Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Understanding River

IN THE BEGINNING (Setting the Stage)

From what I’ve been able to ascertain, River’s life started out rough. I believe that he was trained to be either a guard dog or a fight dog. I believe that as part of that training, he was hit in the head by hand and with a stick-like object (perhaps a broom) by a large white man.
My instinct also tells me that because of the dog’s inherited poorly-aligned knees, he experienced a lot of pain when he fully bent them to sit or lie down or even to use his weight equally on all fours. So he was probably considered a ‘bad’ dog for being hesitant to sit and lie down. In an effort to relieve himself of the pain in his back end, he pitched his body weight forward, which resulted in a constant forward momentum which made him seem like a ‘hyperactive’ dog because he couldn’t sit or be still.

He was finally abandoned at about eight months of age. He was tied to an outdoor staircase railing near the waterfront in Seattle in the middle of August. No one knows how long he was there before someone finally called, but by the time the local animal shelter picked him up, his ribs, hipbones and vertebrae were clearly visible.

He was in the stressful environment of being locked up in the animal shelter for about five days, during which time he simultaneously caught a respiratory infection and was discovered by me. 

When I saw him, he stared at me and those beautiful eyes won me over. He was exotically stripped like a Bengal tiger and was one of the more beautiful dogs I had seen; especially amongst the ones available from the shelter.

I approached him and he growled at me, but I trusted that I could win him over with patience. 
I had been reading a lot of Cesar Milan so I knew how to approach and to be patient, quiet and calm. Since he had been picked up rather than surrendered, the shelter’s policy was to hold him for five days to give the original owner the opportunity to claim him. Each of those days, I came back to see the dog I had named River. They wouldn’t let me take him out of the cage, but I went to his cage and squatted down so we could socialize through the bars. His feeding toy had rolled under the gate, out of his reach, so I made sure he saw me pick it up and toss it back inside. He cautiously came over to chew on it some more but it slipped out of his mouth and rolled under the cage door again. This happened about four or five times during my visit with him, and I think that was the beginning of his trust for me.


Having gone into this with the utmost confidence that Cesar had taught me how to “Be the Pack Leader”, I was quickly disavowed of that notion. River didn’t like being told to “Shht!” and would bite the finger that I held up as a sign of my disapproval. For all the reasons I’ve previously stated, I soon discovered that I had what I’d call a hyperactive, or ‘exuberant’ dog. He wasn’t keen on being submissive to a pack leader and immediately tore holes in Cesar Milan’s philosophies, much to my chagrin. The impression I got was that my dog was different than most and couldn’t be helped by Cesar’s Way. It was a difficult thing to accept, but was the only way I could explain River’s non-compliance.

So I sought out help through a different avenue. I found a school that used only Positive Reinforcement and food. I learned from them about drives and was advised that his hyperactivity was due to his boredom. So my task was to stimulate his mind with obedience ‘party tricks’. In all fairness, most of the tricks had practical purposes; for example, I taught River to “Spin” on command, which he took to with gusto. Now, if he gets tangled up in his leash or the seatbelt in the car, I’m grateful for his knowing what I mean by “spin”.
In order to address the dog’s other drives, I was advised to make him work for all of his food and to give up the notion of a ‘food bowl’. So I got him lots of puzzle toys that I could hide food in and make him work to get it out. I also made sure that he had plenty of expensive toys for chewing on, tugging on and tearing apart. I believed that making sure the dog’s drives were satisfied was the key to our happiness. It didn’t really do much to address River’s growing tendency to lunge at dogs in a way that wasn’t conducive to healthy play and to express fear for that certain profile of man I described above.  The trainers couldn’t really offer me any real solutions to those problems but just kept insisting that the more I satisfied his drive, the better he would be. It wasn’t working.  I was playing all the right games, but again, the impression I was left with by this system was that River was broken.

I tried outfitting him with a nose-lead harness to keep him at bay while we went on our walks. And like the other methods, it worked to a degree and didn’t really seem to be changing the problem, but more keeping it under control. There was never a time during any of these training sessions, or in my experiments with different walking protocols and apparatuses, that I felt like River was getting better. They offered a certain level of distraction and/or a harnessing him in, but nothing felt transformative.  I knew as soon as I let go of him, he’d revert to his old self.

I finally searched specifically for help for aggressive dogs and found a guy who specialized in the “killer breeds” and especially in curbing aggressive behavior. I was intrigued and desperate so I adopted a third philosophy that I later learned to call the European Method. This was a very heavy-handed approach using strict commands and lots of severe corrections. We switched River’s neckwear once again and this time he was in metal prongs. The trainer assured me that when River was walking calmly that the collar felt like a neck massage, but that when he walked out of formation, the correction I gave him mimicked a bite-like correction he’d get from his own mother.

River took to this regime remarkably quickly and it seemed to be straightening him out. I thought I had finally found the answer. Part of me felt bad that it had to be such a violent solution, but by this time, I was happy just to have my desired outcome; a dog that wasn’t dangerous.

In retrospect, I can see that much of my fear was imagined. I was worried a great deal about what could possibly happen, even though the reality was that 90% of the time, he was a perfect (albeit high-strung and exuberant) dog.

While initially, it seemed like this technique was going to work on River, it was clear that he was still not transformed. His interest in other dogs was still as intense and maybe even growing. But I had the tools to keep everything under control. All I had to do was repeatedly ‘bite’ him on the neck and reprimand him until he obeyed me by ignoring his impulses. Sounds really healthy, right?

Even his desire to walk calmly at my side wasn’t growing. This technique became a constant battle including at least four corrections on every city block. It was no kind of relationship, even if it was effective. It didn’t feel like a good long-term solution, so I was still searching for another answer.

I hired more experts. I read book after book and talked to so many people. But it never seemed like anyone’s advice worked for us. It felt like all of the dog books were talking about normal dogs and my River was a special case. I was feeling more and more isolated and desperate because I had a feeling that River wasn’t broken.

Many times, I reached the end of my rope and wanted to give up, but my pride and a nagging feeling that there was nothing wrong with River kept me going, despite bleak prospects.

In the meantime, River and I had developed some games together. He would growl and snarl and make horrible guttural sounds while wrestling with me and simultaneously tugging, pushing and chewing on a rope. We’d also tear apart stuffed animals and he’d pull all the insides out. I usually played these games in my studio, often before I exercised so he’d be worn out and leave me alone, or sometimes on rainy days when I didn’t feel like going on a walk. And then, there were days that were perfectly sunny and nice but that I didn’t feel like girding myself for the battle of wills that our walks had become.

One day, after some particularly vexing River moment inspired a new search for help, I came across an online course called “How to Speak So Your Dog Will Listen”. This intrigued me and eventually led to introducing me to our fourth regime; Natural Dog Training (NDT).

I went through the course and read some books by Kevin Behan, creator of NDT, and was brought to tears over and over again as it finally felt like someone was talking about River! This new technique fully explains every quirky behavior that River exhibited and offers a way to address not only his frenetic energy, but his aggressiveness. He wasn’t broken or crazy at all. He was perfectly normal and responding to his lifelong imprinting as any dog would do.

