This message is coming to you from the Voyeur Capital of the Universe. Seventeen miles south of where I'm sitting the Jodi Arias murder trial -- 2013's opiate for the great unwashed worldwide -- drags on, now lurching into the penalty phase.
Meanwhile, I'm focused on my own transcendently more important trials: working with a sweet but wild young border collie, helping him become all that he can be.
Presto turned one year old a week ago. Barbara, my wife of 54 years, expressed surprise. "I didn't think he'd make it," she said, "I thought he'd kill himself first." But then, she's said that about each of our other border collies as well. First Bebop, more recently Bravo!
True, Presto! is a piece of work, particularly at home. He greets each new day by leaping onto the bed, giving half-awake Barbara a nice wet smacker right in the face. Then he's gone before the "off" in the admonishment, "Get off!!!" can escape her lips. Ah yes, my little guy and Barbara: it's quickly become one of the great love stories of our time. Don't listen to what she says about him, observe how she relates to him.
And don't you think for a moment that the little monster's training isn't coming along splendidly. Aided in no small measure by Barbara's occasional prescence. True, she's never trained a dog for competition obedience (although she and her little poodle Noche' did quite well in agility). And she showed Bebop in conformation, all the way to his becoming the very first border collie breed champion in Arizona.
While Barbara has neither trained nor shown a dog in competition obedience, she darn well knows sloppy when she sees it. And on the occasions when she has time to watch us train, her role is to hold my feet to the fire.
Like this: I might be practicing go-outs and my focus is on what happens (or doesn't happen) when the dog runs to the opposite end of the ring. At times like that I may hear a strong rebuke: "Why don't you have him in perfect heel position before you send him?" Of course she's right. In those situations -- in the interest of getting on with what I'm teaching -- I tend to start Presto! in the vicinity of heel position. It's so helpful to have an observer who'll say, "Each time you have the dog in heel position you should insist that it be no less than perfect."
Or maybe I'm practicing finishes. How comfortable it is when I'm practicing alone to not bother starting that little drill with the dog at a perfect front. I can't emphasize too strongly how valuable it is to have someone who knows what to look for and doesn't hesitate to call you on the unintentional omissions that later would translate into pesky deductions in the competition ring.
So while the rest of the world is obsessed with the "trial of the century" (read circus of the century) I'm obsessed with trying to control the million miserable little details that separate also-rans from high-in-trial teams.
On the other hand, there's what I can't control, most notably Presto!'s ascent to maturity. Right now, at one year, he's got a long way to go. Immaturity manifests itself in such things as distractibility. I work on that in the ways I can. By entering the all-too-few fun matches we have around here. By heeling in front of The Home Depot and down the aisles at PetSmart.
But the lion's share of the answer is patience, waiting it out. That's going to be tough for me. Those who follow this blog know that Bravo! was at the top of his game when lymphangiectasia poleaxed him a couple of years ago. An epic battle and nearly $12,000 later Bravo! is fine. His diarrhea is long gone, his weight is back to normal and his coat is more beautiful than it's ever been . . . and he'll be on the very expensive drug cyclosporin for the rest of his life. But unfortuntely I can't train and show him. Even the most benign training involves enough stress to trigger the diarrhea again.
So I have nothing to show. Which means waiting out Presto!'s maturity is going to require transcendent self-discipline.
Yesterday we heeled in the dog food aisles at PetSmart. Presto!'s usually nice heeling has never been worse. It was pathetic.
Arias, schmarias, my litle guy and I have work to do.