My Inspiration

When I started volunteering at the age of 13 at the local animal shelter, little did I know that a speckley dog that no one wanted would not only capture my heart but also redirect my career path from veterinary medicine to animal behavior.

The issues that led her to the shelter — three owners in her first 10 months, high energy, undersocialization, separation anxiety, and dog–aggressive tendencies — fueled my determination to help Maggie relax, thrive, and realize that "her girl" was there no matter what.

Clicker training was our magic wand. For Maggie, it meant clear communication that channeled her intellect and energies into a myriad of activities — agility, herding, competition obedience, animal–assisted therapy with children, demonstrations of learning theory to college students, even retrieving laundry from the dryer!

For me, it meant strengthening the unique bond that existed between us no matter what challenges Maggie's fears or issues might pose. The clicker, and its amazing effect on animals, is also what led me at the age of 16 to design a training program for dogs at the same shelter from which I adopted Maggie.

The values that Collegiate Canine is based upon are a reflection of what I've learned through Maggie and all the other dogs I've owned, fostered, or worked with over the years. I believe that:

  • Carefully matching people to their pets, combined with training that emphasizes two–way communication over one–way commands, is our best shot at reducing owner relinquishments at animal shelters where needs far outstrip capacity.
  • Enjoying and learning from our dogs — not just living parallel lives with them — is every owner's deepest desire. I've worked with my own dogs in search and rescue, schutzhund, disc dog, dock dog, and other forms of competition and training, and the relationship we've forged as a result is incredible.

And so Miss Maggie Mae is the "face" of Collegiate Canine. She was with me through my transition from high school to college. She helped me explore Washington, DC, as a young intern, and accompanied me down the aisle at my wedding. She was a true confidant and teacher. Because of her, I learned about many different training methods, holistic medicine, dog sports, and the joy in hiking a trail with your best friend.

It's been an amazing journey … and one that continues through my work with all those who seek true communication, not just 'obedience,' with their dogs.

Erin James–Crook
Owner & Head Instructor, Collegiate Canine


In Memory of Miss Maggie Mae
5/12/99 — 8/19/10


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