River responded immediately to the techniques employed and I loved them too. Every one of them seemed clearly satisfying to River. I didn’t have to tell him to do anything once I showed him what I was after; he was eager to do everything because it was based on understanding his basic animal instinct and learning how to channel it.

The NDT protocols required a shift in my understanding of dogs. So it took me quite a number of months to fully step into it. But once I let go of my old beliefs and fully embraced the new, it felt so right. Not only was every nuance of River’s behavior suddenly perfectly normal and explainable, but there was a simple way of helping him make better choices.

Simple is not always easy. The hardest part of the technique for me was to wrap my head around what a dog really does and doesn’t need. Most of what we’re taught in America about loving our dogs is not actually good for the dog, but only designed to satisfy the human. Dogs are emotional, which is why we connect to them, but unlike humans, dogs are not intellectual. Since they are so intellectually blank it is very easy for us to project all manner of human-like qualities upon them. But, as I had discovered, any time we apply human thinking processes to the behavior of a dog, we’ll run into problems and inconsistencies. 

I stepped into loving the animal in my dog with NDT about a month ago and have already been delighted to see not only immediate shifts in his general demeanor and some positive meetings with other dogs and strange men, but I can also finally actually see that this is having a positive effect on the dog. For the first time, I feel like we’re getting to the problem at its source and not just sloppily going after behaviors and hoping for the best.

And a large part of the problem is from me. River has been stimulated and challenged his whole life. Most dogs would be able to handle it, but I feel like in his case, until recently, he was never allowed to just “be” a dog. He was always being ‘trained’ for one thing or another, and when he wasn’t being trained, was being stimulated by excited humans drawn to what we could easily project as an exuberant life expression. The games that I had developed with him were clearly frying him out, and he was never, ever left alone. In short, I took a nervous, fearful dog and piled three years of stimulation and stress on top of that. 

Had we continued on the path, his behavior would have gotten worse and worse until … Well luckily, we don’t have to go there.

I have put River on a rehabilitation program that includes a refiguring of what sort of games we play, and a lot of quiet down time in his crate. Locking him in his crate for long periods of the day will teach him that he can remain motionless and that he doesn’t have to react to every shift in the room. We can be together through the bars. Both of us have to come to terms with that in the next several months. I envision that at some point, I won’t need to lock him in, but by that time he will be choosing to remain in the crate as it is the most relaxing way to enjoy the happenings of the family. Letting him roam free is effectively increasing his energetic charge, which is the opposite of what I want. I want him less charged, more relaxed, grounded and in touch with his body. 

His anxiety is evidenced by the sounds he makes and the way he attempts to push himself out of the crate. It may seem to be cruel, but it is out of my love for him that I give him the opportunity to finally face those demons and express them, rather than continue to thrust reflexively. He’ll eventually express all of that bottled up emotion and come to terms with the reality that it is a much better choice to be calm in the crate.

Simply the act of crating him most of the day had a far-reaching effect. Within 48 hours, I was walking him and was surprised to pass right by another dog with barely a reaction from River. Usually, I’d brace for a battle or have to call all of my high-tech training techniques into action, but never before had the issue just not presented itself in this way.

We’ve also adjusted our ‘game time’ to incorporate skills that he lacks. He has never had the opportunity to learn to absorb and soften his energy. So my games now all involve rewarding him for choosing to stay put, to lie down and collect himself, and to roll over and present his belly to me. And not in a submissive fearful way but in a confident, sensual, receptive way. Once he’s comfortable enough with these new games (better stated, once these new games have forged a neurological groove deeper than the old games) he’ll be able to use these skills in his interactions with other dogs and humans.

Any rehab program is going to require a bit of discomfort. And this is no exception. I’m asking my friends to ignore him until I can better articulate the intricacies of how to best interact with him. And the longer we remain on our new spartan regime, the better he’ll be able to handle the energy people bring to him.

Kevin seems to think that River will respond quickly and within six to nine months, I’ll forget I ever even had the problems with him I thought I was having. And for the first time since I’ve started working with River, I actually believe it. 

Things to keep in mind regarding River (and all dogs):

—Nothing is thought. Everything is an emotional reaction. 

—Prolonged eye contact is a direct challenge and not polite. 

—Touching and affection is how humans show love; not dogs. Dogs socialize by doing work together, not by making each other the center of attention.

—Be quiet. Imagine if you were trying to pet a dog and it was continually barking at you. Wouldn’t it put you on edge a little bit?  This is what it’s like when you talk to your animal. The animal kingdom is largely silent. Dogs communicate more by gesture and body language than by sound.

—A wagging tail means excited stimulation. It is not correct to assume it means ‘happy’.

—Growling means “I’m unsure!” It is not a threat; it is a request to stop what you’re doing.

—If you want to express affection to a dog, then stand side-by-side with it and let it smell you. If the tail wags, or if they press their side against you, they’ve invited a bit of petting, but a few strokes is good. After that, it becomes more than casual affection and can be confusing to a dog.

—If you are afraid of a dog, do not run away; that will attract it to you. Fear and motion are like magnets to an animal’s natural predatory instincts. Instead ignore the dog, stand still and tall or try to appear confident as you walk away. If you need the dog to run away, stare into its eyes as you stomp your feet, raise your arms up and yell “BOO!” Your appearing big and menacing will trigger their prey instinct and they will scurry away.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Quantum Canine Downloads

The following are snippets of text conversations I had with Zeke back at home each night after a full day of Quantum Canine Natural Dog Training with Kevin Behan.

sustained Eye contact builds stress and gives him a easy way out of his problems.

I have devoted our time together to strengthening his comfort level with me. I have trained him very well to give me his energy. My thinking was that I didn’t want his unbridled energy going off on strangers. Since I was familiar with him, and I knew his intentions weren’t violent, I could let him come at with me with his full intensity. And have developed a groove for him. He gets a charge from something in the outside world, and instead of bolting away, or toward the object of attention, he would turn around and give all of his energy to me in the form of a snarling, growling, tooth gnashing, frenzied pushing into my hands. So if we stop participating in it and don’t encourage it, it will help him solve his own problems.

    Kevin says in one year, if we keep doing our work with him, that he will approach a stranger and expect a Rubadub from him.

    Rivers snout is red and swollen. He was in his crate all day today from 9 AM until 6 PM with two breaks (one to do the work and the other for just some brief playtime. And I guess he was pushing the door of the crate with his nose the whole time so now it's very irritated
    The work ahead of us is simply being consistent with the five core exercises,
emphasizing the ones that teach him how to collect himself and absorb energy, and a few other select exercises that will help build his ability to stay grounded and connected despite any distraction or outside stimulation. 

The core exercises we need to focus on are:
RUBADUB - sensualizing his body, softening his tension and connecting his front to his rear. No resp;onse is required from him. Ideally, he will relax and soften. Eventually, he will roll onto his back and present his belly in a ‘sensual opening’.   This trains him to be soft and to take in the energy of another.

COLLECT - whenever giving him food, we use body language to get him into a ‘down’ position. And vibrate an open hand full of food in front of his face. If he reached for the food it flies away like a bird. When he settles down, and ‘collects’ himself, the food flies into his mouth. This trains him not to chase his food but that if he does nothing, it comes to him and he gets what he wants.

