Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Shelter From The Storm

It's been a long time since I've logged any new entries. I started a few but struggled bringing them home. My father's passing sparked what's been a long period of questioning, self doubt and general gloominess about getting older and running out of time, big picture stuff that could exact more influence than I wanted it to. After all, working with dogs is far more often than not a joyful thing. I wanted the next thing I wrote about to have some of that. Let some fresh air and sunshine in the room. The general idea for this entry's been bouncing around my brain for a while now but I wasn't really sure how to approach it. This is about the people here in Rhode Island who work and volunteer for animal shelters and rescue organizations. It's too big for one entry so I'm going to address it as a series, each entry focusing on a different organization. I have an abiding affection for the people I'll be writing about here and that made me worry this will be just so much back slapping, no matter how I managed to present it. Then I thought, screw it, what's wrong with some public adulation? Maybe I'll manage to make it interesting, thread in some humor and intrigue

I know some of these fine folks more than others and of course our interactions have largely been by way of this common interest we share. You could argue I'm only seeing them through a narrow lens and that's not enough to shower them with praise. Fair enough. It's possible for example that a few of them are master criminals or evil geniuses in their spare time, not the selfless altruists I think of them as. That would be intriguing but I doubt it. It's also possible that some are doing the things they do for the attention they may garner on social media, but I doubt that too. That people respond to them and the things they do on social media site reminds me that everything is not complete shit, not superficial, innocuous, not meaningless. It's these people that collectively form a counter balance for the myriad knuckle heads that dot our little landscape. I won't waste precious key strokes blathering on about said knuckleheads, remember this is supposed to be sunshine and fresh air. Maybe a post script blurb on knuckleheads at the end of this? Yes that will do nicely. 

 While I'm thinking about it, a confession concerning the title of this entry which, you may have guessed, arrived by way of listening to Bob Dylan, an activity people of my age, along with musings about rotary dial phones and vinyl records, are known to indulge in from time to time. It's not a particularly clever way to find one's self inspired but as long as it remains illegal to sample psychedelics in this state, I'm left to work with what I've got. If said contraband should one day be deemed copacetic however, well, prepare yourselves for "How Come Your Beagle Looks Paisley?" I digress,...

Very well then, let the back slapping begin! I have to start with the Warwick Animal Shelter. It's been said our lives can be broken down to eight or fewer key moments that ultimately define it, send it off on a trajectory that changes us irreversibly. There are thirty-nine municipalities Sue and I could've moved to when we came here from Massachusetts in the late 90's but we chose Warwick and it's here where I met Ann Corvin, then the city's shelter keeper, now the director. She agreed to let me work with the shelter dogs there despite approaching her about it following a long period of tumult that had left some hard feelings between a local volunteer organization and some shelter staff. It's a long story best left to the people who were involved directly in it. Sufficed to say it got ugly and left some hard feelings behind. Volunteers were just being let back in albeit with a jaundiced eye. The shelter was an old, cramped, decrepit building. Passed tensions remained palpable on some days, everything seemed old, falling apart at the seams. None of that mattered in retrospect. This is where it all started. Without that sad, old building, without Ann's willingness to give me a outlet to work with shelter dogs, none of what's happened for me as trainer would have happened. It's worth mentioning the first dog I worked with bit me. I remember walking through the entire run that first time, looking for the dog who in my estimation would be least threatening, a little 35lb black and white mutt named, appropriately, "Snoopy". What could happen? I'd soon meet Barbara Emmons, the director of volunteers at the time. An RNP from local Kent Hospital, Barbara struck me immediately as someone who would never be distracted by bullshit. She and Ann got it and between the two of them, they'd play a big role in shepherding that shelter through some serious growing pains. Always with compassion, humor and intelligence. Marylou, Jan, Deb, John and his wife Cathy, Paul and his wife Ruth rounded out that first group of staff and volunteers. All great, people, each worthy of their own time here.  

