Patricia Bean McConnell (B.S.’81, M.S.’84, PhD’88, Zoology) of Black Earth, Wisconsin, is an internationally renowned zoologist and certified applied animal behaviorist who specializes in canine aggression. For 25 years, she was also a beloved UW–Madison adjunct associate professor who taught The Biology and Philosophy of Human–Animal Relationships.
McConnell heads McConnell Publishing, gives presentations around the world, writes for publications, makes TV appearances, and was the longtime cohost of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Calling All Pets. She has also written or coauthored 14 books, including The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do around Dogs and For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.
As she shares in her latest witty, powerful, and even humorous work — The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog — it wasn’t only her canine clients who had problems: for decades she had secretly struggled with guilt, shame, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder rooted in sexual assault and other traumas during her youth.
Frequent, unpredictable outbreaks of fear and rage exhibited by Will, a young border collie whom McConnell was training, triggered her PTSD symptoms and shook her profoundly. But to save the dog from his dangerous behavior, she vowed to face her past and find her will to reclaim her life. She learned that willpower alone cannot overcome trauma, but healing is possible through hard work, compassion, and mutual devotion.
Commenting on the response to her inspiring memoir, McConnell told Madison’s Isthmus that she hopes every reader “comes away feeling empowered, and knowing that with the right support, both people and dogs can heal from almost anything.”
Story originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of On Wisconsin Magazine.