I knew every breed of dog by the time I was 6. I read every dog book I could get my hands on as soon as I could read. I pestered my parents continually and eventually dragged one home and told them he followed me home so they would say yes. It worked.
I graduated with a BA in English and thought I'd be a teacher. I saw this little ad in the Summer Times that said, "Learn to be a dog trainer." It was a six-week course in Upstate New York. I told my parents, "Look, I'm going to go do this while I can, before my real life starts, just for fun." Took the course, met my future husband, who was one of the instructors, and then got hired to work at the kennel there afterward. I was 22, just out of college, and that was it. I was in love.
So much has changed. When I started, there wasn't so much controversy over method. Now it's like, "Oh, you can never correct a dog." Or, "You must always correct a dog." Everyone's got an opinion these days. I'd say that dog people are even more protective than parents of children. The child can come home and say, "Hey, the teacher smacked me today." A dog can't. So owners worry and fret.
My dogs embarrass me still. Our Australian cattle dog was a challenge as a puppy and is still one tough cookie at 13. I brought him in here to get his picture with Santa as a surprise for my husband. He was jumping at the leash the entire time, in front of customers. He probably should be out in the wild herding cattle, but here he was, getting his picture taken. Dogs are dogs; they can't all follow orders every minute. So just enjoy them and be patient.
There are some weeks when I'm over-saturated and think I don't want to hear another bark. It never lasts. The longest I've been away from dogs is three or four days -- when I got my knees replaced in the hospital. I can't imagine a life without dogs.
Interview by Amanda Long
October 2, 2014