I don’t particularly like puzzles nor am I good at them. Give me a jigsaw puzzle or Rubik’s cube and watch me quickly succumb to confusion and frustration. This pattern held true for me until…working with troubled dogs and complex behavior problems. For me, problem behaviors in dogs were puzzles that held reason over randomness to be teased out and reimagined differently. I was not only fascinated but forever hooked!
Looking back to my college years, I never imagined life would lead me into professional dog training. The love I held for animals had never factored into any career goals. I studied nursing and spent many fulfilling years as a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse. The rewards were great and the stakes even higher. This was my first glimpse into holding space for someone else’s pain…a lesson that would become a future gift as a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer).
Years later, I found myself on the precipice of change, with an empty nest and a newly minted graduate degree in conflict resolution. Having suffered the loss of a very special golden retriever to a sudden cancer diagnosis at the start of graduate school, my focus shifted towards the magic of the human-animal-bond and conflict resolution that set my professional dog training career in motion. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety and those who loved them held my attention as the difficulty of these cases was unparalleled. Becoming a CSAT allowed me to embrace those behavioral puzzles leaning into that early gift of learning the importance of holding space for others.
When I say “I love being a CSAT”, there is an undeniable intersection between professional development and the genuine joy of working with separation anxiety clients. For me, it’s impossible to have one without the other.
The professional development of becoming and being a CSAT involves an ongoing commitment to unraveling assumptions, understanding the nuances of separation anxiety, and maintaining continual education with attention to the latest research available. Collectively, this informs my practice while remaining flexible to new findings that change the way I work with clients. Since becoming a CSAT, the ability to collaborate with experts in the field, including other CSATs, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists has provided an extensive network of the greatest minds to learn from. Never before have I felt this connected to other professionals working towards better outcomes for our clients. Without this village, I wouldn’t be as creative and skilled in my career. This professional development carries through to my clients every day.
Then there is the joy of working with separation anxiety clients. Loving a dog suffering from separation anxiety is hard….really hard and is fraught with highs and lows. It’s a leap for people to put faith in me when often other methods have failed spectacularly. Emotional fatigue and financial strain are all too common. This is where I am at my best as I am dedicated to seeing this through as I ease client stress, guide daily training, offer encouragement, provide hope, hold space for difficult setbacks, and help clients reimagine life on the other side. Separation anxiety is a specialized problem that requires expertise and a specialized understanding of how to take the puzzle apart and put it back together piece by piece. The relationship between myself and my clients is often intensified by the urgency of the behavioral crisis that differs from any other training I’ve ever done. Friendships often bloom, and the updates from separation anxiety graduates continue to remind me of the value of this work…for the dogs and the families who love them. Getting the right help is everything!
“Hi, I’m Carm, and I’m going to be your CSAT”
You can visit Carm’s website by clicking here.