Jackie, Ann (with Teddy) & Deb

Over the years the shelter would move into it's present location next door, it would be very nearly destroyed in the flood of 2010 before being restored to it's present state. With the brave efforts of Barbara Walsh, Mary Tilton and others who I'm no doubt giving short shrift to, the shelter was redefined in a way that's cleared the path for volunteers to help with things that the shelter's budget would not otherwise be able to accommodate. With that enter Maureen, Deb Arenburg, Noreen, Judy, Jackie, Maggie and several others. Staff and volunteers who've collectively done everything from, maintenance, huge fund raising efforts, walking the dogs, washing and cleaning, photographing the animals up for adoption, follow up on adoptions and even the bringing about the construction of an outdoor pen where dogs can run around, get some fresh air and be introduced to adoptive families. The extraordinarily improved conditions can be directly attributed to these people and their collective efforts. If character is best judged by who you are when no one is looking, it abounds here. There's no one there looking to be beatified and no one there who hasn't been witness to some genuinely inhumane experiences. 

Dogs, cats and the occasional ferret, parrot, turtle or rabbit find themselves at this shelter for different reasons. Some are inescapable, inevitable, others the unfortunate, unwitting result of neglect, bad decision making, uncaring and cruelty. It can seem unrelenting at times and while there's the occasional need to vent by way of the colorful use of expletives (strictly professional mind you, never with any member of the public present.) This group maintains a tight ship that takes time to make sure it's residents are finding some measure of enrichment while in their care. It's truly something and while not unique to the Warwick Animal Shelter it is here where I find my core. This is where I go to get grounded. It's also where I found Reno and Miles, two dogs that changed my life. Like the bumper sticker says, "Who Rescued Who?" 

I've said that shelter volunteers are altruists and that's true but volunteer work is not without some reciprocity. Watch volunteers interacting with the cats, dogs etc, walking, playing, training, helping with introductions, even feeding, cleaning and grooming. Meeting these basic needs feels good, a lasting good you take with you when you leave. The feedback from a dog that comes in filthy, parasite ridden and hungry when they've had a bath, been relieved of fleas and ticks and fed, given the medical attention they sometimes need. It's profoundly rewarding. There is the gloomy side as well. The hard business of shelter work. Recognizing that adoption may not be a safe option and the requisite choices that come with reaching that conclusion. That brings me to my post script.

I'm going to stand on my soap box and extend some long overdue feedback to a certain local group given to bloviation and no small amount of shit stirring. I think far too little of them to give them mention save to say their name is a transparent attempt to disguise their actual mission of poorly researched grandstanding, often before the state assembly. Normally I'd applaud civic minded activity but not here. They are an idiom and little more. In particular, "An empty vessel makes the most noise." a personal favorite,. Alas, I've let clouds and exhaust fumes into this otherwise cheerful entry but this particular group of knuckleheads, led by someone who's spent nary a moment in any animal shelter, is given to spouting libelous nonsense on social media about my friends at the Warwick Animal Shelter. Those employing the use of their frontal lobe and even a modicum of common sense will ignore them as I probably should. The angry, mouth breathing trolls who are their acolytes however, well that's a different story. The vitriolic, often threatening sputum typed in response to their ramblings is at it's least, fundamentally misplaced and at it's worse, very, very scary. To this group of empty headed troglodytes and their supporters I present you with both middle fingers. Take a break from trolling. You're not bound to suffer turd slinging from the likes of me, you're otherwise kind hearted blogger. I'm only grinning a little bit as I type this final sentence. Try critical thinking, you might like it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The End is in the Beginning and Yet You Go On

Maybe it's my largely Irish gene pool that stirs me to write when death has come. On Friday August 29th the end came for my dear father who at 77 had been fighting the effects of Alzheimer's Disease for several years. My father is the reason we nearly always had a dog in the house growing up. There were spots of time in my youth when there wasn't a dog but they seem brief as I think back on it. The nuts and bolts of my childhood seemed always accompanied by a family dog. There was Buddy, a shepherd/hound mix who I remember only in flashes as being goofy and fun loving. Sadie, a flat coated retriever mix who probably suffered the most for my ignorance. A spectacularly cute puppy, she lived with us until she bit the paperboy. A vicious dog hearing followed, then she was sent off to live at a no-kill shelter in Sutton, MA, or so my sisters and I were told at the time. Finally, Meisha, a spirited Lhasa Apso came into the picture near the end of my parent's marriage. That year saw a new house and a new car as well. While my understanding of the more noteworthy events from that year have grown more nuanced with time, these acquisitions would form the basis for a vague sense of dread and foreboding. I'd said to a friend at the time, "This will all be over in a year." It wouldn't take that long. These various offerings would be for naught. My family as I'd understood to be, would come to a dramatic end one summer evening in August 1984. Meisha would be sent off to live with a retired former drill sergeant. A good call for his well being at the time but I remember resenting that he'd been cast off like old luggage. He was not treated like family as he should have been.