BITE AND CARRY - Ideally, we stimulate him with a toy and trigger his deepest anger and internal stress. Then he’ll put the energy of that emotion into a strong bite of the toy. At that moment, we run, side by side, with the chew toy an object of attention between us. I”m holding one end, and he the other. River currently has a short attention span and drops the toy after a few feet. The longer we can get him to carry it, the more he builds up his ability to remain driven and composed during high energy moments.

BARK - a bark takes the place of a bite. It also feels in their bodies like running would, so it is very satisfying to release a low, metered bark. Encouraging River to do so will give him an outlet for stress as it builds up, and will give him a safe alternative to needed to bite, when those feelings come up. We’ve spent so much energy stifling his bark that we’ll have to have patience as we retrain him that now we do want him to release it. His emotional well-being is reliant on his ability to communicate those inner feelings in a safe and grounded way. Since River doesn’t feel safe nor grounded, at this time, he cannot access the confident bark.

    Kevin says "you're in the army now!”
Zen Walking:
    We use a high-collar. This is a cinch chain way up close to his jaw. He will have about a foot of lead with the human end held directly above his head. Anytime he strays even a little bit from formation, a sharp upward tug will remind him. It feels to him like he makes himself uncomfortable when he breaks formation. So he learns really quickly to stay at our side. 
My work is to slow down and walk with a grounded purpose. My tendency is to rush, and to mentally be a block ahead of myself. When I walk zen; in the moment, measured, centered and grounded. I am like a post that he feels the stability of and can relax and ground into. 
Kevin suggested finding a long flight of stairs and practicing walking up them slowly and in “heel:. I don't think Kevin knows that we live in a townhouse so we might be able to just do it at home but I think it might be fun to go out and find a nice big staircase and practice outside too, eventually.

Rivers not supposed to get excited when I come home.  When he's well-adjusted he should just barely lift his head as if to say "oh you're home?” Being in the crate while he’s alone will help a great deal with that. If he’s not contained in this safe den, he’ll vibrate all over the house, building up a charge that we see as excitement when we get home.

    No more feeding inside.
I'll feed him only on outings. And only for doing his exercises.

    Kevin says we are frying his circuits by not treating him like an animal
    I also have a new response to when River gets worked up by a dog out the window, instead of pushing to relieve his stress. (We’ve already successfully established a very strong groove for him to give me his energy.) which isn’t solving his issue. It’s just directing the symptom. The new response now is “Stop that. We don’t do that here!”     Technically, whenever he is at home he should be in his crate. That and  the ‘attention diet’ will likely address the window and balcony problem by reducing the level to which his is stimulated in the home environment.
If needed, we can set up a box near the window or on the balcony. It will give him a sense of grounding and security so he won’t need to project fear into passing dogs. He should be able to lie and watch the world pass by without getting reactive.

    One of the healthiest things that we can do for the dog is to “take him for granted.” We are either taking him for granted or spoiling him and obviously spoiling him isn't working.
        Now that River’s gotten really good at pushing and he knows that he can give his energy to me it doesn't have to be immediately after the trigger, in fact we can give him a release every few days or only once a week and it will release all of the charges that he has built up over the week. And the longer we consistently do this work, the better he builds his capacity to handle more and more charge before needing a release.
    Funny, I remember looking forward to a time when we wouldn't constantly have him as the center of attention. That time has come :)

    JAG: Yes, Ignore him and take him for granted.
        Like, you know, a dog.

    A box is something he sits on top of. Like a perch or a precipice. Remember the video we sent from Mosier Oregon wherein River was sitting on a rock as I panned the camera past him. That rock was his BOX. Did you notice how calm he was. He was looking around, relaxed, taking it all in. Think of a lion tamer and how the lions are all sitting on top of the boxes. It gives them a base to ground into. And the elevation and the sense of accomplishment required to get up, make it a good feeling place.

All of the "affection" and "attention" are really just for US and do nothing for him but upset and confuse him

Dogs are social. But socialization for them means to ‘do work together’, or to enjoy a ‘common thing” together. It isn’t to enjoy each other. This is why affection doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to us.

    His poor Little snout is completely raw now. I hope he figures out in the next three days that pressing on the bars is not going to get him out of that crate
    But you know what? He's drawn blood on me so many times in the past that I do not feel sorry for him one bit
    As Kevin would say "sometimes life on this earth includes a little bleeding"
        Unfortunately I think it's a matter of river weighing the pain of being confined and immobilized in the crate with the pain on his nose and I think the pain in his nose will always be less
    Kevin says he may eventually figure out that he's wasting his energy and he may not
    Nah I think he'll figure it out.
    The dogs place in the life of the human is to reconnect the human with their internal animal brain. So not only are we spoiling and confusing river by treating him like our son but we're also blocking ourselves from receiving his gift
    I've noticed (and Kevin mentioned this today) that, in general, the most well behaved and  adjusted dogs are the ones that are not "trained" but just left alone, literally and figuratively.
    I believe that. River definitely has been spoiled.
    And I need to spend more time out of the house away from him.

    Well I was definitely at a breaking point today where I was once again seriously considering finding river another home
    Oh no, really?
    the whole ordeal didn't seem worth it anymore it's not what I signed on for it's not what I wanted it's not what I'm into and I was ready to give up
During the Q&A session I asked "are there instances where a dog and an owner are just not a match?"
        He answered that sometimes a person is not prepared to do what it takes to handle a dog but that definitely there is no such thing as a match for a dog and a person nor a bad dog
I need to remember that if I was willing to have him killed for his behavior, why am I not willing to isolate him or cause him a little bit of constructive pain?

    Sounds like we have a lot of work, even if it's largely pulling back affections. and having much more clear boundaries for him
    I hope it isn't a lot of work as much as it is a lot of consistency to little bits of work
    And also shifting our perspective of the dog human relationship
    Yeah, I think that'll be my biggest challenge ... To pull back on babying him. I don't think the lap on the floor is such a good idea.
JAG: exactly   
    I think once we get the crate upstairs it can substitute for his need for your lap

    The sore on Rivers nose doesn't seem to be any worse today. In fact, it looks like it is healing. So maybe he's learning not to push on the bars a little?
    hes still howling and barking but less than yesterday and the day before
    So it's not like he's not panicking he's just not pressing on the bars anymore

    Dogs are all Id
pure energy and flow,
    All attraction and momentum.
    Everything comes down to the drive to connect and the equilibrium between Hunger and Balance.
All dogs want is to flow with us.
    River’s definitely been damaged before we met him and Kevin's guess was (exactly what we thought) that someone hit him in the head with their hands
    It's maybe sad for you, but he doesn't "care". He just feels the association. When he sees a hand coming toward his head, he feels the imprinted memory of the pain and reacts to it. So touching him in the head, even softly, could be causing him pain. He has no reasoning for his actions. His energy is following the deepest imprints

    Park Play (getting under the charge)
        Today, Kevin was teaching me how to play in the park in a way that doesn’t overstimulate River or further exacerbate his tension. The way I had been playing with him in the past was feeding him more and more of what he already has, tense, ungrounded excitement. So today, we were playing keep away with River to build up his desire for the toy. and then every once in a while I was asking river to jump up on me, to ensure he was staying grounded in me as we upped his intensity level.
    Then I would say good boy and I'd feed him
    And that wasn't an exercise to fix him but Kevin was trying to find out more about Rivers tolerance threshold.
I asked about the crate and he suggested getting a box but he also said that sometimes you can get crates that make good boxes as well and I was thinking if you wouldn't mind him getting on top we could even put him on top of the crate

no-nonsense high collar Zen walking
We march, or stroll, our pace. We take him to his special little place and then we decide how much leash to give him and then become a post. and then we “Army” it back home and he lives inside the house.

