Sleepless, I give up trying to turn off my brain and swing out of bed to patter around the house prioritizing my 2 a.m. activities. I enjoy the darkness and silence. As usual, thoughts turn to Rocky and now that his book is available, I struggle over a marketing strategy. Word of mouth has been very generous, but I know his story needs to be available to people outside my tiny circle of contacts. The corner of the room dimly glows from my computer screen as I tap on keys for some internet searching.
Remarkably, I stumble across an old site and notice a nearby 3 day seminar that concludes, as I check my watch for the date, today! The instructor, Mike Ritland, a New York Times bestselling author, is a former Navy SEAL who started a business, Trikos International, that specializes in providing and/or training working dogs and personal protection dogs. He is also a valued trainer who travels to share his wisdom to make better working dog teams. I had already read his Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines, and I immediately send an email inquiry to an old friend responsible for hosting the event.
At sunset, I quietly slip into the teaching forum and listen as Mike calmly, methodically and thoroughly answers questions from K9 handlers. Hours pass and I frequently catch myself nodding along in agreement, or understanding, as he explains his teaching methods, techniques and problem solving ideas. I’m slapped in the face realizing how much I miss the K9 environment. Class ends and he remains available to students who continue to ask questions. Mike patiently addresses everyone as I remain silent. I did not pay for admission and did not want to interfere, especially since I’m just a former K9 handler. Finally, as Mike prepares to leave, I ask for a few minutes of his time.
Despite being weary from teaching all day for 3 days, he does not balk. I hand him Rocky’s book and do my best to encapsulate Rocky’s life into a few scant minutes. Mike actively listens and then impresses me with questions about Rocky that I found intriguing. He asked what Rocky ate, how old he was when health issues arose, how much he weighed, how he interacted with other dogs and the list of inquisitive questions continued.
“I look forward to reading this,” Mike stated after asking his questions while glancing at the front and back covers.
“I’d be honored if you just briefly thumbed through the pages,” was my reply as I envision he has about 4 minutes a day of free time where I do not expect Rocky’s book to become a priority.
Despite an unknown pedigree, I mention Rocky’s frozen genetics and, of course, how great of a police K9 career he had and Mike listened. No doubt he hears that all the time from handlers, but I can finally, and humbly, offer such a label to describe Rocky; his book is the document to prove it. Despite my lackluster status of a former city police K9 handler, Mike did not scoff as one may expect from a person with such an elite platform. We ended with a hearty handshake and my departing comments were if he had any marketing tips for K9 Rocky or interest in Rocky’s genetics, he could reach me via this website.
If I hear from Mike, that’d be great. If I don’t, that’s okay, too. It was a pleasure to meet someone so dedicated to working dogs as he has also started the Warrior Dog Foundation that is designed to transition retired K9s from the special forces, with some requiring extensive therapy, and provide a place that treats each of them with dignity and grace. I salute his vision!
So, my meeting Mike Ritland was purely a chance encounter. Much like his entertaining story of something really big and heavy slamming into him, possibly sizing him up for a meal, as he swam in total darkness deep in the ocean at night with his team. Or, his other entertaining chance encounter story involved watching his swim buddy being attacked by sea lion that was inflicting multiple injuries while his buddy swung a knife in Matrix-like slow motion towards the elusive attacker.
Okay, my chance encounter pales in comparison….as it did not involve epic amounts of adrenaline and much laughter afterwards. But, it was still nice to have had the opportunity to briefly showcase Rocky to someone who totally understands great working dogs.