(Another update from Shawn!)

The name of the game is leaning into new experiences. The purpose of the game is building self-confidence and expanding healthy identity. 

Some of you may know now that I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder this past year, and had a bit of an existential crisis in trying to reconcile my identity and what comes next.

Anyways, one thing that is next for me is mushing. Say what? I guess that isn’t really new news, but stick with me it also is. I’ve always stood firm that independently mushing wasn’t something I would be capable of. I’ve actually struggled my whole life in believing time and again that I’m not capable of learning or achieving something. 

I have a tendency to experience freezing up or shutting down in my personal life, and I feel embarrassed and bad about that when it happens. As a result, I’ve always been afraid of any significant adventure activity that would test my pliability or resilience or resourcefulness. 

This year, knowledge and diagnosis in hand, I’m working to improve some self-esteem, and self-confidence through mushing. 

I’ve been mushing with the puppy team this fall. The puppy team is training for Rebel’s pups: Squeaks, Boomer, Elmer, Freddy, Twinkle Toes, and Maynard. Also on that team right now is Oliver, ha. Mostly because that’s enjoyable bonding time for me and Oliver. I practice, practice, practice checking the safety of gear, the routes of the runs, and praising the dogs for all their amazing work. 

As preparation and practice, I’ve also gone on a number of runs with Will, and painstakingly made him talk through every action he is doing and why. Actually, I don’t think either of us find this painstaking. It’s great quality time in our relationship with each other and the dogs. Meticulously maybe? The point is he’s very kindly gone over these things time and again with me. Repetition, and observation are useful learning tools for me. 

Shawn and Will mush a team together in the fall

So, as far as buddy updates go, this is my summer/fall update. I’m so excited to be mushing this fall and building some confidence and self-esteem through such an intimate activity with the dogs, my spouse, and nature. 

I wanted to share one other thing, that is connected but maybe not.

Last weekend Will and I planned a mush together at my request. We went out together on a longer run and made a special stop at one of my favorite ponds to mush around. Will secured the team, and we patted each of the dogs’ heads as we walked past the team and to the edge of the pond. We spread the ashes of my old rescue pet friends Guy the flatulent cat, Jesse the borking mono onion, and Mo the precious big boy. It was a special and sad moment. I hope they are all resting easy. One thing I love so much about this community ATAO has built is the love everybody shares and shows for the senior rescues I take in. It’s very special to me, and something I love so deeply. 

Okay bye


Elmer and Oli standing together during a break on a run

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