My name is Scott, I am 32 years old, manage two boarding kennels, a successful Behaviour & Training company, have a beautiful dog Kato and have had long term depression for the past decade.
This is my story of how a dog changed my life.
To share my dog story I need to go back before I had my own dog, back to when I was much, much younger and dumber.
I was living with my grandparents and desperately seeking independence that most do in their late teens early 20s. I was working part time in the gaming industry and studying graphic design full time at UniSA.
Wanting to move into my own place was difficult and never liked the idea of renting however there was no way I could afford a home on my own. A friend of mine at the time was also in the same boat so we stupidly decided to pool our resources and buy our first home together.
A mortgage was a cruel trickster, you buy your home to gain freedom and independence but then realised you have to pay a mortgage which then snatches that freedom from you pretty quick.
Unfortunately, the relationship with my co-home owner quickly went sour and turned into a nasty situation, which saw me isolated in my own home, being threatened and struggling. I was also taken away from my house mates’ dog, an elderly Briard whom I fell in love with.
I slowly fell into a pit of loneliness and depression.
As my loneliness grew I looked for my first canine companion and after much looking and disappointment found a small 8 week old husky who I brought home and decided to call ‘Kato’.
As my home life was becoming dangerous for myself and now my new little friend (we found snail pellets being left out for him) I dared not leave him home on his own.
My current employer said I could bring him into work and leave him behind the gaming bar during my shifts. This was quickly stopped as we discovered Huskies have a great set of lungs on them and each time I left the bar he would scream the gaming room down.
After being sent home early, I thought I would pop into a local dog daycare which had just opened to see what it was all about and its suitability. At this stage the daycare only had 5 – 10 dogs and the owner asked if I would like to bring Kato in for a bit and play with the dogs.
6 hours later as I left I was asked if I was interested in a job and quickly snatched the opportunity (and smaller pay check) to not only work with dogs but to also have my new best friend with me each day.
Here I was quickly recognised for my skills in dog handling and creativity and was made Centre Coordinator.
We had some local trainers ‘assisting’ the daycare staff in handling groups of dogs but their techniques proved to be inappropriate and unhelpful for this type of environment (daycares were still relatively new in Adelaide at this time).
It was here I was introduced to a local trainer who I found to be insightful and intriguing. After much discussion and recommendations I followed his advice and went to study with the National Dog Trainers Federation to become a dog trainer.
Unfortunately as my knowledge grew, my thoughts on how the daycare was then being run began to differ from my knowledge of dogs and their behaviour and decided to part ways.
I was driven back to hospitality, which also saw me thrown back into my depression but one thing kept smiling and motivated, my dog and his training.
By now I had bought my house mate out but now had to pay a full mortgage on my own. I had graduated from the NDTF, training dogs for $50 for a 3 hour home visit and running a small class on weekends.
We struggled week to week for money to keep our home and had moved into a friends home while we rented the home out to get by. Luckily I had two dear friends who were happy to take not just me but my dog until we could find our feet again.
Coming to my wits end in hospitality I ran into an old high school friend who helped me get a job on an inland oil rig, for those who know me, I am not a big or overly fit guy, so this change was like a fish out of water but it came with a much better pay check.
The down side, I had to leave my dog for 3 week FIFO shifts which by then was one of the hardest things I had to do. Leaving friends and family was not an issue, but seeing my dogs face each time I pulled out the suitcase was heart breaking.
I was encouraged by my cousin Lisa to put my graphic and dog skills into beginning my own business in dog training, which is where Canine Connect began.
On my 3 weeks back in Adelaide I was running some weekend obedience classes and doing odds and ends for people with dog training.
After 3 years, the local oil industry went bust due to the drop of oil and we all lost our jobs.
Unemployed, living back at home with a mortgage to pay, watching the bank account slowly drop over the month, I saw a job offering for a ‘Kennel Manager’ which I applied for but had little hope.
Amazingly I got the job and was soon once again working full time back in Adelaide with my dog Kato by my side.
The kennel environment not only opened my eyes to more training and behaviour but also the need to grow professionally and personally.
I was always a little reclusive in accepting anyone else into Canine Connect and sharing my ideas and resources but I was contacted by a local girl who had recently graduated from the NDTF and looking for a mentor. After 4 hours of grilling and being encouraged by some of my own mentors I hired Aleisha as my second trainer and it was here Canine Connect grew from a single trainer to a company.
Ever since Canine Connect has grown to have 5 trainers, we now have two facilities and our knowledge and skillset grows with each year.
During this whole whirlwind of jobs, homes, up and downs one thing has remained consistent, my love for my dog. I don’t have everything I have today because of him, I did that, but it was him that gave me the motivation and drive to understand him better, to spend more time with him and to use this passion as a new and exciting career path.
Kato and my relationship also grows with each year and he has become an integral part of my mental health program. As I watch him get older I get concerned of what happens when he is no longer going to be there but he will always be the one who changed my life to a better path and the one who has kept me sane in a world that seems to drive me nuts.
I do love the older Kato, he is much easier then the loudmouth pup I first bought, this part I love most about our relationship is that we seem to live in sync with each other. We communicate without a lot of sound, we tend to know what each other is thinking and live symbiotically.
Depression is a weird and terrible thing, but dogs have been a major part of my program and we are truly not worthy of them.
Our industry is rife with compassion fatigue and if you are feeling like something is not quite right, talk to someone, especially the men reading this, it took a long time for me to seek help and I wish I had much sooner.
If you are looking for advice please visit www.beyondblue.org.au or www.lifeline.org.au.
About the Author:
Scott is the Director of Canine Connect and Business Manager of Hedgegrove & Windamere Kennels & Catteries operating in RAdelaide, South Australia. Scotts passion lies in the rehabilitation of dogs in need and education of people.