By Michelle Mullins
Last week you left me and Brisbane just as we were feeling lost and unsure. Fortunately we found our way… My dear friend and trainer, Janet, came to my rescue. She helped me realize I needed to find my own confidence and “happy place” and suggested Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier. Talk about a map to help you find your way; this book changed the way I thought about myself and about my friend, Brisbane. Janet had, again, led me to the knowledge I needed, and her guidance gave me the insight to find a path Brisbane and I could walk together.
I returned to classes and focused on listening to my dog and doing the right thing for him in each moment. A mix of views and methods from some wonderful trainers helped me realize I had to pull from all these humane methods to help Brisbane be the happy, wonderful dog I had at home. He needed to feel safe and know I would always ensure that safety.
I asked him to do things with me and listened when he clearly said, “No, I can’t do that.” So, after a year I packed him up and headed back to a rally trial. I’d like to say the sun shone, the angels sang, and we had a near perfect runs, but we didn’t. We had moments that were wonderful and others that were not. At one point, a loud fan kicked on right over our heads, and he became startled. I thought we were done, but after circling around, he looked right up at me ready for the next skill.
The final sign was a simple HALT SIT. I asked Brisbane to sit, and he just stood there. Several seconds went by. He yawned. I waited. He sat. I cued him to heel and moved toward the FINISH. As we passed the sign, I did our little wiggle dance (I apologize to all who have had to witness this), praised him, and rewarded him with some tasty chicken.
The judge approached and gave me some encouragement and advice. “Congratulations” she said. We had earned our first Q! I stood for a moment in disbelief where a year before I had witnessed a scared, anxious dog. Hardly anyone knew how much work it had taken us to get there. I was more proud of that 184 than anyone could be who had achieved a perfect 210.
I’ve learned so much for Brisbane and from Brisbane. I’ve learned patience from a dog who has been patient… as I’ve gained the knowledge we needed. We are on a journey together and always striving to travel forward side by side.
We will never get to the end of this journey, and I am glad; because if I ever feel I have journeyed all the way to Brisbane, I may forget to continue to seek the knowledge and guidance from those who got us this far.
Besides, the journey is the real reward. All the experiences along the way are what fill our lives and make the journey worth the effort. I don’t want to get so focused on the destination I forget to fully embrace the moments along the way.
My journey to Brisbane is a journey into the knowledge shared by amazing, positive trainers, the science of learning theory and to becoming truly humane. It is a journey I made for the love of a fuzzy, four legged mutt, who looked into my eyes with adoration and trust, and needed me to be more than I was.
While each of us trainers (professional or amateurs) takes a different path, we are all on our journeys. Here’s to the journey.