This Old Dog

Napoleon, December 2015

Napoleon, December 2015

Napoleon and Mia -June 2012

Napoleon and Mia -June 2012

It’s never easy when your kids are sick and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s never easy when it’s your dog and they can’t tell you how they feel either. You know they aren’t doing well, but you can’t ask them what’s wrong. Your heart breaks, but you have to be strong for them. They stick with you for everything, and they love you no matter what. You sometimes lash out against them when you are upset, but they love you right after anyway. You teach them how to behave.

So when they are sick and you can’t do anything, it breaks your heart. At what point do you step in and start interfering? In the wild, animals would suffer for days, weeks, months, sometimes years until the reaper finally takes them. It’s “humane” to step in and prevent that from happening, right? Isn’t it? It feels like the “right” thing to do, but you don’t know when it’s the right time to make the call. You don’t know when. Unless they tell you. But listening to them say they are done is painful too. Because then that responsibility is yours alone. You have to take on the choice and make it for them. You would want that done for you, wouldn’t you? To be put out of your pain, or prevent the suffering from getting worse.

The day we brought him home. Fat Napoleon! May of 2011

The day we brought him home. Fat Napoleon! May of 2011

Every time for me is different. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this position, nor the second or third. I’ve been here a lot. This seems harder for some reason. I’m losing my very first dog. He’s been through a divorce, a horrible breakup, job losses, me starting up my business, the sale of my old home, the purchase of a new one and everything in between, and he’s been my guinea pig for so much that I’ve learned. I made so many mistakes with him, but he was also the reason of why I even got started in the first place. He was my service dog. He got me through an incredibly difficult trauma, but also taught me I can’t use dogs to replace human relationships, and I needed to be strong for him. Weakness in a leader isn’t a good trait. So, I learned to be stronger. I learned how to protect myself, and how to handle my emotions and my bipolar better. I am the person I am today because of what he taught me.

Napoleon and Me

Napoleon and Me – July 2013

I’m watching him get old. Not only just get old though, but literally lose motor function every day. You see it in his eyes. You see it when he looks at you. And I am seeing what he’s showing me. I’m not being selfish here, I’m deciding what I want to do for him. Which course is the right answer for him? What can I do for him to make him happy at this point? The doctor thinks it’s a brain tumor at this point. Called him today and gave him an update on some changes since we started treatment. If it was what we originally thought, this wouldn’t be happening. We thought it was because he had distemper as a puppy. We thought this treatment would help. Every day, I visibly see him getting worse. It’s not a slow progression anymore.

Everybody

Right to Left:
Mamma (RIP), Marshall, Dante, Napoleon, Jinx
Dec, 2014

I want to be fair to him. I want to make the right choice for him. I’m stuck, I don’t know what to do. So I’m getting information. I won’t just give up. I don’t do that. But I want to make whatever decision is in his best interest. And I have a feeling I know the answer, but I’m not ready without all the information. The doctor said to wait until after the weekend so we can see if the new treatment is working. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m waiting. I hate waiting…

Napoleon and Jed

Jed (RIP) and Napoleon, hanging out while I shower.
Jan 2016

Life is Great!

forestI love my place! That isn’t just referring to the house though! I love the property and the house, and I absolutely love the plans that are starting to form to make it really mine ours. But what I love more than all of that is where I am in my life. I found ME and what that means. Of course, I’ll always still be learning about myself, and how to improve and make life better and more balanced. But where I am, what’s happening, what plans are being made…I’m so happy with my life and where I’m going. And because I’m in that place, I’ve attracted the most amazing person I have ever met and get to share all that happiness and excitement with him. Little things every day remind me how far I’ve come, and where I want to go. I wanted to find someone who could handle my hectic lifestyle and keep up with me, but also slow down and just enjoy each other’s company when we have a few minutes. He’s a perfect match for me. He compliments my strengths and brings out the best in them. He also helps me with the things I struggle with and makes me want to be better. Every day, he silently reminds me I had to go through what I did to be where I am. I would never have been able to fully appreciate him and love him the way he deserves to be loved. I truly see him, and appreciate everything about him. Even doing yard work together is something I enjoy doing with him because we are building this life together. Life is good, and I see it getting even better.

