In honor of Sophia Yin: Practice Fear Free

There are no words to express the loss that dog training community feels as we try to understand the world without Dr. Sophia Yin. For some of us it is important to understand how or why Dr. Yin died and as we learn those details we may feel even more confused about what happened. How could someone who had so much to offer, the respect and admiration of so many, take their own life?

The thing is no matter how hard we try we can’t ever really walk in another person’s shoes. We can guess, but we don’t really know what that person is feeling. All we can do now is to be the best friend, sister, mother, daughter, brother, etc.. that we can be. The message that Dr. Yin sent over and over again keeps running through my head: let’s help dogs live in a fear free world. My hope is that each one of us will take a few extra minutes each day to help each other live in a fear free world too. It really doesn’t take much to help someone, but doing nothing isn’t an option. Help your friends and loved ones.  Help a stranger. Let’s practice being fear free and help make the world a safer place for everyone.

Often how we see ourselves is very different from how others sees us. It can be hard to imagine how someone that we think is amazing, talented, etc may not see themselves the same way we do.

If we were to meet today and I described to you how you look it is a safe bet that my description would not match the way you describe yourself.  Why? Because all too often we don’t see the beauty within ourselves. Quite simply we are too critical of ourselves. We give breaks and understanding to others, but are not so kind to ourselves.

The  Huffington Post did a wonderful story about “The Beauty Within” that clearly shows us that we don’t see ourselves the way that others see us. Listen to the descriptions that the strangers give of the people they meet. People said things like “nice eyes that light up” but when the person described herself she said “I have a big forehead.”  Watch the video and you will see how important it is that we need to be kinder to ourselves. The message is clear  – we need to be kind to ourselves and find the beauty within. The beauty is there and others see it – we need to see it too.

There is an interesting Ted Talk “The power of vulnerability” by Brené Brown. This was challenging talk for me to watch and yet very enlightening. It is important for us to remember that we are worthy and that it is okay to be vulnerable.  Here is what I took away from the talk:

  • People who feel worthy know that are loved and that they belong – this is a truth for them – there is no doubt.
  • They have a sense of courage
  • They are compassionate to themselves
  • They are authentic
  • They embrace vulnerability (versus fear it)

In this talk Brené Brown takes us through her research to explain the importance of loving with our whole heart even though there are no guarantees.  At the end she encourages us to “practice gratitude and joy.”

As I write this I am surrounded by my dogs. Literally. Ella is perched (but asleep) on the back of the sofa, Charlie is sleeping on one side of me and Jade is on the other – I’m surrounding by a doggie cocoon of warmth and love.  As I look around I am reminded how freely dogs give us their hearts.  When I come home I am always greeted by a mad mess of dogs – they are so excited to see me. You would think I’d left them forever – not just gone to check the mail! Of course I get the same greeting when I’m gone for hours. Dogs practice gratitude and joy every moment of every day.  It is a lesson that many of us need to be reminded of from time to time.

Back to Sophia Yin, on a personal note, I will always be grateful to her and her work. In particular I am thankful for the illustrations that she created with Lili Chin. I loved it that she distributed the illustrations for free so that many people could learn about so many different things with their dogs. Dr Yin’s illustrations sparked my interest in collaborating with Lili. The truth of it is that we may never know how we touch another person’s life.

The result of the influence that she had on my life  is that last year I received a grant to develop educational materials and illustrations for animal assisted interventions. I have been working with Lili Chin to create the illustrations which I hope to publish in the near future. I might have chosen Lili to my illustrator without seeing the work she did for Dr. Yin, but maybe not. I am sorry that I never got the opportunity to tell Dr. Yin how her work helped me and in turn will help others.

Many of us owe a host of gratitude to Dr. Yin for so many reasons. I would like to thank her for working so hard to make the world a place where dogs didn’t have to live in fear.



My wish for everyone today is that you do something that helps another being live their life fear free …it only takes a moment to make a difference.