Many years have passed since then and while my Father would really only have one other dog, a sweet black lab who passed too soon, my sisters and I seemed to always have them. What's interesting in retrospect is also one of the personality traits I see so frequently in dogs, a gentle outpouring of affection towards people who are struggling with something. Of course this is not universally true but it does seem to dominate my anecdotal landscape and it most certainly held true when it came to how the family's dogs behaved around my Dad. All of our dogs were drawn to him these last few years, each of them exercising what in some cases (Miles) was uncharacteristic gentleness, unbridled kindness. I'd like to say I could ruin this entry with the sound scientific principles that explain this phenomenon, however I am blissfully ignorant of them and content to admire what I've seen at face value.

Young Addie with my Dad for a ride in the car.
The family closed ranks to be at my father's bedside every day of what would be the last week of his life. My sisters Meghan and Sheila took charge of his comfort measures. The rest of us did what we were told and tried not to screw things up. Sheila's dog Katy clung very close to my Dad, often on his bed lying next to him, getting off to check in with everyone, get a scratch, lick your face. It was good, it was very good. Katy was something of a life raft with her agenda-less routine of checking in to see if everyone was alright. When he passed that Friday evening she appeared to share in our grief, going from person to person as if unsure of what exactly had happened.
Katy at my father's bedside
I'd wondered for a time whether to write about this here. The big question, "Is this relevant to dog owners?". I don't know if I'm being honest. I may come back to this and wonder if this wasn't something best left in a personal journal. There was one dominant theme that came up frequently in that last week however. Something my sister Meghan would whisper into my father's ear as he lay, seemingly unconscious. "We're all here for you Dad. You always talked about family being the most important thing and now we're here for you." In my father's version of Maslow's Hierarchy he would finally emphasize that above all else. And while getting there left many missed opportunities and not a few questionable decisions, he was not wrong. In the end he was not wrong. This man, whose self-effacing nature and gift of gab have been a model for me in my adult life, would come to the end of his with a vocabulary so diminished by the effects of Alzheimer's he would hit his head as if to jar the words loose. What will never leave me is that the words he clung most desperately to, the ones he would not relinquish to this pile of shit disease were the ones needed to express unconditional love. "You're Great!" "I Love You" "You're Beautiful" and the last words he said to me as I walked down a hall with him at Jordan Hospital. Smiling at me he said, "You've got me".

Dad, his wife Marcia and my sister's dog Lila
I am agnostic, I think it's my nature to be but I cannot deny the need to look for meaning in all of this, to try to make some sense of it following the obligatory Kubler Ross 5 Stages of Grief. Then, this past Friday another gut punch came as Louie, my beautiful 18 year old Min Pin made it clear he too was at the end. Applying the common sense approach Sam Simon takes with his rescue dogs, he knows each of their three favorite things. When they can no longer enjoy two of them, it's time to say goodbye and so he too, Louie, my Big Lou would let loose this mortal coil. It's hard to extract some greater meaning from the pain of loss. Hamlet, pondering suicide asks, "To sleep, perchance to dream. What dreams may come?" Is there peace in death? I don't know, I hope so. If I've found some meaning in the last several weeks it is a renewed appreciation for the value of kindness. My father's passing brought us together for a common cause that's left me changed. I've never been so proud of my sisters. Louie, who throughout his long life was kindness in canine form. His life spanned nearly two decades, nearly all of the years Sue and I have been together. Over the last three weeks I've been reminded how lucky I was to have them both in my life for so long. I will miss them both for the rest of my years. And of course my friends are right, I have been lucky.

Louie at his most content wrapped up in warm blankets out of the dryer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For

QUESTION: How many Zen Masters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
ANSWER: There is no light bulb.

This is the joke that comes up so frequently in my lessons. It's probably a mistake to include it in this post, it will never have that chin rubbing "hmmmm..." quality again (assuming you've read this of course) This joke helps set the stage for what I'm ultimately, really asking my dog owners to do and that's to think differently about the problems they're having with their dogs. I'm also trying to establish a dynamic where you the dog owner are expecting your dog to think and problem solve, to understand why their behavior results in one consequence versus another. One is compelling, rewarding, the other is not. 