Something I have struggled with since I started my company was the work-life balance. I’ve never actually had ‘balance’, but I never really felt I needed it…until now. I knew it would be tough, but I’m over the “new business struggle” and now I’m an established company who is growing, needs help, and I desperately want to have parts of my life back while still enjoying and loving what I do. I’m now working towards that ‘balance’ that I now realize I need to be happy. Not only do I need this for me, I need this to nurture all the other areas of my life. I devote a lot of time to one area, and another one is neglected. I want to give enough that all areas can grow and be ok. I want to LIVE now that I have sufficient means to do so.

robheatherRecently, there have been many events that have brought the sting of being ‘married to my business’ to the surface. It hurts. A lot. I want to go on vacation; I have to plan months in advance to go. I want to take a day off; sorry… no, you have a company to run. I’m sick; buck up, Chuck. I work anyway or nothing gets done. If I’m not here, I don’t get paid and business stops entirely. I want to take a break; sorry..no. You can’t because then I work until 10:00. I’m hoping with some new plans I have brewing, that will change within the next six months or so. Doesn’t stop the ‘now’ from reminding me there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything I need/want to do. But I’m working on it. Patience. I’ll get there. Just keep truckin’.

Also realize I don’t have the ‘unwind’ time from leaving work and transitioning to home. Another battle of the ‘working from home’ mindset. Thinking after I lock up for the night, I need to find a transition activity. Most people’s activity is driving home from work, I need something else. Maybe that’s a good time to go running or biking. Huh..food for thought.

Anyway, haven’t written in a while, and needed to update. So, in short: Life is good. And it’s getting better.

 

Love Yourself

“If I loved myself truly and deeply, would I let myself experience this?”

“If you’ve had a thought once, it has no power over you. Repeat it again and again, especially with emotional intensity, feeling it, and over time, you’re creating a groove, a mental river. Then it controls you.”

“The goal here is to create a groove deeper than the ones laid down over the years – the ones that create disempowering feelings.”

These are all quotes from Kamal Ravidant, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It”

painPeople who are going through a trauma, or a change, or trying to self improve know who they want to be, but usually they don’t know HOW to do it. How do I be better? Willpower. That’s how. Set goals. Stick to them. Oh, ok. Well, that’s easy…not.

Any action you do can either move you towards or away from your goals. Does this decision help me? How? I used to have self destructive patterns where I would fall into depressive emotional loops for days at a time. How did I stop? I literally refused to do it again. I refused to shut down and give up. Right, but how?

Find a thought. A goal. And stick it in your head. And repeat it. Over and over again. Every time you start down that path, say it out loud. Again and again, even if you don’t believe it. That’s what Kamal did in his book and that’s what I did. I refuse to let stress take over and send me back into those depressive, destructive ways. Those thoughts don’t have a place in my head anymore. Literally, I push them out. Ok, BUT HOW?! Willpower. I focused on that one thought. I made a deep, powerful vow to myself, just like Kamal did. One really late night, I just realized what I needed to do. It just came to me.

My thought was: “I am in control of my own state of mind. I will not let anyone or anything control how I feel or how I act. I am in control of my own life.”

I said this to myself a few times, and then I believed it. My brain works fast; it heals fast, it thinks fast, it works fast. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders immediately when I started to believe this. I felt free. Peaceful. What is, is. What will be, will be. I don’t control anything besides myself. I let everything else go. Just like that. For the first time in my life, not having any control doesn’t give me anxiety or fear. It just is. I just control my own feelings and my own actions. Nothing else in the world is as important as this. It is empowering to have this feeling, but not in a powerful “I can do anything” way. But more in a tranquil, carefree, zen-like way. I observe others without judgment, I listen without wanting to add my own stories, I enjoy each moment without worrying about what is going to happen or what others think. I just be, and I feel like my soul is a silent lake. No fish under the surface, no ripples, totally still without any interruption. I appreciate the little things more, and see how absolutely amazing the world is and how beautiful every person is.

“Memory is not set in stone. The more you remember something, especially if it’s emotionally charged, the more you will reinforce the pathways connecting the neurons.”

This also goes into something I have learned from years of therapy. Let yourself feel it. The emotions that are brought up in a memory shouldn’t be fought. Let yourself feel those emotions, and then let them go. Cry, be angry, be sad, scream, feel the anxiety, and let it pass. Don’t fight it, just let it go and move on. Take the time, every time (dog training reference). Take the time to understand the feelings, process them, and then ACTUALLY let them go. This is how we grow. Don’t fight or hide them. Fear and fighting always make it worse. Face it, and overcome the emotional block. Think about the emotions, the blocks, the challenge or whatever it is that is handicapping you, and ask yourself if it is real. Most of the time, it is our mind making it into something much bigger than it is. Let yourself take a step back and see the problem, then make a decision. Don’t get caught up in the ‘I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what’s going to happen’ trap. Make a decision and move forward, or you will be in the same destructive pattern, and you won’t ever let go or process. Things don’t ‘just happen’ or ‘work out’, that’s not how the world works. When the mind is left to itself (dog training reference again), it repeats the same stories, memories and thoughts. Most of the time, these don’t serve us and get us stuck in yet another loop. Get out of the loop. The only way to get out is to fully commit with as much intensity as you can to your truth. Or your vow. Or whatever it is.

