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International Friends—and Chickens, too!

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I was both exhausted and exhilarated as I flew home from Sequim, WA. It was a feeling similar to the one I have at the end of ClickerExpo—as if I have just been "refueled" by all the positive energy of the people and the experience.

I was in Sequim visiting the first-ever Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) International workshop series, led by Terry Ryan at her beautiful facility, Legacy Canine. The 10-day workshop began seven days before my arrival. The students had had a visit from Karen Pryor earlier in the week—they were delighted and honored.

The students were Noga and Nuvi from Israel, Christina from Finland, Ryan and Vicki from Taiwan, and Vivian from Hong Kong. With the exception of Vivian, whom I had met at ClickerExpo in Lexington, KY, I had only "met" the students via e-mail or phone. Arriving at the workshop, I felt a sort of nervous excitement. But from the first moment I arrived, I knew I was among friends.

The camaraderie and teamwork among this group of trainers—from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds—was apparent immediately. There was no doubt that lifelong friendships had been born that week.

At the International workshops, I had my cake and chickens, too! I have always wanted to experience the chicken training camp offered at Legacy. For the KPA workshop, Terry arranged an abbreviated version of chicken camp, and I was thrilled to be able to participate. Chicken camp is challenging, humbling, and addictive all at once! Humbling, did I mention humbling? Who knew chickens were so fast?

Terry personalized the camp by printing little paper flags representing each student's country, and my state flag of Texas. We shaped our chickens to discriminate and peck the flag of our country or state. I couldn't wait to get home and show off my well-pecked paper flag—a unique memento from an unforgettable experience.

After chicken camp, the students completed their Final Training Assessments for KPA. Because international students do not bring dogs to the workshop, Terry recruited local pet owners and dogs to be part of the KPA assessments, as trainees for the international students. The lessons taught ranged from great beginner behaviors, such as following a target into the down position, to the crowd-pleasing "high five." The KPA student-teachers made sure that their classes were engaged, and that they were having a great time.

And leave it to Terry with her amazing creativity to add even more excitement. Following a visit to a nearby lavender farm (Sequim is the lavender capital of North America), students were given a chance to lead an exercise in Terry's Puppy Headstart class. The attendees were surprised and thrilled by the "team" of trainers. We all had lots of laughter, learning, and fun.

I will miss my new friends, but I will also be able to keep in touch as they start their new roles with KPA as Certified Training Partners. We all joked of doing a KPA International reunion, and I hope we can make it a reality.

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Tia Guest is Program Director of Karen Pryor Academy, as well as a professional animal trainer.