What I’m Thankful for, as a Trainer and Dog Lover

Dogs and dog people rank high on my list -- and so does my giant Dodge Grand Caravan!


Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. As a history major, I know its backstory is a bit cringe-worthy, but as someone who loves spending quality time with family and eating great food, I love this holiday. It’s a bit hectic, but we always get to enjoy lots of laughs with our favorite people.

I also love that Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge and celebrate our many blessings — it’s the one day where we try to set aside the things that drag us down and focus on the things we have that make us feel happy, which reminds me of this article I wrote about my “difficult” dog Cuba. So I was super excited when my editor said, “Hey, Casey, want to do a Thanksgiving piece on the things that you are thankful for as a trainer?” Of course I do!

1. I am thankful for Dogster

While I’ve been a lifetime dog owner, Mokie was the first dog that was really mine. I adopted her and brought her into the home Jim and I had just purchased. I was so excited to find Dogster, a community where other people were similarly “dog crazy” and could easily spend hours talking about pups. I was almost insanely excited when I found out Mokie won Diary of the Day and Dog of the Week (not at the same time, of course).

Dogster helped me learn about natural nutrition for dogs and the effective use of positive reinforcement training. In an indirect way, Dogster was the first step along my path to making my hobby my career. Additionally, Dogster has been a great source of friendship and support for me — so many Dogster friends have become real-life friends, and many are now also starting their own dog businesses.

I’ll never forget running into a long-time Dogster friend at a training conference and having her introduce herself by saying, “Hey, you’re Mokie! I’m Sunny’s mom!” I immediately recognized Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldogs.com, and we both started to laugh. That was only the first of many such Dogster-induced introductions and subsequent friendships.

2. I am thankful for my dogs

Not just beautiful Mokie and Cuba, who currently share my home, and not just Monte, who came to live with us shortly after Mokie, lived here for 3.5 years, taught me every important lesson about dogs, and then went to the Rainbow Bridge. I’m thankful for all the dogs of my lifetime — and there have been many of various breeds, mutts and purebreds alike.

The dogs I’ve loved have taught me how to be a better person. Smile more. Be more patient. Be generous. Approach challenges without anger. When you feel like freaking out, breathe. You really do catch more flies with honey.

Not only have I had the pleasure of learning these things from my own dogs, but my job allows me to meet many new dogs who teach me their own unique variations of these lessons.

3. I am thankful for dog people

This is a pretty big group, which includes many of my friends and all of my clients. But it also includes an amazing book of animal professionals I’ve come to rely on for education, support, and a nearly endless supply of great and novel training ideas. While I know quite a few of them in real life through conferences, seminars, workshops, and training together, hundreds of them are known only to me through our communications via social networking.

Veterinarians, groomers, Tellington Touch practitioners, photographers, nutritionists, canine massage therapists, other trainers, rescuers, authors — you are the people who dedicate your life to making the world a better, happier place for dogs and the people who love them. I love you!

4. I am thankful for my Dodge Grand Caravan

Pre-Saint Bernard life, Jim and I were able to take ourselves, Mokie, and a whole bunch of camping gear in a rather small sedan. Yes, we did buy a bigger vehicle specifically to make it easier to cart bigger dogs with us on canine adventures.

While Patsy is currently awaiting a trip to the mechanic (damn you, rack and pinion or whatever it is!), she does a great job of hauling my two crazies and a whole bunch of dog equipment on camping and hiking trips and training excursions. (She also can fit a whole bunch of Treibball equipment, thank goodness!)

My dogs are able to ride in style, since I “stow and go” the captain’s chairs in the middle of the van — they ride in their impact-tested safety harnesses on a large and comfy dog bed.

5. I’m thankful for the explosion in popularity of food-dispensing toys

The holidays are a busy time, and Jim and I have to split our celebrating between events with both of our families, which means that while I’m enjoying Thanksgiving, my dogs will be spending a good portion of the day at home.

While Jim and I have worked a nice long hike with the dogs into our holiday tradition, they are used to me being at home a good portion of the day doing office work and writing curriculum and the like, so it is a big disruption to the normal routine.

Wednesday night, while I’m prepping sweet potato casserole and other assorted goodies for Thursday, I’ll also be prepping lots of stuffed Kongs and cutting treats to cram into their favorite Nina Ottosson puzzle toys, so that while Jim and I have fun with the family, Mokie and Cuba can be having fun at home as well.

So what about you? What are you thankful for this holiday? Please share, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Read more about spending Thanksgiving with dogs:

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