Stuck in Between

Now that the ‘high’ has worn off of getting my certification, and learning new skills, I’m back in the same place I was before. Ready for the next step of my life. Just waiting. The ‘in between’ stage.

Napoleon End of My Leash Heather Hamilton

Napoleon, happy to see me.

I find myself constantly anxious. Not really settling down, not relaxing, just… always going. Always doing something, and never taking a break. I’m exhausted. I can’t stop, and I can’t just BE. When I do try to relax, I’m caught up in thoughts about what’s next?

I’m not happy in this current ‘in between’. I’m always looking ahead. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it never gives me a chance to really calm down or relax.

It feels like there are things holding me back from greatness, and to break free means to change my lifestyle drastically. Not just make a decision, but… more than that. It’s something I can’t do. I just have to live with it.

I have plans that are in motion, but it feels like it isn’t enough. Like I’m not doing enough, or they aren’t moving fast enough. I’m stuck.

I’m trapped in this cycle and it’s suffocating. I know I’m doing everything I can, but then I feel like even that isn’t enough, and I should be doing more. So I try to do more, and then burn myself out. Repeatedly. What am I missing?

I work too much, so I fail in other areas of my life. And if I actually take the time to relax, I’m not working enough. I’m always falling behind in one area or another. I can’t ever be good enough.

We all wear multiple hats. Mine: Wife, daughter, sister, maid, cook, employee, entrepreneur, trainer, pet parent, driver, friend, teacher, accountant, coworker, the list goes on. And as I’m excelling at one, I’m failing at another. I laugh at myself for putting ‘cook’ up there, as I haven’t actually made a meal for my family in… oh, I can’t even remember. Which means I’m failing at that.

I don’t have the energy to keep up with everything anymore. I’m slowly falling into a hole that I can’t get out of. It’s all too much. I want to stop, I want to take a break. But every single one of those takes up valuable energy that I’m slowly running out of.

Tiberius, Heather Hamilton Bearded Dragon

Tiberius rocking the green.

I’m depleted. There isn’t anything else for me to give. I have no fight left, so I just let things happen. I will fail, I just accept it. I won’t be enough, but that’s ok. I will make mistakes, fuck things up and just shrug about it and move on. I just say ‘ok’ because I just want the decisions to be already made by the time I get there.

Again, professionally no one will see this when I am working. I will put on the face, do what I do, and no one will know the wiser. But inside, my fire is out. I can’t offer any more.

I feel I am a strong woman, and I can’t let a little discouragement bring me down. So, here’s my list of 10 things when I really need it. Like today:

1)      My dog is always happy to see me.

2)      My husband and I found a new show to watch.

3)      I get to watch a great dog this weekend

4)      I get to show my fellow trainer everything I have learned at my certification course at social this weekend.

5)      Change is coming, and I know it will be good. Many changes are coming.

6)      I’m happy when I’m working with dogs.

7)      I have a new favorite hoodie. A pitbull hoodie I bought of etsy.com.

8)      My house is clean.

9)      Tiberius’s cage is clean and is rocking green carpet.

10)   It’s getting colder, meaning we can go snowboarding soon.

I Saved Him…

I read this today, and though I’m not feeling this way TODAY, I feel this way on occasion. I just wanted to share a fellow blogger’s thoughts.

mymegaedog

I was feeling pretty down today. Too many homeless dogs, not enough people interested in them. But why? I kept asking myself. Why? Why? Why? This one loves balls, this one likes to snuggle, this one is the friendliest dog I have ever met, this one loves to play Frisbee, this one loves to learn new tricks, this one kisses children right on the face. Why? Panzer and Shelby wouldn’t stand a chance in a shelter, but I love them like crazy. Surely, someone, somewhere, must want to love these dogs, right?

As I was driving home, I started to tear up. I turned up the radio and tried not to think about it. I called my dad and he helped talk me through some of it, but only some. I went to the grocery store, numb, I picked up what I was going there for, having memorized the aisles…

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I DID IT!

Heather Hamilton Project K9 at K9 LifelineThis last week was exhausting and incredibly informative. I’m so happy I was able to do this, and that I had this opportunity. In my opinion, going to K9 Lifeline and working with Heather Beck and her incredible staff opened up a world of possibilities. They are a Harvard of dog training schools.

I learned so many new things, including becoming proficient in the E-collar and the prong collar. Two tools I was hesitant to use because I didn’t know how to use them correctly. Now, I am completely comfortable, and I can only get better with practice. These are not ‘pain training’ tools when used correctly. They are very powerful, and if used correctly, the dogs will love them! Napoleon gets so excited when I break out the E-collar to do training! I worked on a few bad habits I had with the Halti as well. I had the opportunity to run the daycare with a few of K9 Lifeline’s finest, and learned so much from watching the behavior during this time.

