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!!

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3 thoughts on “I DID IT!

  1. YOU DID IT! And I am very proud of you. The missing will get less, I promise and I am so proud of the way you have talked through your sorrow and loss. Good job sweetie. Loves

  2. Pingback: PTSD Waiting Game | End of My Leash

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