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  • Writer's pictureDenise K. Jacobs

People I Meet Along the Way

"How far we travel in life matters far less than those we meet along the way" (Mark Twain).

One day while walking through Mary Fox Park, I stopped and talked to a young woman who was with her dog, River, the dog with the brown face behind Biscuit in the big picture above. The four of us walked and talked together for five or six blocks. As fortune would have it, she--Natalie Shapiro Gustafsson--lived a block away from me. Both steady dog walkers, we had never seen each other before. Natalie told me recently that she had been in a bad mood that day and decided to go for a walk. I"m so glad she did!

It turns out that Natalie is a certified dog trainer. She has studied at the Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, California; the Animal Behavior College, also in Santa Clarita; and with Jennifer Gray at Sunny Day Acres in Agua Dulce. Natalie specializes in working with maladjusted dogs, and while I hate to label Biscuit as maladjusted, his separation anxiety is pretty severe. He has eaten into a foam mattress, tipped over a wicker dresser, destroyed my wooden Spanish shutters, and pulled down curtain after curtain. When I met Natalie, I had just committed myself to a long-term substitute teacher gig, and I was worried.

I was looking for someone to break up Biscuit's day with a walk. Natalie agreed to do that for us, but she did so much more, and I am forever grateful to her for allowing me to return to work after my pseudo-retirement.

While I worked, Natalie, who is now running her own business--Rock Dog (where every dog is a rock star)--introduced Biscuit to her small pack of hiking dogs and the New Mexico mountains. Biscuit practiced his social skills while tagging along on Natalie's errands--to the coffee shop, the bank, the pet store. She often sends me a photograph or a video along with an update of the day's events. All of the photos below are courtesy of Natalie.

I couldn't be more grateful for the magical timing of our meeting.

Things have a way of working out.

Photos by Natalie Shapiro Gustafsson

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