6 Month Trend

Bye forever, house. I closed and it’s done. And I was expecting to feel either deep sadness or overwhelming happiness. It’s surprising I’m on neither side of the spectrum. It’s weird my lack of feelings. Seems this is a trend for me right now. Unless I’m significantly impaired by news I receive, I’m handling it as a surface feeling. Just feeling it, and then immediately moving on. No time to actually feel anything.

I remember so much from that house. My ex husband and I bought it 6 months after we were married. Good memories at first. But then there were some bad ones as well. Then, 5 years after that, we were divorced, and I continued to live in that house. About 6 months went by, then I met Caleb, and 6 months after that… he moved in. And another 6 months, I was blindsided and he moved out … then I moved out. I’m noticing a trend. Where will I be in another 6 months?

My house

I wanted to move because there were too many memories there. I made the decision to up and leave after my world was turned upside down. Totally start over somewhere else. Distance myself from the world as much as possible and focus on my needs. I had been thinking about moving for a while, but a particular event was the straw that broke me. The one that made the decision for me. So it’s done. And I have no emotion. What does that even mean? Shock, maybe? Preoccupation with other more important pressing issues? Stress tank is full and my body is putting up a defense so I don’t get attacked with any more trauma. Because I’ve been beaten down so much in the last few months, I feel like I need a strong wall. A titanium wall that’s impenetrable. I’m working on it. I let it down here and there, but I put it back up whenever there’s a sign of trouble. I’m too fragile right now. I can’t take another blow, and just need some time to breathe.

I guess I feel happy and relieved it’s done. But it was seamless and not complicated. No real accomplishment there. I moved into my new place. A studio. I need to figure out something else for fencing there. What I have right now isn’t going to work permanently, but it will function. Everything else is going smoothly. I mean, as smoothly as it can. And I’m waiting on my equity check to clear. That’s a nice way to end this chapter of my life. No risk, no reward.

I’m sad I sold though. I loved that house. And the memories I made there were some very good ones. But there are also some very painful ones. That house carries a lot of charged energy for me. No looking back. Only moving forward and ahead. I’m not going to let things or people bring down my hope for the future.

Which leads me to one of the biggest decisions so far. I requested kennel licensing for a particular property in a nearby town. I presented my case to the council to rezone a lot after much negotiation with the Mayor. They discussed many different options, and when it came down to it, my request was denied. This was a huge setback, and it felt like my soul had been crushed. I did breakdown, but just for a minute, and then I moved on quickly and started thinking of other options. I worked so hard and did so much work for this. My mistake was I got hopeful. Hope is a poison, I’m learning. My contractor/friend/client has been my biggest supporter throughout this process, and helped me shake it off. This was a huge blow. I picked myself up, but I feel bruised. I’m scared to try again.

The feeling of giving up seems to be overshadowing me. I love what I do, but finding a suitable place is starting to seem impossible. “Be patient” they say. “You’ll find the right place, it’ll just take time” and a shit load of money. “Go commercial, it’s easier to get licensing” my friends say. Yes, it is. However, it’s also a lot more expensive, and if I don’t make enough, I lose everything. And that’s not where I want my company to go. I don’t want a facility as the image of my business. I want a ‘Little Dog Farm’ (Marc Goldberg’s training facility is called that in Chicago). I have a vision. I know what I want. I just don’t know how to get there. The brand of my company has been built, and I have a reputation. Changing to a facility changes the way I would market, how my clients would view me, and the type of service I would be offering. That isn’t what I want. Not like that.

Anyway, I think I’m in a healthy place, considering all things. Is turning off the ability to feel healthy? Normally, I embrace my feelings, and take the time to understand them, and then figure out how to manage them. I feel something, I take a minute, and then I move on. Very rarely have I allowed myself to feel something, and even then, I don’t let it last long. That doesn’t seem like me, but it’s how I’m getting through this along with some other stressful, confusing areas of my life. The biggest has been my living situation and how to continue running my business. Both have been solved, and now to find a new place. That’s my ‘next big thing’. That’s where my focus will be for the next 6 months. Then let’s see where I am. No distractions. I need to focus on the big picture again.

Business is Good!

