Where I lived growing up, some girls were horse crazy, some obsessed with dolls, while I was nuts about dogs. Certifiable! I have my mother to thank for the early exposure to all things dog. As an animal lover since childhood, she would take her allowance to spend on riding and grooming horses on the outskirts of Seattle every chance she got. In 1969, after her youngest child began kindergarten, my mother became a dog trainer. She focused all her free time on dog training, showing our family dogs, and other dog-related activities for almost thirty years.
My mom recently passed away. Among the things she left behind for me was a scrapbook filled with images from her entire career as a dog trainer in Monterey County. It's impressive! She not only put her heart into her work with her students, but she also stood up in public, writing several letters to the local newspaper about important issues such as dog bite prevention and puppy socialization.
I remember her teaching evening obedience classes, but with a child's memory. Looking through this scrapbook, I realize now how much she really loved teaching, and how serious she was about setting the dogs up for success. She gave frequent homework assignments, and even used our dogs for demonstrations. She told me how her last dog, Magi, was practically raised in her classes. I never made the connection before but now I see that their special bond is why she understood so well my own closeness with my dog Cleo.
It continues to amaze me the positive influence a dog can have on our life. Knowing how Cleo helped me manage my introverted nature, I can appreciate how dogs helped my mother's similar tendencies. No wonder she was never in a hurry to remarry when she had such a wonderful animal companion. As a doberman, I bet Magi also made mom feel protected at night.
I didn't realize it back then but my mother tried to instill in me, and in her students, the notion that dogs will give fearlessly to you. When you have a dog she taught, it's your responsibility to provide them with a safe and loving environment, and to respect their doggy nature.
Thanks mom! I'm grateful to my mother for the early exposure to dogs. At an impressionable age, I learned not only how to be responsible for a dog but I also got a chance to experience the power of the human dog bond. That is a gift to any child, but especially so for an introverted one.
When did you discover your love, or special connection to dogs? Did you have a parent who recognized the positive influence of dogs early on?