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Inspiration Time: Work, Life, Pets

Inspiration Time: Work, Life, Pets

Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | July 10, 2018
Senior Editor, ETR

How do you do what you do? How do you keep going? Where do you find your inspiration?

Most of us doing mission-focused work have a range of answers. We connect with family and friends. Read. Exercise. Stay active in a spiritual community. Take long walks on the beach.

As we start up another fiscal year here at ETR, we’re bringing our attention to one very particular source of life lessons and joyous inspiration: our pets. Because sometimes the best lessons we are given come not from the teachers or trainers or mentors who cross our paths. They come with the wag of a tail or the pat of a furry little paw.

I asked ETRians to share a lesson their pet has taught them that they apply in some way in their work lives. Even if you’re not a big animal person, you’ll find some mighty good wisdom in what pets have to teach us.

Stephanie Guinosso and Zoey: Let’s Play!

Stephanie Guinosso is a Senior Research Associate who focuses on adverse childhood experiences, trauma and innovations that promote resiliency and healing.

I want to play!! We rescued Zoey, our pit/lab, as a puppy. She was a vicious little thing who earned us several disdainful glares and comments from our neighbors. Yet with consistent love and structure, we shaped this ferocious pup into the most loyal and loving creature. The same approach can be applied to young people. Safe, stable and nurturing relationships are essential for us all to thrive.

Emily Green and Catalpa: Stay Curious









Emily Green is a Research Associate who works on projects focusing on Equity and Inclusion in STEM.

My wild cat, Catalpa, has taught me to be playful, stay curious, and never settle for less than what you want (or meow a lot about it if you don't get it). As the full saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”

Vignetta Charles and Jozie: Share Around







Vignetta Charles is Chief Executive Officer and a master at encouraging everyone at ETR to step up and share the responsibility for creating an engaged and effective organization.

Our dog Jozie has taught us to share. Here she is patiently letting Adrian use her dog bed.

Laura Perkins, Della and Shadow: Be Flexible and Be Yourself









Laura Perkins is Project Editor, involved in all phases of managing the agency’s editorial content. Able to juggle many projects simultaneously.

Old dogs love new tricks! My older dog Della has taught me so many things. It's really important to be outside every day. Enjoy your food. Howl! But one of the coolest things she taught me was how to be flexible and open and loving when things when a young pup comes to live with you and you sometimes have to share toys and play when you'd rather nap.

Authenticity is noble! My younger dog Shadow has taught me to put my heart into my work. She is completely herself. Always.

Tracy Wright and Ziggy: Sunshine and Style






Tracy Wright is a Project Director and a skilled eLearning and Professional Development specialist. She has a very sunny personality.

Always seek out the sunny spots in life. It's good for your soul.

And always dress for success.

Shannon Campe and Cinnamon: Breathe and Be Curious







Shannon Campe is a Research Associate and Project Manager who focuses on increasing the interest of girls and other less represented groups in computing and STEM.

I sit outside in the morning with my coffee and my laptop and watch Cinnamon sniff, hop and binky (you can look it up) around his enclosure as squirrels come down from trees and fences to check him out.

He reminds me to slow down, breathe, be curious and not be afraid of new things.

Suzanne Schrag and Hopper: Dare to Run











Suzanne Schrag is Editor/Product Manager. She provides editing across all ETR published and in-house titles. She is also series editor for the second edition of HealthSmart, ETR’s comprehensive K-12 health education program. She has more chickens than anyone else I know.

Hopper, one of our chickens, likes to hang out with the flock of wild turkeys that occasionally roam through our neighborhood. Here are five of her life/work lessons:

  1. Be a free-range advocate and think outside the pen.
  2. Get to know your neighbors.
  3. Don’t let the pecking order get you down.
  4. Dare to run with the wild turkeys.
  5. Always come home to roost (and for treats).