I'm working with a couple with two beautiful little dogs. Levi, a miniature dachshund and Stanley, a beagle/dachshund mix. They are also expecting a baby and have concerns about how their dogs will adjust to the addition of the new family member. Levi doesn't like when John touches Felicia's belly to feel the baby kicking. Perhaps he views it as an aggressive overture, a preamble to conflict of some sort. He jumps, barks and nips at John's hand. Our goal was for Levi to reevaluate what this gesture meant to him. We wanted Levi to tell us that he wanted John to feel the baby kicking because ultimately, Levi's objections to this gesture could be symptomatic of broader misinterpretations which in turn can have a negative, even devastating impact on the human/animal bond. Conversely, it can lead to outright denial, which can lead to escalating aggression. There are ways to work through these problems with our dogs that often deepen the bond we have with them. Here's how we approached Levi's "What are you doing to Mom?" problem.

Stanley & Levi practice stay after hearing the doorbell.

The first step was to teach Levi and Stanley how great being on the floor is. This is not a semantic argument, this is Real Estate 101. Your dogs want the couch, they want the bed. but these coveted locals are off limits when there's a baby in the house, so our job is to convince them that these spots are not prime real estate as they believe, the floor is, their beds on the floor are. Resentment can fester into dangerous behaviors so removing conflict from the proceedings is a high priority, as it happens, it's also considerably more fun. I have another favorite way to frame this arguement, "These aren't the droids you're looking for." instantly relevant to fans of Star Wars Episode IV, Obi Wan doesn't massacre the inquisitive storm troopers, he changes the nature of the encounter in a way that is devoid of conflict. "I want to be up there on the couch!" , "Nah, you don't want the couch, what you want is the floor. The floor is awesome." "You're right, the floor is awesome, I love this floor. This is the best floor in the history of floors. Thanks for showing me." This may seem overly simplistic but that's it in a nutshell. The details of getting there with your dog may differ depending on their attachment to elevated perches and what they're compelled by but it's still about rewarding the floor while managing the couch and your bed. The elevated places are never bad which means they're not punished for being there, merely redirected to the floor where they're once again met with praise. Using things like Kong Wobblers or my personal favorite the IQ Ball is another way to use the food they'd otherwise be eating from their bowls (boring) into a game that unfolds on the floor (fun) adding further value to the lower elevations of your dog's living space. "But aren't some dogs fine on furniture? My dog's never acted aggressively on furniture" There's no question that some dogs are sweet as pumpkin pie in these situations, still, safety first. There's no down side to this exercise, quite the contrary. The dog owners I've worked with report that their dogs thrive in this modified dynamic because it's fun and they're getting more attention then they ever did before.  

Now that the two pups are very keen on being on the floor, we take to the couch where John, equipped with treats, presents Levi with an opportunity. Levi can have the treat, but only after John rubs Felicia's belly. Is this getting weird? No? Good, let's move on then. A quick rub, feed, another rub, feed, repeat. Now, ask Levi to sit. When he sits, John rubs Felicia's belly and feeds Levi a treat. "Levi Sit", Levi sits, John rubs Felicia's belly, feeds Levi, repeat. Here's where something interesting happens. We stop everything. If Levi understands his role in the proceedings, that one thing (sitting) triggers another thing (belly rub) to happen and that it ends with him getting a treat then,...wait for it,....Yes! Exactly! Levi will get things going again by sitting. He knows John's going to rub Felicia's belly when he sits, but now that's less important than the reciprocal effect of getting a compelling treat and now Levi is sitting on the floor to prompt a belly rub and a treat. 

This sets the stage for the sorts of things that happen once the baby is born. Feeding, changing diapers, playing etc. They can be predictive of a compelling consequence. No conflict, no yelling, no whaling and gnashing of teeth. Understood in these proceedings is that while troublesome, neither dog has a serious history of aggressive behavior. This approach is reasonable only when there is no such history. 

 Consequence changes behavior (Thank you Dr. Dunbar) 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Goodbye to an Old Friend

I've just hung up with the veterinarian, having scheduled Archie to be put to sleep later this evening.