He only gets food by doing the exercises. And that's always outside

    If i didn't stop doing what I had been doing river would just get more and more aggressive and fearful
    (God, when I think back about all of the wrestling and all of the snarling and all of the indoor tugging)
    Yeah, something wasn't right about that. I'm sure I have my bad habits too.
    No greetings at the door
    Zeke:    Yeah I remember hearing about not greeting at the door before ... That's a HARD one.
    I think that one's more important even then the lap sitting
    Rivers paws are getting red and sore and he has a raw spot on one if his ears from the pinch chain. He spends his evenings licking his wounds. Its a rough week for him, but he’s basically in detox/rehab. He’ll have to go through the wall of fire before he comes out on the other side.

    We get so dirty i on that farm. yesterday when we got back to the motel I took a shower and then I took him in the bathtub and dumped some soapy water on him
    Today when I took my shower he peaked in the door and then ran to the other side of the room so I got the message that he didn't want to be doused with soapy water again
    Instead, after my shower and drying off I used my towel to give him a little sponge bath and he loved it! it was like mawing and Rubadub and getting clean all at the same time and making a smacking sound to replicate the experience of being licked clean by his mother. He was in a little bit of bliss and his tail was wagging. His tail was wagging by the time we were done.        

Oh you'll love this: the best bite and carry execution would be for river to CALMLY carry a toy back from his little area all the way home and not let go
    But that only happens because the toy begins as an object in common.
    So it must be used in a push and tug of war
    It is point of tension between you as you flow together. A piece of work that you can do together.
    And then, in a continued flow together, walking all the way home (he carries it). To him it feels exactly like going on a hunt, killing a prey and taking it back home. It satisfies him immensely.
        in order to build the excitement of the object in common, show him that you want it by playing with it and then he’ll want it.
    Play a little tug-of-war let him win
Switch the collar real fast (if needed) and walk home with it in his jaws. Good boy!

    Today I learned the wall technique. Which they call "panic down"
    It was horrible to watch.
    River was gasping and choking
    And struggling and panicking, which is the point
    It was all good in the end, because he "solved a balance problem" and attributed his salvation to lying down on the top of the platform. And since I congratulate him when it’s all over, he credits me for the success. He is always so chilled out after that struggle. It “took the fight out of him” enough so that Kevin could clip his nails with no protests.
    After that, he was mellow enough that he got to play with another pitbull.
    He was so chilled. She couldn't even get hjm to play. He seemed a little bit paralyzed with fear, but was handling it pretty well.
    He was avoiding her without getting upset
        She was sniffing his butt
    Jumping up and humping him
    And bouncing up and pushing him with her front paws. Which is what a dog should do when they want to play.

    River didn’t revert to his old habit of biting growling and attacking, but instead sort of hung out, letting her do her thing, without much a response at all. He is completely stunted in his development and doesn’t remember how to properly play with other dogs. All of the exercises we’re going to be doing with him are specifically designed to give him capacity and resources for playing with dog. So we socialize him to other dogs before he even meets them. Dogs won’t socialize him. At this point, they’ll only strengthen the groove he knows. So we help him build a different groove, until our new groove is deeper than his old one. He will always follow the deeper groove. But this new way will be easy for him to adjust to because ultimately it feels much better to him. It will satisfy him, rather than leave him frustrated and charged. 

    As they played, there was a moment when they both stood motionless for a while. Kevin stomped on the ground to startle them. He calls it a ‘collapse’ and it was a way of gauging where they were at. If they were close to breaking, or holding back aggression, the collapse could have brought it to the surface in the form of a reactive collision. But they were both nonreactive, so he said it was great. They weren’t revved up.
    River sniffed her genitals while she was humping him and Kevin said that was a great sign that he was going along with the game. He looked a bit wild-eyed and confused, but was still going along with it all. It was all so new to him, even though it felt really good, he was unsure.
    Mostly River was playing in the pool. Looking around.
    And he'd look into my eyes to escape the situation. He looked wild eyed and locked onto me, but I’d look away so he would have to find his own solutions.
All of this work is cumulative.
    He's not "fixed" but he's getting better, and will continue to get better if we
    do the exercises and stop the coddling and stimulating behaviors that make him worse.

    I go through moments where I feel like I don't know anything and then have moments where I feel like I'm on top of it. But Kevin says to trust the confusion and use it as a reminder to be in the present moment and in flow with River.
    He says that dog behavior follows the exact same rules as thermodynamics
    So we’re talking about conductivity, reaction, absorption, thrust, charges, sparks,
    Negative to positive, grounding, magnetic, electric….
    But all behavior is energetically based. None of it is thought. None of it is cognitive. Kevin even says dogs don't realize that they're killing an animal when they're killing it. they only respond to the balance of energy in a way that nature has established for them.  Following that drive is what feeds them. 

most commonly held behavioral beliefs about dogs leave a lot of behavior unexplained and mysterious
    So if a theory is wrong 1% of the time then the theory is wrong we need a new theory. For a theory to be right it has to be right in 100% of situations that should explain everything fully
    Kevin's explanation of things is the only thing I've come across that actually does explain everything completely and fully. Unfortunately it is a bit deep and heavy.
    With Kevin's theory river is not insane he's just reacting to his early imprinting
    They don't even have cognitive memory they have an emotional battery. So they can react to things that they have sense memory of

    Anytime you try to attribute a human thought process to dog behavior you're going to run into problems
    We do the core exercises to prime him with behavior that he can use with other dogs and people
    We train him how to act with other dogs we don't socialize him by introducing him to other dogs
    We need to get him to the point where he can trust us enough to flop over when he feels a Rubadub upcoming. It’ll take a lot of reprograming because he’s so used to being ‘Taken Down by JAG’ :(
    Sounds like a lot of work and patience
It's no more work than just living with him now!! Lol but it's definitely a different kind of work and should become less and less necessary

    We played hide and seek today —that was so much fun. That's something the three of us can do together. 

