The sudden passing of Dr. Sophia Yin hit me particularly hard this week. I struggled with that because it was unexpected. Unlike many in the dog training community, I never had the occasion to meet Dr. Yin although I had read her work online and watched some of the videos she had posted. I have a great respect and admiration for her knowledge, her commitment, her passion, and her ability to communicate the sometimes complex concepts of behaviour and learning theory so clearly. The dog world has lost a tremendous resource with the passing of Dr. Yin.
I learned of Dr. Yin’s passing through social media, a place where lots of information about dogs and the dog world can be found these days. Social media. The great leveller. While I read many posts expressing grief and shock at this tragic event, other areas of the dog world on social media seemed uninterrupted by it. Debates continued, criticism of methodologies and philosophies continued, and the endless streams of dog questions and advice (some of it contradictory) continued. Even though I understood why it was that way, it bothered me.
Out in the vastness that is the Internet, we are like the stars in the night sky. Some stars shine brighter than others. It can be difficult to remember the names. And constellations or individual stars can develop their own proponents or detractors for their individual virtues or flaws. But this week, one of those stars winked out. The night sky was forever changed by an absence I will notice every time I look there. And I’m sad that I didn’t know more about the star that was Sophia Yin.
What I know of Dr. Yin I have learned through the work she has left behind. She was a passionate advocate for dogs and science. She did so much to help others be better caretakers and teachers of their dogs through science. It was a cold and sudden reminder to me that those “stars” are people. People with feelings and lives. The voices on the Internet don’t just talk, they listen. And what they hear can affect them regardless of how brightly they shine or how anonymous they are. This week has changed the way I think about all of those voices on the Internet; those lights in the night sky.
Even on the day of her passing, Sophia Yin left us words of encouragement to be better, to never stop learning:
“What does it mean to base your training on science? It means using the scientific method to work through the problem and possible solutions, as well as measuring behavior change and evaluating your methods based on results. What do you know about the scientific method? Educate yourself on the science behind learning…”
– Dr. Sophia Yin
Sept. 29, 2014
Cherish the stars, the voices, that remain.