It doesn't stay green here in the part of California very long where I live, and so I viewed the recent rains and slick trails as an opportunity for a relaxed run and beautiful photoshoot, rather then bemoaning the slow pace such trails demanded.
Tess is the most entertaining running partner - watching her bound her way through/over/across terrain and brush is just incredible.
Beyond the sheer beauty of watching such athleticism, it's the sheer JOY that radiates from her that keeps me heading out the door day after day.
Really, who can resist this face?
She spends our runs in constant motion.
It's not easy to catch a white dog careening through the trails.
Today, knowing I would be faced with slick mud and beautiful scenery opted to take the "real" camera out and try to grab photos that captured Tess at her best - running the trails.
That green thing around her neck is a leash. I decided that she could carry her leash today instead of balling it up in my hand, since I brought a camera.
I've been doing my annual sort and archive and photos and realized...I take a LOT of pictures of Tess.
In fact, it's a close race to see whether Farley or Tess wins that contest.
Tess is more photogenic. Farley attempts to ruin the shot but chewing with her mouth open, closing her eyes, or by showing off her "assets" to her advantage - making her head look bigger than it is even in real life and her butt smaller. *sigh*
Tess on the other hand has learned that sometimes I take pictures. And the longer she stands there ignoring me and not being too naughty, the faster she gets released to run again.
When Minx, my first horse died, I learned that no matter how many pictures you think you took (and there were far far far more pictures of Minx taken than I would admit to family and friends!) there's never enough once they leave us.
Tess is only 3 years old, but who knows what the next year, week, or day might bring? She's perfect right now. Reliable off leash. Happy about life. Happy about what she perceives as her job.
Much like I would love to freeze Farley in time right now as a 15 year old for the rest of her life, Tess is freezable right now as a 3 year old.
Old enough to know better, young enough to still be able to DO.
We aren't doing agility because she doesn't want that to be her job. It's not that she isn't athletic enough (she is). It's not that she's not smart enough (she is). It isn't that we didn't put the time in to learn handling, obstacles etc (we did). And it's not that she wasn't obedient enough (she mechanically did what was asked).
Here's the problem: She finds no joy on the agility course. It's like taking a person who is meant to be outdoors in the sunshine and giving them an accounting job and locking them in a basement with no windows. They may love numbers, love the pay, and even appreciate the controlled temperature and free coffee provided. But sometimes that isn't enough.
It's different on the trail. When I look at these pictures, I don't see a dog who feels constrained by the rules that are placed on her when we are on the trail. She embraces them and adopts them wholeheartedly as her own.
She does figure 8's in front of me. She keeps an eye on me. She checks in often both visually and physically. When she sees a person or dog in the distance she automatically comes to a heel at my side and holds it until we are past it. She's free to run, sniff, jump, and leap as she wishes - the more freedom I give her, the more she chooses to look to me for direction.
Gone is the dog that spent our training time together stress sneezing/blinking/yawning/panting/bolting. We still learn tricks, but now I can use rewards that really motivate her - even if they are not "approved" for agility. She doesn't want to work for her toys - she wants to work for food and for freedom and I respect that.
I've learned some of my best lessons about Joy, Stress, and not asking someone or something to give beyond what they can offer, from Tess.
And then we are back at the car. Tess is cold and shivery and done with the wet weather for now - and I'm done with the heavy thinking and am ready for bed :).