Today’s Story that Inspires is for all the dog lovers out there. Even if you’re not convinced about the life changing potential our canine friends possess, Candice’s story might persuade you otherwise. Candice recently wrote a blog post for Candice Says about her relationship with her beloved Delilah. I had to know more about the hugely positive impact Delilah made on Candice’s life. I asked her 10 Questions about how a dog’s love changed her life!
1. Your career has taken a few interesting turns. Tell us more about your journey.
I have a BA degree focusing on English, Visual Culture, and Communication and an Honours Degree in Translation and Professional Writing. After graduating I was eager to gain some work experience and I took a job at Dimension Data Supply Chain Services in 2013. I later moved to the marketing department as part of the Internal Communications team. In September 2016, I was finally able to pursue my dream job as a features writer when I joined the team at Your Family magazine. I loved my time there; it was a much-needed change from corporate but in April 2017 my now husband, Grant, applied for a job based in the USA and we began the process of relocating overseas. I resigned from my writing job and freelanced until I joined Grant in the USA in April 2018. I continued freelancing until August 2018 when I decided to change my career entirely and work with animals full time. I worked as a pet-sitter and dog walker for almost a year and then took a job as a kennel technician at a veterinary hospital before working as a client service representative (receptionist) at the veterinary hospital.
2. The move from a desk job to such an active job is a big change! In what ways have your relationship with Delilah inspired personal growth?
I can honestly say that the year I spent as a full-time dog walker and pet sitter was the year I found myself in the best shape of my life!
My relationship with Delilah has made me infinitely aware of my own actions and inaction and the effects thereof. I knew when we adopted Delilah that she was only ever going to be as good as I helped her be; if I wanted her to have exceptional obedience and be the kind of dog you can take anywhere, it was my responsibility to work with her every single day. Training your dog is never something you’re ‘finished’ with. And that’s been something that my relationship with Delilah has taught me; what you work on is what improves and what you ignore/let fall by the wayside is what becomes a problem. It forces you to take accountability and responsibility so you can work towards a solution. Instead of trying to blame someone else for what you aren’t happy with, look at what you’ve done or haven’t done, hold yourself accountable, and then work towards improving it.
You also learn to do things you don’t want to do simply because you really have to do them… any dog mom who’s been forced to take their dog out in freezing temperatures, snow, rain, in the middle of the night, or at 4am when they need to go potty will understand!
3. What are the highlights of working with animals?
Aside from the obvious highlights like snuggling puppies and kittens, I have to say the practical knowledge I’ve gained in terms of dog handling and veterinary care has been incredible. Learning what to do if you’re ever in a situation where a dog is showing aggression towards you, or a dog fight breaks out is so important because you never know if/when something like that could happen. And it does happen, I promise you!
I also learned what symptoms to look out for in your pet before hopping on the internet and stressing yourself out and being mindful of what goes on behind the scenes at your vet’s office. Other invaluable skills I’ve picked up is understanding how your pet’s body works and what vaccines and preventative care are best suited to their needs and lifestyle.
As a dog walker and pet sitter, it became very clear to me that people can have big expectations of their animals; some new person who they don’t know is going to be coming to their home, and they’re expected to be happy about it and comply with everything they’re asked to do. I learnt to be very patient with my animal friends and never ever take for granted their love, good behaviour, and trust. While I’ve loved most of the pets I’ve worked with, I’ve only built true, everlasting bonds with a handful of them because I was able to tap into something deeper with them and build up a trust and a love that’s just ‘more’ in every way. One of my favourite dogs in the world, Justice, was the perfect example of that bond; his mom explained it to me once: ‘Justice would GO with anyone, but he really, truly, LOVED you.’ And THAT connection is absolutely priceless.
4. Are there any down sides to working with animals? Do you miss your desk?
My current job is primarily a desk job! (More about Candice’s new adventure later). I think every job has its downsides. I loved my job as a pet-sitter and dog walker because I got to spend all day outdoors, getting plenty of exercise with the pups but the hours were unpredictable and inconsistent, the pay was awful, the travel and wear and tear on my vehicle were terrible, and I didn’t have any benefits. Not to mention that winters in Upstate New York are brutal and I had to be outside in below freezing temperatures, drive in snowstorms, and risk slipping on black ice! I loved working as a kennel technician but pay was still bad, it was a very physical job where injuries like bites, scratches, and bruises were common.
Working as a client service representative was extremely challenging. You’re expected to be cheerful and ‘available’ to clients all the time and this can be exceptionally draining at times. 2020 has been such a strange year due to the global pandemic and the veterinary field has had to adjust protocols and procedures countless times to maintain the safety of our staff and clients. Most of the office visits now take place telephonically which means that client service representatives are working harder than ever before to maintain that ‘happy, helpful, available’ persona at a time when clients are more tense, stressed, emotional, and unkind than ever. The mental and emotional strain of a client service job is probably the biggest downside; especially when you work a 10 – 12 hour shift four or five days a week. Thankfully, there ARE lovely clients who thank us for all we do for their pets, send cookies or buy lunch for the hospital staff, send cards, and even just tell us how appreciated we are for begging the doctor to see just one more sick patient who wasn’t on their schedule.
5. Delilah helped you settle into your new hometown and connect with like-minded people. Tell me more about dog-people! Apart from their love of dogs, do you think they have any other characteristics in common?
In my experience, dog people tend to like dogs more than other people, ha-ha! My best dog friends and I mostly enjoy taking and sharing pictures of our dogs, spending money on dog gear and/or dog sports, training and teaching new tricks and behaviours, discussing dog-related topics, eating good food, and then snuggling our dogs. Dog people are like dogs: each one is different from the others but essentially the same…?
