by AMY LEHRER | photos by Soul of Photography

Dog/Human Communicator

Cathy Mayer came to California because the unspeakable happened – her mother died and her sister was injured when a drunk driver crossed a lane and ran into their car three days after her 17th birthday. Her father sold the business he and his wife ran in Wisconsin, moved to California, and opened a new business in Rancho Bernardo. Cathy had difficulty coping due to her shock and anger, but her father hoped she could heal in California.

Life experiences inspired Cathy to train therapy dogs. When her mother died, her “wonder Collie” ran with her and allowed her to cry and hug her. Years later, immediately after her father died of pancreatic cancer, an “angel” dog belonging to a hospice nurse felt her pain and consoled her. Deciding to help others similarly, Cathy obtained two Labradors and had Susan Robertson train them. Cathy interned with Susan, a woman who became her friend and mentor. When Susan died after a six-year battle with cancer, Cathy took over Susan’s dog training. “I have come full circle, from student to teacher, and it is my duty now to continue to pay it forward,” explained Cathy.

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Through puppy classes, obedience classes, and one-on-one training, Cathy teaches humans how to relate to their dogs respectfully and kindly. When clients ask her how they can obtain the power she has over dogs, she tells them they’ll get it when their dogs feel they are worthy. Cathy expressed, “To see each dog and human really connect is why I do what I do!”

Volunteering fulfills Cathy. She recently joined the International Association Canine Professionals Service Dog Committee, volunteers at the California Wolf Center in Julian, and brings two therapy dogs to the San Marcos library monthly to help kids with their reading skills. In addition, she is the volunteer coordinator at Palomar Medical Center for their Palomar Paws Therapy dog program, which was recently featured in HealthSource magazine.

Cathy’s dream is to create Full Circle Farms, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that would allow rescue dogs and veterans to live and work together to heal and build futures. Cathy currently works as a trainer with Next Step Service Dogs whose mission is to empower veterans of war returning with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. Cathy shared, “I just want to make a difference and live a life that will be remembered as not wasted.”


Name: Cathy Mayer
Profession: Certified Professional Dog Trainer,
Owner of Take the Lead Canine Training in Encinitas
Hobbies: Fishing, kayaking, anything to do with dogs or wolves
Favorite Local Spots: Swami’s Realization Center, Sister’s Beach House, and Bier Garden