Year’s Reflection

Dixie National Forest 12/2016

Dixie National Forest 12/2016

As the year is nearing the close, I can honestly say I am not the same person I was 12 months ago. I have changed in many ways I have never thought possible. I grow every year, but this year was incredibly traumatic, painful, and reflective of how far I’ve come.

Nappy, my very happy boy!I started the year by meeting an incredible guy. Literally, on New Years, I found Rob. I found him and kissed him, and stole his heart. He’s the most incredible, self sufficient person I have ever met, and he has big dreams. Guess what? I do too. The more I learned about him, the harder I started to fall. He’s amazing. He’s done amazing things, has really great stories of parts of his life, and has taught me so much about what is possible in this life. It has been an absolutely crazy journey, but I am so in love with him, and together, we can move mountains. We can do anything. The problem is we want to do EVERYTHING! We have gone through intense good times, but also heavy traumas and very deep, dark things. But we are going through it together. So, here’s to many more years to see what happens! Hopefully, the hard parts are subsiding, and we are building a fruitful foundation for the years to come!

I sold the house I bought with my ex husband all those years ago. I fixed it up with help from my friends, and sold it. I learned how to do drywall, do mudding & taping, painting, flooring, I laid cement, and learned to use many different kinds of tools I didn’t know how to before.

Upper Setting near Mirror Lake, Kanab, UT 06/2016

Upper Setting near Mirror Lake, Kanab, UT 06/2016

I learned how to take care of my own landscaping. And I learned more about all the legal hoops you have to jump through when you do something like get married or get divorced. It’s all ridiculous, but I learned more about everything. I learned more about the processes for buying and selling property, commercial buildings, licensing codes, how city ordinance works, and what to do when things get tricky.

 

 

I lived in a 900 sq ft studio where I shared space with my 5 dogs, and all my business visitors. Clients and dogs alike were invited to the only space I could call my own (which wasn’t even mine). My bed sat next to my kennel room. My Jedkitchen was in my living room. But I managed, and I kept up a positive attitude. I was forced out eventually, and I moved to a loft above my friend’s tack room on her ranch for several weeks after a house I had an offer for fell through 4 days before closing. She was incredibly generous, as I really thought I would be living out of my truck, while continuing to train dogs to make a living. That family is one of the sweetest families I know, and every single one of them are beautiful. I thank them from the bottom of my heart that I didn’t have to live in my truck for weeks while I found another house. I had a roof over my head, and a safe place for my dogs to live.

This gave me a brand new appreciation for being grateful for what I do have, and cherish the things and the people that I used to take for granted. Most of the time, not on purpose, but now I see the world much differently. I love more, I cherish more, and I don’t take running water, electricity, money, or life for granted. Material things mean little to nothing to me now. A ‘rich life’ means a happy lifestyle to me. That’s all I want. I don’t care about what I have, how much money I make, or material possessions. I just want to be happy, and live an emotionally, spiritually, and mentally rich lifestyle.

Moab, UT 10/2016

Moab, UT 10/2016

I found a house, and I moved in to this old, cottage-type home I fell in love with in May. Yes, it’s a project house with a shit ton of landscaping and yard work, but I loved it. I had help moving in from my friends, my clients, and my family (Rob’s included). It was an emotional experience, because moving into this house meant all the shit I went through before now is over, and I could leave all that baggage behind me. And I did. Slowly, I let it go. I didn’t have to continue to move every few weeks/months and I could start rebuilding. The work I had planned on doing on my house was quality work. I want to take the time to fix ‘er up and make ‘er mine. A few months later, Rob officially moved in with me. We are so happy, and this just felt right. Not rushed, and not because it was more convenient, but because it was right. We are together because we want to be, and no other reason. That’s the way it should be.