This year has come with it’s own set of challenges. I am a generally a very positive person, and try to focus on the good in everything. So, I have chose to eliminate as much negativity from my life as possible. Ain’t nobody got time for dat!

One of the biggest changes has been the hiring of a new employee! It just so happens to be my special someone, Caleb! We have been talking about him helping me for a while, and we recently agreed he would be moving in at the end of May. Well, I broke my foot a few weeks ago, and I’m totally immobile. So, we jumpstarted everything, and he is pretty much living here now, he quit his day job, and I’m training him on how to do everyday chores, canine psychology, obedience, pressure/release, energy, handling, managing groups (daycare), puppy training, etc. I’ve given him a list of books and videos I want him to watch, and we have been doing awesome so far.

All of the private client sessions, pick ups, drop offs, and another client-facing session, we are doing together. And it is working out like a dream. We are supporting each other, and we both chime in when working with the client. I think within a few weeks, he’ll have the knowledge and experience to do a whole session by himself. Right now, we are doing everything together because he’s still learning, but soon enough, we can double our efforts, and see twice as many clients, and work twice as many dogs.

Heather Rose Broken Foot

This is how swollen my foot was the morning after I broke it.

Now, for my broken foot… I was helping with unloading some things from a truck, and it was raining. I was standing on the wheel of the truck and I slipped. I jumped backwards because I was going to fall anyway, and I tried to save it. I didn’t know there was a toolbox behind me, and I landed on it. Slipped off the side, and landed on my foot which was sideways. I ended up breaking my navicular, calcaneus, and talus bones in my foot as well as possibly tearing a tendon and quite a few ligaments. The doctor also suspects some nerve damage. Optimistically, I’m on bedrest for 6 weeks, and I have to stay completely off of it. After that, I’m in a walking boot for at least 4 weeks, and then we can start rehabilitation on the soft tissue.

The hardest part is the mental. It sucks not being able to move and all, but not being able to do the daily tasks of my business is soul-crushing. Teaching Caleb to do everything is tricky because he isn’t me. He’s doing an awesome job at everything, and he’s realizing how much work this is. But we are in this together. We are awesome at communication and working through feelings, finding solutions to problems together, and we both take criticism fairly well. We both understand the challenges of working together full time, so we’ve made sure that every day, we both get to do something fun together and alone. It’s hard because I’m teaching him to do my job. My job right now is my bed rest. Let’s be honest; I’m not good at all at relaxation, taking it easy, or being still. I’m a DO-ER! I always have to be doing something.

So, I have found something I can do from my bed, while still work. Paperwork, update my social media, and talk to people about pawtree! Paw Tree is a natural, holistic food you can feed to your dogs. However, it’s not just a kibble, it’s a complete nutrition plan specifically designed for your dog. I have been signed up as a PetPro for a few months now, but haven’t been as active as I could be because I’ve been busy with running my business. It wasn’t a priority. Now, because I can’t walk dogs or work on ecollar, this can be a priority for me. I can still work with puppies, do obedience, teach manners and place, and some other exercises where I can sit on the floor with the dog. Caleb is doing most of the handling for anything with the leash.

Heather Rose Caleb Marten Project K9 Training Puppy

Caleb, working with Slugger, one of our training puppies

Anyway, we are figuring it out, and as a team, we are doing all our training tasks, daily chores, and taking on a ton of new clients and training dogs. We are thriving, and we will continue to figure out better ways to do everything and how to be a better team. So, we are still offering all our services, and not slowing down much due to my injury, which is more than I could ask for right now.

So, that’s why I haven’t updated much in my blog the last few weeks. Been busy with all this. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to (hopefully) get casted. It was too swollen last week, and I’m still in a splint and an ace bandage. If the swelling goes down, then we’ll cast and start the real healing process. Cross your fingers!

Difficult Dog Workshop 2015

k9Lifeline__heather_beck_difficult_dog_workshop_heather_hamilton_projectk9After an incredible weekend learning new things at the Difficult Dog Workshop at K9 Lifeline, I’m refreshed and refocused. For some reason, this time was different. It seemed every single thing we discussed, every question, every demo, every quote meant something to me. I’m exhausted, but also re-energized and I’m excited to practice all the new thing I learned. I have picked out a few bad habits I need to adjust, and quite a few new things to add to my toolbox of awesome skills. This was quite an emotional weekend for me.