Archie's lived his life with a heart murmur, survived what we think is Evan's Syndrome and still saw his sixteenth birthday this past July 9th. But this past weekend, his health took a dramatic turn downwards as he all but lost his ability to walk and could no longer hold his bladder. This morning, at about 3:30AM, Sue and I made the decision. Somehow, I thought this would not be as hard as when we faced this same grim reality with Reno. It's been every bit as hard. Sue broke the news to Keir earlier and while his initial response was pragmatic. That changed when he said goodbye before going to school this morning. The stark reality had struck hard. Archie is one of us, he is family and soon he'll be gone forever. That he lived a good life to an advanced age will provide some comfort in time but not now. Right now it just hurts.

Keir walking Archie at the Beach

Bringing Archie into our family so many years ago, we had all the hopes and enthusiasm most dog owners have with a new dog. It has never been easy. Jack Russell Terriers are not for everyone and yet despite the fair amount of angst, frustration, frayed nerves and sleepless nights. Archie is the reason I'm a fan, first and foremost his fan but in a larger sense, a fan of every pain in the butt dog that ever challenged me to think and work harder. Thinking about it, he's the reason Miles is part of our family. My good friend Ann knew very well that we had a feisty (is there any other kind?) Jack Russell living among us. For that reason she made the call that would ultimately lead to Miles being part of the family as well.

While a genuine antagonist to all of our other dogs throughout the years, he always loved us unconditionally and for that alone, he deserved nothing less than that from us. Through clenched teeth at times, I won't resort to hyperbole even now as I begin this most awful countdown to his final moments. Thinking about it, there's no need to. I know very well why I'm a mess, why writing this is helping me externalize and deal with it. Because I loved the joyous howl he'd make when he was at his happiest. It was unique, it sounded like he was trying to say something and it never failed to make all of us laugh. Because of his once impressive physical prowess. A level of natural athleticism I've only ever seen rivaled by Pit Bulls, American Bull Dogs and the like. Rippling muscles flexing as he left the floor remaining in an upward trajectory for several feet until, at the end of a perfectly engineered parabola, he'd land on the bed some seven feet from where he'd started. Because when we were in the obedience ring, it was never Archie screwing up, it was always me. Because he forgave me for all of my errors and shortcomings as a trainer and a friend. Because of the way he'd spin in a frantic, ebullient spiral every time he was about to be fed. For all of these reasons and the many more I'll think about for the rest of my days, Archie's eminent passing is weighing so heavily.

"...I saw the danger, yet I walked
Along the enchanted way
And I said let grief be a falling leaf
At the dawning of the day."

- James McNally

This past Saturday I joined two trainer friends at a day long seminar with the amazing Emma Parsons. It struck me at one point how many narratives were driven at least in part by that person's personal experience with their dog. Emma had Ben, Julie Shaw had Macintosh, the list goes on. Archie will forever be a part of my narrative. As he leaves us later today for whatever may be next, he leaves behind that all important gift. For our part, while I remain open to the endless possibilities, I hope he takes with him that his family loved him. Goodbye old friend.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Closer to the Heart

Dr. Dunbar wins the attention of a very cute, very distracted puppy.

