Today, I received an email from a long-standing client indicating that her beautiful Golden Retriever passed away this weekend. When I logged onto Facebook shortly after, I read a post from one of our Karen Pryor Academy graduates indicating that her lovely Hovawart finally succumbed to a brain tumor which had been plaguing her for many months.
I sat drinking coffee, thinking about these dogs. They were quite different. Roo, the Golden, was everything a Golden should be. Always smiling, bouncing, still acting like a puppy well into her golden years. Dea the Hovawart, in many ways, reminded me of my Chow mix – externally, she seemed quite a serious dog but when you got to know her and work with her, glimpses of unrestrained silliness shone through.
As I remember Roo and Dea, tears of gratitude splash into my coffee cup. I’m thankful for all the times they made me laugh, challenged me in new ways, and helped me improve my skills as a trainer. Every dog I get the chance to work with gives me a great gift. More than students, they are my teachers. Most importantly, they are my friends. One of my favorite things about clicker training is how quickly it allows us to form new and strong bonds with animals. When I get the chance to click with dogs and their owners, it doesn’t take long before they begin to feel like family. In fact, a number of my clients call me “Aunt Casey” when talking to their pooches about class, “Hey, you want to go to school and play with Aunt Casey?”
I love my students’ dogs. I celebrate their successes, creativity, and accomplishments. When one of them makes a trip to the Rainbow Bridge, I grieve like I lost one of my own dogs.
Today, on this last day in January, I’d like to give thanks to Wendy and Roo and Mirkka and Dea. For all the fun times we had together, all the times you and your dogs made me laugh and beam with pride at your accomplishments, and for the friendship you’ve given me, I’m eternally thankful. Each year in November we say, “Make Thanksgiving last all year,” and today, months later, I am doing just that. Having the privilege of working with, learning with and from you and your dogs, and seeing your teamwork, training skills, and bond is nothing short of an inspiration. I’ll never forget either of your beautiful dogs, and my heart just aches knowing how much you are missing them today.
They were lucky to have you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your adventures together, what a fantastic gift it’s been. Much, much love to both of you.