    Toy in a Tree (ready…)
    I go out and hide one of his toys in a tree and then come back and get him and then we go for a walk and then when we come up to the tree I say ready which makes him very attentive to me because that means I know where the prey is and then I tap on a tree and grab the toy out of it we tug with it a little bit, he wins and he carries it all the way home.
    And all of this stuff takes the place of his “need to run free”
    All of his hunting instinct is satisfied there. And it’s something we accomplish together So he doesn't need to root around every bush and sniff every tree and run around in fields, and it builds the strength of our relationship by doing work together.
    Currently, River doesn't have a long attention span so he tends to drop the toy but we will build his drive up to where he can bring it all the way home. So it's probably best to start with trees that are closer to home.
        Every drive comes from their stomach (hunger) trying to overcome their shoulders to find balance with their brain (balance). River often doesn't feel the back half of his body, which is why he is so often moving forward and doesn’t seem to stop or settle at all. 
this means we need to sensualize the back half of his body. In particular his belly and groin. He can benefit from a lot of sensual rubbing and massaging in his loins. So all of the need that we have to physically connect with him can go into practicing the Rub a Dub and the Sensualizing of his Hindquarters.

    Also. Sorry. No more lap time.   

    The hellacious death defying thing on the wall… (PANIC DOWN)
    It stuck! So he didn’t need it again today. Now it's only necessary occasionally. Like maybe every couple of months. If he builds up a lot of charge and seems to get out of his body, we’ll give him a Balance Problem to Overcome, and it will instantly put him back into his body on the ground.

    I learned another good exercise that's very mellow. River likes it and it can be done for hours with no ill effect.
    It's called ORBIT.
With him on a pedestal, I slowly walk around him, reminding him to ‘stay’. He’ll follow me with his eyes, but not move. Then, when I’m directly in front of him, I might walk away, thirty feet, or even more. And I’’ll show him that I have a handful of food. He stays put. I call out “Reaadddyyy???” And he goes into alert, focused on me, but remains calmly grounded. At that point, I will either call out “STAY” Or call his name. If I do the former, he must stay put and I run the food to him and in response to the latter, he jumps off the pedestal and runs to me to get his food.

    The biggest hardest thing I think is going to be putting him on an attention diet when he's at home
Think of what Cesar always used to say "no touch, no talk, no Eye contact "
    I witnessed how powerful the sound of my voice is in stimulating river. It's surprising
    If I simply ask Kevin a question while River is doing some work it will totally throw a wrench into the works
    And also all of that training that I did with River to make eye contact with me is now backfiring. River uses eye contact with me as a way to avoid dealing with real stress in the real world. So it's sort of helping him avoid full development. So I will be avoiding eye contact with him. It's okay to look at him it's okay to make eye contact but definitely not sustain it
    Kevin says in nine months we won't be able to remember that he was ever like this
        Assuming we do all the work and take away all of the leaks
    What we are expecting ourselves to do is really not that much. It's just a matter of relearning a couple of different routines and sticking to them

    Oh I forgot to mention he hardly barked at all in the crate today and he was in the same amount of time as before. The difference today: I covered it entirely with a blanket so it was dark inside!

    River pissed on the floor last night.
        I practiced one of the moves that he showed us. I practiced it three times. By the third time he crouched down, was quivering and I noticed a spreading puddle forming underneath him
    Kevin says some of the work that we're doing is reaching down into his deepest inner stress. He also said that we may expect some puppy behavior to temporarily return as he rehabilitates. At some very young age he was crippled and his development was stunted. So he will be reverting to that age occasionally as we get into it. So while it was sort of horrible to watch it was indeed a good thing to have happen
    With River the only time I think we will need to give him a BITE or get him angry is when he gets restless. You know when he's in that mood that we don't know what to do with him? I can just hear Kevin saying "I'm going to give him a bite"
    In other words when he's pissing us off we get to smack him. In the controlled natural dog training manner, of course.
    You'll have to show me that, cuz I have a hard time  imagining it.
    The idea is to rile up his pent-up anger and directed at the toy so he can release it. The anger is already there it's all backed up so it's a good thing to smack him so he can get angry and release it safely. He does a great job bottling it up but he can only do it for so long.
    Imagine a heavy burlap pillow at the end of a rope. River is chained up to a post. I stand facing him and start slowly swinging it toward his feet. Gradually I’ll start getting more and more aggressive with it until I might be smacking him on the side with it with a loud thump. But at some point he's going to reach a point and get so angry that he's going to bite down hard on that pillow and try to kill it. that's when we run together and hopefully, he carries the pillow with us.
    Then we tug a  little— we push-- I give him a little massage— give him some food —say good boy and we come home happy as clams.
    Then he doesn't have the pent-up stress anymore, so he can be relaxed.
What's going to help make him better with dogs is to let him return to being a dog and not be so fried from his home life.

    Kevin relates everything to physics so he says that Rivers circuits are fried
    He also says that dogs are amazingly tolerant
    Especially his breed type
    I'm sure you've seen pictures of dogs that have been tortured or starved or dehydrated and they're just near death and then turn around six months later they're happy go lucky dogs.
    So keeping it in perspective, River can honestly go a day without eating if need be. He can be cold for a while if need be. We have to remain diligent about holding the proper perspective about River and decisions regarding him. He will be fine. In fact, he’ll be better off for this period of what might seem to us like suffering. He just needs to go through it so we can help him reach his balance.
    Think of him as a dog, basically.
    Yes.  Exactly. For HIS sake if not for our own.
By the way that scenario that I described above, ’giving him a bite’, Kevin says is all the exercise he needs all day!
    Not that that would be something we do every day. But if we do it, it’s all he needs that day. For daily exercise, about 10 to 15 minutes working on the core skills is all he needs.
    That can be managed!
    Doing too much is easy too. That’s what I’ve been doing for three years. Now he gets a break from me.
    Kevin also prescribed alone walks for me. He says two or three times a day I need to get out and take a walk without river. :(
    Kevin says the purpose of a human and dog relationship is not companionship the purpose is to do work together.
    I'm pretty sure the worst of it is over. Which is good because I don't think I can manage to hold as much pressure on him as he's had on him over the last five days. And poor guy he's completely knockered.  he deserves a break.
    He's gonna be very glad to be on a long drive tomorrow.
    Kevin says dogs love riding in the car because it gives them a sense of flow which is the bottom line for them. Flow is everything to them    The only reason the puppies throw up is because they're receiving more stimulation then they can digest
    Had an epiphany about rivers last human bite.
    I had just told him to Say Hi, a command meaning to tap the palm of his hand with his nose, as the guy approached with his hand out to shake mine. (so it was a bit higher than a “Say Hi” hand placement). The guy was vibrating energetically (like prey) due to a heated skirmish he’d just been in before arriving. River didn't intend to bite. He simply obeyed me, but couldn't handle the guy’s charge. The connection to his hand was precise but too much for him. The bite was an attempt to bring the relationship to the ground.
    The guy later told me that River’s bite was actually successful. Because It brought him back to the ground and back into his own body. He was thankful for it!
    Huh ...    Amazing that he could acknowledge that.
    And I think it's significant that the guy who passed by us on the day River and I got home was walking away from us when River went to him, also to pull him down. I think River was just experiencing the human leaving and wanted us all to stay together.
    He didn't charge at all as the guy was walking toward us only when he was leaving us. And it was a big charged moment going on for all of us. If you’ll remember the guy seemed to be having a heated conversation in his cell phone. Big reaction. Again not a violent intent, but the intent was to bring the energy back to balance on the ground.
    All three interactions River has had with a human have been with big stocky white men exhibiting a lot of energy and movement.
    So you think you can recognize avoid and redirect this sort if thing in the future?
    Well the better I get at understanding how Rivers energy works the more I can predict how he's feeling in each moment and the better I will be at avoiding inflammatory situations
    It sounds like you have the knowledge and the tools ... Now just keep up the practice :)
    Yup. and if I slip, River will remind me.
    And you know what's great? He's never wrong. The dog cannot do wrong in this model. He’s always doing the exact right thing. We never again EVER have to say that he’s bad.  This model of dog behavior explains it all with perfect logic. We just need to keep the model in mind and focus on how River’s feeling. That’s more important than what he’s doing. To him, what he’s feeling is all that matters. What he’s doing is almost not even under his control. He flows, non cognitively through nature.
    We just rubadub'd
    Aw nice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

13 Tips for Budding Vagabond Nia Teachers

Several people have expressed interest in experiencing the nomadic Nia teacher lifestyle that I have been living since 2010 and have asked me for advice on how to make it work. I've come up with a list of 13 discoveries I've made about how to maximize joy on the road and how to make the most of this endeavor.

