Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mindlessness Matters

This time of year, everything slows down, including, sadly, my dog training. Between the heat, lack of rain, and the fire ants overrunning my tracking fields, my priorities change, there is no beating the summer in late July/August in North Carolina. So Mojo and I do short spurts of obedience with the reward being a floatie toy tossed into the pond, lather, rinse, repeat.

My goal becomes keeping him fit, happy, and keeping both of us sane.
This entire year, I’ve been struggling with insomnia. Headed into the 8th month of the year, with little improvement, despite over the counter remedies, prescription remedies ‘have a glass f wine before you go to bed’, work out before you go to bed, turn off the TV ½ hour before you go to bed, etc., and still no change, I’m resigned to getting comfortable being uncomfortably tired most of the time.

This morning, up far too early (again) I did something I’ve been doing a few times a week for the last 4 years. I got up, and went out to sit on the deck stairs with my first cup of coffee, and play a game of 2-ball fetch with Mojo. Not too long ago I read a discussion thread about how useless this game is. The speakers described the game as “mindless” and the human participant as no better than “a ball machine”. I remember feeling a little bad about doing it when I read the discussion. It’s one of the things I do all summer for sure, but honestly all the time for him. As I watched Mojo light up with joy when I came out the back door with two balls this morning, I decided (again and finally) that I really don’t care what those people think of this game. Dog training pros they might be, and many more may agree., but I know that 2 dozen tosses of a ball before 5 am on a day predicted to hit 100 degrees is Mojo’s equivalent to me sitting down and watching Survivor. It IS mindless. So what of it? I ask a lot of him. I ask him to track well, be quick and correct in obedience, be strong and convincing, and very under control in bite work. I ask him not to bite the neighbors, or my old dog, and overall, Mojo complies. Not always joyfully (okay, rarely joyfully), but he complies.

When I started running I used to go between 4 and 5 am. I started running in July of 2005, I told myself it was because of the heat, really, I just wanted the cover of darkness. Running is hard, and if I needed to stop and suck wind, I wanted as few witnesses as possible. Somewhere along the way I got over that. Maybe just as the running got harder, and I had to focus on it more, I stopped realizing anyone else existed during those “I’m sucking wind” moments. Entirely possible, running hurts.

Whatever the truth, when I watch Mojo racing across the lawn in the pre-dawn hours during our ‘mindless game’ what comes to mind is what his breeder told me when I pushed her about the fact that I hadn’t signed a contract. She said she wasn’t worried about it because she knew I would take care of him. That, in the end is what matters. Of course he needs a job, and mental stimulation, and he has that. But he also needs a bowl of popcorn and a sofa to cheer on idiots left in a jungle with a bag of rice 2 months.

This all may seem simplistic, and maybe it is. I’m not really sure what else someone who hasn’t slept more than 5 hours at a time for the last 8 months is capable of. I just know that the events of the last 8 months of made me re-evaluate a whole host of things in my life., not just dog training bits, some much more personal and hard to hear.

I’m not dumb enough to think I have it all figured out, I've made that mistake too often, but I do know that Mojo is out back, laying in his baby pool, drinking some of the same water, happy. That, coupled with leaning into being okay with the decisions I am making these days, get me a whole lot closer to happy as well.