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  • suzjennifer62

“There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” —Vicki Baum

If you are looking for the secret to happiness, it’s dancing. The best dancers are not the ones who can execute the steps with absolute perfection. The successful dancer is one whose inspiration comes from within.

An author or poet can write beautiful stories and describe images that bring out emotions. They can preserve and share them forever in black ink on white paper. A row of books on a shelf is a tangible symbol of an author’s passion. Artists use colors instead of words to tell their stories and convey their messages of joy and beauty, and when they finish, they have a masterpiece to be collected and kept. Hanging on walls, sometimes in galleries or museums, the artist knows his works are seen. Without inspiration, writers and painters cannot thrive.

A dancer only has their next routine, and when it’s done, it disappears. Dancers perform for recognition of their dedication. They show their skill and ability when movement and music come together in such balance, the audience can’t tell which is leading the performance. Is the dancer moving to the music, or is the dancer playing the notes?

Each performance is a gift. It is magic, and when it’s over, those moves and the music are gone. There is no book or painting, no record of what just happened. Even a video of the dance doesn’t portray the emotion the dancer felt while performing, or the connection the audience felt while watching. Memory is the only repository for the source of inspiration. The elusive dance, and the sentiments evoked, cannot be captured in any book, painting, or record.

For dancers, authors, and artists, it is about expression. It is about showing strength through vulnerability. Allowing your poem or painting or dance moves to be seen by others is no easy concession. The insecurity runs across the board with a grand sweep. When considering the low levels of self-esteem on average among artists, and authors, and dancers, the emotional highs and lows are easy to comprehend. With their passion to create comes the drive to be perfect. And since things rarely are perfect one hundred percent of the time, disappointment lurks around every corner. We who enjoy nose work are not unlike dancers in every way I have mentioned above.

The small group of K9 friends I train and practice nose work with provide a lot of material for my written ramblings, and today they inspired me once again. I observed my comrades skillfully and elegantly interacting with their canine companions. Though there was none playing, I could hear the music in my head. The dogs driving forward provided the rhythm of the bass. The harmony was the handler following behind with steps that played the piano. With each smooth start and stop, as the dogs followed the odor, I would hear the sound like the twinkling of chimes, and a harp played as they drew closer to the source. A choir of angels sang when the team celebrated, and they danced away from the search to the sound of a fiddle.

When all the instruments are in sync, the team dances through the search. There is no conductor to coalesce the performance, by feel is how we manage it. Nose work is about feel, and when it feels good, that is the magic. That is where you’ll find happiness and satisfaction down to your soul. My first lesson in this kind of deep appreciation for the performance came years ago.

My daughter, at ten, had ridden her horse, Casey, well enough the entire year to earn a spot at the state championship competition in Three-day Eventing. She and her pony had spent many hours in the arena practicing drills, building stamina, always developing their communication skills until they appeared to move as a single organism with one brain.

After performing to perfection in dressage and Cross Country jumping, they were in first place heading into the last day of riding in the championship showdown; stadium jumping. They were the team to beat. With grace, they sailed effortlessly over the obstacles. Their rhythmic stride around the arena was like a metronome. Coming out of the second to last obstacle, they needed to make a sharp turn to finish the run. Maintaining her style, my daughter circled for a better approach. The horse kept his rhythm, and they finished with a clean run. I can still hear the music in my head as I watched. It was something to behold, and I can never erase the feeling I recall from memory.

The competition was tight; it was a field of the best of the best. That one circle before the last jump took them completely out of the placements. I looked for my daughter and found her walking her horse back to the stables. Smiling from ear to ear, I approached and noticed her downcast expression

“That was spectacular.” I opened my arms to go in for the hug. I detected her energy was low and sinking still, and I knew I had to act fast.

Her trainer, who had been standing ringside to cheer them on, had nothing to say to them upon their finish except, “Go put up your horse.” She couldn’t even look at my daughter. Later, the trainer vocalized loudly that it was my fault for being a distraction to my daughter. Insulted and disappointed in the trainer, I let go of that energy. I focused my time and compassion on my daughter.

After the horse show, with the horse and all our gear loaded, we began the long drive home. Chattering with my daughter, I raised her spirits. Soon we joyfully remembered the stadium ride and recounted all the things that went well over the course of the event. I told her that as far as I could tell, they still had ridden the best. For two-thirds of the competition, they were the best, and nothing could take away that accomplishment. And even though they hadn’t placed, their stadium performance was a thing of beauty. Poetry in motion. If it were a symphony, it would have been Beethoven’s Number Five played by the London Philharmonic.

The point is, even at ten, my daughter, who wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable, handled her horse with the artistry of a painter, communicated with him like he was a fine instrument, and inspired in me these words I write. She danced in the moment's pleasure for nothing other than to dance.

Heidi worked her magic on Rou, a nearly 17hh youngster off the track who became her next three-day eventing mount. (2003)

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s enjoying each step along the way.”–Wayne Dyer

And if you want to find happiness while holding the leash of your sniffing dog, pretend you and your dog are dance partners. There is no greater example of communication in the purest form than between dancers, and nothing more pleasing to watch than a dog/handler team searching in harmony to the rhythm of the music in our heads.

(Here's a two minute search with me and Winnie that I'd love to put to the music playing in my mind.)

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Barbara Scarola-Nagy
Barbara Scarola-Nagy

Spot on! I always told my students when I taught Obedience.....Heeling with your dog is a wonderful dance. When it's "on" it's a spectacular feeling, a dance like no other dance. I found it to be the same in nose work with my dog. Lovely words. Thank you for sharing this.❤️

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