Easier said than done, but if you really want to change, you can do this. Set your goal, repeat it. Believe it. It worked for me, and I love myself. I love my life, and I love the world I live in. Because I choose to.

Fear and Excitement

Next Big Thing

Two of my worst enemies in the emotional world are fear and excitement. And on opposite ends of my brain, naturally. Fear is usually accompanied by the feeling of being overwhelmed and sometimes depression, but always anxiety. Excitement comes with it’s own set of interesting challenges. Tunnel vision of the future without realizing the now is a ‘symptom’. For example, the potential house I wanted to buy. Yes, the land was great. However, the house itself was a total shithole. I knew it needed work, but I saw what it could be, and didn’t see the $400,000 of work and 3-5 years of time it would take to make it into my dream house. It was a giant money pit. I walked away. Because I’m smart. Be like me. Hehehe

scareexciteAnyway, it’s rare when I feel both fear and excitement at the same time, and these are very hard emotions to work through. I feel major anxiety without the depression. This is the hardest mania I have to work through. I think extra hard, my brain doesn’t stop, I can’t sleep, I talk a mile a minute, I clean like crazy, I can’t sort through my thoughts, I can’t talk to anyone because I just frustrate them because I’m all over the place. I think about all the possibilities of what could be. Then I think “Oh, I don’t want to get stuck in the tunnel vision trap” and try to slow down. Then I try to pick holes and find the bad parts so that I don’t overlook anything. Then I start to get anxiety because I’m now thinking about all the bad parts. Remember my last post about how I’m scared and doing it anyway? Well, this is me… on the edge of the cliff, doing it anyway. I’m moving forward no matter how it feels because I have to. I see my long-term end goal. I see my short-term goal… and I see the inkling of my very long-term goal. Every time I try to look ahead, I lose something in the now and lose a little perspective. There’s so much going on, so I have to just focus on the short-term while being mindful of the other goals. It’s exhausting.

I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m insane manic right now, and my heart is beating so fast. I wanted to get all this out of my system and then I’m going to do deep breathing exercises to try to calm down. This weekend is going to be pretty stressful for me, and I need to find a way to keep it together. I’ve literally had one panic attack in the last few months. I’ve been doing so well, I’m not going to lose it now. And I’m not going to back down. One-I literally don’t have a choice. And two..I’m not a coward. I’m seeing this through all the way. I’m finishing this ‘project’.

todayWhat’s so scary? I know, I know! I’m being really vague. Ok, let me lay it on you. My house sold, and my closing date is on February 10th. I found a temporary place to live and I went out to see it today. It’s way better than living in a trailer for a few months and running my company that way (which is what I was planning on doing). It’s a little studio, and I can run my company and have all my dogs. I’m looking at a new place, and possibly building. I’m not going to get too much into detail because it will jinx it. But I can say it’s a big deal, it’s all new territory for me, and I’m having to learn about running power, water, septic, and gas lines to an undeveloped property, buying water rights, building licensing, costs of building, time frames, city ordinances/codes, and finding out what it takes to really get in there and make it happen. I’m usually on the phone for hours every day with realtors, lenders, the city mayor, utility companies, storage facilities, my builder, and a ton of other companies trying to get everything in order. I’m still seeing clients and training dogs every day too. Long days make for one frazzled Heather near the end of the day. But at the end of the day, I can say I am doing everything I can. I’m giving it my all, even though I’m overwhelmed. And that gives me a sense of peace. I won’t give up. I know what I want, I have a vision, and it will work out. I just have to keep learning and trying. I’m so incredibly determined to do this, I won’t take no for an answer. This is happening. It’s real. BIG, EXCITING, SCARY things are happening right now. Business is booming, and it will just continue to keep getting better!

I have my calm piano music going already, and all my dogs are asleep, curled up together next to my bed. I’m diffusing essential oils, I’m fed, watered, and ready to fall asleep after I calm myself down. I have to get rid of the mania or I’ll crash just as hard. This is one of the biggest things I’ve been working on the last few months with my therapist is handling the cycling. I’ve been pretty damn good at it lately. So goodnight, and I hope you have exciting, scary things happening in your life too.

I’m Alive!

Project K9 Pack WalkI know, I know! I haven’t written in a few months. Sorry about that, hope I didn’t lose you all. I was on bed rest, thinking I would have more time to blog, catch up on paperwork, work on my website, advertise and work on marketing ideas. Maybe even take some much desired ‘down time’ to play video games, read, watch videos, and catch up on all my favorite shows. Umm, wait.. ‘down time’? Yeah, I don’t do that. What did I do instead? I trained Caleb, I did sell a lot of dog food, I hobbled around, I trained clients, I did a lot of advertising, social media, and worked on SEO. It all paid off, we’ve been slammed all year! I don’t stay down for long. I hobbled around, trying to feed and clean, and sometimes even handle dogs… Even if it was just to watch Caleb work. In the beginning, I watched nearly every session because he was still learning and I was coaching. I attempted to teach obedience on the floor, and we played recall games with the puppies. I would go outside to watch the dogs with him. I didn’t distance myself from my business at all. I took a step back with training and handling, but I think I learned more about myself during that time than I thought I would. I learned how to train someone to my expectations. At first, I tried to teach him like a client. Then, I realized my expectations of him were much higher since I would be teaching him to teach OUR clients. I was present for every session and still did all the private sessions, he was my legs.

 

Project K9 Heather working obedience with a broken foot I also had a proud moment at what I had created. I have successfully built a sustainable company. I hired my first employee, and I have learned to teach someone what I do. I share this passion now. There are ups and downs, of course. But the joy I feel of sharing what I have built is so powerful. At first it was hard and complicated. And during my recovery, I had a hard time going slow. I kept wanting to jump in and do everything. I constantly overdid it. But I changed. I started to slow down and let him help. I am a very independent person, and it took a lot for me to step down and accept that I physically couldn’t do everything. We started to become a team. I asked for help. I accepted help after a while. This is the way it is supposed to be.

 

Project K9 Dog Socialization

Caleb, watching the group.. but who’s doing the watching?

 
Project K9 Utah Dog TrainingNow that I’m done reflecting, I’m sure you’re all wondering how I mentally handled all of this. Yeah, I was rapid cycling like crazy. As long as I kept myself busy with as much work as I could physically handle, I seemed to stay within a ‘normal’ level. I was angry I broke my foot and couldn’t work, it was stressful training a new employee where I couldn’t demonstrate, I felt overwhelmed with too much responsibility and not enough ME. I constantly felt like I couldn’t do enough. So, naturally, I fell into the depression side of things. When I was manic, it was just as bad since I couldn’t actually do anything. I was going stir crazy!! After what seemed like an ETERNITY, I was finally able to crutch around and put weight on my foot. Still no handling dogs, but this took 2 months to get this far. I was out of a cast now, but not walking. At this point, Caleb is a pretty good handler, knows the basic principles, and sent home very well trained pups! Still going stir crazy, but we attended a 3D workshop hosted by Heather Beck at K9 Lifeline (Caleb’s first one!!) and that helped a lot to regain some motivation, and some of the happiness of this industry.

 

Project K9 Utah Dog Training

The recovery at this point actually seemed like it happened pretty quick. After I got the ok from doc to put weight on it (HOLY MOTHER OF OWW!), I was walking with a heavy limp within a week, completely off of crutches. Fast forward a month… I have no limp and very little pain. I have full range of motion back, can put all my weight on my foot, and I can’t jump or run on it yet, but I can ‘limp run’! Feeling much better about everything now. The last few months, I’ve really struggled to stay in the ‘middle’ of my levels instead of get sucked into the negative, depressive side. I’m at full capacity, and full function when training dogs. I’m running my pack walks again, though I missed my group classes this year. I had a lot of really big plans for this year… Next year. I have lots of new classes in the works, and I’m working on expanding as well. So excited for what is to come. I’m getting back on track, the business is looking awesome, and I have accepted I can’t control everything, and it’s ok to ask for help sometimes. It’s ok to not do everything. And it’s nice to have company.

 

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

 

Seeing the Light

I have finally started to come out of my ‘down’ and have reached the ‘manic joy’ stage. I’m overly excited about everything, I can do everything, and I can take on the world.  It’s better because I’m productive and I can finally get stuff done. But at the same time, this stage is exhausting too, because I have to do everything. I have to, or I feel jittery, incomplete, insane.

I have started to come into this stage at a good time though. My house is totally spotless, I’m almost all the way unpacked, my dogs are exercised, bathed, and trained every day. And I still have time to play every day and do something fun.

It’s a good feeling to not be miserable, but I didn’t sleep before because I have nightmares. Now, I can’t sleep because my brain won’t turn off, and I have to keep doing things. Short post today.