This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Opening Night!

Opening night...........make-up, jitters, excitement, anticipation, costumes, malfunctioning sound system, anxious parents, missing props..............the curtain goes up!
And there I am in the "director's pit," biting what little is left of my fingernails, and praying that nothing goes wrong! But suddenly the stage is filled with smiling faces, all singing and dancing their hearts out. They're projecting, they're remembering their lines, they're helping each other......THEY'RE HAVING FUN!!!!! I'm caught up in the story, mesmerized by the children's performances, silently mouthing lines and song lyrics.......and there are tears running down my cheeks. WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!
The story of "Little Orphan Annie" has come to life on my tiny school stage. Forty-two children, ages 9-13, have gone from a tone-deaf, stumbling, mumbling, jostling, goofing around "mob" to a tightly-knit team, working together and moving in sync with each other. It's nothing short of a miracle!
This is why I become so dismayed when I read about arts programs being cut in our schools. I have children in my cast who joined Drama Club because their parents made them or because their best friend signed up or because they dream big.... and suddenly, these children discover they have TALENT! I have kids who are so shy they can barely squeak through an audition yet they get up on stage and suddenly something in them opens up and out comes this amazing singing or speaking voice. I don't know who is more startled.....the kid or me! I have one child who has such a bad stutter that, even at 11 years old, he barely speaks, even to classmates he's known since he was 4 years old. He wanted to play Sandy, the dog, in the "Annie, Jr." (our current production) so I scuttled my plans to use Jelly the beagle and gave him the part. He plays it to the hilt and last night the audience was howling at his antics on stage! It's given him confidence; he's found his "voice" without having to use his voice. Amazing.
Not every child is going to be an athlete yet every child (in my opinion as a parent and teacher) needs to learn how to work as part of a team. What's a good marriage? A team.
What makes a good employee? Being able to work as part of a team. What is a family? A team.
When I cast a show, I tell the kids up front that not everyone can be the lead character but EVERY ACTOR IS IMPORTANT TO THE SHOW because we are a team! I tell them that I can have the most talented actor in the world for the lead but without the ensemble, the star will have no show! And I tell them that they can make their part uniquely "theirs" in some way - they just have to use their imagination.
I don't think kids today use their imaginations very much. It's tough to get them to see that theater is all about magic and illusion and thinking outside the box. That's important in every day life, I think. We may not always have the answers right in front of us; there isn't always a user's manual for every situation in which we find ourselves; we might not always have the right tool for the job so we need to improvise........
Team work. Imagination. Creativity. Let's keep the arts alive and well!

Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. Vince Lombardi

(Did you really think I could go too long without quoting Lombardi?? LOL)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! I'm off on vacation next week and am looking forward to visiting all my most favorite historical sites......Yorktown, Jamestown, Williamsburg...........I imagine I am part of them 300 years ago.....(Once a drama queen, always a drama queen......LOL!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jelly Clickin'

