This One-on-One interview is with Corey Brown, a kennel and tech assistant who has worked at HousePaws for over four years. Corey came to HousePaws with a lot of dog training and pet sitting experience, and has been a wonderful asset to the HousePaws family. Ever the renaissance man, his talents also include acting and playing the saxophone. In this One-On-One interview, we’ll get to know Corey a little bit better as a person, and find out what other skills he’s hiding up his sleeve.
Q: Corey, before you worked for HousePaws, you were a certified dog trainer and a pet sitter. How did these jobs, and working with some more troubled pets, prepare you for the success you’ve had at HousePaws?
A: The biggest help I think for me has been working with animals outside of a vet setting. In my training to become a dog trainer, I was taught how to safely and confidently work with dogs by being able to understand their needs and behavior. I was able to apply this training extensively as a pet sitter. I worked with a handful of, as you put it, “more troubled pets.” For some of these pets, really only I was able to work with them because I had gotten so familiar with their idiosyncrasies. That being said, it has carried over to HousePaws in the sense I have this knowledge I can apply here. Though I think there is still so much I have to learn and I am constantly striving to improve my knowledge and skill set.
Q: You have also volunteered at Penn Vet Working Dog Center. What was it like to work with working dogs in areas such as “search and rescue” and “medical alert”?
A: Oh man, this was my favorite volunteer experience, and probably the best six months ever…going to Philly every Friday by train at the crack of dawn when the PVWDC opened and staying all day. Working with the USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) dogs was phenomenal; knowing that I was helping to train these glorious creatures was a real highlight for me. Sometimes I would spend hours in a concrete block, or between walls in a tiny shaft, playing the “victim.” It was such an accomplished feeling being able to work with those dogs, and those trainers who had so much information and experience to share. I did not do as much work with the medical alert dogs as far as their training was concerned. I think the biggest take away for me from Penn was working the police dogs when they were doing bite work training. That has been invaluable and has saved me from being seriously injured while working at HousePaws on a few occasions.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve come across working in the veterinary hospital?
A: Honestly, my biggest challenge really boils down to my eye sight. Being nearsighted as I am, I find myself struggling with small details and depth perception. I compensate, obviously, and I have work arounds. I have to be extra careful reading labels and such, sometimes asking my fellow coworkers to spot check me.
Q: You are also an avid musical theater fan and an actor yourself. We last saw you at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire. Is there anything about theater that helps you with your work?
A: I’d say the biggest thing about theatre and performing that I apply to work and vice versa is the ability to think on my feet, when nothing goes to plan, and how to react and adapt. One of the biggest motto’s or creeds I learned from doing the Ren Faire is “Yes, and…” It means to go that extra mile to keep the customer or patron satisfied, but within reason, because I don’t want to put myself or the patient/customer/patron in any form of harm’s way. Working with animals is a lot like outdoor theatre: you never know quite how it’s going to turn out. You have a plan, but that can get thrown out the window and you have to be able to think on your feet and respond quickly and efficiently.
Q: What are you current career goals? Are you looking to become a certified veterinary technician or veterinarian?
A: My current career goals are indeed to become a CVT, Certified Veterinary Technician, which I am currently in school for, working on my second degree through San Juan College. Once I become a CVT I plan on working to get my specialties in either surgery and/or physical therapy. I also want to become certified in acupuncture like Dr. Lisa and Dr. Dana.
Q: Two years ago you and Dr. Lisa road 80 miles together to the shore for MS. How was bike riding 80 miles with Dr. Lisa?
A: It was a blast! We did not see as much of each other as I thought we would. Usually we checked with each other at the rest stops. I am glad that she invited me to come out and ride with her. It was a unique adventure, and hopefully we’ll do it again!
Q. What prompted you to change careers and apply at HousePaws?
A. The dog training never really took off for me as a career because of my inability to drive and get myself around, being nearsighted as I am. In fact, I became a dog trainer so I could actually become a Service Dog Trainer; however, for years I that door kept getting shut. So in the interim I started working for a local pet sitter. I did that for about three years, but the physical demands proved to be too much. I really couldn’t spend another winter being out in the cold every day on my bike! I started looking for jobs for kennel work, because of my work experience with pet sitting and dog training, and my volunteer Work at Penn Vet Working Dog Center (PVWDC).
I found Housepaws at the Mount Laurel Fall Festival in all honesty by divine intervention. I was between visits while pet sitting and felt compelled to go there. Low and behold, I meet Jessica and a couple others running the HousePaws tent and tell them my situation and they said to send in my resume, and well — the rest is history! Actually, before I was hired by HousePaws, I was offered a job at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ as a service dog trainer assistant. I chose HousePaws because I really loved the company and how all the doors opened and everything went so smoothly.
Q: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to start working in the kennel and vet tech field?
A. My biggest advice is to learn to accept and embrace criticism. Be willing to ABCD and Z, but not in that order, while all at once. Finally, I’d say remember, if you can master the basics then you can be trusted with more responsibility. Also ask questions!