1- Do your homework beforehand.
Before I go on a trip, I spend about two months putting it together. I map out a desired route and then make notes of which cities and recreational sites I'll be passing through. I then contact Nia teachers in the cities and start a conversation about my visit. I also look into any interesting sites along the way and work those into my schedule as well.
By the time I'm hitting the road, I have all of my stops planned out. It takes a lot of anxiety off of me to know that I have a place to be every day.

2- Schedule breaks.
While in the planning phase, it's very exciting. And it's tempting to totally fill my schedule with activity and work. But I learned very quickly to earmark at least one day a week free of any responsibility. Personally, that means also no driving. So every week I book two nights in a single spot. The day without driving becomes quite important; especially if I'm doing long days when I am driving.  I also occasionally schedule a long stop if I'm going to be passing through a National Park or something that I'm really interested in.

3- Be flexible.
When planning the trip, I make sure to adjust myself to the places I'm visiting. For example, I have no set agenda and no set rate structure. I appoint a host in each city and let her make all of the executive decisions regarding where class will be held, how much to charge, how to handle sign-ups, how long the class is, etc. Each city and each community will have a different style. I have accepted payment by visa, check, cash and via pay pal. Some places want to mail me a check, which is nice to have waiting for me when I get home.

4- Make it Easy For Them
When I'm contacting people to set up a date, I let them know the time frame I'm available to teach and let them choose any time within that time frame. I tell them what I'm planning to teach and let them know that I have no expectations. I tell them they are totally in charge of all the details of the event but that I'm available for assistance or if they have any questions. Each person will take the reigns in their own way.

5- Have a Flier.
I always have a flier template that I offer to personalize for them.  I love this practice for two reasons: One is that it makes it easier for my host. Two is that it is the equivalent of a handshake. Once I've made the flier, I know it's a booked gig. And the host needs to give me all the pertinent details for the flier, so it ensures that all the arrangements have been made and all communications are clear.

6- Ask for What you Need.
I never assume there will be a stereo hookup, mirrors, microphone... etc.  I'm prepared to teach without most of those things if I show up and see that they are missing. But there are certain things I cannot do without. So I ask about the stereo and if I can connect my iPod. It makes no sense to set up a teaching gig and then show up and not be able to do your work, so its always worth it to be sure that whatever you absolutely need is there.
photo: Bruce Thayer

7- Give Yourself Lots of Extra Time.
Being late is unacceptable. And cutting it close is stressful. The trip itself offers enough stress and excitement. It will be worth your while to add about 25% more time than you think you need. And that's AFTER allowing for arriving to the space early. I have my dog with me, so I always have a fun way to occupy myself when I've arrive at a space before it's even unlocked, but I'd much rather be there waiting and have to find a way to entertain myself than to be rushing around, anxiously wondering if I'll be on time. You never know if you'll hit traffic. A drawbridge. A detour. An accident. Faulty directions that get you lost. A closed street. A parking situation that eats up a lot of time.

8- Be Love Motivated, Not Money Motivated.
Over and over again, I have had my hosts tell me how much they appreciated my laid back attitude about getting paid. Don't get me wrong, I love to get paid, and the money is important to me. But my over riding attitude is that I am taking the trip as an opportunity to see the world and present the work that I love. The income is an added bonus to the pleasure of being able to offer my classes. I have heard people tell me that they'd not invite so-and-so back because of how hard nosed they were about demanding a minimum income. I work it so that I only take a percentage of whatever income the event generated. Since I only ask for 70%, my hosts always make something from my visit. Sometimes, they forego their percentage and give me 100% of the take, but I would never ask nor expect anyone to host me and not be paid. I have made as little as $20 for a gig and as much as $250 for a single class. It all evens out in the end. There were many places that I'd never have been invited to teach if I were demanding a minimum dollar amount. In the end, I know that I'm doing this because it brings me joy.

9- Be Grateful for "No"
Either saying "no" or accepting "no" as an answer is part of the game. Not everyone will be interested. Not everyone will have the resources or the energy. And not everyone will have the time. But no matter what the 'reason', it is guaranteed that you will have to accept "no" at some point. So be thankful for it and move on. The last thing you want is to get yourself into a situation where it's awkward or impossible to follow through with the plans. Receive and give "No" abundantly when you are in the planning phase of the trip and it will be much better for everyone.

10- Minimize expenses.
I avoid restaurants and going to fancy hotels. I stay at Motel 6, which is the cheapest motel chain in the country. It's not glamorous, but it helps my bottom line. I go to grocery stores or farmers markets whenever I can and I travel with an ice chest and do almost all of my own cooking. I can get away with about $100/week if I shop and eat wisely. I can easily spend that much in one day if I have three restaurant meals.

11-  Start Small.
The first trip I took was about a week and didn't leave the state of Washington. It was still a big undertaking and I learned a lot. It is surprising how easy it is to put together a really long trip. But I suggest working your way up to the longer ones because once you've set it up you can't really back out of it without destroying your credibility. I have learned that anything over a month feels really long to me. I can take trips longer than a month, but only if I include a non-working stay in at least one location for several days.

12- Measure Success in Joy.
If you're going into the nomad lifestyle to make lots of money, then you probably need to be selling some product in addition to teaching class. I teach classes and I also do personal training consultations and massage/body work, so I can create numerous income streams. A business guru that I consult has recommended that I get an online product (videos or an ebook) that I can then sell to all of the people I meet. I think it's a brilliant idea, but I haven't done it yet.

13- Don't Bring a Dog.
I love River. And personally I wouldn't be interested in doing this without him. He prevents me from getting lonely on the road, which I have heard from other nomads is one of the most difficult aspects of the lifestyle. But traveling with the dog prevents me from seeing and doing a lot of things. Not the least of which is since many studios across the country won't allow dogs,  I hear a lot of "no" based on that fact alone. On one hand, he probably prevents me from spending money on restaurants and museums, or from going shopping etc. On the other hand, I may pay an extra fee at a motel, and there is the added expense of his food to consider.  So, while I will always have my dog with me, I would advise anyone who has the option of traveling without one to leave him at home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Goldfinger Again

River and I are planning another road trip.  This one will initiate in Cornelius, Oregon, where we'll be spending the weekend on a horse farm with Kevin Behan of Natural Dog Training fame.

