Red Leigh Cooper

Red Leigh Cooper

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Emotional "Doggy Bag"-gage

     A few weeks ago I posted on as Facebook status that I was "freeing myself of some emotional baggage today."  Of course comments were good, I mean who wouldn't be happy for that?  However, I think it's time to address, in the grand scheme of catching my elusive "starfish" of just which "shell" I was freeing myself.

     My friend Mike, besides being a pretty cool guy, is also a tremendous talent.  I remember being honored to share to the stage with him.  When my band covered one of his older songs, and he was there to share mic duty with me, well, I definitely won't forget it!  It's because he is such a talent, so well loved by friends and fans, that, years after the demise of his band Rubberhed, and other recent musical endeavors, that people kept asking him, "Are you going to perform on stage again?"  I even asked him that myself about three months ago, so I knew the answer.  I guess the questions kept coming, because he felt it was time to post a Facebook note explanation to put it all to a final rest. Mike now continues to inspire me off of the stage...

    When my band ended, I did my best to stay away from the people that might ask me the same questions Mike was receiving.  I had to escape the pain of it all so badly that I decided on a whole new "career path."  I became a dog trainer.  It started innocently enough as a volunteer at The Austin Humane Society.  Nine years later after studying with the best dog trainers, earning certifications and owning my own business, I literally walked away from it all. So the question I keep getting is "Why don't you dog train anymore."  I guess it's time to put it all to rest. I need to seriously move on, so I'll try an explain best I can.

    In 1999, Eric and I adopted an aggressive dog, Dali.  I wanted to do everything I could to help her, but it wasn't until we adopted Kobi, another aggressive dog, that I started to look at dog training more seriously. So when the band ended, that's who I decided I was now.  I was no longer a singer, I was a dog trainer.  I mean, what cause could be more noble, right?  Helping animals lead more well-adjusted lives?  Except I could never be sure if I was really doing it help other people and other dogs.  I mean, it sure did end up that way, but in the grand scheme of things, every dog, for the most part, that I saw was more well-behaved than my own.  I adopted a "do the best you can with your assignments, because trust me, you really don't need me," attitude. I'm not a strict dog trainer.  I couldn't ever be after dealing with what I had at home.  I also very much understood the plight of the "working" person. I still was an accountant through all this!  People just didn't have, and many of us just don't have, time for their dogs in today's society.  So, once again, do the best you can.  At least you did something.  I'm not saying this attitude is all bad, but what I am saying is I would never be what other trainers are.  So, when people really needed a kick in the pants because their dogs were as bad as mine, well, I couldn't deliver that either.  I was possibly too understanding.

     That would break my heart, actually.  Knowing a person wasn't doing what they really needed to change their dog's life for the better.  I would worry about the dog and the family.  Many trainers, well, they care, but they don't.  Doing the homework of training is on you.  They don't worry about the money you spent or the ultimate end result of your lack of compliance.  Honestly they shouldn't.  It is on you to work with your dog.  The problem is I did worry about those things, and I couldn't take much more of that. Maybe it started out about helping my dogs, but it ended up in anguish over yours.

     I also found that some dog trainers have some pretty hefty "God" complexes.  "Look what I can do with a dog..."  Once again, that just wasn't me. A dog is living, emotional being just like you and me and I'm not going to exhaust them mentally or physically just so I can look good.  As long as they behave in your house and in public relatively well, I don't really care what they can do or how precisely they can do it. Which I also guess made me a target for any trainer trying to get ahead and squeeze me out of the pretty "sweet" training gigs I had. I don't have the "fight" in me.  Not for this.  It should only be about helping dogs.  Seriously, folks, I expected that from the music business, not the dog training business.

     What hurt was that I had considered one trainer in particular that did this to be a friend.  I actually saw this person at the grocery store the Friday before I wrote that Facebook post.  If it wasn't for my friend Kristen, I may have lobbed a can of beans at this person's head.  This brought up a whole range of emotions I didn't realize I hadn't dealt with.  The interesting thing about this situation presenting itself at this moment in time is that I had been unexpectedly thrust back into the dog training world. I had always continues to be someone who would help with a friend's or former colleague's needs and I found myself with an extended "weekend" of dog training ahead of me.  Seeing this person made everything I felt went wrong come rushing back to me.  The uncertainty of being good enough because I wasn't hard nosed and the pain of having a friend try to take what I had worked for.  While I got through the initial weekend alright, I had a breakdown that Monday hours before I was to perform the last training task with which I had promised to help someone.  That breakdown was also just hours before that Facebook post.

     Calling my husband in tears and reliving everything with every word from my lips, he said one simple thing. "Dana; it wasn't that you weren't good.  It's that you aren't ruthless. And that's not necessarily a bad thing..."  The tears stopped.  I'm not ruthless.  I don't want to be ruthless.  Too much about that world, for me, is.

     I have officially quit dog training for good.  No more tips.  No more talking about it to my friends or when I meet someone new. No helping former colleagues. I am done. I am thankful for all I have learned.  I have two of the most awesomely well behaved dogs both inside and outside the home...well...there are still a few issues, but they are so much farther than I even I imagined. I am thankful for the clients who still call, because I was good enough, and tell me how good their dogs are because of me.  I am most thankful because the time I spent dog training has set me up to be able to talk to large groups of people all while being knowledgeable, graceful, and a great story teller.  I just may need that for my "starfish..."  There is a much bigger ocean I need to focus on. I leave this path on my journey with something for all the truly humble and wonderful dog trainers I still know.  It is a thankless job often times, but your dedication to cultivating dog-friendly training methods does not go unnoticed. You all kept me going as long as I did.  To all dog owners I say your dog is not as bent on world domination as much as you've been told they are.  They really just want to spend quality time with you and I can recommend some great trainers who can show you how that harmony can be achieved.

     As Mike said in his note, "...those moments in time are always best kept in the past. If you keep looking backwards, you'll never see what's coming up ahead in front of you. I hope this explains it all."

     It does, Mike.  Thank you for your inspiration and much love and happiness to you always...

     By the way, Mike; I still have Rubberhed songs in my Ipod.

    Happy Fishing!


No comments:

Post a Comment