I was born in Takoma Park, Maryland and lived in the Washington, DC area for nearly the first 12 years of my life. I have two brothers, one older, one younger. My older brother’s first pet was Kermit, the frog, and I ended up getting a frog I named Donatello, after one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We went on to have hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, cats, and a dog (Abby, a Cairn Terrier-Maltese) – we loved them all.
After about half a year of kindergarten, I became ill from chemicals used to clean the school building, so my parents decided to homeschool me and my brothers. This turned out excellently and I continued it all the way through middle school, attended a public project-based-learning high school, and as a senior decided to graduate as a homeschool student.
After Maryland my family lived in Minnesota. I stayed there through my early part of college, met some of my best friends, enjoyed the snow, and then transferred to NC State University in Raleigh, completed my degree, specifically designed to study animal behavior, including plenty of zoology, biology, and psychology classes. While attending my Introduction to Animal Behavior course, I knew I wanted to become a professional dog trainer.
Over the next several years I ended up working in a veterinary clinic, boarding kennel, dog daycare, completed a professional dog walking academy course, and found myself volunteering and eventually working at the SPCA of Wake County animal shelter. It was my favorite job I’d had up to that point. A big goal of animal shelters is to help pets by providing exceptional animal welfare standards and care, something that applies in the field of dog training as well. Dog training isn’t just about obtaining robotic obedience to commands, it’s about making your life easier with behaviors you can ask your dog to perform (like a down-stay instead of grabbing the sandwich off the table), but also about improving the quality of our dogs’ lives – making sure their exercise and mental enrichment needs are met, making sure they are healthy and treated with kindness.
This path led me to enroll in The Academy for Dog Trainers, taught by Jean Donaldson, who is not just one of the best dog trainers in the world, but also a hero to me. She has consistently challenged the notion that we have to use fear/pain to motivate and train dogs, and provided demonstrative evidence through her own training and that of her school graduates that we can treat dogs humanely while training them to the highest levels possible. I couldn’t be prouder to be a graduate of her school.
In 2016, I opened North Carolina Dogs – Dog and Puppy Training in Wake County (and Durham/Orange counties). I’ve worked with many brilliant families and their pet dogs. I’m thrilled with the current progress, and I’m in the process of expanding services to help more dogs in NC. Even though I’ve had opportunities in other places, North Carolina has become home. I absolutely love it here.
Some of my other non-animal interests include baseball (my favorite sport), basketball, reading (thanks Mom, for getting me hooked on this as a kid), watching movies (especially horror films), and spending time with friends and family.
I’m looking forward to meeting more of you in the future. Feel free to let me know about you and your dogs in the comment section, and stay tuned for future blog posts.