By Bill Mayeroff
I was never “supposed” to be a dog trainer.
I studied political journalism. I spent my first five years after college as a newspaper reporter covering a host of different beats. After leaving the paper, I came back to Chicago and tried to do journalism in a bunch of different ways. I freelanced. I worked as an editor at two different magazines. I really tried to make it.
But no matter how much I tried, the journalism game kept chewing me up and spitting me out. I wasn’t happy with it anymore. I’d spent so much of my life trying to do one thing and that thing was no longer what I wanted.
One of the jobs I did for extra cash while freelancing was walking dogs. And I realized something: It was perfect. I got to spend my days walking around with some of the coolest dogs in Chicago. I got to get paid for doing that. And it hit me:
Dogs. I had to work with dogs.
I’d never actually WORKED with dogs before. I’d had family dogs my whole life and adopted a dog of my own in late 2011. But I’d never done anything with dogs in a professional capacity.
Now, anyone who’s worked as a dog walker knows that making a living that way is not easy. And I knew that if I just walked dogs, I’d probably get bored after a while. So what to do?
A friend of mine – a FetchFind alumna, in fact (though it was CanineLink back then) – named Sarah inadvertently provided the answer. She would tell me all the time about the cool things she was learning in her classes and how much she loved training dogs.
I’d taken my dog, Chester, to obedience classes and knew that it was fun and a great bonding experience for us. But again, I’d never thought about doing it professionally. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was perfect.
So I picked Sarah’s brain and eventually set up a meeting with the fine folks at FetchFind (alliteration for the win). The day after that meeting, I signed up for my first FetchFind Academy class.
And as a host of FetchFind people can tell you, I drank the Kool-Aid on day 1.
I felt like I was home. These were people who were taking their love of dogs and truly using it for the benefit of dogs and people alike. That’s what I wanted. And that’s what I’m getting.
Beyond the people, the work is awesome. A big part of the Academy experience is observing training classes. I was lucky enough that in a couple of the classes I observed, the trainers actually let me participate and help and I discovered that not only was it insanely fun, I also had a knack for it.
So here I am. I’ve got two classes under my belt and I’m about to start a third. When that class ends, I’ll be a dog trainer. And I can safely say I’m more excited by that prospect than I ever was about being a journalist, even when I was still excited by it.
A lot of people ask me why I decided to be a dog trainer. When I really think about it, it’s simple: Training dogs makes me happy. It makes me happy in a way I never was in any of my traditional jobs.
Bottom line: It just feels right. So I think I’ll stick with it.
After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill’s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups.