Monday, April 23, 2012

Bonafide CPDT-KA

That's right, your's truly is now a bonafide, Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed.  The "CPDT-KA" suffix can be proudly displayed after my name in the first of what I hope to be a few alphabet soup titles on myself before I die.  I look forward to continuing the pursuit for greater understanding of the canine species and help as many people as I can along the way.

A special shout out to a few very special people who helped me pursue this dream, guided me along the way and supported me when I needed it most:

First and foremost, my loving husband, Aaron.  You have always been there for me.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  You are my rock.  My foundation.  My everything.  Without you I would be lost and definitely would not be where I am today.  Special gratitude goes to my dear friend Kristin.  She has been the most understanding friend of mine through all of my own dogs' "stuff."  She never hesitated to help; multiple times donning the "Chicken lady" responsibilities and being ridiculously helpful and supportive.  Thank you, Kristin, for being there and cheering me on throughout the past several years.  Kerry and Eric, thank you for allowing me to become part of the BehaviorWorks family.  I look forward to continued growth under Eric's new ownership.  To my satellite buddy Dee, I hope someday soon we'll get to see each other.  Your energy is always present when I'm with the dogs...and I can hear your kind and thoughtful words when I need them.  To Cheri, you rock and you've helped me in more ways than you know.  I love your teaching style and have learned so much while being your student.  Your always quick to help me when I need a positive outlook on things and I thank you for that!

Others who have left an imprint along the way: Jess, Jan, Linda, Lisa, Trish, Suzanne, Grisha, Karen, Leslie, Temple, Kathy, Patricia, Johanna, Kathy, Addie, Dustin, Dr. Rivera, Stacy and many more.  Each of you has been a piece of the pavement along the way to building my road.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why me?

Warning:  This is going to be one of those posts where I feel sorry for myself...I feel that I can do this from time to time, right?!

UGH.  Today was one of those days with Oscar where I didn't feel any connection what-so-ever.  The dumb ass neighbor with his beagle came out this morning and while Oscar jumped on the fence to peek over, he didn't bark at the guy or his dog (a big YES! in my book).  Aaron then left to take him for a walk and as they were going down our driveway, one of our neighbors was passing by and stopped to chat with Aaron.  Oscar did well, but for whatever reason he barked and lunged in the lady's direction after they were talking (I wasn't there, so I don't know what the hell happened).  Then Oscar had another episode when Aaron was picking up his poop.  Aaron's back was to Oscar while he was picking up the poo and during that time, a lady with her two dogs came out of their house and walked directly at Oscar and Aaron.  Oscar made his presence known.  In my book, this was excusable.  Oscar is bred to alert to S.E.C.'s (sudden environmental changes).   The good news is that Aaron and Oscar saw the same lady and dogs later in the walk and both of them did fine.  

Then there was this evening's extravaganza.  The stupid neighbor takes his dog out again and Oscar, jumped on the fence.  No barking again (AWESOME!).  But then I didn't hold on to him long enough (or simply remove him from the backyard!) and he charged the fence again, jumped on it and barked a few times.  This time the stupid neighbor faces his dog and says, "Boss, say "HI!"  Boss, say "HI!"  Well, then his dog barks and Oscar gets amped up and starts barking at him with a lot more gusto.  Yay for that!  UGH!

It's embarrassing having a dog that is reactive.  Plain and simple.  The majority of people out there don't realize the time, effort, patience and perseverance it takes to work with such a dog.  All they see is the dog who is barking/lunging/growling.  They don't see the dog who is exhibiting self-control in situations that are scary/nerve racking for them.   Today was one of those days when I doubted why I even got a second dog in the first place...and, especially, another shepherd.  I love the breed, but Jesus, they are a lot of work.

Oscar has pure moments of brilliance at times...and lately they have been far outweighing the butthead moments...but still, today I so desired that I could come home to an EASY dog.  A dog that wouldn't have me walking around the backyard or neighborhood with a treat pouch on.  A dog that doesn't need to be on anti-anxiety meds.  A dog that doesn't need a ridiculous amount of home-cooked food each day.  A dog that happily walks over to our fence to greet the neighborhood visitors.

I know I sound incredibly selfish when I type this, but why me?  I give so much effort to both of my dogs and admittedly, the majority of that is to Oscar, and I feel like I get nothing in return.  I would throw myself in front of a bullet for this dog.  Doesn't he know that?  The blank looks I got from him today.  The inability to hear me when I was talking with him.  It's incredibly hurtful to have moments with your dog where there is only one being present.  (Here I go again...almost starting to cry!)

Yet I also know this is part of our journey, our dance together.  Today was not Oscar's day to shine.  I know he was doing the best he could, but what made him feel so unsafe that he had to act that way?  I'll never know...I can only look forward and move that next step toward making our life together better.  Dwelling on this won't help, but it is incredibly therapeutic to (once and a while) sit alone in the dark and just say, "Why me?"

Saturday, April 7, 2012


There is something incredibly satisfying about doing 1-on-1 training with someone.  Whether it is dog training, going to school, being in a relationship, heck - driving your car, nothing beats the connection two "things" can share.

Until very recently, I've always been on the other side of the 1-on-1 equation (the "asking for help!" side, that is).  A short while ago, I was contacted by a woman looking for help with her adolescent labrador.  She wanted to get into one of the training classes I teach, however the class schedule conflicted with a prior commitment on hers.  Having heard the sincere desire through her words as we emailed back and forth a few times, I knew this is a woman who wanted dearly to help her young dog and was getting advice from some other trainers that she was not comfortable with.  I could just feel it in her typing that she needed help and knew that there just had to be a better way than what was being told to her (jerking of a head collar and shaking the dog by the scruff!).

Very kindly I apologized that our class schedule did not work for her and I did something that I just knew was right; I offered to help her through private training.  There wasn't an ounce of hesitation in my mind, body or soul to open my services to someone who was suffering from behaviors that have struck very close to home with me.

Reactivity, impulse control, lack of focus, loss of or failure of connection are rapidly becoming modules of dog behavior that I live and breathe by.  There is no greater joy than seeing someone have that "Ah-ha!" moment when you are working with them. When they realize that they made something happen and they are in control. Sure, these moments happen in group classes, but the 1-on-1 sessions allow for a much more focused relationship and that is what leaves me beaming this afternoon.  The ultimate gratitude this new client of mine has had in just 2 short sessions is amazing.  She is seeing the potential in her their relationship...and I am honored that the perfect sequence of events happened that allowed me to help guide her along her journey.

It seems silly and often times redundant to keep reflecting on how much Oscar has changed my life, but I can't ignore how much he has allowed me to learn.  So, a special shout out to Oscar ("Thank you, Buddy!")

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finished Book (again): Bones Would Rain from the Sky

I love this book so much that I had to read it again (a special "Thank you" goes out to my 8-5 job for flying me out to Seattle this week which allowed me to read it on the plane!).

There is sometime completely comforting each time I read the pages of Suzanne Clothier's book Bones Would Rain from the Sky.  I don't even know how to describe it, really, but it's the same feeling I get when I drink a very welcome warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning.  It just feels damn good.

I've written about how much I resonate with Suzanne's style of teaching connecting with our beloved canines and I feel and incredible disservice trying to even capture it in my own writing because I know I will fall short. All I can say to those of you who share a life with a dog and looked deep into their eyes and felt that warm, comforting connection, you need to read this book.

For now, I place Bones back on my bookshelf...edges of the cover lovingly starting to curl...the spine prominently shown as an invite to pick it up, once again, when the time is right.