Horsetail Falls hike, Alpine, UT

Horsetail Falls hike, Alpine, UT

This house has many problems that we knew about, and a plethora of even more we didn’t know. It’s old, so some of the issues are because of wear and tear, old materials, and things that are outdated. But some of them are because of how things have been updated, band-aid fixes, or shoddy work on the house. We will slowly fix everything, and update what needs to be updated. The yard work in itself could take us years alone.Redoing the work others have done will also take years. That’s ok. We have all the time in the world. Life is what we make it!  No rush. This isn’t a race.

We have a bedroom, 2 bathrooms, the dog house, and the kitchen that are under construction all at the same time (we didn’t plan it that way…obviously). We are working on fencing projects, landscaping, and flooring all at the same time. Big projects are a constantly here, and it can be overwhelming, but we are trying to make the best of everything, and not let it overwhelm us. I feel it’s a direct relation to our life right now, and even though there are projects, all of them are repairable.

I have also had quite a lot of trauma this year. I have lost 3 of my personal dogs (Jed, Napoleon, and Marshall), 2 client dogs, and a foster dog. Plus all my friends who have lost animals this year. heather and marshallIt all hits me so hard, and it seems I’m so sensitive to loss now. This year was incredibly traumatic. I have a passion for life, but my heart has been broken over and over this year. It feels like it won’t ever totally heal. I want a lull in the disasters for a while. One thing after another, it keeps crashing. Devastating chaos keeps hitting, and before I’m able to fully recover from one, another one happens. It makes me want to stop working, and spend all the time I have cherishing the ones I do have. I wish life would allow that.

My heart has been broken so many times this year, I feel like it doesn’t know how to fully heal anymore. Happiness is a dream. It’s like something that if I try hard enough, I may see it again. Not that I’m unhappy or miserable, but I have an overhead gloom over everything that taunts me with ‘What’s Next?’ questions. What happened in this universe to cause all these things to happen? What energy am I putting out to allow this to continue happening? I started learning about energy transfers and similar things several years ago. I didn’t believe I was putting anything out that would cause these things to happen to me. I felt like a victim. Terrible things have happened. But I don’t see myself as a victim anymore. I see it as I need to learn something. I need to learn what energy I am putting out, and make it more positive, so I attract more positive events in my life. Happy, positive events, rather than chaotic, traumatic ones. That’s my take away. I’m working towards a more uplifting, happy life. I don’t want complicated or hurtful anymore. I want to do away with the negative. Not a New Years’ resolution, but a goal. I want to focus my energies on spreading positive, happy vibes. So, when life gives you lemons…Fuck the lemons and bail! Haha, no, I want to go with the flow of life, and accept even the bad things with grace. I want to be and let be. Make lemonade… anyway, you know all the metaphors, you know what I’m saying. I want to be able to roll with the punches! Ok, I’ll stop. I’m done!

Goodbye, Marshall

marshallhatLife is a precious gift. It can be taken away so quickly. I hold my family a little closer today, as our sweet Marshall unexpectedly passed away last night. We are devastated, and it still doesn’t feel real. I keep expecting to hear his little feet on the floor pitter pattering as quick as he can to come to me if I called him. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t old. He was taken far too early. He was one of my best dogs, and the best ‘little’ I have ever had. I never thought I would have a little dog, as I’m into the ‘tough’ breeds. But then Marshall came to me for training and I fell in love with him. I told the family if they ever didn’t want him or couldn’t keep him, that I wanted him. I never expected to hear that a year later, they were moving and couldn’t take him. So without hesitation, I took him and he was immediately a part of my pack. I didn’t foster him, or even try to adopt him out. He just belonged with me. He was an amazing dog, and brought so much happiness to every person he met. I never expected this would happen so soon.

homedepotmarshallWe buried him under a tree in our front yard. He will stay here forever, and bring nutrients to the trees, the soil, and the earth. His body has returned to the planet, and his soul is now on a journey to wherever else it needs to be. He’ll always be with me, and I’ll have all the beautiful memories of him to remember him. I want to remember my bright, happy Marshall. I want to remember all the silly, cute things he did. The house feels very dreary today. Our hearts are breaking, and our souls cry. I wish this didn’t happen.

marshall

I remember the way he would sit or lay on top of the big dogs to stay warm.

