil. Barking at me to boot.

Good morning to you, too.