The Journey Back Home
People say “Home is where the heart is” but I argue it’s the other way around: heart is where the home is. It has been almost two weeks since returning from Vermont and I wanted to give myself some time to let things soak in before I gave some final words. The moment I got home after two long weeks of being away, I felt a rush of emotion. I kissed my wife as I met her at a restaurant we have in town – I felt a sense of grounding. An even greater tug on the heart strings came as I embraced my one-year-old daughter who I hadn’t seen in what seemed like an eternity. We were one being, morphed together as she lay her head on my shoulder and my arms wrapped tightly around her.
Now, as I drift into the quantum realm, I had both traveled to Vermont and yet never left. My heart jumped into the training yet also stayed home home – my family was with me the entire time. The entire trip to Vermont consisted of one long moment of consciousness. The two weeks of training, trekking through the woods, getting lost in deep/real conversations with Kevin, writing daily articles, all seemed like one stream of awareness without separation by thought. Maybe that’s too deep for the time being but I liken it to the experience of a dog – the sense of self is merely a connection with everything else through the space-time continuum.
This adventure helped me learn, or rather remember, to make a return to the animal mind – both that of the human and the dog. Moreover, I got to see in the context of picturesque Vermont, true design in nature. I will never forget the moments where we stood deep in the woods with dogs on our sides, talking NDT theory, anecdotes, feeling the warm breeze, sun rays peaking through the tree canopy above, as pine needles danced with gravity on their return to the earth. It was all one thing.
Even my understanding of faith was molded by this trip. As many know I identify as a Christian, while at the same time I believe in evolution, especially as it pertains to Design in Nature. Many might balk at the dichotomy but I find both my faith and belief in evolution compliment each other. Additionally, as a mental health counselor who focuses more on the deeper, relational connection (as opposed to a diagnosis/label) I have a better appreciation for how flow and consciousness intersect with the physics of the spiritual realm. Seeing how it all applies to dogs in action is a gift I might not have received had I not spent the time with Kevin. And I don’t want people to confuse this as a “religious” experience; rather, understand it as a wider perspective about how the divine could be representative by the mere experience of emotion as consciousness – the perpetual awareness.
The Path Ahead
Now that I’ve lost you :), I told Kevin during the final days of my time with him, I’M IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL! I mean this in regard to training my own dogs, future dogs that enter our home, and other people and their dogs that cross my path. I’ve been able to solidify three main objectives for application from my trip:
- Continue to work with the Indiana K-9 Crisis Assisted Response Team as a trainer
- As a licensed mental health counselor, implement a NDT-based dog therapy outreach program at the University I work for full-time
- Develop a long-term plan to create opportunities to work with private clients
In terms of further growth and understanding:
- I am convinced I can make a direct connection between the Natural Dog Training model and the philosophies and practice of Aikido – it may take me a year or so to do all of the research but stayed tuned for a future thesis – it could be revolutionary ;)!
- With Kevin’s approval, I want to create an animated version of the model that takes you through all the levels of NDT that range from simple to complex expressions of the model. I will have to put my computer programming and graphic design skills to test!
“Bella of the Ball” and Trace (aka “Blaze” to Kevin) are both doing well. I’ve had them sort of quarantined to sections of the house where they are away from us most of the day or are otherwise outside. The heat here in the Midwest has been unbearable but we manage to get some training in daily. Bella and Trace continue to progress in down-stay with the box and heeling in the open yard. I went out and bought a long tie-out line and have secured a 50-foot trolley line between two large maples behind the house. This makes bite work much more manageable at this stage in the training. I look forward to returning to the trails at our nature park to get back into the search and rescue when the heat dies down.
I feel the dogs have adjusted fairly well to returning home. We haven’t had any major issues with Bella jumping up or nipping. I think our plan to create some separation between the dogs and our toddler has been a good one. Another plus is the decrease in dog hair around the house!
Ode to a Great Human Being
I cannot tell you how much this experience meant to me and the fact that Kevin and his wife open up their time and space to individuals is just absolutely amazing. It is my opinion that if you truly want to embrace the model and see it in action, create the opportunity for yourself to fund and allot time for a visit to Vermont – it is invaluable. I don’t often consider myself an ass-kisser :), but I must say Kevin has a way with getting people to truly open their hearts and minds to the truth about nature – to absorb it with the body-mind connection. It is really simple: go visit him, engage and learn, open yourself to change and then go spread NDT to where you are.
I am forever grateful for this experience; it is the kind you put on your bucket list. The implications of NDT branch out farther than dog training – it weaves throughout the fabric of family and interpersonal relationships, social connectedness, and the evolution of consciousness. Thank you, Kevin, for showing me all of this. Here’s to you, all of the years of energy and emotion you have invested in your life’s work, the continuation of your work, and the lives you have positively affected via the hearts of the thousands of dogs and owners who have crossed paths with you. May Natural Dog Training one day be the standard, not as something new, but as something that is acknowledged as having been here the whole time and only been discovered since being under our noses for so long.
Trust your dog and keep on pushing!