A dog lover from my first breath, it was inevitable that, as I got older, I would develop a way to express my adoration for the canine species. I chose the path of dog training (or rather, at first, attempted dog training). I have since been able to extend my knowledge of animal behavior, and am constantly growing as both a trainer and person. But it all started at twelve-years-old when I found myself with a two year old chocolate lab with an endless supply of energy...
Toby, I decided, was destined to be the next National Agility Champion. The plan: work hard, succeed, win. We were going to be the best. "You just wait," often seeped from my mouth when faced with challenges of training the 100 pound, goofy beast.
However, I soon realized it wasn't that simple. Toby, though brilliant in his own right, became a puzzle to me. Fears of falling off of equipment plagued us for years, not to mention his incessant desire to "press pause" while competing and take a break to check on Dad (you can never be too careful about where your other humans are). Despite these difficulties, we persevered, though with slightly altered goals. Toby never became a National Agility Champion (did I mention World Champion was on our agenda as well?), and has since retired from the sport. But Toby did so much more for me than any "champion win" could ever do.
Over the years our family expanded with the addition of two more canine companions, Chase (border collie) and Rocky (Labrador retriever). I encountered many of the problems I had with Toby with these two, but also vastly different ones. Each dog, each best friend I have been given the opportunity and privilege to have in my life has taught me so much through so many varying challenges. Not only have I become a better dog trainer because of the difficulties in training, I have become a better and more inspired person as well. I am constantly growing and changing and am largely impacted by this environment where I have learned to respect and love fellow creatures of any species. Dog training has gone beyond teaching me to train a dog efficiently in weave poles or tunnels. Dog training and animal behavior have taught me respect and tolerance for everyone around me, as well as instilled a desire for knowledge and science I did not know I possessed before. Each dog, in my small corner of the world, has inspired me, Tori Self, a mere kid, to go out and challenge the world; to challenge myself to work towards innovation and balance in our society. Whether this includes future research in animal communication and neuroscience or helping to improve the world and make a difference some other way, one can be certain that dog training has hugely impacted my life.
Then came Rev, full call name: Revolution. After years of 'family' dogs, Rev, a now three year old border collie, is the first dog that is truly mine. She will be going to college with me in the fall and has been my girl from the start. Admittedly, I had naively believed that I had learned "enough" from Toby, Chase, and Rocky over the past six years to be able to handle any new dog and any challenges that came my way. Hah! Rev quickly showed me there was far more for me to learn about animal behavior, and more importantly, life. I think this, the gift of realizing that I will never know everything, is the greatest lesson I have taken from Rev. We have had our successes and we have had our failures in agility, but I have found that ultimately, the lessons and experiences I have gained from working with my dogs are irreplaceable and, quite simply, invaluable.