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May 17, 2018

Present for Today

by Kristopher

One of my goals as a dad is to constantly evolve as a parent. Having two children I have learned that part of that process is learning to be an effective communicator. Training dogs through positive reinforcement has aided me in improving my communication skills and unveiled my need to do so with my kids, as well. Learning to build a healthy bond with the dogs as I “listen” to them; by paying attention to their body language and actions helps promote feelings of safety and trust between us. Both canines and children respond to gentleness and care. Through my personal experience, I have realized that an aversive mindset and techniques do not work without leaving scars - emotionally, mentally, or physically - on the recipient.

Learning to communicate in a positive way with an animal who cannot speak has helped prepare me to talk with my teenage daughter who sometimes finds solace in her silence. Working with a puppy who wants to get into everything reminds me to be patient and compassionate as I listen to the stories of my 10-year-old son.

As an incarcerated dad, this program has been a type of second chance for me. It has provided me with the opportunity to re-visit some areas I lacked in as a father before my incarceration. I get to practice being responsible and consistent for someone else as I care for this puppy. I am able to help people directly through my work with these dogs and set a good example for my kids, allowing me to show the ongoing change in my life.

This experience with NLK9s has really helped put things into a different perspective. The ups-and-downs remind me to be thankful because it is through these experiences that I grow. To make the most of each moment in the present, which quickly turns to the past, may be mirrored by those I influence; so if a caring, loving nature is what I hope to instill, I need to show that from a genuine heart.

NLK9s provides me with the unexpected blessing of the support from these dogs as I work through the memories that continue to plague me. Realizing that I failed my children as their dad, that I put them in a position to endure the consequences of my foolish choices is a sorrow I cannot explain. Working with Robbie, however, reminds me daily that it is not what happened yesterday but what we are going to do today that matters. My children Lilyana and Kristopher really prove this point as they give me their unconditional love, showing me they do not care about yesterday, but want me present for today.

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