Dog trainer Bria Tiro insists that working with dogs is only one part of her job.
She spends more time working with the people who live with those dogs, she says. And those people are often stressed out, confused and in need of someone to calmly explain to them the best way to handle a challenging situation.
So when she launched her dog training business, she discovered that the six and a half years she had spent as a 911 call taker for the Boston Police Department were the perfect preparation.
“At Boston police, I learned a lot about myself,” Tiro told GBH News. “I learned how to be patient. I learned how to be calm. I learned how to communicate with people. And, you know, that was a skill that I needed.... Believe it or not, I have people who come in here that are panicked because they don't know what to do with their dog.”
Watch Bria Tiro’s story:
Tiro, 29, began her career as a 911 call taker in 2015 after graduating from Emmanuel College with a degree in criminal justice.
Answering those calls was something Tiro used to love.
“I love helping people in general,” she said. “It’s something that I feel good about. It’s very rewarding. I thought just being able to be there for people during their worst days and moments was a special thing. I loved being the voice on the other end of the line when somebody was really needing somebody to help them.”
Tiro worked 4 p.m. to midnight, which she says was the busiest shift, with many of the more traumatic calls.
“A lot of the calls that you get are similar, but there are calls that stick with you forever,” she said. “You'll never forget the tone of the person's voice and the panic that they were going through.”
Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit. She still got the usual calls about car accidents and shootings. But, she said, she noticed a change.
“I would say that the pandemic definitely had an increase on domestic calls, whether they were intimate or not intimate, whether it be relationships or friends or families because, you know, people aren’t leaving the house,” she said. “And so they were pent up.”
COVID-19 also changed things on her end of the phone.
Even before the pandemic, she said, they were short-staffed, and call takers could be asked to stay for an extra eight-hour shift, if needed.
“And then the pandemic hit and people were calling out left and right, whether it was because they were exposed or they had COVID,” she said. “I mean, there just were not enough bodies to sit in chairs and take 911 calls, and because of that, we had to be held over way more than normal. And it truly just became exhausting.”
"There just were not enough bodies to sit in chairs and take 911 calls. ... And it truly just became exhausting."
Tiro got COVID herself last winter, and was out of work for a couple of weeks. The virus, she said, spread quickly among her colleagues all sitting in the same 911 call center.
“When I went back to work, everyone was taking turns with it. And what was mostly scary is that people were most likely getting it from each other and then we were taking it home to our families.”
Her feelings about the job she’d loved started to change, she said.
“I can’t really pinpoint when it was, but I know I just didn’t feel the same anymore,” she said. “I know I still love to help people. But I wasn’t feeling joy anymore.”
Increasingly, the joy she needed was coming from somewhere else.
Over the years that she worked with the Boston Police, Tiro worked a side job as a dog walker. She loves dogs, and initially just thought it would be good to have something to get her out of bed earlier. But the side gig grew into something more.
“It was my passion,” she said. “I loved it. But I needed more, and I wasn’t sure what that more was.”
She started going to workshops about dogs and learning about dog psychology.
“And then it hit me,” she said. “One day I was in my bathroom getting ready for work at BPD and I said, ‘I’m going to be a dog trainer.’”
She’d been watching dog trainer Cesar Millan’s show “The Dog Whisperer” for years, and knew she wanted to learn from him.
“I found a workshop that he was hosting, and I took my vacation time from work at Boston Police and I went to California,” she said. “And that is where my eyes were truly opened and my heart decided right then and there: this is where you belong. You need to be working with dogs and their owners every single day for the rest of your life.”
Now, that’s exactly what she’s doing at her own business, Training With Bria, which she launched in 2018. Eventually, she had enough clients that she could quit her job at BPD in May 2021.
In one-on-one sessions and group classes, she helps people understand their dogs’ psychology and how to most effectively communicate and interact with them.
“I literally don’t have a day off and I’m happy about it,” she said. “The best part of this job, if I can even call it a job, is seeing the difference in communication and a more positive way between human and canine. I mean, it’s just a beautiful thing.”
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