Our proposed itinerary will look something like this (of course plenty of adjustments will likely be made as we secure dates across the country):

Oct 2-3   Boise, ID
Oct 4      Evanston, WY
Oct 5       Colorado
Oct 6     Lincoln, NE
Oct 7     Des Moines/ Iowa City
Oct 8     Cleveland, OH
Oct 9-14     NYC
Oct 15    NJ
Oct 16    Penn
Oct 17    Indianapolis, IN
Oct 18-19 Milwaukee, WI
Oct 20 St Cloud, MN
Oct 21   Bismarck, ND
Oct 22   Billings, MT
Oct 23    Missoula, MT
Oct 24   Eastern Washington/northern Idaho

I'll be bringing my Goldfinger routine and can teach it again at places that have already seen it.

I could also teach an extended immersion into the routine, which would be about 3-4 hours, or teach a "Learn the Routine" if there are enough interested teachers.

The dates above are a general guideline and can and will be tweaked to fit the reality and things fall into place. If you're interested in being a part of the October Goldfinger Tour, please let me know.  But I will most likely be contacting people along the route in the next week or so to see about what interest and opportunity there is.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Upstate New York

The drive from Connecticut through western Massachusetts and to Albany, NY was really nice. I had enough time to take the back roads and avoid the big highways, so I got to see a lot of small towns and lots and lots of green trees. It was a lush drive in nice weather. It was overcast, but not raining much, just how I like it. Off and on, there were some light sprinkles.

I had a reservation at the local Motel 6 and also had an invitation to stay at the home of my local producer for Albany, Richele Corbo. I knew that she had a dog and didn't know what sort of living situation we'd have and how River would be with the whole thing, so I kept the motel reservation handy just in case.

I was hungry when I arrived, since I had unwittingly left all of my food in the previous town, and was looking forward to relaxing and hopefully eating something soon. I saw a beautiful house set way back on a gorgeous, lush property with a creek running behind it. I parked by a gorgeous barn and  brought River to the front door and couldn't find a bell so I knocked. Mike greeted me and as their  golden lab began to approach us, said "This will be interesting."

That was not what I wanted to hear. The dog didn't come to us but stood a few feet away, barking at us. River was pretty good about it. He went toward the dog but I didn't let go of the leash, so he came back and hung out by me.

The next few minutes were sort of surreal as we stood in the foyer having a casual conversation while the dog loudly and repeatedly obscured every fourth or fifth word we spoke. At the same time, the oldest son and his girlfriend come into the foyer and introduce themselves (although I couldn't hear their names) and introducing themselves to River.

River was doing remarkably well under the circumstances. But I was a bit nervous. Mike kept saying, "she'll stop soon" but even he seemed surprised at how much she was continuing. As the kids were leaving, I asked where Richele was. And he explained to me about how she had gone to BARK BARK but when she BARK to leave, there was another car in tBARK. So they're trying to locate the guy to move his BARK BARK."

To me, living for so long in New York City, that sounded like a situation that was going to eat up at least half an hour, easily, or more. I kept waiting for a suggestion to the solution of the barking dog, which seemed to me to be to separate them. I was about to suggest that I go either go outside or be shown to where I was staying, I could settle in a bit and maybe she would calm down. I was starting to hope that maybe they were planning on having us sleep in the barn.

It was only a matter of minutes, it turns out, before Richele came in. We were both excited to see each other, and she wanted to meet River, but it was also clear that she was reacting, so Richele suggested She and I take the dogs for a walk.

Once we started walking, the dog was immediately quiet and all seemed to be going well. The dogs would sniff at each other and then enjoy the walk together. Richele and I chatted and in my attempt to express to her that I was concerned about this situation we may have, I insulted her family; using the word 'chaotic' to describe the energy vibe I was feeling. I was seeking her reassurance or suggestions for solutions, but it came out as saying 'your family isn't really working out for us, so we'll be staying somewhere else'.

Fortunately, she and I have a history of overcoming misunderstandings in our relationship because we're both willing to face our differences of perspective, see the others and come to a loving understanding of each other. We took a long walk around the expansive tree-filled yard, which sent River into leaps of joy.

Finally we had dinner outdoors near the pond as the bullfrogs burped. I canceled the reservation at motel 6 and we ended up having a marvelous time.

River did wonderfully with the other animals. I was amazed as I watched him behave like a real dog. He pushed his boundaries with her quite a bit, but not in a vicious or a fearful way, just an immature way. Each time he overstepped his bounds, Nicci or I would tell him to stop, and he would. They shared a water bowl and got along fine, otherwise.

And I haven't mentioned the cats. There are two cats. The first, River met by entering a room the cat was in and then running back out having been hissed at. Much later, the cat and he met at the top of the stairs. River was inside the room we were staying in, while Richele and I were out in the hallway discussing my new pants. At this time, a cat came up the stairs, facing the open door to see River sitting, watching him, but staying within the safety of our room. The cat, eyes locked on River, skulked up the stairs and escaped into the master bedroom.

Much later, the family had gone to bed but I stayed up to do laundry. River slept at my feet and I watched TV. The next thing I know, two cats are slowly walking in. They've obviously been watching us the whole time, and now that River's snoring, they're making their move.

Eventually, they're inches from River and he's snoring obliviously. The closer cat sniffs at him close enough to make contact and wake him up. He raises his head, as if to say "huh? what's going--" and the cats dart away, leaving him blinking and yawning. A few moments later his hackles went up. But he didn't pursue it. He checked in with me, and then laid back down to sleep again.

The next morning, as I was getting ready to leave for class, River went into the bedroom where he last saw the cat go. He looked under the bed and then walked around the back of the bed, to find the cat sitting on a chair on the other side. The cat stared as River walked close in enough to get a good sniff, and then walked back a few steps, turned around and exited the room.

Goldfinger class took place in a gritty cool funky tough neighborhood of Albany and we had a fantastic turn-out of glittering genius artists. We all had glitter on the souls of our feet by the end of class.
Posturing, before class

Pre-class contemplative

Richele and Jason with pants!


still dancing...

more dancing...

It was another opportunity for me to stretch the 55 minute format as this studio customarily has 75 minute classes, so I included my Party anthem song and the journey through the Vital Factors once again.

After class, we went to the farmer's market and picked up a lot of great local fruits, veggies, cheese, honey, eggs and some bison jerky for me and a bone for River. I took it back to the house and cooked it a little bit and put it in the few pieces of tupperware that weren't in the long lost box. Then, with my cooler full, hit the road to our next destination.

On the way out of town, I stopped at the local food co-op to stock up the stuff that I left in the last state. After class, Richele handed me a wad of money that I put into my pocket. I drew from that wad repeatedly at the farmers markets and loaded my arms with good. I had still never counted the money, but in preparation for going shopping at the co-op, I finally counted it and was surprised to have over $200.

So my pantry is now well-stocked again. Thanks Albany! Love!

It was late afternoon before we shuffled off to Buffalo. It shaved two hours off the four hour drive to take the main highway, so I took a straight shot. The sun was setting in my eyes during the last hour of the drive, and we arrived at the motel after dark. I quickly ate and went to bed after midnight.

