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Occupation: I’m a certified professional dog trainer. I own The Exceptional Pet, and it is the only facility in Fairfield County that has only certified professional dog trainers. I mentored with other trainers that I respected and got independently certified, which included a four-hour test on everything from animal husbandry to the philosophy and science behind dog training to how to run a business ethically. I also did a lot of seminars, and I showed my dogs, too. At the AKC Rally Nationals my Doberman competed and was one of the top 12 in his breed in obedience. I launched The Exceptional Sidekick in January 2016, a nonprofit organization that provides psychiatric services dogs to children and adults with psychiatric disabilities, free of charge. As ambassadors to the organization, we also certify therapy dogs and bring them to schools.
Family: My wonderful husband Steven and I have been together since 1994. My oldest son, Tyler, is 14 years old and is a freshman in high school. My son Connor is 13 years old. He’s in the middle school. They both do the marching band. My daughter Izzy is 10 years old, at Reed [Intermediate School] and is a dancer at Graceful Planet.
Pets: I have three dogs: Dude, a 7-year-old Doberman; Cupcake, an 8-year-old Lab mix, and Stella, a 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier. Everyone thinks that dog trainers’ dogs are perfect, but Dude was attacked by two off-lease dogs at Fairfield Hills and after that incident he came down with pica, an eating disorder where you can’t control what you eat. He also now has OCD, brought on from that attack, and it’s ended his show career. He lives in a muzzle when he’s out of his large crate, because he has had so many stomach surgeries that he won’t survive another one.
How long have you lived in Newtown? Fifteen years. We came because of the schools here.
What do you like to do in your free time? I drive my kids everywhere. I’m definitely a carpool mom. When I’m not doing that, I love taking the service dogs out and talking to people about psychiatric disabilities.
What is your favorite travel destination? I like to go north, because I like the cold weather. My favorite vacation was Alaska. We did a cruise that started in Seattle, and we got to see orca whales. We also saw lumberjack shows, dog sledding, and glaciers that were falling right in front of our eyes.
What is the best thing about Newtown? I love how it feels like a small community and that everywhere you go you know somebody. I makes me feel that my kids are safe when they walk around town, because I know someone’s watching out for them.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life? My golden retriever Millie, because she changed my entire career path. All through college I rode horses professionally, but when she turned 2 years old, out of nowhere, she became really dog aggressive. I was embarrassed and humiliated every time something would happened and scared I wouldn’t be able to take her out and have fun with her. At the time I had broken my arm and couldn’t ride for a while, so I put my focus on helping her. I went to a trainer who specialized in aggression, and I never went back to riding. I got a job with him and kept going and educating myself.
If you could spend the day with one person, who would you choose and why? My parents. They don’t live nearby, so I don’t see them a lot. We used to always go on vacations together, so I’d want to do another.
Do you have a favorite TV show? Friends. It never gets old.
What is your favorite food? My mom’s lasagna. I grew up in West Virginia in a very Sicilian community, and we had the best Italian food.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever been given? Love the dog you have, not the dog you wanted. Also a piece of advice pertaining to kids is to try to say yes more. People are so quick to say no, but if kids are asking, then it probably means something to them.