At the beginning of our last Foundation Level workshop, I asked the 5 people who had traveled to study with me if any had ever taken a workshop like this before. No one had. This group included a vet tech, a physical therapist, 2 massage therapists, a registered nurse, and a dog agility trainer/groomer.

For some of our students, it’s the first time they’ve traveled alone, or since having children, or living on their own. For some, it was the first time they’d visited Ohio, or the Midwest for that matter. They are gambling that attending this workshop is the right choice to prepare them for a career in canine massage. It’s a genuine leap of faith.

I complemented them. They are brave, displaying tremendous courage. They didn’t know what to expect yet, they were trusting that they had chosen the right school for their investment of time, money, and pursuit of their dreams.

Over the last 30 years I’ve attended many workshops. I’ve traveled around the world taking and teaching these courses. I’ve given myself many opportunities to meet incredible teachers, network, and become friends with new colleagues.

My experiences attending other schools’ workshops varied. Some were amazing, some forgettable, some disappointing. In each of them I learned something-even sometimes what not to do. Each has helped define, refine, and added value to my practice and my overall world view. These experiences shaped the curricula of the PetMassage programs and my teaching style.

Many of our students are just getting into these fields from corporate or highly linear career training. So I can empathize with the uncertainty.

Massage, bodywork, yoga, and meditation are non-linear. These are all taught using the workshop format. These are the types of vocations that require one-on-one instruction. They are all practices that are personal commitments to training, evolving, and developing with time and maturity. These kinds of continuing development do not work in the time-structured construct of “traditional” education.

Apprehensions are understandable.

What do you do at a workshop? Is it held in a school setting, in hotels, a park, at a barn, or in someone’s home? What do you wear? What is taught? Is it professional? Now, we ask if it is safe and if we are to wear masks while massaging dogs.

Do the instructors get how passionate I am about wanting to help dogs? Will the instructors be knowledgeable, experienced, friendly, and interesting? Will the lessons be well planned, organized and structured? Will I get a thick manual of factoids that I’ll never use, or will I come away with the job skills I need? Are the instructors committed to being my long-term mentor after I’ve studied with them? If so, will there be additional fees for consultations?

The quality of a workshop is always dependent on a few important factors: the instructor’s personality, experience and depth of knowledge, and their enthusiasm and commitment in supporting their protégés development.

Would you like to know what the workshop experience is? This is a brief description of the workshop.

First, after assessing all your choices for training, doing your due diligence, you choose the PetMassage School and register for the class that’s most convenient for you on the PetMassage.com website. There is 1 more in 2020 and 4 scheduled in 2021.

You reserve your place in the workshop with a deposit, or pay for it in full and get a small discount.

You receive your books, and videos by mail; your instructions, home study courses, and codes for proprietary streaming videos by email. Before the workshop you prepare by watching the videos and studying the PetMassage books on canine massage, dog handling, dog anatomy, and canine massage business creation.

As the date approaches, you make your reservations for travel, and hotel accommodations (we’ll guide you).

On Thursday morning, the first day, we begin with group introductions, goal setting, verbalizing expectations, and begin with a pre-training dog massage to establish a baseline. I explain that this is an immersion-style learning experience. It will be like visiting another country where you don’t know the language or the culture. You don’t even know how to breathe the air. I see PetMassage as a form of communication. You will be learning to “speak” the language of dogs and “inhabit” the canine culture. You overlay that with another new language and culture, that of the terminology, skills, and culture of touch, and massage. These are overlaid with the enhanced awareness of owning, inhabiting and presiding over your physical and emotional space. (Yes: whoa!) Your life will be enhanced and forever changed by the content you learn in this extended weekend.

The reality is that nobody can become expert at any complex skill set in just 5 days. And canine massage certainly combines a lot of the patting your head and belly circle rubbing kinds types of combinations.

The Foundation Level Program workshop teaches the initial things you need to know to begin and be successful in your journey. We provide you with the directions to get to Carnegie Hall. How do you really get there? Practice, practice, practice.

Each day of the workshop, we learn a little more about dogs, dog behavior (culture), dog movement, dog anatomy, dog handling during the massage session, massage techniques as applied to dogs, correct body and breath mechanics for your personal safety, comfort, communication, and practice longevity.

They are all revealed in layers; slowly, methodically, and creatively. Visualize a flower blooming. Your learning is meaningful, memorable, and entertaining.

There’s a lot to learn and it’s all new. Expect to be confused. Expect at the beginning to feel challenged, lost, overwhelmed, and insecure. Also expect to feel supported and encouraged.

I promise that by the end of the workshop on Monday you will feel better about yourself, your abilities, and confident about your path to your dreams. By the end of the workshop you will be eager to return home and begin your practice.

This last workshop, the 5 students that I described in the introduction were so connected that they didn’t want to leave. Each was reveling in the group’s loving support, shared vision, acceptance, and encouragement. After our group photo and completing their post-workshop evaluation sheets, they created a WhatsApp group and continued their newfound sense of tribe, celebrating the workshop experience and each other, at a local, pub deep into the late afternoon over margueritas and wine.

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