On top of learning a bunch of new things and attending this workshop, I had to deal with my first ever training dog emergency. Of course it happened on the first day of the workshop. I had a training dog, a boxer, who wasn’t doing so great. He started to get lethargic the morning of the workshop, and had refused food for the last few days. He lost some weight, and also had blood in his stool. He was also vomiting. There was blood in his vomit. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him for a few hours, so I called the owners to tell them about the situation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a hold of them. I made a judgment call, called the emergency contact, and got this kid to the vet. Pretty much all morning, I was on the phone with vet techs, my client, the emergency contact, and the vet, trying to figure out what was going on. I decided to send this guy home and we would do training when he was healthy. What an eventful way to handle the first day of the workshop. Updates on the dog now are looking much better, but we still don’t have any answers. We are unsure on what is happening health-wise with this guy.

k9Lifeline_difficult_dog_workshop_heather_hamilton_projectk9Alright, back to the workshop, I realized I do ask for advice, but I don’t always hear the answers. Some stories were shared today about mistakes other people have made, and there were consequences. And I realized all of a sudden, that can happen to any one of us. A little mistake can mean fatal consequences. As I have my own stories of things that have happened, some of the stories I heard were worse than my own.  I won’t get into details, but we all start to deal with the hard stuff at some point. I am changing the way I do things a little to make things even safer than they were before. Just in case. It wasn’t advice I heard in these stories… It was a warning. And I’m going to abide by it.

Whenever I hear other people’s hard stories, and realize I’m not the only one who lost something besides a very special dog… I feel a little less guilty. However, it makes me miss Ryder a lot. He wasn’t ‘just a dog’ to me. He was a milestone in my career. I fell in love with this dog, but I also took it upon myself to fix it. It was my mission, and I failed. I talk about my failures. I’m not ashamed. The scars are how we learn. Damn, this was a hard day. Being at K9 Lifeline, hearing about other people’s stories, remembering my own like it was yesterday… just too much. Lots of tears today. I was very close to having an anxiety attack. It felt like the wound of losing him was ripped open again.

I have to remember to put my emotional side on the back burner and buck up and make dog trainer decisions sometimes. One my clients struggle with is unnecessary affection. Affection is never the answer. I had to learn this too. No petting, talking, or food rewards for dogs who don’t deserve it. I learned this a long time ago, and it took me a long time to realize I wasn’t following the “you get what you pet” rule. Now, I love on my dogs, but only when they are 100% deserving. Just because they want attention, doesn’t mean they deserve it. I have learned to respect dogs’ space by not giving them eye contact, affection, or verbal attention until they are deserving. The hardest part is telling people to ignore my dogs. I have started teaching my clients the “no talk, no touch, no eye contact” when they walk into my house. It’s quite hard for the majority of my clients. Respect their space like you want them to respect your space.

I was able to experience what it feels like to be a decoy for bite dogs. It was AMAZING! It was so fun, and I learned so much about this sport. I have decided I want to get a few of my dogs involved in this, and play. Dante and Jinx. Dante loves any game, but he has a high drive, and a lot of energy. Jinx has the drive, the energy, and she loves to bite. Now, don’t confuse this with aggression. Dogs with aggression should not participate in this sport at all. I realized I don’t know much about bite work, but I’m going to learn. I won’t get too much into this, as that’s a whole new blog post!

Anyway, I’m feeling invigorated by this weekend, and today was the first day I was able to put into practice my new daily routine, the new skills I learned, and focus on my energy a lot more when I’m working with dogs. Today was exhausting too, but I’m so happy. Finishing the day off with what I love to do is the most rewarding thing I could ask for. I absolutely love my life!

k9Lifeline_difficult_dog_workshop_decoy_heather_hamilton_projectk9

RIP Coba

Merry Christmas. The holidays are sometimes hard for people. I don’t normally get depressed around the holidays. This year, I did. I failed. I did everything I could. I caught up by writing back logs for this year, but I didn’t write about this. A confidence crusher. A mistake.

