From Puppy Kindergarten to High School Biology

The plan when I graduated college was to earn my PhD in biology, become a college professor, and do field research in animal behavior. I tried to follow that plan for about a year and a half before I finally admitted to myself that it wasn’t the right one.

In the meantime I adopted my first dog, a collie-malamute mix I named Wolf. Since the cliche ‘who’s walking whom’ applied perfectly, I found a training center where we could take classes and learn to be a team. He peed on my leg during the first class.

Turned out dog training was the right plan, or one of them. I was good at it, Wolf had fun, we worked well together. I got my second dog, a lab-whippet mix named Panda, nine months after I adopted Wolf (the closest I have ever been or will ever be to pregnancy), and off we went to puppy kindergarten. Panda went on to be my first competition dog, although at that time the options to compete in dog sports with a mixed breed were very limited.

Taking dog training classes and leaving graduate school shared the same time frame. My parents offered to have me move back home with them, but that wasn’t an option, because it meant losing the dogs. So I went to work as an office temp and tried to figure out what to do with my life. I still loved biology, but didn’t have the drive to do research.

Panda and I did so well in classes that the owner of the training center asked me to assist with classes and eventually I was teaching puppy kindergarten. Much cuteness ensued, and I enjoyed helping people learn to work with their dogs.

That led to an epiphany: I loved biology, I liked teaching, what about combining the two? The idea of teaching had never crossed my mind before; I was very introverted in high school. Getting up in front of a room full of people would have been a nightmare. But five years and a lot of growing later, it actually seemed like a good move.

Back to graduate school for a year and a half, take the tests, apply for jobs… almost 23 years later, it appears it was the right plan, even if there are times now that I want to try something else.

Dogs have always been a central focus of my life, even when I didn’t have any. They helped set me on the right career path, one where all these years later I still feel as though I’m doing something meaningful and important. They’ve taught me that life sometimes takes people in very unexpected directions, that sometimes what seemed impossible or crazy turns out to be tremendously valuable.

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16 thoughts on “From Puppy Kindergarten to High School Biology

  1. It’s amazing where life can take us, isn’t it? We start out with these grand plans for ourselves and then life happens. 23 years later, it sounds like life has turned out quite well for you.

    Glad you’re joining us for the SOLSC this month.

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    • Hi Pat, I agree. Took me a while to realize I could have a passionate interest without making it my career, and that I could pursue a career that I hadn’t imagined. Life does throw a lot of curves.

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  2. My husband and I are also in dog training, but it’s the dogs who control us, although they have learned to behave in public. Our vet loves us, too, as we have become those dog owners we swore we’d never be–the ones who buy gourmet dog food, who subscribe to dog treat services (Bark Box), the ones who would pay any price for any procedure to save our beloved Puck’s life and Snug’s, too. Have you read “A Dog’s Purpose”? If not, do and get the tissues ready!

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  3. Wow. Your story struck a cord with me. How often do we start out down one path and end up on another.? You were brave to listen to your heart and step away from your plan. Who would think that a pet or two could have such an effect!

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    • I’m continually amazed at the effect my dogs have on my life. This isn’t the only plan I’ve ended up changing, but it is the most significant. Adopting the dogs had far reaching consequences!

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  4. I’m a dog lover too–I’m all about the pit bull. I’m not even sure any other breed exists! When I adopted my pit, Roxy, I was teaching on the reservation and my students laughed so hard when they saw her. “Man, Miss E, you sure love a lost cause, don’t you?”

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    • I’ve met lots of pits… absolute sweethearts! I seem to relate best to the herding dogs; so far I’ve mostly stayed in my comfort zone. Funny reaction from your students! Some of the dogs go to work with me a few times a year; they usually get very positive reactions. πŸ™‚

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  5. We are a dog family also! We have rescues who rule our house. They are just 4 in a long string. Sadly, they are not as well trained as your dogs appear to be πŸ™‚ Hopefully I’ve done a little better training the 2-legged children in my house. There are 4 of them,too. πŸ™‚ Glad that your love and your passion led you to teaching and so glad for those sweet puppies that you opened your home to them. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Stacey, What a great journey life has given you to find your calling! I love hearing the antics of your pups and can’t wait to hear more about puppy kindergarten! Good luck on your first Slice of Life!

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