On top of that, I learned how much work it really is to have a facility. Whew! They were understaffed a few people, so we did some of the everyday work as well as learning all the new material for our certifications. It was fun, and educational, and a complete eye opener! I love anything dog, even if it’s picking up poop, but it was a lot of work to care for 50 dogs, while making sure all the interactions were appropriate. Yeah, I’m obsessed. They say that to become great, you must be obsessed with your work. Well, I can honestly say I’m obsessed.

Heather Hamilton Project K9 at K9 Lifeline working with Ginger

I learned more about owner/dog relationships and how that can change when the owner leaves the picture. The dog came in because she was very possessive of the owner. The owner left, and the dog was great. Owner came back, and she turned into a completely different dog. Never seen that happen before. The relationship between dogs in the same household can change as well when they are removed from that environment. I mean, it makes sense, but I never really thought about it before. There were a few dogs who came in who did not get along at home, but each dog got along with all the other dogs in the room. Very interesting to see how that changed once we got them together.  Very educational to see that. I haven’t worked with issues like that, but at least I know how to handle it now if I do get a case like that.

I have all the tools necessary to handle any behavioral issue, but I think I’ll still go pretty slow and wait a while on aggression cases, difficult dogs, etc. I am completely fine with working with happy go lucky dogs, doing basic obedience, teaching calm state of mind, working with puppies and doing leash work. If I feel I’m up to it, I will take a difficult case, but I have no shame in referring another trainer, either. I want to challenge myself, but in a safe way. And I have fantastic support from other trainers in my area if I need help as well.

I had a breakdown day 4. I seriously had a panic attack in front of everyone, and it was because of a series of events that caused it to happen. Me, being there, getting my certification and learning all the new information was completely overwhelming, exhausting, and I was completely ecstatic that I was able to do this. Then, realizing that I have done a lot of work with my boy, Napoleon. But, he won’t be as calm as I want him to be. He’s just not that type of dog. Which made me sad and made me feel like I failed. Then, I felt guilty because I felt he didn’t make enough progress and that I needed a different dog. Which isn’t the case. He’s my furbaby, and I love him, and I’m not the type of person to give up my animals. I had to realize that he’ll never be a super calm dog. Then, I had the sting of pain as a reminder that the decision to put down Ryder was first discussed right before the Difficult Dog workshop at this facility. Which, in turn reminded me of putting him to sleep. And how I couldn’t fix him. 2 very reputable trainers have told me they would have made the same decision. That’s comforting, but at the same time, it still brings pain because of the decision the family and I had to make. I know I can’t keep reliving it, I can’t dwell on it, and I have to get over it. And I am, in my own time. Just… I have never put a dog to sleep before, much less someone else’s dog. As much as I want to say he wasn’t my dog, he had a special place in my heart, and that can’t be replaced. It will mend with time. The experience I had this week brought this to the surface and I had to face it. Then, at our Saturday Social, I saw another dog who looks just like Ryder. He is a little taller and has a bit more weight on him, but same color, and same problems. He was adopted the day before he was put to sleep. It was luck, and his owner is the right owner for him.  This doesn’t happen all the time, and I have to realize that. I don’t want to say I’m ‘stuck’ in these thoughts, but it is taking quite a while to ‘get over it’.

My therapist says it will take as long as it takes. Which is true, but I wish it would hurry along. I’m not angry anymore. I don’t blame myself or anyone else. I just miss him. It’s all just missing him. I miss having a great dane at my place, and I miss his dopey, cute face. I don’t miss his attitude, but I do miss working with him. I had a very strong bond with this dog, so for me – it’s just getting over that he’s not coming back.  It’s not even about the decision anymore. I know it was right, and I’m at peace with that. Just sometimes, I’m overwhelmed with how much I miss him. I will get better at this, and I’ll get over it. Doesn’t make it any less sad, but I have to move on. Everyone is right – this can’t rule my life, and I can’t keep reliving it.

This side of me – you won’t see this when I’m training or when I’m being professional. I can ‘turn off’ my feelings and be professional. I talk about this in my blog because it helps me, and I hope it helps other people as well. I will tell my friends who want to know how I’m doing, my family, and people who I feel comfortable enough with to actually talk about it.

I haven’t broke down in public in YEARS. As embarrassing as it was, I had wonderful people around me, and everyone understood. They helped me talk about it, and express how I was feeling without feeling like I was completely vulnerable. I felt safe.

Anyway, on a happier note…

Heather Beck and Heather Hamilton

Heather Beck and Heather Hamilton

I got my certification! I did it! And I’m a fully fledged dog trainer now! I have to thank K9 Lifeline and their staff, Wasatch Canine Camp, my family and friends, and everyone who gives me support every day. Everyone who reads my blog and makes encouraging comments as well. You people give me the strength to keep going.