Coleen Cantwell, Nico and Max: Take a Moment and Love Life







Coleen Cantwell is Vice President, Business Development. She specializes in federal and state grant and contract fund development.

Sit back and take a moment! Nico reminds me that it's important to sometimes hit pause, sit back, be aware of your surroundings and mindful of the moment. Whether on our front porch or an arm chair by a window (she is partial to chairs in hotels for some reason), she likes to take breaks from playing with her brother or her people and just sit and look out at the world.

Love life! My younger dog Max appreciates life like no other living being I know. He always reminds me to be happy and grateful for all the small and big things in my life.

Laura Norvig and Blake: You Can Do It







Laura Norvig is the Digital Media Strategist, creating ETR’s digital media strategies and supporting all staff to leap on board with the program.

We just got a shelter dog who appears to be a black lab-pit bull mix. Some of the lessons he's teaching that apply to work:

  1. You can and you will.
  2. Consistency is key.
  3. To learn well, use repetition, repetition, repetition.
  4. Create an environment conducive to success.

Liz McDade-Montez, Pumpkin and Chico: Kindness and Patience







Liz McDade-Montez is a Senior Research Associate whose research focuses on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and the influence of media on adolescent health and well-being.

My dogs have taught me so much! Here are just a few of the lessons.

  1. Treats work better than reprimands. If we want something from others, use kindness!
  2. My dogs have their own unique personalities, shaped by their genes and backgrounds. Pumpkin, who was a street dog for awhile, loves to be petted but not to be picked up or held. She likes chasing squirrels and barking at cats. Chico, who has always had a home with humans, loves to be held and carried around in our arms. He likes digging for vermin and barking at other dogs.
  3. Teaching them takes practice, practice, practice and patience, patience, patience! We can't expect others to figure things out right away. We need to put in our own effort for training our teams.
  4. My pups are much happier and calmer when all their needs are met—breakfast, morning walk, play time, being petted and held, warm beds, and being around their human family. And we humans all need these basics to thrive—secure homes, healthy food, exercise, play time and stimulation, and community.
  5. Getting and giving pets benefits everyone. So get your love on!

Amy Peterson and Rudy: Discover the Systems of Support That Work







Amy Peterson is a Project Coordinator whose expertise is in the implementation of sexual health programs for adolescents and capacity-building for adults who work with youth.

Rudy, who was rescued by elementary school kids at recess, reminds me to not make assumptions about environments. Just like in schools, there are visible and invisible ways environments can be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome. As caring adults, it is our job (and privilege) to discover what structures and systems truly support students as they develop into brave, amazing people.

Tamara Kuhn and Daisy: Assume People Will Like You







Tamara Kuhn is a Research Scientist and Vice President of dfusion, inc, a company that develops technology interventions to improve behavioral health outcomes. ETR frequently partners with dfusion on evaluation projects. When it comes to pet stories, Tamara is an honorary ETRian!

I'm an introvert. Even more, I'm shy. These are traits that don't always serve me well at work.

Then along comes Daisy. She's a very cute dog who started out as an extraordinarily cute puppy (yes, I'm biased, but its empirically true). People came up to her and gave her treats and hugs every time she went out into the world.

As a result, she has come to know that there is nothing better than people. She is confident that everyone loves her. Even now, at a little over a year old, she looks expectantly at everyone who crosses her path. She looks up at me, puzzled, when they don’t stop to talk to her or scratch her ear, but then off we go to find the next person she is sure will love her. I have tried (with varying success) to take her attitude with me in work and in life as much as I can: assume people will like you if you just go up to them, and if they don’t the next one will.

You, a Pet, a Lesson

These are the kind of people—and pets—that make it so rewarding to work at ETR. 

And what about you? Do you have a pet you love? A story to tell? A lesson that might benefit us all?

Please share in the comments. We’d love to hear about your lessons (and pets) too!


Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR. She does not currently have a pet, though she has had them in the past. (I still miss you, Ninotchka!) She can be reached at

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