Who We Are As Dog Trainers

Over three quarters of the way through Karen Pryor Academy, I can hardly believe how fast it has gone. I have nothing but positive things to say about the program. I will be a little sad when it is over. I love the structure and the support, and I hope I can find a way to stay in touch with my classmates.

I share some reflections after the third workshop:

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Treat pouch view

I see us all here casting about, trying to settle on who we are and who we will choose to be. We are making decisions about how we want to live and about what’s important to us. Laura leads us by example, being unapologetically who she is – a dog trainer, yes, but also a TAGteacher, a master costumer, a gamer, a geek. “I am an unapologetic geek,” she announced on day one. She has a story for everything, and shares uninhibitedly. As for me, I have to shape my way to unapologetic. I can’t be and act one way – afraid, always adapting my styles and comments to what I think is acceptable, caring what others will think of me – and then suddenly shift to not caring, to just being how I am. For me, it takes a conscious effort – an awareness that fades in and out.

I am on the path to shaping longer and longer stretches of awareness, longer states of flow. In the flow state there is no inner dialogue about the moment; we just do what we do, we flow with what is. When we train it happens if we let it, then we work as a true team. Rio and I have fun! We are both goofy and excitable. I laugh easily and he makes me laugh often. When we get to that state, we are a partnership – a dog-human team. We connect across language barriers, across species, with feeling, joy and love.

I feel some discomfort when we work in teams with our volunteer clients. “How do I connect?” I wonder. Laura has a story for every comment, something to add, but I feel like I am being a mirror – reflecting back my client, trying to adapt myself to her, worrying about what we have in common. In truth we are both human. We probably have more in common than not. Besides, I don’t need everyone to like me. I try small doses of honesty and authentic sharing, “I don’t know that song,” I admit.

“It’s horrible,” she assures me.

“Yes, sounds like it would be.”

What I am left with in the end is that we can connect over dogs! If this is the only thing, it is enough perhaps.

The dog we work with is an anxious Chihuahua, tucking her tail and cowering at sounds, not willing to venture far from a lap. She is a rescue who has lived most of her first three years of life in a box. No wonder the world scares her. On our walk around the field she unfurls her tail and unpins her ears. She moves her little feet as fast as she can, picking them up high to navigate the grass. The grass has been mowed recently. It is short on my shoes, but it comes up to her belly as she trots carefully along. Laura comments about dogs forgetting their anxiety. She says she sees it happen frequently with both dogs and humans. We start enjoying ourselves so much that we forget to be anxious. We forget to freak out. It is another reminder to enjoy the journey and do what you love.

The whole workshop was a drifting in and out, sharing then closing off, remembering then forgetting, ease then stress, flow then discomfort.

As the moments of ease lengthen I come more fully alive and remain that way. It is a slow shaping of my own behavior toward my vision of my highest self – a vision that shifts and changes continuously. Rio comes with me. He is ever eager to step on the shifting platforms I have presented for his feet. He is eager to work with me, shaping my life as I shape his. He shows me the way with his eagerness and ease, sometimes brushing against my own insecurities. He bolsters and adds support to me on the way.

And who am I? There are a thousand different answers everyday.

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Who are we, Rio?

Writing, gardens, tiny houses, good food, vitality, art and coffee, dogs and learning about the self through their lessons, joy and fun, ease, freedom and standing for others’ rights, loving relationships, right livelihood, self-worth, seeing the good in anyone, colors, hiking, biking, the great outdoors, trials and adventures, flavors of life, and building life around what I love and stand for

Rio and Kavir are beside me with their own hopes wrapped up inside of them. Whoever we choose to be today, we all shape one another and we shape our world.

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