I experience the emotion of deep sorrow and ultimate gratitude simultaneously. Seiki has been a member of my family for 8 years and we traveled through many spiritual times together. This past Wednesday, Seiki requested to go to Rainbow Bridge, and I listened. The memories and time we have spent together have been some of the most precious times of my life. As a little girl, I dreamed of letting my dog run free in nature with an awesome recall. With Seiki, I made that dream a reality. We hiked the simple mountains of Millcreek Canyon to the depths of Goblin Valley where one wrong decision could result in death. He was my beloved companion and enjoyed every minute of our outdoor excursions. Ultimately, he taught me to let go. The times that stick most in my memory were the times where trusting and surrendering were my only choice unless I wanted to experience an ultimate panic attack.
It is time to remanence and share these ultimate experiences, and yes it involved dog training. Salt Lake City was where part of this occurred but in the middle of nature when it was just the two of us is where the deeper learning really occurred and the bond between us ultimately grew.
It began with simple recall training on walks and in the mountains. Eventually, Seiki learned to explore and experience the wildlife around him. It only took one occurrence of him being gone for almost 20 minutes at Red Butte Gardens that resulted to on-leash mountain hikes for an entire year. Proactivity and his safety was important to me as we experienced dog training. Salt Lake City is where we stayed during this time of his life. Training in the mountains on-leash. Obedience training with “come” also occurred in soccer fields, school yards, and fenced locations. My ultimate goal was to experience the freedom of the wind and air around us in this beautiful city.
Once his recall became pretty stable in the above areas we progressed to off-leash time in the mountains with dog training. Salt Lake City is again where we stayed. Obedience training mostly occurred in Millcreek Canyon. Elbow Fork Trail became our ultimate favorite hike. This trail was frequently vacant. Most of the time it was just the two of us here. I was persistent and committed with his obedience training. When I called him for his recall, I would turn around and run in the opposite direction to kick in his chase and herding drive. Tons of treats and praise exploded and our bond and trust grew from here. There were many times when he chose to chased birds over coming to me. I would keep running in the opposite direction to pulled him to run to me. Sometimes I would hide to get him to look for me. He would feel just a enough fear to wonder where I went and begin searching for me. His recall became top notch for a border collie that had a huge chase and herding drive in nature.
However, there was one place where he never seemed to master it and that was in wide open fields. This of course is where we experienced flyball practice, a dog training, Salt Lake City sport. Seiki had a blast running off. He was in complete bliss as he herded planes and birds in the sky. It was a laughing stock at fly ball. At times, I was in ultimate embarrassment since I was a dog trainer myself. Then other times I was fuming in anger because I was so attached to having him come and do awesome in flyball. As time grew, I learned to just let it go and see the humor in the situation. Seiki had brought me to a family that I will never forget and that was my flyball family, Thunder Paws. We experienced numerous training times together. My team watched Seiki grow from knowing nothing about flyball to eventually becoming the dog that had to wear a long line to prevent the his bird chasing at practice. Tournaments for us were few due to the dog classes I held on the weekends but the ones we experienced were a very high of euphoria. These were held indoors so no need for a long line for Seiki there. We attended the ones in Hurricane, Utah.
The spiritual and energetic realm began with Salt Lake City dog training and gradually progressed to camping in many desert and mountainous areas. Yep our recall training paid off but any dog that loves to herd is going to herd. So there were the times I called him and he didn’t come, I was alone sometimes and other times with friends. In the beginning my heart would drop. Then NLP (neurolinguistic programming) would set in from the coaching programs I attended. I would breath and begin to relax into my intention, “Seiki is safe and is coming now”. I firmly believed he always felt my energy because EVERYTIME he always came back to me. I never had to go to him. I mostly stayed put, I would breath and meditate with my intention. It worked everytime and of course no matter how long it took he was greeted with treats and praise. It amazed me how our training and my experience with the energetic realm paid off. Panicking and staying in fear did nothing, Breathing, believing, feeling him, staying connected to him and focusing on what I wanted to create did everything to keep him coming back. Of course our Salt Lake City dog training and obedience training paid off.
The trueness of the situation really set in when we were in the ultimate desert. Yep Seiki and I traveled and camped at Goblin Valley. No GPS and no friends with us. Just the two us and our strong intentions. He taught me to let go, to believe and to surrender. That I did. He ran to the edge of the cliffs. He chased deer and lizards. We walked trail after trail with little visual discriminations between the trails. I knew one wrong turn could result in dehydration and death. That didn’t stop us. We kept going. I kept believing in safety and a loving connection of fun and presence. Ultimately that is what we created. Hiking for hours and not running into a soul rejuvenated us. I couldn’t control Seiki anymore. He would make his choices. All I could do was let go and believe our bond and obedience training was strong enough to keep us together. I experience gratitude because it was enough.
I loved the times we hike at the Unitas and Seiki ran off herding cattle and horses. Each time knowing he could die. My heart dropping and then again going to my intention setting, breathing, believing and using my training tools. He came back everytime. The bond we had was unbearable. What amazing times we had together!
Fear set in during a road walk in the Unitas, and an angry mule came toward us. Seiki wanted to run toward him and bark at him. I put him leash and at this time I was grateful for dog training. Salt Lake City was simple training. This was not Salt Lake City. This was dangerous and in true nature. I was extremely proactive and begin requesting commands to keep him quiet so that we could walk past the mule without triggering him further. We made it past and Seiki remained quiet. Wow what a team we were!
The freedom and safety this dog had with me was beyond my imagination as a little girl. As an adult, I was not ignorant. I took the training steps both energetically, spiritually, and physically with positive reinforcement dog training tools. The gratitude I experienced with him was huge and my heart opened to receive his love.
