We chatted with Terri about working with animals at the MSPCA!
What was your program at Simmons and what is your current job title?
My program was applied behavior analysis. I'm the Director of Behavior Services at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA).
Tell us about your work with the MSPCA.
I have a clinical practice — seeing problem cats and dogs with their owners. I also supervise the 35 classes a week we offer to the public in dog obedience, agility, etc. and I'm very involved with the daily lives of the dogs in the shelter. The MSPCA is a stand-alone organization that takes in any homeless animal that is surrendered, so helping all the dogs to adjust to not having a home, be properly trained by our staff and volunteers and go to the right adoptive home is another great part of my job. I'm very fortunate to have a great behavior staff of 3 training coordinators, 5 dog training instructors and a veterinary behaviorist resident, not to mention 200 amazing volunteers in our "Safewalk" program!
What's a typical day like at your job?
I have behavior plans to write, staff to confer with and interns to help with ongoing research in the shelter. Sometimes, I get to actually train a dog or a cat.
What's the most rewarding part of your work?
I love the bi-species challenge of teaching a person to change an animal's behavior. When you get it right, an animal gets a new home and/or an owner carries out a behavior plan correctly and the animal's behavior changes for the better.
What inspired you to begin training dogs?
I had a Bull terrier named Fanny and wanted to do agility with her. I didn't get the memo that you should get a border collie — a dog that is motivated by what their owner wants —and had a wonderful little terrier who ran around like a nut on the agility course with no indication she had ever been taught the sport. Training her to be the top agility Bull terrier gave me some chops. I then adopted a fear-aggressive dog and that gave me more training experience. I was hooked.
What kind of dog do you have?
I currently have one Bull terrier, Radio. He was the subject of my award-winning research and is wicked smart. I call him my "grad-school dog."
What's your Simmons moment?
It was a long moment of knowing that my professors were behaviorists, so would help me to succeed in my studies.