Project K9 Heather Rose CobaI got a call from a guy who got my number from a friend of a guy who adopted a dog from me a few months previously. Yeah, I know. Complicated. Anyway, he called me to surrender a puppy to me. A little black and white pitbull puppy. I took him in and realized shortly after I began training this kid that there were serious problems. He would seem perfectly fine, playing with other dogs, and then would escalate and try to latch on and attack the other dog he was playing with. If you gave him any sort of correction, he would redirect on you. That’s not all though. Even when I kept him calm and below his threshold, he couldn’t handle pressure from the leash, so no way was I going to use spatial pressure on this dog. He was responsive to the whip… when he wasn’t redirecting on it and trying to attack it. Same with the pet convincer. This guy was 3 months old when I got him.

Those are the more serious behaviors. He didn’t have a name, so I gave him one. Coba. Like the steps of Coba in Mexico. I had gone to Cancun earlier in the year, and the ruins of Coba resonated with me. I named him Coba because I wanted to climb to the top with this dog and find him a good home. I tried. I really did. He also had some minor behaviors as well. Like jumping, barking at you for attention, pulling on the leash, barking in the kennel, destroying crates, and a super fun one: eating other dogs’ shit. And then throwing it up and eating it again. Nice, huh?

So, I started him on the strict boot camp, working with him 3-5x a day on socialization, obedience, leash work, calm state of mind, tie back training, place, perception modification, pressure/release, ecollar, halti work (he tried to eat me), prong collar work, treadmill (again, tried to eat me), etc. He would be totally 100% doing wonderful, and then a feeling would change. No warning signs, just a feeling. And he would go after another dog, a toy, or a person. Aggression: Wanting to cause harm. He wanted this. He went from happy go lucky/calm state of mind to snarling, biting, snapping, and baring teeth. I kept at it, working with him, being patient, and waiting until we got to a better state of mind before finishing the session.

A lot of the smaller issues had been improving immensely, and I was hopeful I could get this kid into a home. But I had doubts. For one thing, placing dogs with any MINOR issues can be harder. Let’s add the fact he’s a pitbull on top of that. Oh yeah, and he sometimes tries to bite dogs and people. So.. I was hesitant to place him in a home with other dogs or kids. We’re in Utah. Good luck with that. Oh, I also needed to find someone who was willing to continue bringing him to socials and who would continue doing training. Probably for a long time. Someone who could understand treats and love could not help this kid. He needed much more than that.  Anyway, I was advertising him, but I was thinking about other options. I had to make a decision… I normally adopt fosters out a few days to a month after  they are surrendered to me. This guy, I had for 11 weeks..I needed to do something. Training wasn’t making a difference. He didn’t have a home to go to, I was spending my time working with a dog who wasn’t showing any progress. In the time I worked with him, I could have saved 2-3 other fosters. I’m thinking of all these things, as I continue to stall to make a decision.

Project K9 Heather Rose CobaThe final straw was when I was working on a ‘place’ command with him. This is a ‘get on your bed’ equivalent, where you control the space, and teach the dog to calm down without moving from a particular place. This is a psychological exercise. Anyway, he was doing great and laying calmly on the bed. I was ready to release him, so I walked over calmly and kneeled down to give him some calm affection. He had soft, loose body language, and I pet him on the chin and the side of his face. He seemed to be doing well, so I reached down to get the leash and he lunged at me, snapped at my face. I stepped on the leash at the last second, and prevented him from biting my face. He kept snapping and lunging at me, while snarling and baring teeth. I can’t correct at this point, so I just waited him out by applying pressure on the leash while I was standing on it. Eventually, he stopped, and was panting. Worn out from trying to attack me. I waited until I was calm to put him back in the crate. End on a … decent.. note, I guess.

Later, I let dogs out of the kennels like I always do for potty time. I had been working with him for 11 weeks at this point. Never in that time had he ever gone after a smaller dog. Usually it was when they were playing and it got too rough. This day, he grabbed my chihuahua and shook him. I yelled at him, grabbed him, and he let go. But there was no warning before that incident occurred.

I made the call. I decided I could not rehome this dog. I couldn’t surrender him to a shelter or a rescue and be honest with them. They would just put him down. And if that was the case, I would just do it myself. So I made the call. I made the appointment. He was to be put down the day after Christmas. I was on the fence about the decision for so, so long. I know this sometimes happens, but this doesn’t make it any easier.

