Springtime in Paradise

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Earth Day 2017 and life is definitely returning to the island. How better to celebrate this time of year than with “Spring Fest”. By bringing together a number of local organizations devoted to promoting and protecting the island, its heritage and the well-being of everyone living here, the Rev. Tamara Grenier and Nantucket Eco Group artfully put into perspective just how much Nantucketers have to be grateful for.  I braved April showers to attend and was so pleased I did as I was able to see a big screen viewing of the beautifully shot “The Last Bay Scallop” . In just 30 minutes local filmmaker John Stanton brings the Nantucket Bay Scallop industry to life and hammers home how its future rests uneasily on the quality of Nantucket’s water. Why specifically is it under threat? Mainly because of the decrease in “Eel Grass” around the island – on to which the baby scallops latch for survival. And the principal contributing factor for that decline appears to be high use of fertilizers on the island. It was a fascinating glimpse into Nantucket’s last commercial fishing industry.

Next weekend is the annual Daffodil Festival and those bright yellow flowers really are an incredibly welcoming sight at this time of year. Although this winter hasn’t been very harsh in the scheme of things, warm and sunny days can’t come soon enough.

The “off-season” whisked by in a bit of a blur. Islanders take advantage of the quieter months to travel and to brace themselves for another busy summer. While I spent the winter of 2015/2016 undertaking a dog training course at the Victoria Stilwell Dog Training Academy, this year I had the incredible opportunity of putting my newly acquired skills into practice by teaching a “Basic Manners” class at the Nantucket Community School. My first students have been so much fun and I’m eagerly looking forwards to the next class which starts this coming Tuesday.

Staying on the subject of dog training, in March I attended Clicker Expo in Stamford, Connecticut – a huge conference for advocates of positive reinforcement/force-free teaching methods.  Wow, was that ever a mind-blowing experience. Talk about some really inspirational speakers and heaps of food for thought. I was lucky enough to listen to some of the most engaging figures in the positive reinforcement training world and even met Karen Pryor (author of “Don’t Shoot the Dog” and a leader of the Clicker Trainer movement).  I came back to the island absolutely buzzing with new ideas and thoughts to put into practice. Of course I might also have picked up some new equipment in the conference shopping arena.

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Buster on his new k9FITbone

On the travel front, this time last weekend I was back in the motherland visiting family. Home really is a wonderful place to visit.

From the tulips in St. James Park to Daffodils on Old South Road, it’s the season of new beginnings. Girl Friday ACK is eagerly looking forwards to welcoming everyone back to the island.

 

 

New beginnings

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Exciting changes are afoot for my Girl Friday business. From establishing an LLC at the end of last year, to new service offerings, and I’m about to launch an updated website to which this blog will link. Time to commit to regular postings.

New website.  Renewed blog.  Seems only logical that I kick it all off with a “new” piece – my journey into the dog training world seems a pretty good choice.

I’ve always loved animals. While still in the UK I remember Barbara Woodhouse on tv and even today I talk about going for “walkies”. We had the sweetest, silliest, least trained Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for much of my childhood. She endured a great deal in the way of infantile attention but never quite seemed ready to appear on the only dog show of which I was aware (Crufts). Undoubtedly a lasting legacy of having a family pet was a respect for them. While not fully attuned to canine body language, we knew to absolutely never pull, poke or tease. Lara was central to our family and of course came to Bermuda with us when we moved in the early 80s. I can’t imagine having grown up without a dog in the house.

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Back in the 70’s with Lara.

Petless through university and the early years in my legal career, I vowed to make space for a companion animal as soon as I could. Kitties were a logical next step for someone hardly at home during the week but somehow I also found time to give to my local RSPCA too. If I couldn’t have a dog at least I could still help the homeless ones. And when I moved to Nantucket it was only natural for me to connect with the island’s animal shelter. That in turn helped me set up my pet care business but a summer spent nursing a broken ankle left me with a lot of time to think and to regularly check the Victoria Stilwell “Positively” website for updates on her dog training academy. It seemed almost too coincidental that at about the same time I was back on my feet and looking to rebuild my business that the application process for the first Victoria Stilwell Dog Training Academy opened. My application was lodged within hours.

I’ll be writing much more about my experiences as a VSA dog trainer but it is important for me to express what it was about this particular course that really appealed to me. There are a host of different dog training courses out there, so why this one? In short, I’ve liked Victoria’s work. While I didn’t have access to the Animal Planet to watch every episode of “It’s Me or the Dog”, in seeking information to help me with my own dogs, I had followed her online and in print, and greatly admired her approach and her commitment to non-aversive training methods. The fact that as a fellow Brit, a certification from her would be recognised in the UK if I was ever to head back that way, also helped.

On 20 November 2015 I heard the news I’d been waiting for – I was going to be amongst the students in the very first class at the Victoria Stilwell Dog Training Academy. And so the journey began……

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