My Story: So, About Those Dogs
By Renee Foose
They say that it takes curiosity, a willingness to talk to people, and research skills to be a good journalist. If that’s the case, then perhaps I found my second calling – second, because after 30 years as a school bus driver turned educator, I retired. I went back for graduate study here at Maryland, grateful for a storybook career, but ready for different challenges.
So, as I was walking the campus at the start of my journalism program, I noticed quite a few students with dogs, one very much like my own beloved Australian Shepherd, Tilly. And I got thinking.
But first, a little background on me. As the youngest of eight children, college was not an option for me financially. I had to go to work after high school, even though, my goal was to become a biology teacher – combining my love of science with working with young people. To gain experience in an educational environment, I drove a school bus while taking classes at a local community college. After a year, I became a school administrative assistant, eyes still set on becoming a teacher.
I finished my course work at the community college and enrolled at Towson University as a part-time student, while working as a Maryland State Trooper. While this was a slight detour from my original plans, it did provide me with amazing experiences – working with people, resolving complex issues, and building community. Throughout this time, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and started my Master’s.
After six years with the State Police, I graduated with an MBA while also earning my teaching credentials. My dream was finally materializing, and I accepted a position as a high school science teacher. I taught biology, physics, forensic science, and earth science, and loved every moment with students in the classroom. Eventually, I became an assistant principal and then principal. Students continued to be at the center of every decision we made, and the schools, I had the privilege of leading, became high performing. Colleagues, schools and school systems shared these values and this lead to greater responsibilities - eventually as the superintendent of one of the largest school systems in Maryland.
Then it was time to let go. And focus on the people, and activities I neglected for many years – my dog, family, vacations, sleep, culinary classes, just to name a few. Tilly coincidentally entered her last year of life. She was my faithful running partner for more than 12 years. She never said ‘no’ to going for a run no matter what the weather. She was high energy and she kept me motivated – there were many days I was tired after long hours, still, she reminded me that it was time to exercise. Her spirit was gentle and everybody loved her, including the strangers who met her.
Tilly was also way smarter than me. I was always a worker, and Tilly was my alter ego – to her things came naturally. If dogs could take the SATs, Tilly would have outscored me by a longshot. So, having a pet then saying goodbye to one opened me up to seeing the universe through a different filter. And while I am not quite ready for a new dog, I am highly sensitized to people with dogs, even strangers, that cross my path. And Maryland’s campus has been no exception.
Going to back to where this story started, I ended up striking up a conversation with one of the students with dogs. She walking a young lab, and I wondered why. It turned out this dog was a part of the Guide Dog Foundation’s UMD Chapter. The student happened to be one of a handful of volunteers who first train the roughly 22 current pups before sending them off to their own ‘dog graduate school,’ and eventually to work with disabled individuals.
And this topic ended up as the first piece I ever wrote for my program. As I hone my craft in the coming years, I hope stories will continue to bump into me as this one did, and maybe Education will gain another passionate voice through the written word.
More information about Renee Foose can be found here.
(Photo Credit: Free Google image/Baltimore Sun)