It was not this dog’s fault. I felt there was something going on in this guy’s head. A mental issue. I don’t believe he deserved to be killed, but in the training world, we see it as a kindness. He wasn’t physically sick, but mentally, his brain had something wrong with it. It never gets easier. Coba was around 6 months when I sent him to the land of eternal dreams. I felt I killed a puppy. But now, I think I saved him.

The feeling of loss, and then the feeling of release. Like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Then guilt, because I feel better. And then I feel worse because I’m thinking about my feelings, and not mourning the loss of this puppy. I hate this feeling. It hurts. I’m starting to get used to hurt. Seems it’s a recurring theme in my life.

I hope you are healthy now.

RIP Coba. June 2014-Dec 2014

RIP Mamma 2006-2015 (click here for her memorial)

Project K9 Heather Rose Mamma Coba

Rest in peace, Coba and Mamma

 

One Day at a Time

Emotions. Why do we even have them? What’s the point? They just create unstable, unbalanced feelings that we act on, and then make decisions based on what we are feeling in that moment. Had a good day? Great, reward yourself with a high calorie, sweet treat from the ice cream store. Because that just makes things even better. Feeling depressed? To the bottle, yay! Feeling frustrated? Start a fight in a bar! Overwhelmed? Just throw your arms up and give up on life. Feeling sad? Mope and watch sappy, stupid movies while eating chocolate and drinking wine.. Alone.

Alright, maybe not everyone does those exact things, but I’m just saying we act on them. So, because when I’m overwhelmed, and possibly turning my entire life around AGAIN (yeah, I know. Sounds like me, right?), I take on a foster dog. I really like this kid, and if he fits in well in a month or so, he may just join my pack. I don’t know yet though. So far, he’s shown quite a bit of improvement in just a couple days. I’m on a roller coaster, and I can’t get off. So many things, so many situations, so many decisions. I can handle it, I can’t handle it. I’ll be ok, I’m going to puke. I think I’m almost off, then we start to go up again. And I wait for the fall. When does this end?! Overwhelmed, frustrated.

End of My Leash great Danes Aggressive

Haven and Tank (Boarding School clients)

I also just had a de ja vu experience with a great dane (yeah, another one. This has nothing to do with the breed, I promise) who reminded me a lot of Ryder’s situation. Her name is Haven. She is a beautiful black dane who is unpredictable around dogs, people, and sometimes food. When the owners were talking to me about her, I had a sinking feeling that reminded me of Ryder. It’s been almost a year since I put him to sleep. This new dog had similar traits that sent up red flags and made me take a step back. I observed, I did an evaluation on her, and still had a feeling about her. During the eval, she gave me absolutely no reason to feel like I couldn’t handle her. She was responsive, sensitive, and showed zero aggression towards me or the other dogs. I asked for advice from more experienced trainers, and I was told to let the past go, learn from it, and give her a shot. Try her out for a week. I still had a feeling about this, but it was only because of what the family was telling me. Feelings of … caution.

Anyway, I took her as a Boarding School client, and we started training. Two weeks (out of the four weeks she is supposed to be here) go by without an incident, and she is responding to training beautifully. One day, as I was letting the dogs out, our streak was broken. Over the course of two days, she went after four different dogs. The only warning I had was a feeling I had before letting her out of the kennel. No real warning signs that I could see. It isn’t like I haven’t handled ‘aggression’ before, but this is different. I wasn’t comfortable. And I was emotionally attached, and saw Ryder, not Haven. I called my trainer friend and explained the situation and said I couldn’t work with her – she was too much dog for me. I cannot begin to explain how guilty I felt. Thoughts of failure, guilt, sadness, loss, and how I had let down Ryder flooded me. I was again overwhelmed with a sense of complete failure. I couldn’t help this dog. I have been told time and time again I cannot save them all. It sucks when this happens, but it does happen. I know that, but it doesn’t suck any less, and I’m too fucking sensitive for my own good. So, feeling of heartbreak.

Project K9 Pitbull Foster Dogs

This is Rocko

Last time, I chose to continue working with Ryder, even though he was quite a bit of dog for me then. This time, I asked the owners to pick her up, and referred to another trainer. I handled it the best I could for the situation. It’s messy, and I feel like again – I couldn’t help. What if I had been training for 40 years, or if I was the best? Feelings of doubt.

