I was in touch by email awhile back with the most regular readers of this space, but I have been remiss not to share the following news here earlier for others who have been following along. In short: Vocational Breakthrough!
The pieces came together while sitting out on the deck of our daughter's home visiting with our newest grandson, Rock, then two days old. Ashley had their Yorkie, Madison, on her lap, and was explaining that as Madison has gotten older (she is now 10) she has become increasingly hyper and anxious. When you consider the changes Maddie has experienced in her life--multiple moves, four new humans and two new dogs added to her domicile--it makes sense that her behavior reflects stress. As is typical of my brain, my thoughts leaped from one point to the next, and I was reminded of Zeke, my brother's dog. The previous year Zeke was hit by a car, suffering multiple, debilitating injuries. Among the treatments attempted to restore Zeke to health was massage. At the time I had never heard of massage for dogs, or other animals, but my brain left a bookmark in that page of information to which it now returned.
Hmm. Animal massage. Although I have never been drawn to human massage as a vocational opportunity, animal massage beckoned me. As you all know, I am mad about dogs. I have wanted to find a way to work for the benefit of dogs for a while now, but various deterrents kept eliminating a number of the options I explored. Time to learn more.
When we returned home a couple of days later I spent several hours with Google, finding web sites and information about animal massage. What kind of training was available? What sort of financial investment would be necessary? Could I make any money? And so on. What I learned is that animal massage is a viable course for me. Although prayer and discernment were invoked, in the core of my being I already knew that my prayers and the quest of so many years were being answered.The inner peace, relief, and joy that flooded my being felt like a divine kiss.
That was two months ago. Since then I have zeroed in on the where and how of training: a combination of distance learning and hands on work through a program in Toledo, Ohio. The cost, while not pocket change, seemed doable: $2500 for the program plus lodging and travel expenses. A combination of supply work (filling in for clergy on Sundays), stipend for doing a wedding, selling off Pampered Chef inventory at our yard sale, and an appeal to my bishop for aid yielded the funds I would need. Phew! Originally I would have been returning today from a week's training in Ohio, but low enrollment in the July course resulted in that class being cancelled. This was not happy news for me. The sooner I have the training the sooner I am able to generate revenue, but... I am now enrolled in the September class, leaving me more time at this end to read thoroughly all the material and get some practice time in.
For the short run, we will convert what is now Ken's office/den space (the former garage) to my work space where clients may bring their dogs for massage sessions. The delay in coursework benefits us here, as that process has been delayed due to some health issues for Ken (torn meniscus --> knee surgery and recovery). I can also offer mobile services, though that is less desirable for a number of reasons. I am confident that all of that will work out.
This week I am fine-tuning plans and goals. I have a meeting at our local chamber of commerce in a couple of days with a small business consultant. The financial piece of this is the greatest challenge--I have no real capital with which to launch--but the good news is that I have a decent network of resources to help me market my business, and the overhead for the work is minimal. A grooming table is really all I need, and the search for a used one has begun.
The greatest challenge thus far has been landing on a name for my business. I like naming things. The process is creative and fun, and usually something clever materializes. The advice from the center through whom I am doing my training cautions against using the words therapy or healing in the name, as well as avoiding anything cutesy. No matter which way I ventured in my thinking, however, I was coming up with nothing. I finally posed a very dull idea to Ken, who offered an alternative, and at last there is a result: Cumberland Animal Massage. Cumberland is a geographic reference to the region where we live (a river, a plateau, a university), and animal doesn't confine me to dogs, although I expect the bulk of my work to be with canines. (I hope to expand to horses eventually, but that will be down the road.) The name isn't what I had hoped for, but as I live with it it becomes increasingly comfortable. It sounds like substance, and that is what I want it to reflect.
So! There you have it. I'll keep you posted in a more timely manner from here on.