From Bear Lake to Mirror Lake to Goblin Valley to Kodachrome, to East Canyon…. We experienced Utah’s beauty and our bond kept growing.
Then everything changed. My ability to let go and surrender was surrounded by ultimate bondage as I made the choice to have a relationship with an addict. At first Seiki and I still had strong bond. Then I saw it break. We experience the fear of fighting and chaos around us. I lost touch of spirituality. My trust began to leave me and fear began to consume me. Maybe this was the start of Seiki’s health issues with Lymphoma. I will never know but as I much as I would have liked to skip this chapter of our lives it was a part of our experience together.
Then I unexpectedly, I became pregnant and yep the father was the addict. My daughter’s father was definitely a functionable addict which created much confusion for me. My mind would get wrapped into his recovery only to see that it was never happening. I was in ultimate denial. My bond with Seiki was strong but changed. I wasn’t able to hike like I used to. My soon to be daughter’s father hike with him frequently. Pregnancy was hard on my body and I became exhausted. The result of my addict relationship was emotionally draining. Seiki stayed. What a loyal dog. He was there through it all.
I married my daughter’s father while I was pregnant. The wedding was beautiful and it was a special day. Seiki attended the wedding and was in the ceremony. He wore a cute turquoise tie and a turquoise leash. It was wonderful to have him there. We have many gorgeous pictures of the wedding experience together.
Iris, my daughter was born at my apartment and I experience an in home birth. Both my daughter’s father and Seiki were present at the birth. It was calming to have him there and I believe gave him a sense of peace to watch the process rather than just seeing a baby walk through the door suddenly after a hospital birth.
After the birth of Iris, my fears became larger. Seiki was not around many children in the past, and he was uncomfortable around Iris. Iris’s father wasn’t capable of learning the dog training tools I knew and didn’t have the emotional awareness that was needed to create strong intentions. So the first day that Seiki snapped at Iris, I knew we were in for trouble. I knew what to do and how to create peace again. The problem became clear that her dad might not be on board. In fact he would get into so much fear that he wanted to just get rid of Seiki. I was scared to leave my husband, and the chaos became larger and larger. One day the energy exploded, and I left my husband with Seiki and Iris. We were taken in by a awesome lady with an amazing heart. Those days were surrounded with fear and yet much love and support.
Seiki’s off leash hikes became on-leash strolls around the neighborhood mostly with Iris on my back and in a stroller. Eventually, I lost myself and became really depressed. These dark times were hard. I left my relationship with my daughter’s father and chose divorce. As a result, I was to continue raising Seiki and Iris myself. I did it. We got to the other side. Unfortunately, the distance that I felt with Seiki never left. Guilt was there. I missed our 2-6 hour hikes in nature and the bond the two of us felt there, but Seiki stayed. He was loyal. I learned how resistant he was to go through the trauma with all of us and still be able to have so many happy times.
Eventually, Seiki and I did much counter conditioning and training with Iris, and they became great buds. Seiki’s time hiking decreased, and his time indoors with a toddler increased. It was his turn to learn that safety was his. He learned to trust that I had his back and that I wouldn’t let my daughter hurt him. Iris learned how to properly interact with dogs. Seiki learned that he could approach her and that he would be rewarded with peanut butter and other yummy snacks. As time went on Seiki would solicit time to be close to Iris. It warmed my heart to the see the two of them spending time together. Of course as the trauma of my past relationship left my soul, I began hiking with the three of them. It was more wondering, and they were short hikes in the mountains. We experienced much laughter and bliss together. Of course I experience much stress with the two of them as well, but we always made it through to the other side.
The bond Seiki and I hit hard. The biggest shift happened when he was diagnosed with Lymphoma in October of 2015, We were blessed by Healing Hearts Animal Hospital with a treatment that would buy more time together. I jumped on it. It was at this time that our hikes and outings became more frequent again. As a single mom, it felt hard for me to take the three of us out. I decided to move through the fear. I would have loved to have created more mountain time but time was limited with now. We started with once week outings and ended to 2 times a week of off- leash times. He taught me that we could do it and be a team! Our times at Millcreek lessened and times at Neff’s Canyon grew. It was a shorter drive and was off leash everyday. So Neff’s Canyon became our hang out place. I hired a dog hiker from Everyone N’ THeir Dogs once a week too. Seiki got out 3 times a week. Once a week he was guaranteed time away from Iris. Time to just run and have a longer hike free from toddler energy.
Then toward the end of May of 2016 symptoms of the lymphoma returned. Even though his blood work appeared to be normal I could sense that it was almost time. We only had a short time left. I kept taking him out and he began walking slower. Eventually his symptoms were so clear I knew something was off. Then it hit me that his time was here NOW. It was now. In the admits of 104 degree fever with my daughter infected with a UTI, I was still able to take Seiki out. Iris had time with her dad, so Seiki and I went up with a friend to Neff’s Canyon. It was a Sunday. When Tuesday, April 12th hit, I decided to allow him to have a great day. He went on a hike with our dog hiker. I canceled my dog class that evening and took him out again. Just the two of us. He wasn’t up tor eating, but I got him to eat a decent amount of hamburger that evening. The next day was Rainbow Bridge. He was greeted with many of his friends (old and new) that joined us at the Healing Hearts vet clinic. His ending was happy. He was still able to walk and wagged his tail with an open mouth saying “hi” to all of his friends and at the same time saying good bye. He laid down on a blanket with his head on me. I had one hand on him and one on my friend. He transitioned and I cried. Many of us cried including our vet. He left on a good note. No need to wait until his symptoms progressed even more. That lucky dog had a happy ending. Man I love him. He will forever be in my heart always!
Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC, Dog Training, Salt Lake City