I remember how fast he would run back to me when I called him. His recall was always awesome.

I remember how when the other dogs were eating, Marshall would clean up the pieces they missed. No one minds, and he never tries to steal food from out of their bowl.

I remember how he would try to sneakily crawl up underneath the blanket to snuggle on the couch.

Chasing Jane around the loveseat in the living room.

Always walking nicely on or off a leash, never had a problem listening.

When you corrected him for something, he would stare at you with one paw held up.

marshallhorsesWhen he curled up in the big dog beds by himself and his tail was resting on his nose, like he was hiding.

When we all went camping, and he found the sunniest little spot to rest while we were all cooking breakfast.

How everyone who met him instantly loved him.

When I would let him sleep with me in my bed, and he could curl up right behind my knees.

jinxmarshallHow he loved to sit right in between the big dogs’ paws, like he belonged to them.

How he was the perfect size to sit with you and make you feel better.

He wasn’t really ever scared of anything.

He had no issue putting any size dog in their place if they were being pushy or rude.

How he loved to drag around the biggest bone he could find.

That time we went to the Farmer’s Market and Rob put him in his camelback because he was tired.

marshallgrassHow everyone thought he was a puppy.

How he loved people so much, he would just start walking with them.

How he just looked extra cute no matter what he was doing.

His eyes were too big for his face.

The time I took him trail riding, and he kept up with the horses like it was no big deal.

How he was amazing with kids and all other dogs.

He was awesome with all animals. He never tried to hurt chickens, cats, kittens, or even little rats.

He was the ‘Marshall’ of the dog yard. He was named after Eminem, but to me, he was literally a Marshall. An authority figure.

He really was the best dog.

squishesmarshallI’m really going to miss him, the house won’t be the same without him. I only had him several years, but in that time, he left his pawprint there. For such a small dog, he had the biggest presence in the best way. His spunky, happy personality is what I want to remember.

We will build you a little memorial in front of your tree, and plant flowers there in the Spring. You have no idea how many dogs you helped, and how many people were touched by you. You have made a huge impact on the world, and I will never forget you. You can never be replaced. I’ll do my best to keep my chin up and put on the smile, because I know you wouldn’t want me to be sad. In fact, I feel like you would be curled up with me right now, trying to cheer me up.

I love you, Marshall. So much. Be at peace now.

marshalltail

polymarshall

RIP Napoleon

Nappy and Heather

July 2013

My stomach is in my throat, and tears stream down my face as I’m grieving the loss of one of my oldest partners. Napoleon was my first dog, and my sidekick for the last 7 years. He helped me see the love of training dogs and helped me make the dream of owning my own business a reality. He was my demo dog for my clients and my service dog for working through PTSD. He taught me to be softer and how to ‘wait’ for what I wanted rather than to increase the amount of pressure I was applying. He taught me to trust, and he taught me what the human-dog relationship was all about.

The loss of my dog is that of the same as a loss of a child. An innocent, pure soul who we helped become something in the world. My heart is broken, but I feel it all throughout my body. Words are hard to form, and it’s difficult to get anything done. To find the motivation to even move or talk. This is a deep, deep loss and it feels like I left a little piece of heart in the vet’s office.

Milkbone NappyNapoleon lived with my mom since I broke my foot at the beginning of April ’15. She fell in love with him, just like everyone who met him. He was an amazing friend, and I enjoyed doing everything with him. He was an “American Dream Dog” as one of my client’s described him. After he had some training, he always listened, he was spot on with every command, he was 100% off leash reliable, and was polite with other dogs. I used that example with a lot of my clients because I believe any dog can be your “American Dream Dog” once you achieve this type of relationship with them. This won’t take the dog out of the dog, or change who they are.

