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By Liz R. Kover
Animal Assisted Activities Director at Marleys Mutts 

Life skills class the Mission at Kern County

It's a Dog's Life

 

You know how when you're on a long, intense hike up a steep incline, and your focus is solely on reaching the summit – then, when you finally get there, you have a breathtaking vantage point from which you can see all that culminated to inspire this moment of heightened gratitude?

Well, that's how I felt on Thursday night during our 6th session of Marley's "Miracle Mutts" Life Skills class at the Mission at Kern County. As I watched the women handle the dogs they've been paired with – much more skillfully than when we started six weeks ago – I was awestruck; amazed at how far the human-canine bond can go in helping restore, even develop for the first time, a person's sense of self.

I've seen magic unfold while simply visiting the Mission with dogs over the last year and a half. But the greater goal has been to develop a curriculum that would empower both dogs and people to recognize their great potential, and gain the confidence to reach for it. At the halfway point of our twelve-week journey together, it is happening.

The women, the dogs, the volunteers and I are all evolving in real time; becoming braver and better before our own eyes. It's quite remarkable as both an individual and collective experience!

In this particular class, we discussed how cultivating the "dog trainer within" means awakening the kind of leadership skills that all successful parents, teachers, and coaches share. I want the women to know that within each of them lives a creative, dynamic, strong and skilled leader ready to emerge. And within each of the dogs there lives an intelligent, well-behaved, confident companion, who will come when called by the one who leads.

By learning to communicate with the dogs, these women – whose lives were not long ago defined by the addictions that kept them bound – are nourishing those aspects of themselves that set them free. In the process, they are helping to extricate fearful and anxious dogs from their own traumatic pasts.

The situation is a win-win-ad-infinitum, and I am so excited to see how it continues to unfold for all of us! Dog Speed.

 
 

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