There’s much I have to say about my experiences at the first annual Natural Dog Training Conference in Battleground, Indiana but first THANK YOU.
THANK YOU to Dr. Jean Marie Thompson for putting the idea and the event together. THANK YOU to the entire Indiana Indiana K-9 Assisted Crisis Response team (Scott, Tim, Carol, Angie, Father Bert, Jill, Steve et. al) for the sheer logistics of getting us all from one place to another, and with all the stuff we needed. THANK YOU to the participants who were willing to get in a plane or car and travel great distances to hear what I have to say and see how I work with dogs. I really felt received and able to communicate (it takes two to ping/pong) because folks were not only open, but able to “resist” as necessary with incisive questions in order to improve the flow. An added bonus was that the various venues, most especially Prophets Town, encompassed the land of Tecumseh. It was an amazing experience to walk deep into the primordial Prairie grass and imagine the life of the native Americans who used to live here just a few centuries earlier. At the battlefield of Tippecanoe there were great oaks still standing that would have been saplings on that fateful day three hundred years earlier. We were truly walking on sacred ground and I do believe that the feeling for the land embodied in the ways of the Shawnee has not been lost and still lives on in our own personal reverence for nature.
Finally, on the last day I went on a deployment where several members of the team (Jill, Father Bert, Dr. Jean-Marie) visited the Indiana State Veterans Home. Watching the team move from room to room, waiting for a look, smile or word that a veteran or caregiver was receptive to their dog’s entreaty, I received a first hand look at the incredible good work that the Indiana K-9 Assisted Crisis Response Team does and the selfless dedication of the team members as well as the local Elks chapter that was putting on a big picnic for the veterans that day, and of course the many nurses and support staff who make the veterans feel that they are at home. These veterans made our freedom possible and to witness the utter devotion of so many people to their well being was profoundly moving. There’s nothing like seeing a veteran’s face light up when a dog comes his or her way, an interaction that immediately rekindles long ago memories of the dogs that they’ve had and held. One man told me that he buried his dog with its head cradled on a pillow and with its body wrapped in a blanket. Every day thereafter he visited his dog’s grave to pour his heart out. These men weren’t eager to talk about their military experiences in Vietnam or Korea, but they had a lot to say about the dogs they’ve known and loved. I felt a lot of Heart in Indiana; from the Von Liche Kennels to the vast acreage of corn as high as the proverbial elephant’s eye, to how volunteers pitch in to preserve the local history at the Wabash/Erie canal museum, and most especially to the seminar participants who journeyed from all over the country and the world and who allowed me to share my heart with them on the nature of dogs. Thank you.