From Loss, Rejection, and a Cat to Top Provider 2019

I am a dog trainer because of my cat and my mom. In 2007 my mom passed away from breast cancer.  Suddenly, life was so finite. Why am I wasting time in a career I no longer enjoy? What do I enjoy? I didn’t know what my next step was, but I knew I didn’t want to be a respiratory therapist for the rest of my life. Time to make another dream come true, because who knows how much time any of us has left.

I slogged through the grief abyss, experiencing milestones like marriage and buying our first home without my mom. She loved my husband and would have loved the condominium, except for the original 1980s kitchen. After surviving a challenging 3-month kitchen remodel during snowmageddon 2010, I wanted to reward myself with a companion animal. Because our condo was on the 8th floor, we decided to adopt a cat instead of a dog. We named our 1-year-old gray Siamese cat Slinky.

One night after we had gone to sleep we heard a crash. We jumped out of bed and immediately realized our kitchen design flaw. Open shelves above the countertop instead of cabinets. Slinky knocked a stemless wine glass off of the shelf. Not a great financial loss, the glass cost about $3. The financial and wellbeing impact was watching Slinky try to eat the glass! “WHY!?” we shrieked. We were able to intervene in time and no Slinkys were harmed.

Glass eating had to be prevented. I did what anyone with animal problems does, I asked Google. I spent hours researching cat behavior articles and books. I finally ordered a book called “Think Like A Cat” by Pamela Johnson Bennett. With a few changes in my behavior, I was able to change Slinky’s behavior. That was incredibly reinforcing for me.

Helping Slinky change his behavior reminded me of my childhood dream. I wanted to work with animals! I cold-called trainers asking if I could apprentice with them. One woman turned me down because I had a cat and not a dog.  I described the training and behavior modification I had done with Slinky, but that did not matter to her. That “no” was the best thing that happened to my training career.

Photograph courtesy of Lenore Boulet Photography

Photograph courtesy of Lenore Boulet Photography

Because of that “no”, I apprenticed with another trainer, Sandy Modell of Wholistic Hound Academy in Alexandria, VA. Sandy told me about Pat Miller’s academies at Peaceable Paws. I completed all three of Pat Miller’s academies making me a Pat Miller Certified Trainer. At Pat Miller’s 1st academy, another trainer told me about Bob Bailey, ScD.  I worked for and completed all 5 Bailey-Farhoody Operant Conditioning Workshops where, after scientific lectures, training principles were practiced by training leghorn chickens.

In addition to numerous hours of animal training education, I passed the Certified Professional Dog Trainer exam. Between 2013 and March 2018 I volunteered at an animal shelter, I got my first paid part-time dog training job, quit my job as a respiratory therapist, transitioned to a full time dog trainer, adopted my own dog, became an entrepreneur and launched Behavior United LLC with Amy LaFerrera. And now, a year later, our clients voted us as a top pet care provider for 2019!


I hope that you too will follow your passion and make your dreams come true. Curious about training cats, dogs, chickens, bunnies, or pigs? Let us know at