Dad taught me at a very young age, if you’re going to do something, do it right. To the best of your ability. There’s nothing worse than having to go back and re-do something because you did a lousy job on the first go-around. I didn’t know it then, but as an adult, looking back, it explains a lot. Like how he became one of the most respected, innovative, ground breaking, Police Canine Master Trainers on the planet. He could read and troubleshoot a dog and handler like nobody else could. His passion and fire for what he did, produced a ton of historical Police Canine firsts… like the first drug dog ever to be subpoenaed to court. Funny story – but amazing too.
He trained the very first dog for the DEA, worked with the FBI, and helped found the most influential Police Canine certification group in the country; the North American Police Work Dog Association, (NAPWDA).
And at the ripe old age of 88, he carries more dog knowledge and wisdom than anyone I know, the original dog whisperer. He simply had a way with dogs, to coax out the best of their abilities, their best performance, and the best of their unique personalities.
I am happy and blessed I had the opportunity to work with him, training my first work dog, Fritz; an amazing animal, wonderful partner and best friend. Until you’ve worked with a trained and skilled service dog, you don’t truly understand the depth and meaning of the words; man’s best friend.
But I digress, doing something right, might be why I have become a perfectionist in most things I do. It explains my obsession with dogs, my inability to live without them in my life… It also explains why my attention toward law enforcement drifted away, towards something I could create, something I could control. Police work, while exciting and rewarding, is, by its very nature, imperfect and uncontrollable in many ways. Had I known dad saw in me what he saw in himself, and that he intended to recommend me for his training position when he retired, I probably would have stayed – dogs were my passion as well. Like father, like son.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… Dad also taught me, if you’re going to do something, it’s better to do something you love for less money, than something you hate for more money. Because being happy with what you do and who you are, is more valuable than having a lot of money and hating life. He said it was also important to do something that other people value - to avoid starving to death. Funny guy.
Sometimes he taught me by doing rather than saying… he stayed a Sargent, remaining in charge of training for the Chicago Canine Unit rather than moving up to Lieutenant, which would most assuredly, have taken him out of the unit… because the dogs were his passion. He led by example, actually failing the test on purpose so he could continue to do what he loved.
So when I pursued art, marketing and advertising, he knew it was a rough road, but he saw how much it meant to me, how much I loved it and he never told me about the open position when he retired, telling them, I wasn’t coming back - or my life would most definitely, be quite different right now. In his wisdom, he gave me the time I needed to find my feet and run with it, never looking back once I gained my momentum. Art & design was, and still is, my passion.
The big question is, then, can you have more than one passion? Thinking back to Fritz and looking over at Jax, faithfully sleeping at my side, I’d have to say absolutely, yes. And with the expansion of my creative drive, came writing… Surprising not only myself, but everyone else in my life. What surprised me even more, was how important it became for me to continue to improve that skill, not only the stories and the characters, but my technical ability to execute it with excellence. It had become more than just my perfectionist drive, it had become another passion. And while I am certainly not rich by any stretch of the imagination, I am blessed with the wealth of loving what I do. Thanks, Dad. I owe you one.