Caroline Barnett lopes across the street, her tacoma she painted teal with a paint roller parked in the background. At this moment to me, Caroline is a dog walker and trainer and my hound dog Harlow could use both. Sheʻs also a tombomb. She has unruly sun streaked hair, long, muscled limbs, and intense blue eyes, wildness just under the skin. Dressed in cutoffs and a crop top, she still exudes grace and power and I feel compelled to stand up straighter to meet her.  But the minute sheʻs in the driveway, the intense look gives way to smile lines and she radiates a friendly, calm, and easygoing vibe. Both Harlow and I relax.

I take a few walks with her and the pack sheʻs matched Harlow with so I can learn how to behave myself. Turns out, my anxiety surrounding the possibility of  my dog behaving badly towards other dogs runs down the leash like a drippy faucet, directly into the floppy ear of my pup. I pull the leash taut, Caroline reaches out - "just relax, all good." She reads their body language like surfers read impending sets on a horizon and I marvel at the presence with which this young woman navigates the world. The whole pack pauses when she speaks, all eyes on her. Stay wild enough to be yourself, stay calm enough to read the signs.   

I was fascinated. Curious for more, I sent her some questions,  diving deeper into the roots of her confidence, what animals have taught her,  her personal goals for jiu jitsu, and realizing the dream of helping trauma survivors through working with animals.  Keep reading to learn more!


Age: 24 
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
Favorite Book: Too many to choose from
Favorite Food: Coconut, dark chocolate, and scallops 
Dream Adventure: Live off the land on some remote island
Favorite Quote: Teddy Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena"
Find Caroline on Instagram @sharkcuddles


Hi Caroline! I knew when I first met you (after a friend showed me the video of you skateboarding with all the dogs!) you were a tombomb - strong, kind, independent, and rad! 

You hadn't heard of the concept before, but now you have - do you consider yourself a tombomb? And if so, what about the concept resonated with you?  

 Yes, I love the concept! Growing up I always was more of a tomboy… Loved sports, working with my hands, being outdoors and just being wild! As I've gotten older I’ve realized you don’t have to choose between “tomboy things” and “girly things”; they don’t have to be separate.  I love meeting girls that are wild enough to be their real and confident selves.

You are a surfer, skater, horseback rider, and you practice jiu jitsu - any other past times I missed? 

Most any sport I love…also played soccer and swam in college.  When I have free time I love anything to do with the ocean, art, languages/traveling, and learning more about sustainable farming.  

What about jiu jitsu? You're fairly new to the sport - what new perspectives or qualities have you gained from training? Any big goals there?

Yes! I’ve fallen in love with the sport fairly quickly. Started training about three years ago.  Recently I competed at ADCC trials, which is a big grappling tournament that happens every two years.  I am hoping to make it to ADCC in 2026. Training jiujitsu has taught me similar lessons…it is important to be relaxed while fighting yet also anticipate instead of react to situations.  If you are tense you gas out and force moves instead of waiting for a window to open. 


It takes a certain kind of confidence to try a lot of different and new things - can you tell me where you think your confidence came from and what helps you maintain that sense of self assuredness now? 

Definitely my dad.  He would have me paddle out in pretty big waves, and bike really steep mountains as a young kid.  He never gave me the option to quit so I didn’t realize that you could haha.  Whatever was in front of me he would tell me to go try it and I would! New and difficult things didn’t seem scary to me growing up, it was just part of life.  

On top of all this, you train horses and dogs. And from what I've seen, you speak their language and treat them with kindness while showing them they're safe and how to be cool under pressure (my dog Harlow is working on that!). What inspired you to work with animals and how did you develop your connection to them? 

I have always loved working with animals from a young age…they are honest, easy to read, and don’t lie.  They have taught me so much, and expose the things in you that are messy.  Confidence and kindness is key when working with animals, they taught me to be firm and have boundaries but also be sensitive and understanding. 

Have you had any scary experiences with animals? What did you learn about yourself and how do you think it's shaped how you handle other challenges in life? 

Have had plenty of those !  Mostly with horses…been on a few rides deep in the wilderness and have had horses spook in pretty dangerous situations and slide down steep mountainsides.  Also I once worked with a very large dog who was aggressive towards humans.   It was pretty different from any other dog I’ve worked with as he was definitely going for the kill.  I worked with him using a muzzle, but even with the muzzle it was such a mental test.  I had to remain calm, couldn’t tense up and push him to attack, yet had to calmly anticipate his aggression.  In all these situations…horses…dogs…etc I have learned that there is a fine line of remaining calm yet also being prepared to handle anything that happens.


You also have an awesome vision involving your work with animals and how it can benefit kids who have experienced trauma - can you tell me a little more about that? 

My ultimate dream is to have a sustainable, profitable farm where I can use animals and sports to help kids heal from trauma, and give them the chance to continue their education, and pursue their dreams.  Working with dogs and horses gave me confidence and allowed me to trust.  I believe that there is something special about having the responsibility to take care of animals, it develops character. Sports was also an outlet that helped me release a lot of pent up emotions and would love to use that avenue and various others on the farm.  

What are the main things you hope the kids will take away from being with you and the animals? 

I would hope I can help kids kids who have dealt with trauma learn to confidently approach situations.  I want them to not fear “bad” situations they might face, but instead have the tools to remain calm and confident.  I also love that animals force us to take leadership through serving.  When you have animals they require constant care and attention.  They are lots of work!  Sometimes we think of being a leader as others serving us, but the reality is that a good leader takes care of those around them.  Last thing is that working with animals teaches us to be in the moment.  They aren’t worried about work tomorrow, or what their friends are doing, they are completely satisfied with what they are doing in the present. 

Big dreams can be intimidating, especially for someone early on in their professional life and you seem to be fearless in your direction and goals  - Can you name any heroes that inspire you and how they encouraged you to just go for it?

Growing up I always loved Harriet Tubman, did a lot of school reports on her.  I thought it was awesome how she didn’t let fear stop her from helping people get to freedom. 

Lastly, what are some key things you can share from your journey of trying new things, starting your business, and going for your goals? 

Lately I’ve been discouraged because I am not as close to my goals as I expected to be at this point in life.  I’m learning to not be so focused on the goal that I forget to be thankful for the day God gave me.  I’m also learning to enjoy the learning that comes from failing.  I figure if I fail enough my odds of eventually hitting one of my goals will go up!

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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The Ultimate Tombomb!!! You both are inspiring!!!


Thanks for sharing, you’re an amazing interviewer!


That was rad and bad to the bone! She’s a bad ass with sass and a soul on fire 🌺🤙🏽💯


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