So, now I’m here. Thinking about all of it again. Overanalyzing. Learning. Advancing. Yes, I have high standards, and for some reason, I feel like emotions make us weak.

So, I’m choosing another emotion. Numb. Let’s try that one for a while.

The Cesar Millan Experience

Exciting news! I had a very rare, unexpected opportunity to attend one of the Training Cesar’s Way workshops this year. I had a strict budget for workshops this year, and my mentor asked me if I could swing this one. How could I not?!Heather Hamilton Cesar Millan Project K9

I went with my mentor, Heather Beck from K9 Lifeline, and my friend Bethany Tracy from Wasatch Canine Camp. I was so excited, I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was going to train under the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan! I wonder what he would be like in person!

I had no idea what to expect. When we got there for the arrival dinner, there was a crew asking for interviews. Basically, just asking about we expected from the workshop. I had no idea, but I know I wanted to learn how to be a more stable, calm and assertive pack leader. No matter how long you have been training, you can always learn something new.  My super duper end goal is to handle any dog, and work with any issue. For now, I want to be able to walk a big pack, as well as to feel like a strong pack leader working with or without dogs.

Cesar Millan Project K9 Wasatch Canine Camp Dog Psychology CenterIt was a very small group, and we had a chance to talk before we headed to bed that night. I met some interesting people. Some of the ladies were even from out of the country. Germany and The Netherlands!! Everyone had different experience levels, and came from different backgrounds. Veterinarians, rescue folks, trainers (positive only, and some balanced trainers, all with different levels of experience), and even some people who were just there to learn more about handling their own dogs!

Finally, the day has come! We drive to the Dog Psychology Center to meet Cesar and learn some brand new, amazing material. We pull up and it’s better than I could have imagined! It is 42 acres of peaceful, serene land that Cesar has transformed into a zen-like dog park where dogs can be rehabilitated, and owners can learn to be all they can be for their dogs. It’s all about balance, and achieving harmony. He thought of everything, and is still expanding the center.

Heather Hamilton Cesar Millan Project K9 pack WalkWe started our day with a pack walk with Cesar! As we were walking, I realized, he was just a normal guy, who wants to help people with their dogs. His energy was so calm, inviting, and almost helped you be a calm assertive pack leader. He made you feel safe without any judgment. He gave each person a turn over the course of the week to walk his pack. By watching others handle the pack, you could see the energy of each person change the energy of the pack. You could see if that person was tense, scared, or not confident within the first few seconds of handling the pack. Not being judgmental at all, Cesar pointed this out, and helped each person achieve balance while walking. It was a powerful thing to watch each person overcome their own personal struggles and get a little closer to becoming that strong leader.

Cesar Millan Project K9 Dog Psychology Center Serene

Serene waterfall at the DPC

Every day, after our pack walk, we went into a tent to listen to Cesar lecture and teach us about his principles and theories. Almost all of it were concepts I have heard before, but didn’t quite GET until now. I had the building blocks set before I came, and this workshop was the mortar to build something great. Each new concept he discussed built upon the last. We had hands on experience working with each section, and had plenty of time to ask any questions we wanted. Cesar spent as much time as necessary to explain it in a way where the person asking could understand and explain it back to him to make sure he understood. I learned so much by just listening to other’s questions. Since everyone had different experience levels, some of the questions were coming from an ‘owner’ point of view, instead of a ‘dog professional’ point of view. However, they were not bad questions. It was really interesting to hear how everyone interpreted what Cesar was saying in their own way. Seeing these people grow, and the light switch coming on was rewarding in itself.

I’m the type of person who loves to see other people succeed, change, and grow into something spectacular. There was a lot of that going on in this workshop. I was watching a few people in particular, because I saw some of my own challenges in them. Everyone has roadblocks preventing them from moving forward or growing. Some of them were pretty obvious, and some were so big, you felt it yourself when they started to get close to the top of climbing that wall. Heather Beck is one of Cesar’s top trainers, as well as the owner of K9 Lifeline, and he said it best: You aren’t trying to fix anyone. You just want to plant the seed. I used to be that person – She planted a seed in me, and I have grown into a better trainer. I will always be a seedling, but I’m a little taller than I was last year. These people will also be a little taller next year.