Jelly and I are taking a dog obedience class so that we can get our Canine Good Citizenship certificate and then hopefully go on to therapy dog certification. I wasn't sure what to expect at the first class - it was for owners only, no dogs allowed. The trainer is highly recommended by many of my clicker friends so I went with an open mind and a hopeful heart. At the first class, the trainer explained the type of equipment we would be using and how it would be used (leashes WITHOUT knots or frays - ha ha!). Those of us with "improper" equipment were told to purchase something appropriate so I used that as an excuse to buy myself a really nice leather leash!!! (Husband: "What's THAT?"
Me: "The trainer said I had to buy this." Husband: "Huh.") She also told us that we each had to have a "bum bag" (fanny pack) in which to keep our treats. YES! I was thinking, "I can relate to this!" While the trainer didn't specifically call it "clicker training," she did explain to the humans that we were to pick a letter of the alphabet, say it to our dogs during the coming week, and after saying the letter, reward them with a treat. I asked if it was alright to continue using the tongue click and she responded that that would be perfectly alright. We also got a short lecture on dog behavior that had me laughing out loud. The class ended with instructions to go home and practice saying our letter and giving out a treat. Well, that was a no-brainer for Jelly and me!!!
Our first dog and owner class rolled around and I wasn't sure what to expect from Jelly since it would be the first time she was in the midst of a large group of other dogs. But I was confident that the click would keep us connected. I opted for a chain collar for the class because Jelly can pull like a work horse when she wants to get to something and the chain collar, used properly, is like power steering for us. Like any other training tool, it can be punishing or it can be effective depending on who is at the controls. I'm happy to say that Jelly responds well to the energy between us and the slightest tweak of my finger tells her what I want. For us the chain collar is a good thing! But I digress..........
So in we go....Jelly was VERY excited but she listened well and after a few attempts at butt sniffin' with some other dogs, she sat quietly and just observed what was going on around her. And it was truly free entertainment! I would have to say that except for Jelly and me, no one had attempted clicker training with their dog before that evening and if you're a clicker trainer, you know that clicking is quite a bit like watching paint dry and is not always as successful as you might like during your first attempts. It's also frustrating for me to watch as the owners demand the "whole" behavior from their dogs rather than having the time to break down the behaviors into smaller parts but I'm neither condemning nor judging - it's just the way it is when you have a big class like that and the trainer is trying to reach everyone at once.
Jelly was clearly the "Supah Stah" (think Molly Shannon! ha ha) that evening and I was so very proud of her!!! I asked her to sit/stay and she plunked her little bottom down in the mud and didn't move until told to "heel." At one point, she'd been sitting and sitting while we practiced the "stay" and she was concentrating so hard on me that she didn't see the huge, unruly lab/newfie mix (who was wearing a full muzzle because he'd tried to attack the trainer!!), wrestling with his human right behind us! In a heartbeat, this dog was pulling backward and upward and wriggling at the same time, and I pulled Jelly out of the way a nanosecond before the big dog flipped over and almost landed right on top of her!!
Jelly looked over her shoulder at the dog, then at me, and said, "Sheesh. Can you believe it?" I was so proud of her!!!
Our second lesson went equally as well and I'm sure we're going to get that Good Canine designation! I just can't say enough about the power of the click! All of our homework paid off and I'm glad I've taken the time these past 2 years to lay a solid foundation for us. The click improved our communication, solidified our relationship, and allowed my once "afraid of everything" beagle to know that it's OK to make mistakes; it's OK to be afraid now and then; it's OK to make choices. When I see her prance along beside me, eyes sparkling, tail up, a happy smile on her face, I know that I'll always be a clicker trainer!
I haven't yet told my husband about my plans for agility classes this summer but I'll keep ya posted!!

"So…You Want A Beagle?" (From the BREW, Inc. web site)
I want a dog that will jog next to me and play and chase a frisbee off lead without running away.
I want a dog that is easy to train and lives to obey me. DO NOT GET A BEAGLE
I want a dog that is quiet and unassuming. DO NOT GET A BEAGLE
I want a dog that doesn’t get in trouble in the house. YOU MIGHT NOT WANT A BEAGLE
I want a guard dog. YOU MIGHT NOT WANT A BEAGLE
I want a dog I can train if I’m willing to put some time and effort into the training. CONSIDER A
I want a dog that will play with my kids and me. CONSIDER A BEAGLE
I want a dog that is lively and confident. CONSIDER A BEAGLE
I want a dog that enjoys the company of people and other dogs. CONSIDER A BEAGLE

I never wanted a beagle but it seems the beagle wanted me. (Karleen)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Beads On My Necklace

I made the comment recently (to a friend? posted on a list? I can't remember.....) that I'm amazed at how the Universe keeps stringing us all together. And then I thought, in my humble mind, "Hey, that's a pretty good analogy!"
"The Universe strings us together" like beads on a necklace; all connected yet all separate. All complementing each other in some way. All held together by a common clasp.
When my old yellow lab was diagnosed with cancer, Paula S. from the Animal Communication group sent me a gorgeous healing chakra collar for her and I got a bracelet to match. It was to ensure that our energies remained intertwined. Both pieces of jewelry are breath-taking! Every stone has a different meaning and purpose and all look different, but string them together and you have a never-ending ring of beauty! When Sassy died, I couldn't bear to bury the collar with her so I removed it and placed it around the neck of my St. Francis statue and dedicated it to the higher good of all animals. I still wear the bracelet (I have it on today!) so that I am forever linked to my beloved old lab!
Then I asked Paula to make me a necklace of my own and she asked me what I would like from the necklace. I told her I want to be calm; I want to remain centered and in touch with the world around me; I want to stay open to the spiritual; I want joy and happiness. It took several months but when my necklace arrived, I was again speechless at the sheer beauty of it! My pendant is eye of the tiger, chosen just for me by a spirit dog....I wear this necklace all the time. Just looking at it brings me serenity and a sense of joy.
And that's what all the people in my life are..........beads on a necklace. The Universe strings us together, and together we support each other, complement each other, bring out the beauty in each other.............
Thank you, Beads! I think we are a beautiful creation and I wear each and every one of you proudly on my "necklace!"

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one! C.S. Lewis