I feel I have this type of relationship with all my dogs, but the one I had with Napoleon was different and special because he taught me this was possible. He taught me about living a life with a dog is one of the most fulfilling adventures. He was the reason I was introduced to Heather Beck from K9 Lifeline, and that started my entire journey on the path to becoming a dog trainer.
He stuck with me through flooding in my brand new house, the journey of me figuring out how to handle my PTSD, anxiety, depression, and my bipolar swings. He was there when I needed to get away from the world. He always greeted me like I was the best thing since sliced bread. He went through my divorce with me. I used him to help with evaluations and dogs who needed help. I used him as an example for nutrition, obedience, and behavior stories.

CGCnappyJust like all dogs, he has all kinds of happy, silly stories. I’m trying to remember them all, but the hurt is too much right now. Give me time. I feel this in my bones. My muscles hurt everywhere,  my head is going to explode, and my heart is in pieces. I hurt everywhere and all I want to do is sleep. But I have to be strong. The world keeps turning, and he wouldn’t want me to shut down. So, I’m working. Slowly, but I’m doing what needs to be done, and I’m teaching. I may break down in front of everyone, but I’m not stopping.

I don’t hide how I feel very well because it’s exhausting and takes way more energy than just being honest. So I’m being honest. My heart is broken and I’m on a roller coaster of emotions. I’m raw and fragile and I’m not a rock. I can’t be anyone’s rock for a while. I need to take care of me, and I promised I would be strong.

dirtynappyIf I didn’t make the decision, he would hang on as long as possible to be there for me, and he would be happy about it until the very end, regardless of how he felt. Rob told me Nappy would tell me when he was ready, and so I made the decision that as soon as I “heard” that, I would make a decision and I wouldn’t waiver. So, on Saturday night, he showed me. It was really hard all day watching him, and that night, it was unmistakable. I didn’t know if I would see him again when we went to sleep. I made the decision I would call as soon as everyone had a chance to say goodbye.
NappyHappysept2015This dog was very special, and helped me get over a lot of baggage. And maybe, he did his job. He helped me release a lot of things I was hanging onto and taught me how to handle emotions a little better, how to let things go a little faster, and how to teach everything I learned to others. And I absorbed that information, so his job was done and now it was time his soul went elsewhere and helped others learn.

I don’t believe in a Heaven or Hell. I don’t believe in God or Satan. I believe that when we die, pieces of our souls go where we are most needed. Usually to another broken soul, or to a new life. Napoleon has a pure, happy soul. He helped me realize I am also in charge of my own happiness, and external influences shouldn’t affect my happiness. I am in charge of my state of mind, and I can fight anxiety, frustration, anger, and sadness. I can choose to be happy. Right now, I am choosing to grieve the loss of my friend. Don’t worry, Poly, I’ll be happy again.

I miss you so much, and I’m so happy you chose me for a few years to teach me everything. I’m lucky to have had you in my life. You’re so special, and I hope your soul finds peace and happiness wherever it goes.

I love you, buddy.

Nappy 2013

December 2013

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

What A Wonderful Life This Is

Passionate.

Driven.

Deep.

Motivated.

Productive.

Those are all things that have described me as far back as I can remember. Those are all traits hat I used to build a solid foundation of who I am now.

Balanced.

Happy.

Strong.

Spiritual.

Self aware.

Humbled.

Those are traits I have also become through very tough experiences and I will continue to grow.

Peace.

Harmony.

Learning to be.

These are things I’m striving to continue learning and to be able to teach others. I am not perfect, nor do I have all the answers. But those are things I have started to realize I want in my life in the last few years. I have sorely been missing some balance and enjoying just the moment…until recently.

Mistakes.

Loathing.

Hurt.

Heartbreak.

Loss.

Defeat.

Failure.

A willingness to continue on.

Now, these are things that brought me to where I am.

