To the life savers, healers, rescuers, and trainers ... to the daycare workers, groomers, boarders and fosters - WE APPLAUD YOU!
I have been working in the pet industry for over three years now and let me tell you...this is THE most difficult industry that I have ever been a part of.
For a lot of people it is hard to conceptualize the literal blood, sweat, and tears that go into every single one of the jobs in the pet industry as it is hidden behind this facade that we have the best jobs ever, or that all we do is cuddle dogs every day.
Now don't get me wrong... I absolutely adore my job and I feel incredibly lucky every day that I have found my passion. I love being able to help all of our clients, and their beloved pets thrive, and live their best life. However it's not all sunshine and rainbows in the life of a dog trainer - or any one who works with dogs for that matter.
I have consciously caught myself starting to avoid conversations about what I do - which is absolutely insane because I'm actually really proud of what I do, but 9 times out of 10 I get the following responses:
-"People actually pay for that?"
-"Best job ever! You must get to play with dogs all day!"
-"Must be nice to pet dogs as a job"
-"I'm so jealous, it's like you don't even have to work!"
And so on, and so forth.
So what's wrong with these responses you might ask? Nothing in particular - but when you receive this menial response regularly, it starts to degrade the view of importance you see in your profession.
(Under this line I am about to get into some details about my personal journey, and some of the hardships that I have experienced. I suppose some could find it relevant to this article, but if you do not, please skip on ahead!)
I spent some time working as a veterinary assistant when I started my journey in the pet industry.
An average day was spent doing the following:
- Cleaning excrement, blood, and vomit.
- Cleaning and sanitizing operating rooms.
- Assisting in surgeries (which also included properly disposing of body parts, organs, etc)
- Restraining scared, and sick/hurt animals.
- Taking phone calls or talking to clients in person who are scared, stressed, and frustrated because their fur babies are hurt or sick.
- Experiencing the devastating and raw loss of someone having to say goodbye to their best friend, and family member on a very regular basis.
- Having to then ask that person to pay a bill after the heartbreak that they just experienced...
I emotionally could not continue in that environment as it was taking a toll, and I moved over to a shelter where I was in the foster and behaviour departments.
Foster days were spent:
- Scrambling to find a never ending list of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats foster homes
- Vaccinating and deworming an insane amount of animals (especially when a whole litter of kittens or puppies came in for an update)
- Arranging supplies for pick up as well as cleaning out litterboxes and kennels that have been dropped off completely full
When working in the foster department I would find myself legitimately running down the halls trying to multitask the litter of 6 kittens that were dropped off with the 3 puppies that were being picked up, and the 4 cats who needed vaccines updated...all while keeping up with correspondence via phone and email...you very rarely got the chance to pet any puppies.
Behaviour days were spent:
- Working one-on-one with dogs so were surrendered, strays, lost, and - sometimes in the worst cases - abused.
- Walking all dogs who were evaluated with a few more quirks which meant only experienced employees could work with them.
** This meant that a normal walk wasn't your every day walk in the park. This meant that you were always on alert to make sure you didn't run into other people walking dogs, and executing the proper training techniques and protocols to suit their needs and help them thrive.
- Evaluating dogs who were just placed in the shelter. Dogs who were scared and confused as to why they were there and not at their homes.
- Helping the vet clinic with the "more difficult" animals
Again - not much time to just pet or play with the dogs.. unless it was to desensitize them because they were sensitive or reactive to human touch, or to give them some mental enrichment with a game outside of their runs or rooms.
And again - my journey took me onward... this time to a pool.
I spent a year working as a Canine Hydrotherapist and Fitness Coach.
The majority of the reactions I got from this job was "Wow, you swim with dogs all day", and "People actually pay for that?".
Yes - I was in a pool with dogs. I did a lot of fitness swims, but I also assisted in helping dogs who were re-building muscle after intense surgeries using both a pool and an underwater treadmill - pretty badass right?
I spent A LOT of time in a wetsuit. I also spent a lot of time lifting up dogs the same size as me into a pool because they would not step off the ramp, or into the tub. I also spent a lot of time with dogs who were injured or scared.
This brings me here. Candor Canine Co - my pride and joy. My little baby business that I am so excited to see grow, but that can also be incredibly overwhelming.
Being a trainer is something of it's own experience for me.
The excitement I feel when seeing a client click with their dog (clicker training pun absolutely intended) and learn how to better communicate with them is incredible.
When a dog who was given up on - or had an extremely tough start to life - starts to turn a corner and trust again... now that's probably the purest form of joy and pride that I have ever felt.
However - these high highs come with low lows.
When most people contact me it is usually because their dogs are exhibiting "problematic" behaviours that need to be addressed. This means that a lot of the time I am meeting dogs who are scared, stressed, and anxious - which can result in being bruised, bitten, and more.
I've also had to have incredibly serious and vulnerable conversations with people who are struggling with their dogs and just feel hopeless.
Okay - so for everyone who read that big long spiel about my journey - thank you!
You da real MVP.
But now that we've got some context - back to the point!
I feel like some of the time people can lose sight of the hard work that goes into working with animals.
Yes - we do get to see super cute animals on the reg, and yes - sometimes we do get to pet or play with dogs... which is great!
But it's important to also appreciate the fact that these workers are being trusted with your dog's every single day - and it is something that we take extremely seriously.
It takes a thick skin (literally and figuratively) to work with dogs day in and day out.
It's extremely hard when you get bitten or hurt but have to remain calm and keep your composure. I ended a session once with blood all over my shirt, and bruises covering my body. My legs the next day were completely black and blue from an overzealous dog - but you have to just get back up when they knock you down and laugh it off, because if you let every incident affect you it will take a serious mental toll on how you perform professionally.
The dog industry is booming - which is an amazing thing to experience - but I feel like it's important to bring to light the hardships as well. I know from experience the pinch of disappointment you feel when it doesn't seem like someone is taking your career path or profession seriously.
So with that, I do conclude:
Does your dog attend daycare or regularly get groomed or boarded? Send a quick thank you!
I can almost guarantee that they've gone through more than you realize to ensure that your dog is safe, and happy.
People who work in rescue are absolute bosses! Every single cent they receive they put it right back into helping more dogs in need. It is awe-inspiring.
Veterinarians, Vet Techs, and Vet Assistants - I can't even begin. You are amazing. You save the lives of our pets every day. You are superheroes.
So to you - all of my fellow dog lovers and workers...
You are doing a great job.
What you do matters.
You are making a difference.
I APPLAUD YOU!