During college, I heard about a German Shepherd caged 24 hours a day in a dark basement. Dogs weren’t allowed, but I snuck her into campus housing anyway. Callie came to me with severe separation anxiety. While I was in class, she broke out of her crate and destroyed my apartment. It wasn’t long before I was in trouble with my roommates and the students living below us. I made the heart-rending decision to find Callie another home. I couldn’t even be in the room to watch, so I left Callie’s food and blankets and told someone to come and pick her up. After that, I vowed I would never go through a heartbreak like that again. Committed to learning everything I could, I worked to create Paw and Order Dog Training and become one of the most knowledgeable dog trainers in the country.
Follow your heart to find your passion
Training dogs wasn’t my first career path. I served six years with the Army National Guard as a combat police officer. During that time, I attended college and worked two paid internships: One with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and another with the Philadelphia FBI’s Violent Drug and Gang Task Force. I interviewed with the FBI during my third year of college, and they decided to keep me on at the Pittsburgh branch through graduation. After college, the FBI selected me to go through the hiring process as an agent.
While I enjoyed the camaraderie of my FBI team, I came to realize my heart wasn’t in that work. My aversion to conflict didn’t mix with law enforcement. I wanted people to be excited when I showed up at their doors. That doesn’t happen when you’re an FBI agent. I could do the job and do it well, but I grew more and more convinced that wasn’t the work I was meant to do.
This realization was a difficult one. My family expressed extreme disappointment over my decision to leave law enforcement. In their opinion, I was wasting my college degree.
Despite my family’s objections and plenty of my own fears, I followed my heart. Looking back, I can see how necessary that change was for my life.
You’ll know when your passion is leading you in the right direction
I started training dogs in 2013. One of my early customers, Steve, called me to find help for his Shiba Inu. At six months old, Duke was already manifesting aggression toward people and other dogs. Steve discovered my price during that first call and went with a cheaper dog trainer instead. He met with that trainer one time and realized cheaper wasn’t always better. He called again and set up a consultation.
After a few training sessions, I had to undergo surgery on both of my eyes. Steve sent me a text afterward to check on my recovery, which led to a deep conversation and a flurry of Shiba Inu memes. After that first night’s exchange, he asked me out on a date, and we were engaged the following year.
What better confirmation could there be that following my heart had set me on the right path than to meet the love of my life through my new career?
Rebranding and franchising Paw & Order
During our first year of marriage, I was forced to make a difficult decision. I had to choose between paying a lot of money to keep my website and company name or rebranding the entire business. Steve left his corporate job to help rebrand as Paw & Order. He created our logo and built pawandorder.com. I couldn’t have done it without him.
After the rebrand, I was worried things would slow down, but the opposite happened. Our strategies, protocols, and business name were so unique and effective that we were approached to make Paw & Order into a franchise. We resisted the idea at first because we were so consumed with the business as it was. However, we soon realized our training method should be shared with as many people as possible.
In 2020, we launched our first franchise. We now have five locations in Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Washington, Harmony/New Castle, Meadville, and Westmoreland); one in Central, Ohio (Columbus); one in Southwest, Florida (Fort Myers/Naples); and one in Houston, Texas. We will be opening a new location in Upstate South Carolina (Greenville) in February 2022. We’re so excited for the possibilities ahead, not only for us, but for those lucky enough to be chosen to expand with us as franchise owners.
As a dog trainer, I encounter daily opportunities to help people. I love giving hope to those that feel hopelessly trapped by their dogs’ behavior issues. Our training strategies aim for good behavior rather than simple commands. We focus on making dogs more enjoyable to be around, which makes for happier and healthier pets.
At Paw & Order Dog Training, we work with all types of dogs. There isn’t a breed or size we won’t train. We prefer starting with young puppies, but most owners wait until issues arise before training. At that point, we have our work cut out for us in retraining the owner’s natural habits, but the transformation of an unruly dog into a treasured member of the family is always worth the investment.
When I started this business, I was simply looking for the opportunity to make a living in something that allowed me to follow my passion and be myself. I never imagined that listening to my heart could lead to the life I have today. Through my business, I’ve met wonderful friends—even my husband—and those relationships will always be the most valuable things I take from creating Paw & Order.