I’m Colleen Pelar and I was a dog trainer for over 25 years. After reaching a breaking point between compassion fatigue and burnout, I left the field to pursue a career that paid the bills, but didn’t weigh on my heart.
(I delivered presentations on behavior and psychology to government agencies…. Uhhnfulfilling, but hey, I didn’t cry at the end of the day!)
When I returned, I made the decision to do things differently.
You see, for most people their job is just a job. It’s a way to earn a living, and while hopefully they enjoy it, they don’t see their job as a fulfillment of their purpose.
Pet professionals are different; we choose our professions because we feel called to work with animals.
And because our careers DO feel like an expression of our purpose, when it comes to caring for animals better than we take care of ourselves, the lines get a little blurry.
Blend that with the fact that many pet professionals work for themselves, which means there aren’t traditional constraints like “working hours,” and you have a recipe for burnout.
And this needs to change.
Pet professionals need to learn how to take care of their own physical, mental, and emotional needs BEFORE they can do the work they are meant to do with the animals that they love.
Consider this - if a dog hasn’t had a decent meal, has matted fur, and been run ragged, would you expect her to be able to focus during a training session? Nope, her body is in survival mode and her ability (and desire) to concentrate are pretty much nonexistent.
If YOU are not sleeping well, you’re surviving on granola bars in your car, and you’re allowing clients to book you whenever is convenient for THEM, your body is already in survival mode, and your mental and emotional health are suffering as a result.
This is why I developed the Behavior Mod Plan for Pet Professionals, a five-layer skills, tools, and support required for crafting a life you love. It looks like this:
Your job is to be a creative problem solver, so first you've got to take care of your own health and energy to be able to perform at the best of your ability.
Next, you'll establish some effective boundaries and identify your core values, which will help you make decisions that set you up for success (and cut a lot of the crap out of your life).
Then, you'll develop and nurture supportive relationships with people who believe in your gifts, celebrate your accomplishments, and remind you of your strengths when you stumble. And the relationship that will improve the most is the one you have with yourself!
With these pieces in place, you'll have more energy and bandwidth for the things you've been wanting to do. The someday wishes, the projects that light you up, the ideas that seem both silly and amazing, the experiences you've always wanted to have. You're going to tap into your desires again. Fun is coming back!
There's no finish line, of course, because life is a continual state of growth and discovery. You'll notice as you consistently meet your needs at each level of the pyramid, you'll have the resources you need to better support others. You'll be the one who can lend a helping hand when others struggle.
At every stage, you'll be developing greater self-awareness and self-compassion. You'll have a deeper, kinder relationship with yourself and with everyone you encounter.
Here on my website you will find how I help my clients develop the skills, practice with tools, and surround themselves with support so they can work their way UP the pyramid and do the work they feel called to do and enjoy every minute (okay, not every minute, but most of them).
Sr. National Director, Program Development, Pet Partners
If you haven’t heard Colleen Pelar present, you’re missing out! Banish the days of monotone speakers in a darkened room boring everyone to tears. Colleen is a passionate educator with a great presentation style that’s engaging, relatable, and fun. You’ll learn and almost certainly laugh out loud. I’ve heard her speak in multiple venues from a horse barn to a state-of-the-art conference center and regardless of whether she’s talking to 10 people or 200, she is a master at connecting with her audience and energizing the room. I recommend her wholeheartedly!