“Whatever you think about everyday, will eventually become reality”
I don’t remember where I heard this saying but it has stuck with me for decades…and yes I am old!
I turned 50 this year!
My story into the crazy world of dog training started during my first marriage where sadly, it was one of both physical and verbal abuse. For seven years I endured this life, feeling extremely useless and blamed for everything that went wrong in the household. My young son was the only reason I remained in that relationship for all of those years.
One of the very few things we did together as a couple was adopt a 2 year old GSD called Buddy from a local trainer. The trainer told us that this dog was not your average GSD. His words: “He’s a special dog this dog. He’s from Sampenny Kennels, he’s a quality dog”. I would later find these words to be true, not because of where he was from, but because of the dog he was!
Buddy was quite a large GSD and I remember being a little apprehensive when we adopted him. My husband did initially help with walking and exercising but sadly the novelty quickly wore off and I was the person left having to walk, feed and pay attention to this huge, young and rambunctious dog. I had only ever owned a small toy poodle beforehand, never a large dog so I felt a little of my comfort zone.
I decided to enrol Buddy into dog training and signed up with Australia Dog Training in Bundoora, Melbourne – a very popular dog training school at the time. I attended training with Buddy every single week without fail and we soon passed into the Advanced level with the help of all the wonderful trainers there at the time, namely Boyd, Claude, Glenn, Du and Steve G (wow there are some big names there!)
Safe to say I had been ‘bitten by the dog training bug’ and was encouraged by one of the trainers, Claude, to undertake the Professional Dog Trainer’s Course (now known as the NDTF Cert 3 course), which I did!
The course was 12 months long at the time (1999) and I put everything I had into completing it despite working full time and also being mum to my young son. Buddy accompanied me to all of the workshops and lectures.….and if truth be known, secretly these became my escape from the abuse at home. Training dogs and hanging with like-minded people made me happy; made me feel like I had achieved something on my own! It also gave me hope that one day I could become a dog trainer so I could help save all of the problem dogs of the world!!! (Haha!)
Attending dog training with Buddy, undertaking the dog trainer’s course and subsequently meeting some wonderful new friends, I eventually grew the courage to finally leave my abusive life behind. It was a very tough decision and one that has it’s own story, but needless to say, I finally felt strong enough to do so.
At that stage we had taken on two extra dogs and I remember the heartache I felt, as I had to leave one of the dogs behind because he belonged to my husband. His name was Reuger and he was a most gentle and loving American Bulldog.
The day I packed up and collected my dog dogs, Reuger looked both sad and confused as to why he wasn’t coming into the car too. My heart ached so much for leaving him but I could not take him, as I feared the repercussion. To this day I do not know what his fate has been…and I am too afraid to want to know.
After completing the dog trainer’s course I was asked if I wanted to work for ADT as a trainer. I was extremely happy to start this new chapter in my life. I was a single mother for a little while and this extra work helped make ends meet each week. I worked for ADT for 2 years, during which time I met a gorgeous man who would later become my husband.
Buddy was of course still my ‘right hand man’ and accompanied me everywhere. I felt safe with him around and we shared a wonderful relationship. He was a fierce protector of our home, of my son and myself. Buddy eventually became the catalyst for me starting Four Paws K9 Training in 2002. Buddy regularly performed awesome obedience demonstrations that would inspire potential clients to want to achieve same with their dogs.
With a new husband, new business and a new life, everything seemed to be going extremely well…maybe too well! That was until in 2005 when I was smacked in the face by a life-changing diagnosis…a scan revealed a brain tumour, quite by accident, on the right side of my brain (for you medical geeks out there, a Posterior Fossa Meningioma) the size of a small orange.
I remember being completely and utterly floored at this news!!! Was I going to die? What about my son, my life? Why me?? These were the myriad of questions I asked myself each day.
In September 2005 I underwent brain surgery to have the tumour removed. I was told I was extremely lucky because the tumour had started to grow tentacle-like stems into my brain and I would have eventually dropped dead if it wasn’t found and removed.
It was a very long 6 month recovery with lots of visits to specialists and scans, but my wonderful husband, family and friends helped me through the entire ordeal. And of course, Buddy was by my side the entire time too! He even came to visit me in hospital (my hubby would bring him each night!). Many nights I slept in the lounge room with Buddy at my feet during recovery, for some reason this was the only way I could fall asleep.
They say what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger! I think this saying is very true. After recovery, I grabbed the bull by the horns, so to speak, and I threw everything I had into my business, Four Paws K9 Training. My wonderful team and I opened up additional centres, added a myriad of programs and services and as a consequence, increased the number of team members (trainers) that worked with me. And the rest, as they say, is history!
My other business, Noble Canine Training, which covers the professional consultancy arm of my work, was formed in 2017. The logo is in the image of Buddy.
Today I am tumour free, happily married and looking forward to the next chapter in my life…whatever that will be!
Buddy my mate, my right hand man, my heart dog! Indeed just as the person I adopted him from had said, he WAS a very special dog. Buddy died in 2010 of seizures. He was 16 years old!
“You see, sometimes in life, the best thing for all that ails you has fur and four legs”
Never a truer saying!
About the Author, Trish Harris:
Training dogs since 1999
Published author of book “When three’s a Crowd – managing a multiple dog household” in 2016
Married to a wonderful husband and mother to a gorgeous 25 year old son
Competed in bodybuilding competitions in 2013…and I still pump weights today!!!
I have a keen interest in human diet and nutrition!