A little more about my story...
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate

I've found that a huge part of dog training is trust - trust between yourself and your dog, of course, but also trust between you and me. It's important for me to build relationships with the individuals and families that I help, so that I can modify my training plans and suggestions to fit their needs, and so that they feel safe sharing their challenges and mishaps with me so we can make adjustments and improvements as we work together. And then we can start celebrating our successes! I have many former clients that still text me about the joyful moments they have with their dogs, and all the ways that their dogs manage to surprise them with their progress. So let's build trust by getting to know each other a bit. Here are some tidbits about me:


I grew up in the redwoods of Northern California, and went to college at the University of California in Santa Cruz. I got my BA in Literature (with an emphasis on Creative Writing), and am a big reading/writing nerd to this day.


After college, and a little pondering, I spent six months traveling across the country in a van with my best friend. Along the way, we found and took in a little orange kitten that became our travel companion. At the end of the journey, my aunt adopted him, and he is still thriving with her today! It was also during this journey that I decided to find a way to work with animals.


I got my start working with dogs at an Unleashed by Petco store, because as a broke recent college grad I needed to find a way to start learning about dogs that was going to pay (at least a little). That's how I paid my way through the Karen Pryor Academy. Once I got that certification, I began my own small doggy daycare and training business in my hometown, on my dad's small sustainable farm. I met many dogs through my daycare that I still have relationships with and visit when I am in town.


During that time, I decided to pursue my Family Paws license. I knew I wanted to start a family, and I felt it was important to better understand the dog/baby and dog/child dynamics that I'd be encountering. I also began working at the Humane Society of Sonoma County, both on staff working with shelter dogs, and teaching classes to the public. I left the daycare business to get more into the shelter world, and to continue to focus on providing private training services.


This year has brought a LOT of changes into my life. My husband and I recently relocated from the North Bay to Sacramento. I found out I was pregnant with our first baby just before the move, and began a new job at the Sacramento SPCA. I'm due in January.


I often say that my dogs have been my greatest teachers (although I've had some pretty wonderful human teachers, too). Koa, my husky-mix, had separation anxiety when I got her from an Craigslist ad at nine months old. She's an incredibly smart dog, full of contradictions, and my best friend. She's worked through a lot of her separation issues, but will always be a little concerned about my whereabouts. At the same time, she's fiercely independent and absolutely aloof to most new people.


Muchacho was our "foster fail." Shortly after bringing him home, it became clear that Koa was incredibly bonded to him, so I like to joke that we "got our dog a dog." Muchacho, aka Mooch (and many other nicknames), is a former Tijuana street dog, and did not have any concept of safety in his earliest months. He is reactive to both new people and new dogs. He's come a long way but will always need some management in his life. In contrast to aloof, independent Koa, Muchacho is a 60lb lap dog with no concept of personal space.


We also live with a Siamese snow-show cat named Dylan (aka Dylan the Girl Cat) who found my husband and demanded to be taken home. She's an adventurous, hilarious, and highly social cat that also enjoys clicker training.


Aside from dogs and books, I love being outdoors and LEARNING! I am always looking for my next educational opportunity, and am currently taking Dr. Susan Friedman's Living and Learning with Animals course in behavior analysis.


So that's a bit about me - who are you? I'd love to learn a little about you and your animals. Comment below!