In the early morning hours, River crawled up and got into bed with me. I noticed that it was cold. I don't usually get cold in the night, but I could feel the chill. I decided to let this one slide, and he slept the next few hours on the bed with me.

Our next stop is in Michigan, but I didn't want to drive all the way there in one day so I opted for a stop in Macedonia, Ohio, which is in between Cleveland and Akron.


River was still hacking today.

We drove from Framingham, MA to Branford, CT in pouring rain. The rain was so hard at times that the windshield wipers couldn't keep up, even at the fastest speed. Traffic had to slow to about 55 (ten mph below the posted limit) so that we weren't pummeled with water quite so rapidly.

We took a lovely, winding, scenic forest-y road, and River and I stopped at a riverside scenic viewpoint for some running, exploring and relieving. Everything was going well, River grabbed the toy the first time I presented it to him, and we ran together with it. Then we explored around the riverbank, so River could get his paws wet.

There was a fisherman down there, which startled us at first, but then we all minded our own business and all was OK.

Up the river a bit, we found another good spot with shore access, and no fishermen. We waded a bit in the running water, and spotted a freshly killed large fish lying on the ground at the edge of the river. I let River smell and explore it, but he showed no interest in gutting it or eating it.

As we were heading back to the car, I thought I'd encourage River to Bite and Carry one more time, so I slapped him on the side of his body with the toy, as Kevin would do, to get River riled up enough to bite the toy and run with it. But he didn't bite at it. Instead, he cowered and partially closed his eyelids.  I tried again and he skulked all the way to the ground and lifted his legs, squinting his eyes.

I was obviously doing something wrong, so I hid the toy and we just ran together toward the car.

We arrived at our motel in Branford. This was the third Motel 6 in a row that had interior corridors. But unlike the prior two, this one was nice and the staff was friendly. So it made a big difference in my overall impression of the place. It also helped that everything seemed to be working and nothing was missing.

We spent the night there and left for Milford the next morning, where I was scheduled to teach my class. 

I arrived early, as I usually do, and took River for a walk around the neighborhood. And when I tried to do that Bite and Carry game with him, he responded again with cowering and squinting. I gave up out of frustration and now I am ambivalent about what to do. I wrote an email to Kevin, the trainer, asking what I might be doing wrong.

It was nice to have the class experience to immerse myself into because I was letting myself get all knotted up about River. The magic of Nia prevailed, of course, and after teaching Goldfinger to a small and creative gathering of crystal artistic geniuses, I felt much more at ease with everything.

Today's class was the second to "see my knees" as Nancy put it. The first, were those lucky dogs in Cambridge. ;)

I didn't do it consciously, but I later realized that I officially retired my disconium tuxedo pants at the final turn-around point for the trip, in Portland, Maine. They made it all the way from coast to coast, but not a step back west. I had packed some aluminum running shorts that I found at American Apparel just in case my pants didn't survive.

This was the first opportunity I had to expand my 55 minute format into a longer class. I had 90 minutes slated, so I added a few extra songs and spent a little bit more time setting up a clear focus at the start.

I included a  really high energy song called Get The Party Started, that Mark Frossard gave me when we taught the Men of Nia Jam in Santa Fe. It is sung by Shirley Bassey, which is the common thread of the Goldfinger routine, so it fit in perfectly, and actually provided a new climax point, which I really enjoyed. 

Another thing I added was a journey through the 13 First Degree Black Belt Vital Factors.  I explained how I was going to share the name of each vital factor, and the idea was to interpretive dance based on the feelings and inspirations that come from hearing the words. In the context of the Goldfinger class, which is all about celebration of unique artistic expression, it was a perfect fit and yielded some quite lovely results as the students truly committed to exploring the Vital Factors of Nia.

The next morning I left the motel room without a big box of nuts, seeds, peanut butter, olive and coconut oil, my spices and herbs, my baking soda, much of my tupperware and some supplements that I take on the occasions when I don't get enough fresh vegetables in my diet. I was hours away from Connecticut, part-way to my next destination before I got hungry and saw that I didn't have my food.

I was able to contact Nancy Hammett, who has been my producer in Milford many times. I told her about the box of goodies and that they were keeping it at the front desk of Motel 6 with her name on it.

After hitting Connecticut, we have officially concluded our loop through New England. I actually do have another gig in New York tomorrow before we really leave New England, but since I've already done New York on this trip and already earned the right to color it in on the map. I'm calling Connecticut the last of the New England loop. So, here's what we've done so far.

Friday, June 13, 2014


It was a short drive from Portland, ME to Cambridge, MASS, so I decide to avoid the Turnpike and take the back roads. Unfortunately, I ran into some construction on a two lane highway as I was leaving rural Maine in a town called Ogunquit.

I was sitting in stopped traffic for quite a while. Long enough to shut my engine off and get out my phone to film the tragic traffic. Looking back, I think it's amusing how 'upset' I was getting. I'm not really even upset by the traffic, but it was the not knowing what was going on that was disturbing. I'm used to seeing a sign warning "Flagman Ahead" or "Construction- Be Prepared to Stop" or "One Lane Highway Ahead" something like that. But in this case, all I saw was stopped traffic for quite a while.

Once I got past the construction zone it was free sailing all the way into Cambridge. But I arrived there just in time to meet rush hour traffic and some of the rudest, most impatient drivers I've ever encountered in the United States.

I have been honked at by displeased fellow motorists in the past, but it is very rare because I'm such a relaxed, considerate driver. But I was honked at no less than eight times in my short visit to the Boston area and deliberately cut off from entering into a lane of traffic while I sat there signaling my intention to merge. Not only were they blocking me from joining, but they made eye contact with me while doing so. At least in LA they pretend you don't exist. 

If New Hampshire was the most courteous state for driving, Massachusetts gets the prize for the least courteous.

Fortunately, I've learned to allow LOTS of time to get to my classes on time. I was able to find an open, free parking spot on the main street, just a few doors down from the building I was teaching in and we made it with plenty of time to spare.


Julianne Corey produced me in a beautiful, historic-looking Oddfellows Hall building in the center of Cambridge. In fact, I think it was called Center Square.

We had a great gang of artists, who really drank in the Goldfinger magic. Sadly, we got off to a late start as everyone arrived and settled up, so at the end of class, there were people knocking on the door to get into the room.

This class was not the biggest in terms of attendance, but it was in the top five. And I think it was the highest paying class to date. When I set up my trip, I never make any specific payment request. My thinking is that I'll get paid whatever the market will bear. I'm more interested in getting my work out there than putting up restrictions and requirements. My way, I'm always pleasantly surprised by whatever I get paid for the class.

After class, a few of us went to a local restaurant with outdoor seating. We ate some good food (including a free plate of baklava, sent to us because our food took a long time to arrive) and chatted mostly about Nia and dog training.

I think River must have eaten a leaf or something, because he has started to make a hacking sound on a pretty regular basis. He often eats grass and leafs that don't settle and he'll hack them up, but whatever this is, seems to be resisting coming out. I hope it works its way out soon. I feel bad seeing him hack like that.