I have been recovering from a trip to British Columbia, where I had been soaking wet, cold and anxiety ridden. I have returned, if not triumphant, at least intact.
Much to everyone’s mirth, concern and confusion, I decided that I was going to take a canine massage course. “Dog massage?” A sensitive friend snorted. “It’s called petting. You don’t need to take a course to learn that.” When I told my parents of my intentions my dad dropped his head in his hands. “Please,” he said from behind his hands, “Stop talking. I don’t think I can take it.”
I’ll admit that it sounds a little crazy. Then again, when I attended massage school twenty years ago it was far from mainstream and was met with raised eyebrows. I decided not to worry abut how I would make it work or if it would lead to anything. Not everything needs to be mapped out and planned perfectly. Not everything is a straight path. If nothing else I would be popular among the neighbourhood dogs.
“Besides,” I reasoned with the Sweetie as he tried to keep his face in a neutral mask of support,“all ideas sound crazy at the beginning, right?”
I fast tracked myself through the distance learning portion of the course and found a practical class that was happening in Langley B.C. I booked myself a room at the one of the suggested hotels, packed my things and ventured out to the middle of nowhere.
The first day didn’t start out well. In the cab en route to the facility I was alarmed that we seemed to be driving forever on the Trans Canada highway, dodging giant logging trucks. I started to smell a faint trace of oregano and opened my bag to discover that the pasta salad I had bought for lunch was slowly leaking its contents all over my books. The assignment that I needed to hand in was becoming mottled with olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. The cab fare had now reached $50, I was late for class and was considering throwing my bag out the window.
As we did the rounds of introductions I started to feel myself perspire. Everyone was either a vet tech, a dog boarder, or worked in animal shelters. “Hi ,” I said,” acutely aware that I smelled like a pasta salad and was sweating profusely.” I massage humans and I have a cat that doesn’t like me.” I saw one of the instructors exchange a glance with the other.
It suddenly occurred to me that some experience other than having a family pet thirty years ago would have been helpful. I started to panic. Somehow everyone but me had figured out that our learning facility was nowhere near Langley and everyone else was at a hotel minutes away. I had already prepaid my six days at the Travelodge to get a better deal. I was stuck and screwed. I felt like a fraud. I was feeling like I had made a huge mistake and I wanted to go home.
By the time it was our lunch break I was close to tears. As I stood in the grocery store looking for a replacement for my abandoned salad, I recognized a classmate. I started babbling about lodging in the middle of nowhere. She reached in her bag and shook out some lozenges. “Have you ever tried these?” She asked, “They’re Rescue Remedy lozenges. I always have them on hand because I get anxious and it takes the edge off. We use it at the shelter when the dogs are freaking out. I’ll give you a ride back to your hotel, don’t worry about it. Find me after class.” With that she floated away in search of her lunch, as I stood in the produce section furiously chewing my Rescue Remedy lozenges, my eyes burning with hot tears of gratitude that a stranger could be so kind, just when I had needed it the most.
It was a week of mishaps and a comedy of errors. I hadn’t packed enough warm clothes and it was cold and rainy every day. I’d spend the evenings trying to dry my running shoes on the radiator and guzzling wine. I’d listen to the giant black crow that seemed to be squawking with a megaphone on top of the Travelodge sign like a bad omen. I would struggle to get my dog out of his kennel while my classmates in their dry clothes and rubber boots would already be settled with theirs.
I had a few good moments during the course. One day we massaged ten week old puppies. There were a few times that my dog actually sat still and seemed to settle into his massage and I didn’t feel completely incompetent. My guardian angel would pick me up every morning and drive me back every evening, gracious and generous each time. We’d compare anxiety stories and she’d press more rescue Remedy lozenges in my hand while refusing to accept gas money.
Sometimes you embark on something with particular expectations and come away with completely different outcomes. I learned some canine massage, but I learned a lot more. I will never stay at the Langely Travelodge again. I learned how to use a travel corkscrew out of sheer desperation to get at my wine. Regretfully, I realized that despite growing in many ways I have never left my insecure self behind. Happily, however, I have the ability to forge ahead, even when I want to run in the opposite direction. I found out that guardian angels do exist. I was very lucky to meet one. I learned that you should double bag your lunch if you have packed anything that can leak. I learned that when everyone, including yourself, thinks you are an idiot you can still come away with valuable lessons. They won’t necessarily be the lessons you thought you’d learn, but foolish experiences can still make us wiser.