An Inspirational Partnership

There are things in life that give you breath and there are things in life that take it away.

Occasionally, you have the rare privilege to have both of those experiences in one brief meeting.

That was my dog Tommy.

My heart dog.

A single being that made my eyes light up and always caused the curve of my mouth to melt into a smile. The dog that gave me courage and joy, laughter and frustration. A dog that taught me about who I was and who I wanted to become.

Tom came to me at seven months old. When I picked him up at O’hare airport he popped out of his crate full of bounce, spirit, and enthusiasm. A young, male Malinois who hit the end of the leash and proceeded to mangle the first plastic soda bottle he saw lying in the street.

My first thought was “this is a good sign”. After coming off of a three hour flight and the chaos that transporting a dog via air involves, he’s got nothing more on his mind than “what can we play with?”


He loaded back up into the crate with little resistance and we began the drive home to Hazel Green, WI.  Occasionally, I’d look over my shoulder at him, and he just looked back with that stupid, seven month old grin on his face asking “what can we play with?”

My intention was to not get “too attached”. In the 12 months previous I’d been through several Mals looking for the “just right dog”. A dog that could be on the road with me for my work, and handle the pressure of constantly changing circumstances. One that could be trusted around kids, lay his head on an old person’s lap, sink his teeth into the bad guys, or put on a flawless show of tricks and acrobatic feats in front of a crowd.

I didn’t want to get too attached because, first and foremost, this dog needed to be a tool for my trade. He needed to be a performance dog and live up to my expectations of that. If he could be a family pet also…well, I knew that would be almost too much to expect.

When he arrived his name was; “Happy”. I knew that really wasn’t going to work for me. While it may have fit him…it didn’t fit me or what I hoped this dog would turn into.

There just didn’t seem to be a lot of dignity in the name Happy….but I didn’t want to overthink the process of coming up with something new. You can curse yourself if you’re not careful in naming a dog. I’ve known too many that either lived up to the wrong name like “Demon”, or fell far short of grandiose names. Too much thought put into it and it just might bite you in the butt.

So his name needed to be simple and I wanted to decide before I reached home.

Destiny intervened as it often does. My favorite artist came on the radio just as we passed through the last toll booth, Tom Petty.

Of course I turned up the volume and looked at this dog and he still had the stupid grin on his face. And he confirmed, “Yeah, I’m cool with the name Tom.”

That was our beginning.

But, remember, I wasn’t going to get that attached.

So we trained, and we trained, and we trained some more. Every day, every distraction, every situation we could conceive we worked through together and became a team.

Together we traveled a good portion of the United States and Canada. In short order he got “bed” privileges. He made me feel safe when we walked together in strange cities. He dazzled crowds, and was the star of my first two videos. Tom was a patient participant all the times I dressed him silly for marketing photos, and he was the inspiration for thousands of words worth of articles. He played with anyone who would interact with him and pestered both young and old until they relented and tossed the ball just One More Time.

Tom made me better. A better trainer, a better pet owner, a better person. It wasn’t just me that he affected, people all over the globe told me how amazing he was and how they felt a connection with him and with me from watching us work together. Somehow Tommy and I inspired people to put in the work and build something amazing with their own dogs.

And 13.2 years later and more performances, videos, blogs, photos, writing inspirations than I can ever count up…there is Tommy in everything I’ve grown to be.

In his retirement years, he stepped aside with complete grace and let a flashy little redhead take his place without an ounce of resentment. He took over the job of keeping my husband busy at home on his days off from the fire department. He forced him to throw the ball again, or tug just one more time, or allow a few more minutes sniffing and peeing at the corner. Even his pet sitters could not deny him and joked about their willingness to always make time for just one more…

On our last night together, I slept on the floor to stay near him. I had him loaded up on pain relief and despite being a bit loopy, he stayed present with me and I with him. We just looked at one another and he kept that stupid grin on his face to assure me I’d make the right decision on the timing of setting him free. He was ready to move on and I could not ask him to stay longer for my benefit.

Tommy affected a lot of people. He was just the right dog for me.

And he always was, and always will be,


I love you Tom. Until I can catch up, find someone to throw that green ball for you. 🙂

Get your dog business sailing again!

Professional Dog Trainers, is it time to hit the refresh button on your career?

Have you been struggling with burn out and you’re ready for some vacation time?

Do you feel like your business could be doing better but you’re just not sure how to get there?

Then join me for this Education at Sea event! This is the second time I’ll be cruising the Caribbean with the goal of helping you realize your true potential in the training profession. The last time we sailed, we accomplished some amazing things. Yes, we went zip lining in the rain forest, shared camaraderie over food and drink and snorkeled with the sea turtles, but we also dedicated ourselves to focusing on how to build a better business. The feedback I got as a result was pretty astounding. Here is just one example:

I sailed with Robin on her first voyage aboard the Celebrity Constellation. The ship was amazing, and the amount of time we had to enjoy it was perfect. The seminar Robin put on was well thought out and useful in helping me realize ways I could set goals for my business that would help me to stay on track and succeed.  After the cruise, I was able to achieve my financial goals in 6 months!  I was also able to finally make a decision on an idea I had had for my business for at least two years, but kept waffling on. Shortly after coming home from the cruise I set the idea in motion and it came to fruition a month later. 

Now, I’m again looking forward to continued success in my business thanks, in large part, to Robin MacFarlane.    

Carolyn Weinbaum – The Developing Canine, Columbus, GA

dog trainer workshop
Creating Big Plans

If you are ready to create similar results, then join me for this training event; Charting a New Course: Creating Success on Your Terms. We will be departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Nov 5th for a 6 night cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of Seas. Our two mornings at Sea will be spent in a workshop setting laying out YOUR individual plan for growth. The ports of call will provide opportunity for adventure as we visit Grand Cayman, Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel.

dog trainer workshop
Our snorkeling guide!
dog trainer workshop
Chatting with other dog people in Cozumel!

Afternoons and evenings are free time for you to enjoy with your traveling companions or network with the other dog pros embarked on this journey. You will have time to relax, rejuvenate and explore what the next steps should be in your business strategy.

Bill Wittrock is our host. As a retired dog pro and experienced traveler, Bill is the perfect person to guide us on this excursion. Cabin fares start at $361.00 per person based on double occupancy so this is a very affordable get-away. Contact Bill via email at or 440-567-1082 for all details regarding the cruise and associated fees.

For any questions about the workshop sessions email If your ready to register for this exclusive continuing education event, sign up now! I’ll see you on board!!  Deposits MUST be made by end of April in order to reserve a cabin on board the ship.

dog trainer workshop