In truth, it found me.
Picture the scene…
I’d been struggling to find motivation for years in a laboratory setting whilst testing antiseptic handwashes; feeling at ease whilst I was diluting the products to test them on big machines but because we had to adhere to strict methods and rarely use my brain or the science then I was bored.
So I didn’t bat an eyelid when I was asked to volunteer for a position as Hospital Clerk in Afghanistan with the Royal Navy Reserves.
I learned a lot about myself and what actually mattered in those 6 months and so when I was offered a position in the company that concentrated on researching clinical evidence upon my return I jumped at it.
Unfortunately, the workload and lack of processes led me to a nervous breakdown in 2014 and my position was moved to Sweden in 2015, leaving me redundant at nearly 40 years old.
Here’s where everyone says “oh I’m sorry” but in truth, it was the opportunity I needed to figure out what my heart wanted. I’d been living in my head for too long and it was a chance to figure what I wanted to do rather than what everyone else told me that I wanted.
I loved dogs.
I loved walking my dog Lola in amongst nature (when you have been in a desert for 6 months, you appreciate trees and rain)…
…and I knew I had a strong, caring personality…
So I opened Hilton Hotel For Dogs: a home boarding alternative to kennels where dogs could have a holiday too whilst their owners were away but be themselves and have fun with the right amount of discipline to ensure they stayed safe. And it meant Lola got to be “The Concierge”, looking after her mates who came to stay.
But I missed my science. It was a great job but it was 24/7 and I couldn’t switch off in my own home. Then when Lola, my beautiful Rottweiler (and best mate) tore her cruciate ligament, I felt helpless (aside from taking her to the vets to get it operated on) and knew I wanted to do something more meaningful to help reduce dogs’ pain, which was where I was saw an advert for The Canine Massage Therapy Centre.
I had always loved giving massages to friends and family and had even considered training to be a Physiotherapist but my life at the time didn’t agree. And after a bit of research, I enrolled in the 2-year Practitioner Course and haven’t looked back since.
The course covered Dog-specific Anatomy and Physiology, as well as the legal and clinical sides, with so much practical experience (tutored and our own case studies) that every step seemed like I was in the right place.
Then when I saw the amazing results in my dogs that I was able to achieve over just three sessions through the techniques we had been taught, as well as my own intuition, I knew I had found my calling.
But it’s much more than that. Everyone who listens to me now say they can hear my passion for what I do. I love every little bit of my work (ok, I still struggle with admin, but who doesn’t?!) and I continually learn from each and every dog and from their owners too.
I have realised that it’s not just my Hands that can help the dog but also it’s my heart that listens to the owner… to what pain-related behaviours and improvements they are seeing, to what they are feeling about their dog’s pain, to the joy when they see their old dog return to them so they can enjoy a quality of life together again. But even those dog owners who just need their dog to be made more comfortable as their health declines due to a terminal diagnosis, that too I can offer pain relief to both.
And at 43 I am truly happy with this path I have chosen, Hands on Heart.
If you would like to chat about any of the above, whether it’s about issues you may or may not have seen in your dog, how Clinical Canine Massage Therapy or other therapies can help your dog or questions about making a heart-based career change, then please reach out Hayley.Hilton@HandsOnHeart.dog