One summer day in 1990 I screwed up my courage and called the English Department at Yale University. I was looking for Vicki Hearne, author of Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name. That book was the most remarkable thing I had ever read about our relationships with animals, and I wanted to know more. The woman from Yale told me that Vicki was no longer there and then, to my amazement, asked if I’d like her home number. So I breathed deeply and dialed again. After introducing myself as a fan of her book and Airedales (her favorite dog breed) I haltingly asked if it might be possible for us to meet so that I could watch her work with a dog or horse and learn some more. One August day soon afterward I drove to Westbrook, Connecticut to meet her. At the end of the afternoon she asked me if I would like to train a couple of dogs under her tutelage. Wow! I took a job at the kennel where she trained and spent the next nine months soaking up everything I could about dog and horse training and even learned a little about writing poetry along the way. (Vicki was a natural teacher and couldn’t help herself when she found out I liked poetry.)
My wife Linda and I started Teacher’s Pet in the summer of 1991 and soon rented a space in Newington, CT. Dog training was harder than I thought. Although I had a gift for it, I soon realized that teaching it to others was far more challenging than just doing it myself. But I enjoyed it so much that it didn’t seem like work at all. In fact for a while I had a recurring dream that I hadn’t gone to work at my old job for months and wondered nervously what would be my boss’s reaction when I walked in the door after so much time away.
In twenty years I have met many wonderful, interesting people and their dogs. I’ve learned a lot from them and made lasting friendships too. Once I struck out on my own, my formal learning was over and the rest I mostly had to figure out on the job. But no two dogs (or people) are alike, so it never gets boring and there is always something more to learn. Every so often for no reason at all, a client from years ago will come to mind, and I’ll wonder how they’re doing. With a few clients, I’ve had the privilege of training a succession of dogs over the years and have watched their kids grow up. One friend/client commented the other day that we were going to grow old together. That’s a good thing. It is truly a blessing from Almighty God to be able to make a living doing what you love. I’m looking forward to the next twenty years and hope to have the privilege of meeting you and your dog too.