6. Let’s talk adoption and training: You knew upfront Delilah had some behavioural issues. Why not adopt an ‘easy’ dog?
This is such a complicated topic, and it can be controversial too! Let me begin by saying that I had never been a pet owner prior to adopting Delilah, and even after years of working with her and other animals in the pet care and veterinary industry, I’m not an expert..
The main reason we were able to adopt Delilah, a pet with known behavioural issues, was because I was not working, and I had the time and resources (an incredible trainer) to address the pet’s issues and work every single day on correcting them. Even now, almost three years later, there is STILL work to be done. Training is ONGOING; you’re never ‘done’ training your dog. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to do the work that it takes to give your pet the enrichment, stimulation, and care they need and deserve..
Another misconception is that there is such a thing as an ‘easy’ dog. Every dog requires work, training, enrichment and stimulation to grow into an ‘easy’ dog. Whether you’re adopting a previously abused Pit Bull from a shelter or purchasing a well-bred Golden Retriever puppy from a reputable breeder, it will take work to get that pet to where you want it to be. Your dog is only ever going to be as ‘good’ and ‘easy’ as you help them to be. That being said, I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding what you are looking for in a pet, doing extensive research, and choosing the pet that is best suited to your lifestyle accordingly. Dogs have been bred for certain traits for centuries; you cannot ask a Belgian Malinois to be a meek couch potato when it is in their DNA to lead an active life. You cannot expect a pug to spend an entire day hiking rough terrain when the genetic makeup of their respiratory system makes it difficult for them to breathe. Honouring the breed of your animal is so important; don’t expect them to be something they’re not and then punish them for being what they’ve been bred to be for centuries.
7. I agree wholehearted that choosing the right dog for your lifestyle is the best start. What advice do you have for people who are thinking about adopting/ buying a dog?
I’ll start by saying that I do encourage people to adopt pets from shelters if they are in a position to do so. However, I am also a huge supporter of reputable breeding and I encourage people with specific goals and needs to consider purchasing their pet from such a breeder.
Think carefully about why you want to add a pet to your life and what you are looking for in that pet. Are you looking for an active dog to go for a run with every day, or are you a home body who just wants a pet to snuggle on the couch with while you binge the newest show on Netflix? Do you have allergies? Are you willing to spend a lot of time and money on regular grooming appointments? Do you have a fenced in yard or are you located in an apartment in the city? The answers to these and other questions will greatly influence the type of dog you should get.
Based on your lifestyle and pet ‘wants,’ you might decide to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder or to adopt from a shelter or rescue organization. A reputable breeder will health and DNA test their dogs before breeding and will breed dogs that are stable in temperament. They will also more than likely ask you what you are looking for in a pet and will choose the best puppy for you. Shelters and rescue organizations are usually a little ‘crowded’ and as much as they want to find GOOD, loving homes for the pets, they perhaps don’t always have the time, staffing, resources, or ability to match you with the pet that is best for YOU. It’s also important to remember that shelter and rescue dogs are often found as strays so very little is known about their history, breeding, and temperament so most behavioural issues will only become known once they have settled into their new home. There are always exceptions to the rule as well; sometimes shelter dogs turn out to be ‘easy’ dogs who assimilate to their new lives and families with few behavioural concerns and sometimes puppies are returned to the breeder because they turned out to be a poor match for the family.
Know what you want in a dog, manage your expectations, be willing to put in the time and work, actually put in the time and the work, and you should end up with a ‘happily ever after.’
8. Delilah looks like such a character! What’s your all-time favourite Delilah-story?
Delilah’s a notorious counter-surfer. She has outgrown/been trained out of this for the most part, but she used to steal things off the kitchen counter and eat them fairly often! It’s a common behaviour in dogs that have lived as strays and scavenged at every opportunity. Once they are adopted, they can sometimes struggle to let go of those old habits. Delilah once ate the frozen meat we were defrosting for our dinner, and she ate an entire stick of butter (including the wrapper) and had diarrhoea for a few days… The worst was when I spent an entire morning making two large trays of frosted apple fritters from scratch for a friend’s going-away party. I left them on the counter to cool while I took a quick trip to the grocery store. I was away from the house for 6 minutes (I timed it), and when I walked through the door, Delilah was licking out the empty trays. I was livid and she spent the next three days suffering through bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea. After that we became much more mindful about never leaving any food on the countertops and reprimanding her whenever she sniffs the countertops. She hasn’t had any incidents since (knock on wood!).
9. It’s amazing to see how much Delilah has influenced this chapter of your life. You recently embarked on a brand-new journey
I’m taking a break from working in the veterinary industry and I’m exploring the human medical field for a change of scenery! I’ve recently joined the internal medicine suite of a medical group in Albany. It’s a big change, but I’m excited about the new opportunity.
10. If Delilah could talk, what advice would she give you?
She’d probably tell me to:
- Spend more time outside
- Practice more patience
- Relax more
- Greet the world with a smile, and it might smile back just as brightly
- Show your people how much you love them
- Always give your people extra hugs and kisses and hold on to them extra tight
- Give her more treats!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and some great advice, on the Wild Library blog, Candice. I wish you all the best with your new job.
If you enjoyed reading Candice’s story as much I did, head over to Candice Says to read more about Delilah’s adventures. You might also enjoy Victoria’s Story – Life’s better on a Mountain Bike.
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