Tuesday, March 29, 2016

my dog life

From as far back as I can remember, I remember being told I had a gift with animals. My parents have dozens of stories of me with critters of all types. From woolly worms to chickens to horses and an entire lifetime of dogs. In particular dogs have always suited me well. And I've always had at least 1 that was my closest friend at every age throughout my life. From early adolescent through teen years, I can still vividly remember all the dogs at every gathering we attended as a family, every friend's home I visited and even dogs I passed daily on the bus route home from school. I can remember their names if I knew them, always the breed and even the way they smelled. It wasn't until I was in my mid to late twenties that I really began to understand what was meant by gift. And that the way I recognized dogs wasn't, well the norm. Everything about dogs, I could connect with instantly.
my oldest brother, sister and me on the right at age 2
In my late twenties I decided to open up a little at home dog salon. I had 3 young kids at the time, the 2 oldest were in school full time and the youngest was just toddling into it. So I felt I had some extra time to spare and really more then anything, I just wanted to spend time getting to know more dogs. Also at this time I began breeding Lhasa Apso's. I filled much of my time researching the breed standards, breeders, shows, the shelters, grooming, health and personality. They were little dogs with a big spirit, shaggy mop like faces with big, round, bold eyes and a bark that took instant control of their surroundings. A lion dog. So I acquired 3 Lhasa's that I thought rounded out much of what I felt the breed was known for. 2 females and 1 male. I wanted to experience the entire life cycle of this breed - from puppy to teen to maturity to breeding to pregnancy to whelping to nursing to raising - all of it. This venture snowballed.
One of my Lhasa's - Libby in 2007
Libby's first litter
 Many of the pups I raised who were purchased by new families, I ended up grooming in that little ole at home dog salon for years and years. I became so accustomed to grooming the Lhasa that it became a form of art. I began having folks come from hours away for me to groom their Lhasa's. Lhasa the lion dog with a lion heart is often a scary thing on a grooming table and so I ended up with more untamed lion dogs on the table then I knew what to do with. The little at home salon turned into more than a full time job. Within just months of opening in a rural area, I was having to turn folks away simply because I had no extra time to groom them. Now my grooming skills at this time, weren't at all up to par. That so called gift was in other areas. And that gift I was told so often I had, I was still trying to understand. With so many little lion hearted dogs on the table, I soon learned that I could manipulate their energy and soothe their spunky little spirits by using my own energy. Transforming mine to match and communicate with theirs. Many dogs that had been sedated for their previous lifetime of grooming were now able to be handled without sedation. I could lower the energy around me which would instantly calm a frantic or terrified little dog.  I then used the same energy in touching them - first just some simple strokes which would morph into the groom.
With so many grooms each day, the skill didn't take long to master.
Grooming 2008

Being able to handle the dogs is without a doubt, the most vital thing a groomer must possess and learn. The clipping and scissoring will come but first, it just has to be all about the dogs.
I never ever spoke of this connection I had, not with anyone. But I practiced it daily.
Grooming 2015

Grooming 2016 - My little sister Bailey at 6 months

When we bought the farm in 2009, I decided to try the same energy identifying techniques with the other farm critters. The following winter when we bought our first little flock of sheep, I knew that was going to be a challenge. Their energy is so much different. But still it's energy and I just had to tune myself into it. The dogs however all have the same energy, some it's tucked behind other needs but it can be drawn out. It's there, just waiting to be discovered.
The very year we bought the farm, we acquired 2 livestock guardian dogs. And just like the grooming and the Lhasa venture, little could I have imagined what this new adventure would entail.
These livestock guardians were Great Pyrenees. At the time, I knew nothing about them and so I then began my intense research. Just like the Lhasa, I wanted to know everything about the Pyr. In just reading their history, I connected with them passionately. I absorbed everything I read - the good and the bad. And I took it all to the field and I watched these guardians day in and day out. Their energy was so different. Even different between just the 2 of them. It fascinated me and I was determined more then ever to truly connect with these dogs. They did all the things dogs do, they barked, they marked their territory, they came when you called, they liked belly and ears rubbed. But I wanted so much more. I wanted to know how they thought and why and what they truly liked to eat and why and what kind of people and animals they liked and why. I wanted to know everything! And so my deep connection with the Pyr breed evolved.

Reina 2016

Pyr pups 2014

Pyr guardian gang - 2014
I truly believe we humans have all been put on this earth as caretakers. Caretakers of the animals, the dirt, the trees, the water, the air, the people. All of it, it is all our responsibility. Some of us may feel more connected to one or the other and I think that's exactly how it should be. I have learned so much about myself through dogs, I have learned so much about others, through dogs. And I have gained so much wisdom through nurturing a gift that I believe all of us retain in one way or the other. If it's not with dogs, it's with other animals, the land or humans but I believe we all have it to nurture. For me it was so very spiritual too, which is no accident. So closely related our energies are, it's a beautiful thing to connect with something or someone without speaking a word.
Reina 2012
My journey with dogs is by far over, they teach me something every single day and remind me often how much more I am in need of learning. They show me to slow down, to close my eyes and to see with my heart. That's the purest beauty, the kind that reaches you so intimately without touching you at all.
Reina & son Flynn 2015