Today is bittersweet as I bid farewell to Lucasville, Ohio and fly back home to Scottsdale.
First and foremost, I must thank my teacher and, most importantly, my new friend, Alicia Bloomfield. I can’t begin to convey my gratitude and appreciation for her knowledge, wisdom, honesty and patience she showed me for the eight days I’ve been here studying with her.
Her family, her staff, and especially her badass pack, welcomed this city slicker with open arms and many slobbery kisses! I donned my boots, rolled up my sleeves and jumped right in to study. I can’t tell you how those squats killed me the first few days while those boots of mine cocked the back of my knees in the cold air and snow. But I done broke ‘em in and said y’all three times. 😁
All joking aside, I experienced dogs in a way I needed to see in order to take myself to the next level in my craft. Some of it was too raw and gritty to share here today. Just know that I was safe every step of the way and I learned what I came to study.
Every question of mine was answered without the ego that is all too often prevalent in my world of behavioral rehabilitation. As soon as trainers think they know it all, the universe will slap your ass right back down. I will never be that person. Ever. Neither will she.
While I felt so much emotion for so many dogs, a few stole a piece of my heart.
My Baloo, the Neapolitan Mastiff, stole my heart the minute I arrived. Every day, he trotted to our car carrying some special gift to show me with the rest of the pack in tow while he wagged his little cigar tail.
My first big lesson in calm patience was with goofy Ghost. That little 100 pound Cane Corso mouthy cow puppy pushed every button of mine he could on day one. The best part is that he knew that lesson was the biggest one I needed and he brought it in a way only he could. The expression “keep calm and carry on” is a hell of a lot harder for me than you know and Alicia helped me dig deep and breathe.
I felt such joy working CCR—Alicia’s groundbreaking Conditioned Calming Response—with Louie and Luigi, both dog and human aggressive. I’ve been asked multiple times about why they are muzzled. It’s simply for safety. Safety is always first. CCR is a very big piece of what I’m bringing home to all of you.
The most powerful and emotional hands-on work I did was with Torque/Ollie. My words cannot convey the torture I felt him release from his mind and the negative energy from his body. He is the boy I had said I’d euthanize after I saw his rage on Sunday. On Wednesday, I ate those same words. I’m ashamed that I uttered them so quickly but if I hadn’t seen him shift before my own eyes, I’d never have believed it. When he released some of his suffering, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I ran outside with HIS pain and released it to the universe. I truly believe I was meant to be there in that exact moment. There are no coincidences.
He opened my window of education with enough power and force to capture my attention and stun me. I’ve never seen such viciousness in any soul. The MOST important piece of this lesson is that I saw the next dramatic shift into acceptance and sweet surrender. I saw his eyes search Alicia’s as she communicated with him non-verbally. In my mind, that day he began to trust the human guiding him. The dog has forever changed me.
Last but certainly not least, none of this would be possible without the support of my husband Rob. His guidance and support are immeasurable. When I showed him some of Alicia’s aggression footage and expressed my interest in being her shadow student, he said “That girl knows her shit. Go and be a sponge and I’ll take care of everything here”. He gladly kept the home fires burning and offered to keep Jack with him rather than send him back into rescue and create more chaos in his mind. Not many men would tend to their own dogs and cat and laundry and feeding and poop scooping and on and on.
I’m about to board my fight so I’ll close for now by saying my heart is full tonight. I got everything I came for and then some. ♥️