Emotionally speaking, I crawled on my hands and knees in a bloody, fatigued mess, living off of nuts and berries in the wilderness… alone. However, I wasn’t physically alone. I had support, love, and the motivation of good people urging me to continue. This was a personal journey though, and though I had this support, I needed to do this ‘alone’. The actual event of me closing on my house needed to be done alone. This was a big decision because I was leaving so much behind when I walked out of those doors. Every day since then, I leave a little more behind and continue on with less worry, less stress, and a lot less baggage. I’m lighter and happier every day.

howtobeyourdogsbestfriendAt this very moment, I am sitting on an airplane, on my way to Albany, NY. I start the next step of my spiritual journey in Cambridge, at the Monks of New Skete monastery. They are teaching a seminar called ‘The Art of Living with Your Dog’. I was supposed to attend last summer, but I broke my foot and couldn’t go. So I’m going now, and it’s the perfect time. This is a big workshop, and I have been looking forward to this for a few years. I have butterflies thinking I’ll be sitting in front of the monks tomorrow, learning all they have to offer, in this very magical place. This is a big one, guys. This year is full of amazing things, and I’m drinking it all in. It’s been tough, and now I see how much it’s paid off. Not just the house part… but how much I have grown.

It has been a very, very long time since the last time I felt excited without feeling anxiety. None, despite the last minute emergencies that always seem to happen right when you leave town. No panic, no depression, no fear…and no mania. Just excitement and happiness.

I wake up happy, I’m happy all day, I love what I do, I’m in love with an amazing man who makes me want to be my best, and I go to bed happy. I love my life, who I have become, and I love this feeling of euphoria that I have. I feel like I am living life to the fullest, and I can make anything happen if I want it to. I want to feel like I accomplished something every day. Like I’m a better person than I was yesterday. I feel like I’m doing that. And I’m so happy. “Happy” feels like an understatement. Without sounding like I’m in a manic episode, I’m euphoric. And I can’t believe this is legal to feel this good. But I know I don’t want to feel any other way. I paid my dues, and I’m not feeling the slightest bit guilty about feeling this amazing. I want to say I’m lucky, but I don’t really believe in luck of the draw. I worked for this, I sacrified, I bled, I cried, and I lost. But these benefits… well worth it. I believe hard work pays off, and I deserve to feel this.

I can live in the now, make plans for tomorrow, and reminisce about what I learned yesterday. Today, sitting at the airport for a few hours would normally make me feel miserable. I’m not. I filled my time productively by responding to lots of voicemails, emails, text messages, set up my email accounts, scheduled more clients, and set up everything so when I get back, I am full until July. I’m busy, but not overwhelmed. The work-balance ratio is a constant struggle, but I want to work hard during the work hours, and then enjoy my time off and turn off and relax when I am off the clock.

I have house projects that I’m so looking forward to, I have work projects lined up, I have clients scheduled every day, dogs coming for training, and Rob and I make plans to do all kinds of fun things when we have the time off. Sometimes, that means just playing video games on rainy days. Other days, that means heading up to the mountains and hiking, mountain biking, or camping with our dogs. This is paradise to me. This is what I have wanted for a very long time. This is my idea of balance. This is my idea of ‘just being in the moment’. I’m not worried, I’m not stressing.

What a wonderful life this is. And it will keep getting better. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done. The whole last 2 years, not any one specific thing. And I feel like a warrior.

lovelife

Difficult Dog Workshop 2015

k9Lifeline__heather_beck_difficult_dog_workshop_heather_hamilton_projectk9After an incredible weekend learning new things at the Difficult Dog Workshop at K9 Lifeline, I’m refreshed and refocused. For some reason, this time was different. It seemed every single thing we discussed, every question, every demo, every quote meant something to me. I’m exhausted, but also re-energized and I’m excited to practice all the new thing I learned. I have picked out a few bad habits I need to adjust, and quite a few new things to add to my toolbox of awesome skills. This was quite an emotional weekend for me.

