I was going to write a long, flowery piece about all the things I learned in 2012 but then I decided none of us had that much time.
What I mostly learned in the last 12 months is to pick my own path and listen to what my dog tells me. Sounds great on the surface but harder than hell in reality when it seems like everyone around you believes they have THE ANSWER TO YOUR PROBLEMS and it clashes with what you feel in your heart. (Ha-ha, now I've probably freaked out all my training buddies who think I'm talking about them. LOVE YOU GUYS!)
I am even more appreciative of my friends after losing Rilda in October. Her death left me with a new awareness of how I spend my time and who I spend it with. People come and go throughout one's life. I believe all my friends have come (and sometimes, gone) for a reason. I value all of them.
I spent a lot of time this year wondering what I'd ever done to deserve Phoenix. He is an absolutely incredible dog. With patience (usually) and single-minded determination, he is making me learn new "rules of engagement." Often, these are in direct conflict with 35 years of training by compulsion or bribery. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by listening to him.
A huge step for me this year has been learning to look beyond the technicalities of skill training to that undefinable quality that makes a dog and handler's teamwork sparkle with joy and energy. Oh, what a rush when you know that your dog is working, not just to get a cookie or avoid a correction, but because he loves the work and he loves you!
Happy new year to everyone! Wishing you all the best and a wonderful journey in 2013. Celebrate safely tonight. Being the party animals that we are, the Farmer and I will go out to dinner at a local restaurant and be home, asleep, by 10 p.m. Yep, we're livin' in the fast lane.