• CPS - Joshua Shanley

    Three Things I Learned From My Canine Partner That I've Applied to My Pursuit of Higher Education

     By Joshua Shanley, Adjunct Faculty for Kaplan University's Public Safety Programs 

    Scully loved to work and she loved to play. To her, they were one and the same. I adopted her when she was 8 months old after she "failed" to make it as a competitive show dog. Her gait gave her a bounce that was unacceptable in the ring but just demonstrated the joy she felt as she strutted about proudly and carefree while we worked hard toward our goals. After years of basic training with obedience and agility, we took on the challenges of the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Scully was my canine partner during our 4 year stint with the Massachusetts USAR Task Force (MATF-01). 

    Work hard. Play hard. 

    Scully’s reward for working was playing with a pull toy. It was a simple system but one she loved. Blistering heat or freezing cold, we worked (or did we play?) with abandon. I learned that this blurring of the work/play line can be so powerful. It's been said that if you are lucky enough to find a job you love you never work another day in your life. I experienced this through my calling in the fire service. Every day is different and brings something new. Combining my education with the job has given me the chance to explore the field at a level I'd never thought possible. 

    Immerse yourself.

    Scully and I spent a great deal of time training—40 hours a week was average—and sometimes I would drive her 1,000 miles in a month to various classes. I was like a canine soccer mom! This level of commitment seems daunting only when I look back. Our time was a whirlwind of challenges that we took on and built upon to reach the next. The more we accomplished, the more opportunities opened up to us—as it is with continuing my education. As I continue to learn, the opportunities to apply that knowledge have appeared and I take them on and they lead to the next opportunity. By immersing myself in this process, I have developed a confidence to take on the next challenge. 

    Dwell in possibility.

    Scully was never quite sure what was over the next hill, around the next bend, or down the narrow, dark tunnel I sent her to check. But she took on each task with the expectation that she'd be successful and whether it led to a "find" or not, it was a positive experience. This is the same observation I made that there are no guarantees when taking on the challenges of higher education. I was not exactly certain where I'd end up as I completed each academic challenge I took on, but I was confident that it would lead me to success in one form or another—and I continue to be inspired by the possibilities open to me because of my education. 

    Scully was never deployed on a FEMA mission, although after we left the team we did work quite a few wilderness searches at the local level and made one notable find of two lost 10-year-old girls who spent a long, cold night in the woods. It never mattered to her whether we were "really" working, training, or just out for a walk. 

    Much of what I learned from Scully I have applied to my education. It is something of a leap of faith to take on yet another commitment. Work, family, personal life, and hobbies all must somehow miraculously shift to make room for study time. Unclear at the outset and only confirmed in hindsight, my education has led me from one amazing challenge to the next in the same way I'd chase Scully when she caught a scent: fast and furious and full of passion. 

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