Memorial to Dr. Sophia Yin

On September 29, 2014 I learn of Dr Sophia Yin’s death. I was shocked and in complete disbelief. I texted a friend the news and she was so shocked she wrote back “what do you mean” and all I could answer was, “like DEAD”. Shortly there after it was made public that she had committed suicide, more shock and disbelief.

I did not know Dr Yin, but at the same time I felt like I did. I’ve spent a week and a half mulling over what it could do to memorialize her. I decided the best thing was to list all of the ways my training has been colored by her work. So here goes…

The next morning I went out and walked my Burnham Terrier, Bueller. Bueller currently is working on some dog to Bueller on a walkdog reactivity issues (thanks Dr Yin). So Bueller goes on walks wearing a Gentle Leader head collar (thanks Dr Yin), and being walked using a Buddy System waist leash (thanks Dr Yin). I have my clicker (thanks Dr Yin) and treat bag (thanks Dr Yin) ready for training. It was a solemn walk on a grey dreary morning.

Two days after her death, I hosted a new student orientation. In our orientation packets I have two handout from Dr Yin’s website. The first is the Body Language handout (thanks Dr Yin). The second is the Learn to Earn (thanks Dr Yin) handout. While we go over the handouts I have my dog Dara on a Buddy System leash, tethered to me (thanks Dr Yin). I am rewarding her with her dinner (thanks Dr Yin) and demonstrating Say Please by sitting (thanks Dr Yin). Then when Dara was done demonstrating she started working on emptying a Foobler food toy (thanks Dr Yin), which she loved. At every other orientation I point people in the direction of Dr Yin’s website, which is listed at the bottom of the handout. This time instead I took a deep breath looked to my friend who nodded approval and went on. I managed not to cry.

A day later I am working with a new client who has a fearful, overwhelmed rescue dog who has snapped at the mother-in-law. This new client has two younger children who love the dog, sometimes a little too much. One of the things the client left with was Dr Yin’s handout on how to interact with a dog and how not to interact with a dog (thanks Dr Yin). The owner was thrilled with such a clear way to explain things to her kids.

Then that Friday Rizzo, my American Water Spaniel (AWS) needed to have stitches removed from her ear. (That’s another story for another day!) Rizzo is a very friendly dog, like ridiculously so, until you try and restrain her. The vet office who was removing the stitches is not our regular office but was the one who stitched her up. Which means I have to explain that she might try and bite them if she is not handled properly. Quickly, I show the tech Rizzo’s chin target (thanks Dr Yin) and hand her a bag of bacon jerky (thanks Dr Yin). Rizzo is perfect, no issues, (thanks Dr Yin) and is given a clean bill of health. Thanks to Dr Yin’s Low Stress Handling training (thanks Dr Yin) that the staff has done they did not “undo” my years of training with Rizzo.

This is just four days worth of training and teaching and look how my world is made better by Dr Yin’s teachings. I wish I could tell her, as I know many trainers wish they could now too. Sadly we can’t but we can have her life’s passion live on through our training. Also we can continue to share her teachings through her videos, website and excellent handouts.

Dr Yin’s work was amazing, and I am incredibly grateful for her generosity and talent and I will happily spread her desire for dogs and cats to life a happier life. Thank you Dr Yin, thank you.

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