Rockin in Billings

1340 miles so far. Miles City is where we will spend our fourth night.

We woke up in the state capitol (Helena, Montana) and filled Thumper with gas and got her a wash. The other day I used a gas called Holiday, because it sounded fun and appropriate and because it contained some sort of good detergent that kept everything clean. Well, as soon as I drove out of that Holiday station, I felt like I had left the parking brake on or the turbo wasn’t clicked on, but it was. It was just crappy gas. No more Holiday for us. 

Today we drove on US 12 to good old I-90 on our way to Billings, where I would stop to teach my ROCKIN Nia class. Not much happened, but I did have a pretty big WOW moment when I got my first taste of the long, straight road. I drove through Big Sky Country today. I tried to capture it on video but again, it doesn’t seem to capture the awe of it.
Sleeping soundly on those long, straight Montana highways.

I pulled into Billings and it immediately reminded me of Missoula. I parked on 29th street where the studio was in an urban district. As I took River out for his walk, just as we did in Missoula, I wondered if I would turn the corner and see the same kind of park we played in. But it wasn’t there. Just more urban-ness. I have been practicing the vocal control; especially thanks to the hand incident. Today as we were coming out of the alley, a family was walking on the sidewalk. We were about to meet, when I backed up and said COME, he did; GO AROUND, he walked behind me on got on my right side and HEEL, and he walked at my side. The family watched with smiles on their faces and had passed our path in the time it took to put on our display.

It was such a joy to meet and rock with the Billings Nia community. Aimee Carlson was the mastermind of the whole thing and Sue Tucker was a master behind the scenes organizer. Between them they certainly got a buzz going. The room was full with over 15 dancing bodies. One was, I’m guessing, seven years old.

They love to laugh in Billings, which is good because I love to be goofy and make people laugh, so we got along fine. As I was being introduced, Aimee mentioned that I was going to drive to Miles City after class and there was a resounding “Ooooo!” Which made me think I was missing something as I couldn’t find ANYTHING out about the town. So my response was “Why, is it a really nice town?” And they laughed and laughed. One woman said, “Well, it’s far.”  I knew I was with some humorous people.

They also love to work out. The routine can get pretty intense and they were loving every minute of it and broke out into applause on more than one occasion. 

Of course, River was a big hit and was very well behaved. Before class, he was showing off all of his tricks and how politely he can sit by while I set up his crate. Oddly, he didn’t sleep much during this class. Every time I looked over at him his head was propped up on his blanket watching us. I think he’s trying to figure out what it all means.

After class, we socialized for a bit in the lobby. Finally River and I got back in the car for another two and a half or so hours. We stopped at a Rest Area about an hour into the trip and I knew I had my work cut out for me when I saw the scene we were driving into.

There was a big grassy hill the length of the parking area. We parked on the far right side, where there were no cars. On the far left side there was a man playing with a black lab. They looked like they were having SO MUCH FUN. The man had a rubber beach ball that he would bounce and it made a loud high pitched slamming sound that excited the dog. Then the man kicked the ball up the hill and the lab darted after it, struggled to pick it up and eventually brought it back to the man.

River locked his eyes on this game as soon as I shut the engine off. But I still went ahead with our basic ritual. I stop the car and remove his harness, and put on whatever I’ll be using; in this case it was his flat neck collar and the 50 foot nylon leash. Then I get out of the car and walk around to his side and let him out.

He immediately ran toward the dog, but I called River, STOP. And he did. I said Come. He didn’t. But then I said, “NO, Come!” which is what I usually say when I’m giving him a firm correction on his prong collar. He responded to that by breaking his start at the game and running toward me. He gave me a tag and then ran off in the other direction. I allowed that since he did respond and he did avoid interrupting their game.

All in all, we were there for a good ten minutes and I never had to use the leash to control him. There was one time that I think maybe he felt the end of the leash, because I hadn’t let it out in time, but in any case, the tension was minimal and he stopped immediately.

I was so proud of us both.  Him for responding to my commands in such distracting circumstances and myself for breaking my habit of using the leash as my first resort for correction and learning to use my voice instead.

The other dog is playing off to the left. River is facing away from them.

Of course, rolling in the grass is a must

It was dark by the time we got to Miles City.


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