I am a learner.  I regularly take classes, both online and in person.  I attend seminars, workshops and other learning opportunities whenever possible.  I open myself to new ideas and challenge myself to evaluate my own methodology and understanding.  I immerse myself in the words, actions, thoughts and ideas of the presenter.  I engage in discussion.  I ask questions.  I allow the concepts and ideas to roll over me then organize my thoughts and notes on each topic.  Seminars are by nature an immersive and intensive learning experience.  I take copious notes and if possible, photos or video of our work.  I spend hours and days, if not weeks, organizing my thoughts.  I believe there is always at least one invaluable nugget of information from a learning opportunity if I remain open to it.  Often there is much more.

I am writing this over my second cup of coffee with a very tired and self-satisfied Isabella at my feet.  For the past four days, I have been actively learning at our 2018 Spring Scent Work Camp with Stacy Barnett and judging by the snoring, so did Isabella.  I have listened, watched and taken notes.  I set goals for our team and then worked through exercises and challenges presented to us.  I didn’t just work and learn as a handler, but also as a trainer, coach and judge.  I had the opportunity to watch teams I have coached or competed alongside with progress and learn from their journeys as well.  I had moments of affirmation, reflection and a light bulb or two (or more, I am still taking it all in).  And when we weren’t learning, we shared stories of our current and past dogs with humor and love.  There were shenanigans, social outings and so much learning.  Four full days of learning.

To Stacy, thank you for joining us and bringing an incomparable learning opportunity.  One of the hallmarks of an exceptional coach is viewing each team as an individual, celebrating their strengths while at the same time objectively evaluating weaknesses and developing a plan of action to improve the team.  Thank you for lecture and presentations that combine science and sport, technique and understanding.  Thank you also for a great sense of humor and yes, a bit of an evil streak when it comes to distraction training.

Thank you to everyone who came.  Whether you worked with your canine partners or audited, you helped create an invaluable learning opportunity for your fellow participants.  By providing different view-points, experience and challenges you enabled all of us to stretch, grown and learn that much more.  Engaging in constructive discussion is just as important to me as a learner as lecture and practical application.  A special thank you to Leslie for procuring lovely search areas, Jane for bringing over equipment and Scraps Dog Company for lending us great distractors.  All of you helped to make this spring’s Scent Work Camp an inclusive learning environment.

So, as we leave the comfort of camp and head back out into the world, remember what you learned this weekend.  Remember the “Aha!” moments.  Remember when you were challenged to think outside your sphere.  Remember the moments you felt at one with your dog, the moment when it all came together.  Remember the fun you had and the friendships you made.  Remember why you play the game and that no matter the outcome of any search, you will always go home with the very best dog.

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