March 4th, 2014


My Quarterly Journal Entry

It seems all I have time to do anymore. Even with all the snow and ice keeping us inside so much this winter, I still don't seem to be able to sit down and write an entry.
Let's see, what has happened since Christmas?
OK, January found me offering two new NW classes. One was at a dog training facility about 30 miles away. It's great having the opportunity to teach here--it lets me offer NW classes to people who probably wouldn't drive as far as my building. Now that the session is almost over, they want to continue the class into a new session. Nice small group class of people who are really interested in it so it's really fun to teach.
And I offered a class for the local no kill shelter and their volunteers. I wanted to give their core group of volunteers the skills to do basic box work with the shelter dogs since some of them have been there for years and really need more enrichment. I got to meet most of the dogs they have for adoption and was really puzzled about the dogs they have. They don't accept dogs from the public, I don't really know where they get their dogs but several of them are too reactive to be handled by anyone other than the volunteers who have had lots of training. This represented about 30% of their dogs. Two are hound mixes who are sweet but I can't imagine anyone adopting such over-the-top middle aged dogs. Anyway, it was fun and different because I had the volunteers doing most of the handling and training. I hope they continue doing it, these dogs really need it.
Also started a new class at my own building with some nice dogs and people. I have to say that teaching NW is a lot of fun. I do most of the work in the early classes while the owners watch and try to learn about search behavior and how odor behaves. The teachers are really the dogs and I'm kind of an interpreter. The dogs get to do what they do best and naturally and we learn from them. It's a whole different slant on dog training that at first may look like the dogs just running around looking for food but gradually turns into a dog and handler team working together with almost telepathic communication in a dance that's mostly led by the dog.
One of the many wonderful things about NW is that it's non-competitive. Every dog is just as capable as every other dog of using their nose to find things so no dog fails and neither do the handlers. No one is the star pupil, no one dog always finds the hide fastest, everyone succeeds at every hide. I hear the students conversing with each other about how one dog will use the vertical surfaces nearest the hide to find the source and another dog was using a channel between the wall and floor and how interesting it is that there all different. So they all "own" every dog in class and there's sincere appreciation for each dog and his unique search style.
I've also booked two out of state NW workshops. Since there aren't many of us instructors around and not many seminars either, it makes sense to bring the instructor to the club. They do this with riding instructors all the time. I'm excited that NW is expanding in the southeast. Right now we have few trials less than a day's drive away and most people are used to having a local agility trial every weekend of the year and they don't remember when agility was the same way.
In addition to the teaching, I'm also doing some petsitting and dog walking and some behavior consults. I also board the occasional dog and give private agility and NW lessons so I'm able to afford to go to more seminars. I've been to a couple in the last two months and even one agility seminar with Spriggs. It was a baby dog seminar but we did some handling stuff I've never even tried before and she was great. We had about 5 or 6 dogs out on the floor working at the same time and she only left me once because someone started squeaking a toy nearby. I still haven't taught her contacts or finished her weaves or really taught her NW so I really need to get going this spring. I haven't been able to take a class with her so she's had almost no exposure to working in public. I wish I could take a class but I teach almost every night already and frankly, most of them are more expensive than they should be in my opinion. How much do you pay for a 6 week session with a 60 minute handling class of 6-8 dogs? These classes are mostly held outside under lights and often have to be re-scheduled due to rain, heat, etc.
And of course, I'm still doing my regular workouts with my trainer, traveling a lot on weekends to trials, seminars or for fun and trying to find time to train my own dogs.
I just realized the other day that it's been almost 2 years since I retired from my career as a clinical laboratorian. It went by so fast I can hardly believe it. I really love my life now. I'm so much happier and more fulfilled and my dogs are so spoiled since I'm with them all the time now. Sometimes as I'm driving through town in the middle of the day, I drive by where I used to work and I think I should really stop in and say hello but I literally can't make myself do it. I was so unhappy there for the last few years that although I'd like to see my former co-workers (well, most of them), I just can't bear the idea of walking through that door. I clearly remember how hard it was to return to work after spending the lunch hour with my dogs out in the sunshine. I know Obamacare is a sore subject with many people but for me it would have meant being able to leave a career I hated and not waste so many years in a place I never belonged. I actually rarely think about those years anymore but when I do it's with immense gratitude for my escape.
I guess that brings me more or less up to date. I have several NW trials coming up in the next month or so and so do my students. I also have NW camp to look forward to in April and September. Life is good!