Cesar Millan Project K9 Sheep HerdingOne of my favorite events of the whole workshop was sheep herding. There were many different types of breeds of dogs here. I don’t know much about sheep herding, so I was excited to learn the rules, what you are trying to accomplish, what to look for, how prey drive comes into play, etc. There were german shepherds, shih tzus, pitbulls, labs, dobermans, pointers, shiba inus, etc. We all knew the German Shepherds would do great. The main sheep herder man was hesitant to let a pitbull in with his sheep, but Cesar insisted. Blake, a nervous pittie came in, not sure what to think of everything at first. The sheep herding trainer got her prey drive up and got her excited, and once she learned what to do, she ROCKED IT! She was the best of the whole group! It was amazing to see this nervous, shy girl come out of her shell and absolutely KILL IT when she was herding. It really made me want to do some herding with Jinx to see if we could get her drive going. Honestly, I would love to do it just for fun, but I don’t know what the herding instructors would think if I brought a pittie in to herd! Bah, she’d do awesome!

On the last day of the workshop, right before we all left to go to graduation, I had a question. A question that I was itching to ask the whole workshop. It had to do with Holly and Cesar’s Worst Bite, along with the experience I had with Ryder. My question felt complicated, and it took a minute to ask what I wanted to ask. I couldn’t leave this workshop without asking him. I would regret it. After I formed the question I was trying to ask, it finally came out as “How do you know when enough is enough? How do you know when it is the right move to let them go?” He said back to me “Well, look at Holly. She is a part of my pack now. She isn’t rehabilitated, but she’s better, and I can feed her, and my trainers can feed her. But she cannot be in a home with children. If she were to stay there, she would be dead. She’s happy here.”Not all of us have dog psychology centers”, I said. “We can’t all be Cesar Millan right off the bat, and we can’t rescue everyone. How do you know?” And he said “I wouldn’t know because I have never euthanized a dog because of aggression. It’s a hard thing.”

Cesar Millan Graduation Certification project K9I didn’t know it at the time, but I was looking for closure. I was looking for someone to tell me it was ok. I was looking for HIM to tell me it was ok. He wasn’t intentionally not giving me that closure, but he couldn’t. He is a humble, honest person, but he is good at what he does. My decision was right for this situation. Still doesn’t make it go away, and I’m still working at completely getting past it. I was able to give the family closure and peace in knowing this was right. That was what they wanted. They wanted permission to let go. Who gives me permission to let go? When do I feel that peace? Why do I hold on to this so much, that it feels like it is holding me back? What is it that I need to do to move on? To feel the closure I feel I deserve?

One of the MONUMENTAL things that started to make more sense while I was here was being a pack leader. What this means, and how to implement it. It’s not about the dog. Ever. It’s about the handler. Are they anxious, nervous, angry, heavy-handed? How do they act in their day to day activities? How do they handle stress? To be a calm-assertive pack leader, you have to balance out your entire life and learn to live in the moment and handle things calmly. If you get emotional, or over think things, you ruin that moment, and you are not being a strong leader. All of it starts here. Not with the dog. Once you can master the calm energy in yourself, you can handle a pack of 30 dogs no problem. This was a gigantic moment for me, as I was just starting to comprehend this concept, but this workshop made it so much clearer.

Cesar Millan Graduation project K9At graduation dinner, we took pictures with Cesar, said our goodbyes to all our new friends, danced, drank, ate, and had a great time. It was a wonderful week, full of new memories, new material to study and learn, and an experience of a lifetime. I am so happy I had this opportunity to hang out with Cesar for a week and learn from him. It was truly one of the highlights of my life. He is a normal person, who loves to hang out, loves food, loves dogs, and loves to help people understand how to build a better relationship with their dog. Now, I can also help people build better relationships as well with everything I learned.

I hope someday I can come back and see the expansions he will make on his new center. It is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to, and I won’t forget the feelings I felt there, or the things I learned. Such a life changing experience.

Cesar Millan Project K9

Cesar, giving us the tour of his center

 

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!!