This weekend, K9 Connection in Warwick, RI hosted a two day workshop with Dr. Ian Dunbar. Over the years Dr. Dunbar has been an important influence on me. What got my attention first was the example he set. Trainers and behaviorists  can debate who they relate to most but there’s little debate over his relevance. If you do what I do for a living you know who Ian Dunbar is and yet despite having few peers, he is approachable, intellectually curious and disarmingly funny. He’s quick to turn the spotlight on the trainers and dogs in attendance. He’s slightly compulsive, not allowing the one brown chair amongst the other identical black chairs in a game of dog training/musical chairs. Dog slobber was a problem, yup, one of the very best vet/behaviorists in the world doesn’t do dog drool. Go figure. Above all though, Ian Dunbar is an extraordinary and energetic teacher who wears his love for what he does like a superhero's cape. This weekend I watched a master at work. Two days of one incredibly clever idea after another went by in a relative flash. So much information had been communicated, it felt like a great movie I’d watch over and over again, collecting new bits of nuanced goodness with each viewing. A day after it was over it started to register with me that there was a wonderful subtext that had unfolded right in front of me. Everyone there had gotten more than we'd expected. At 5:30PM on Sunday, as the workshop drew to an inspired close, there was one final message that summed the experience we’d all had in a very sweet way. I won’t spoil it by elaborating on it because it’s something you deserve to experience for yourself. If you have an opportunity to see Dr. Dunbar lecture or workshop do it, don’t think twice about it. Do it if you’re an accountant, systems analyst, roofer or mechanic and you’ve never had a dog before. I say this because the subtext of the workshop transcends the otherwise obvious attraction for people who work with dogs. It was about being kind to one another as well as to our dogs. It was about the importance of doing the right thing. It was science vs. nonsense. Amidst all the wonderfully clever games and insightful techniques, I found myself rooting as an observer for the dog owners in the ring. Clapping and cheering for people and dogs I’d never met until this past weekend. It wasn’t just me, everyone was in on it and it happened with the seemingly effortless guidance of the brilliant and self described shameless teacher. If playing the fool drove home the point that everything he was sharing with us were things we could do ourselves, he was not above it. “Yes, by all means photograph, video tape, post it on YouTube, I’d like to think I’ll still be around after I’m gone.” Think about that for a minute. 

It's satisfying to learn that someone you admire a great deal would approve of how you do things. I appreciate the value of clicker training but am not a clicker trainer. I prefer to use by voice for audible cues, a personal decision I've doubted from time to time. However I was also compelled to reevaluate a number of ideas I've both relied on and thrust upon my clients with a great deal of earnest over the years. They include:

Don't Repeat Yourself: Unless you want your dog to think the instruction for "sit" is "sit, sit, sit"
only say it once. "Absolutely ridiculous!" was Dr. Dunbar's response to that question asked by a fellow attendee.  I could have looked at this as simply a difference of opinion but as a hypothesis, Keir and I tested it with Miles Saturday night. It works. To this I say to every dog owner I've beat that drum relentlessly with, I apologize.

The Verbal Cue Follows the Instruction: Lure for sit then respond with "Good Sit". Wrong again! The connection is not clear as I had thought. As a form of praise it's fine but the connection between the word and the lure (hand signal) is cloudy or non-existent. Again, Keir and I worked on this with Miles giving only hand signals first followed by only verbal commands, measuring response ratios. They were all over the place and changed as the venue changed. Lots of practice and proofing to be done there.

Always Use Food Rewards: This applies to other forms of reward (toys) that may not be on your person when a response is required. My argument stemmed from the use of choke, pinch and electronic collars. Response ratios can be maintained (reliable) so long as they're around, therefore treat rewards should always be around. Much to my shame and humiliation, wrong again. While for dog owners who are hyper-vigilant about having treat bags within arm's reach, get reliable responses from their dogs, there are situations that will trump the most compelling treats you can imagine. Higher value treats for more challenging environments, done that lots of times and while I'm not ready to toss out everything I've read, seen and done related to counter conditioning for proximity with primary and secondary reinforcers,  I did witness a game of follow the leader with roughly 30 dog/handler pairs. No treats used and lots juicy, behavioral goodness on display. The prolific use of treats are under review.

In this exercise, participants are asked to lie down next to their dogs the way their dogs are lying down.

I've written before that training is a science and as such is evolving. Remember Bertrand Russell, "Science does not aim at establishing immutable truths and eternal dogmas..."  That’s an extremely important idea and segues nicely into my favorite hypothetical question, "Are you interested in the truth?" assuming the answer is "Yes." it follows, "Then you won't be upset if you're wrong." Still, I am a little upset. There are lessons that would have yielded more specific, more desirable long term results. I suppose that will always be the case. Engineers design bridges knowing all too well that more sophisticated, safer and longer lasting bridges will be possible in the future. So too will the science of training continue to advance thanks to people like Dr. Dunbar. 

Leaving K9 Connection this past Sunday evening, I wanted to thank Dr. Dunbar, tell him how much he'd inspired me but he's British and I'm shy when it comes to things like this so I'll say it here. I started the weekend feeling drained and down, I left reinvigorated and grateful for the experience. Thank you Ian Dunbar and thank you Jamie Dunbar for the invitation. Thanks also to Teri and Cassandra at K9 Connection for hosting the workshop. Great, great, great.