Twenty years ago I fell in love at first sight. It started with a photo in my inbox that led to a flight, that led to a journey I could neither have prepared for nor anticipated. But there I was two days later in Shreveport, Louisiana, picking up a gorgeous 8 week old Australian Shepherd puppy named Stevie.
I’d just accepted a new job in LA and I did know better. What lay in store were long hours and a lot of work to raise money for a nonprofit group home for teens. It was not the best time for a new puppy.
Oh but she was smart, and brave. On her first day at the beach I watched in awe as she walked to the surf, turned to find me, and when she couldn’t see me (I was behind someone nearby) she turned and went back to our blanket and sat down. I was already smitten but that was one smart puppy.
I did my best to get help for us at home, cobbling together a motley crew of friends and strangers that could get Stevie out during my 12-hour work days. I looked but could not find a program or person who could give her the daylong care she needed. Two weeks went by and I realized she needed more stimulation, socialization, and play. Waiting long days for me to come home wasn’t enough and I had to face that. After two days of crying and one last attempt to find someplace, someone that could help, I made one of the most painful decisions of my life. I sent her back to the breeder.
Not a day has gone by when I don’t think about Stevie. It took years to stop beating myself up for sending her back. But life has a way to bringing us round to the things that need healing. My full circle came in 2008 when, at 55 I was looking for something new to do with my life. But what that would be I had no idea.
All I could think of were dogs.
Having spent so many years in school and worked so hard to become a Marriage and Family Therapist I wondered, was I being silly or worse, unrealistic? Could I start a business working with dogs in my mid-fifties? Would my body hold up? The only certainty I felt was I did not want to belong to a career anymore. So I stopped thinking and jumped.
On one hand, the Jumpstart Puppy Program is the culmination of everything I’ve learned in life, from riding and training horses for 35 years, to working as a Marriage and Family Therapist, to program development and fundraising. All these things have brought me to my central passion in life; helping animals and their humans to understand each other in ways that empower them both.
On the other hand, had I found a program like Jumpstart all those years ago, I would never have been faced with such a terrible decision. But there it is.
So here I am, eleven years later having helped to raise and personally train over 1000 puppies. This program has enabled me to support and help so many families and dogs, many more than if I had remained a therapist. In fact, having supported and loved so many families and their children has given me more joy and fulfillment than I could have hoped for, and for this I am deeply grateful.
Big Sur, California 2019