On top of learning a bunch of new things and attending this workshop, I had to deal with my first ever training dog emergency. Of course it happened on the first day of the workshop. I had a training dog, a boxer, who wasn’t doing so great. He started to get lethargic the morning of the workshop, and had refused food for the last few days. He lost some weight, and also had blood in his stool. He was also vomiting. There was blood in his vomit. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him for a few hours, so I called the owners to tell them about the situation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a hold of them. I made a judgment call, called the emergency contact, and got this kid to the vet. Pretty much all morning, I was on the phone with vet techs, my client, the emergency contact, and the vet, trying to figure out what was going on. I decided to send this guy home and we would do training when he was healthy. What an eventful way to handle the first day of the workshop. Updates on the dog now are looking much better, but we still don’t have any answers. We are unsure on what is happening health-wise with this guy.

k9Lifeline_difficult_dog_workshop_heather_hamilton_projectk9Alright, back to the workshop, I realized I do ask for advice, but I don’t always hear the answers. Some stories were shared today about mistakes other people have made, and there were consequences. And I realized all of a sudden, that can happen to any one of us. A little mistake can mean fatal consequences. As I have my own stories of things that have happened, some of the stories I heard were worse than my own.  I won’t get into details, but we all start to deal with the hard stuff at some point. I am changing the way I do things a little to make things even safer than they were before. Just in case. It wasn’t advice I heard in these stories… It was a warning. And I’m going to abide by it.

Whenever I hear other people’s hard stories, and realize I’m not the only one who lost something besides a very special dog… I feel a little less guilty. However, it makes me miss Ryder a lot. He wasn’t ‘just a dog’ to me. He was a milestone in my career. I fell in love with this dog, but I also took it upon myself to fix it. It was my mission, and I failed. I talk about my failures. I’m not ashamed. The scars are how we learn. Damn, this was a hard day. Being at K9 Lifeline, hearing about other people’s stories, remembering my own like it was yesterday… just too much. Lots of tears today. I was very close to having an anxiety attack. It felt like the wound of losing him was ripped open again.

I have to remember to put my emotional side on the back burner and buck up and make dog trainer decisions sometimes. One my clients struggle with is unnecessary affection. Affection is never the answer. I had to learn this too. No petting, talking, or food rewards for dogs who don’t deserve it. I learned this a long time ago, and it took me a long time to realize I wasn’t following the “you get what you pet” rule. Now, I love on my dogs, but only when they are 100% deserving. Just because they want attention, doesn’t mean they deserve it. I have learned to respect dogs’ space by not giving them eye contact, affection, or verbal attention until they are deserving. The hardest part is telling people to ignore my dogs. I have started teaching my clients the “no talk, no touch, no eye contact” when they walk into my house. It’s quite hard for the majority of my clients. Respect their space like you want them to respect your space.

I was able to experience what it feels like to be a decoy for bite dogs. It was AMAZING! It was so fun, and I learned so much about this sport. I have decided I want to get a few of my dogs involved in this, and play. Dante and Jinx. Dante loves any game, but he has a high drive, and a lot of energy. Jinx has the drive, the energy, and she loves to bite. Now, don’t confuse this with aggression. Dogs with aggression should not participate in this sport at all. I realized I don’t know much about bite work, but I’m going to learn. I won’t get too much into this, as that’s a whole new blog post!

Anyway, I’m feeling invigorated by this weekend, and today was the first day I was able to put into practice my new daily routine, the new skills I learned, and focus on my energy a lot more when I’m working with dogs. Today was exhausting too, but I’m so happy. Finishing the day off with what I love to do is the most rewarding thing I could ask for. I absolutely love my life!

k9Lifeline_difficult_dog_workshop_decoy_heather_hamilton_projectk9

Compassion Fatigue

I realize why I have been so anxious and shaky lately. I see shelters filled, rescues overflowing, and animals being euthanized for no reason other than there is no room.

My chest is always tight, and I tear up when I see the result of mistreatment. I get over it and think ‘I’m doing as much as I can.’ I focus on breathing and I recover.

Heather Hamilton Compassion FatigueAnd then I hear about someone wanting to breed. Not reputable breeders, but just some random person who doesn’t know anything. Some random person who wants ‘for their kids to experience the miracle of life’ or ‘I want one of my dog’s puppies’.  I hear it every day. ‘My dog is cute, I should breed her’ or ‘I have papers, so I need to breed her. It’s my responsibility’ or ‘I want to make some money’… the list goes on.

It starts over and I have a panic attack. WHY do I have to be so sensitive?! I want to toughen up and not let things like this affect me so much. I want to scream and cry and hit someone. I want to shake them and force them to watch the pink juice go into animal after animal so they understand what they are doing is filling up shelters. I can’t breathe because of other people’s ignorance. I can’t sleep and feel sick. It’s happening again, and I can’t stop.

I have visited 2 shelters this week, and I’m going to another one in a couple days. I want to take all these ‘breeders’ with me and shove this in their face. I can’t stop shaking I’m so mad. My heart won’t stop pounding. I can’t breathe and the tears won’t stop.

I look at Jinx and know I saved her life. Not only that, but I see she has been bred. She has been mistreated and someone did wrong by her. She should never have been bred, but she was. Where are her puppies? Probably in a shelter or dead. Not only It is ignorant or stupid, but abuse. I don’t show her I feel this way.  I am a strong leader, and I have to her show confidence, rather than pity. I can feel weak and sad for her on my own time. She has to learn how to handle different situations and looks to me for guidance. I show her how I want her to act. That is confident, stable, balanced and strong. She’ll get there, but I can’t let her see me this way. She will feel it, and it will cause anxiety, fear, and for her to be unsure and concerned.

These PEOPLE want to breed because a ‘pomsky’ is the new, cutsie dog. People want to make a quick buck off of some backyard poorly-bred puppies. They are sold for hundreds or thousands each. No pedigree lines have been proven. No papers. They are not a ‘real’ breed. Does that make them any less of a dog or worth less? No, but that means these people are contributing to the vicious cycle of life and death. If people would spay and neuter their animals, we would have less of a problem. If people were responsible and did their research, they would see this isn’t a good idea. Do they care? No. They only care about money and making cute puppies.

Heather Hamilton Compassion FatigueInbreeding, puppy mills, overbreeding, and pet stores run rampant. The doggie parents were not given prenatal care or vet checkups for the pups. The males didn’t have proper fertilization tests done. The females had problems during pregnancy because the inexperienced ‘breeder’ failed to provide proper care during delivery. No health checks were provided, so dogs who have cancer, hip dysplasia, arthritis, gastrointestinal problems or heart problems are bred. Puppies die. Genetics get worse, and our ‘reputable’ breeds are hurt. They are have to raise their prices because of all the bad lines. They have to work harder to find good lines for their operation.

Cross breeds are made and then designer breeds are born.  Health problems occur and the animals are bred again. Puppies are given up on and end up in the shelter because of behavioral problems. Then killed because lack of space. Most puppies don’t make it to their 2nd birthday because of this cycle.

See the trend? It doesn’t end. Recently I have come across many ‘breeders’, and people pretending to be a rescue while they are also breeding. It has been quite a lot in the last week. That, with visiting the shelter has been emotionally exhausting. I have to ‘buck up’ and handle it because this is my life now. What can I do, other than volunteer with shelters, offer training to people who have adopted dogs from shelters, and spread the word about non-responsible breeding and puppy mills? I feel like what I do is never enough.

I want to call everyone out. I want to educate and yell and punch someone’s face in. But I won’t. Because I am a professional and have to hold my tongue. I have to educate in a ‘smile and bear it’ kind of way. Even when those people spit in my face.  Apparently, I have compassion fatigue. It’s a real thing. Look it up.