As hard as it was, I returned to my day job this week, and realized I am changing my life so I can do what I love. I think about dogs all day, about my technique and how I can improve it, and I can’t wait to go home and practice on my own dog, so I can have even more confidence when I work with client’s dogs. I look forward to the end of every single work day so that I can work with dogs. I’m now offering board and train options, which I am super excited about, as I am confident I know what I’m doing now. I can always make improvements, and I’ll continue to go to workshops, seminars, and learn new techniques to add to my tool belt.

Now, I just have to focus on advertising to get more clients for when I make the final jump.

I DID IT!!

First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

Tomorrow my certification course starts at K9 Lifeline. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. For the past year, I have looked forward to this day. I found out about Heather Beck at K9 Lifeline and the certification program, and that I really could make this dream a reality.

You hear about it all the time with inspirational quotes and people who have turned their life around. Well, I’m now part of that 1% who have actually done it. I have tried so hard to go to as many workshops as I possibly could, read as many books as possible, go to seminars and purchase online webinars. I took classes on things that weren’t even relevant to training, but were to dogs (like my Canine Theriogenology course). I wanted to learn everything dog.

I’m now at a huge crossroad in my life, and I have made a choice. I am getting my certification, and I will be a legit dog trainer. All the hard work, all the hours, all the sacrifices I have made for this decision and the mistakes I have made along the way – it’s all paying off. And I’m doing it.

I am making history, so to speak, as I am turning my life around. I am overwhelmed with excitement, joy, nervousness, and the feeling of accomplishment.

I have made up my mind, my husband has been very supportive, and only a few times we have had a fight when we have had someone else’s dogs here.

The first time was a HUGE mistake of mine. I took a dog to ‘babysit’ (because I wasn’t officially boarding yet – I was doing it for free) for a few nights while a friend was out of town. That was Checkers. (WOW! Looking back at this previous post… I didn’t know much of anything. I won’t change it, so I can document my progress, but not a good decision to watch this kid!) He was too much for me (which I knew after the first hour of having him, as when I have boards here, they are on a pretty strict routine (boot camp, so to speak). He tried to go after Napoleon, he didn’t know his name, he was highly destructive, not kennel trained or potty trained, and couldn’t be left alone off the leash in the backyard because he scaled my 6 and a 1/2 foot fence. Yeah, bad idea. I didn’t even think to call for help, as it was my friend’s dog. He barked all night, and I didn’t have a bark collar. I didn’t even have a remote collar at that point.

Another disagreement was, of course, over Ryder. We got into it because we were at the end of the road with this dog. The family and I had made the choice, and I helped carry it out. The last remaining option was to save Ryder by adopting him. That was the only option besides ending his too-short life. My husband is a logical person, and he was right on this one. We couldn’t take him, as much as I wanted to. I was emotionally unstable and it turned into a pretty huge knock-down, drag-out fight. I hate airing my dirty laundry, but again – this blog is to be open and share everything. Even the hard parts.

Because of this experience, and the fact that I am not a positive-only trainer anymore, I have changed my business name. In loving memory of Ryder, my project dog, my new business is called Project K9. So, for all of you who asked why I picked this particular name, it has a meaning. This is why. It isn’t just a new name, but a new beginning. A reality check, and a way to learn from everything that has happened.

Heather Hamilton Mistakes Bipolar Type II Project K9 Dog TrainingSo, in the last year, I have learned so much from my experiences, from the rescues I have worked with, from Wasatch Canine Camp, K9 Lifeline and their staff, from my clients and their dogs, my therapist, the mistakes I have made, and of course, my family and friends, and my husband. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my friends and family, and the help I have received along the way. I have made so many sacrifices. I miss time with my husband, sleep, eating healthy, weddings, etc. I jumped into the deep end, and struggled to not drown sometimes. But I stayed afloat, even though I was exhausted.

It’s all paying off, and I’m going to do what I love. Thank you all for following my story. And for the support and love you have all shown me. I will be back in a week or so with more updates and to talk about everything I have learned in the following week.

Oh, and on a personal note, I am learning to control the ups and downs of having Bipolar Type II without medication. I have mentioned this before, but with the ups and downs of having a training business is hard enough. Then, add in a mental disorder, and it’s a party!

For everyone struggling with mental illnesses – keep your chin up. I can do it. So can you. For all of you who don’t have mental illnesses, but are struggling with a tough part in your life: Be strong. I know it’s hard. But you can do it. Just get through it because it will get better. Just grin and bear it. Just put on that happy smile, fake it to make it. You can get through it, and happiness is just as contagious as sadness. Try not to be a downer, and suck it up. Yeah, I’m blunt sometimes.

Just get through it.