This is the second year of our Riffle Memorial Scholarship. We had two recipients this year, and it has been a pleasure to work with these Teams, watch them grow, watch them hit bumps but get back up with new knowledge, and to open the world of the ‘behind the scenes’ part of training, which can be an eye opener to say the least. One of the requirements is that at the end of the scholarship term, they send me a photo and write up to be published.
Sharing the learning and growing experiences is really important, and hopefully it will inspire other Teams to get out and try more! ~ Nancy
Kinsey and I met four years ago when she was a year and a half old. Our first
introduction was at Heart of the Valley where she had been since her intake at 7 weeks
of age. Kinsey had spent the first year and a half of her life, with all its developmental
stages, in puppy prison. As a result she had very little use for people, other dogs were
things to be controlled and her environment in general was something that she barked/
jumped/lunged at to get an entertaining reaction. She was cat aggressive and my male
dog, my heart dog, hated her. Obviously Kinsey and I did not have an easy, peaceful
That’s where the Riffle Memorial Scholarship came in. When we applied I was hopeful
that some intensive work together, in and out of the gym, would help us become a better
team. At the start we took classes that challenged us to learn new skills and be around
other dogs. This proved to be the wrong move. Though I enjoyed the classes and
learning new tricks, Kinsey has very low self-esteem and tends to pout when she is
unsure of herself. We needed a class that focused just on her, put her in the vicinity of
other dogs but gave us a large buffer zone, a class filled with experienced dog handlers
who gave us space.
ScentsAbility turned out to be the perfect place for us to get all of those things. Kinsey
has become an A-one sniffer. At home, on the trail and at our Cross Fit gym (True Spirit
Crossfit and Yoga) she is bang on, even when someone is dropping 250 pounds on the
floor while she searches out a scent. We still struggle at the dog gym though. Her
awareness of other dogs and movement is so acute that she has a much harder time
performing in a dog heavy environment and often “plays it cool” around a scent article
only tentatively alerting or walking away only to come back and alert later.
I learned so much about Kinsey in the past six months that I hadn’t noticed about her at
home. She is sensitive and pouts when she thinks she has been corrected or has made
a mistake. She has very strict rules for other dogs; no barking, no jumping, no
excitement and she sees herself as sheriff. She can be stubborn but only to a point, if
there is a good treat in the deal she’s up for anything. Most of the time when I look at
Kinsey I’m fairly sure she sees the world as her playground and is constantly thinking
“That looks fun and why shouldn’t I do it?” She is smart and funny beyond reason and I
am lucky to have seen this little diamond in the ruff that everyone else passed by.
Working with other handlers in puppy classes was a humbling experience. I’ve stopped
judging other dog owners. I will be honest, every stupid, horrible thing I’ve seen
someone do I’ve probably done or thought about doing. That said assisting taught me
to be more proactive with people around my dogs and I have found that humans truly
want to understand and learn but sometimes just have the wrong information.
The Riffle Memorial Scholarship gave me the time and focus to slow down and rethink how I
approach my dogs. Because I’ve started paying attention to their behavior, looking for
the root cause and not just slapping band-aides on the symptoms, we’ve changed the
organization of our house, our time management and they’ve gone from carcass
feeding, to raw, and finally to Crockpet. All with excellent results.
What’s next for this team? We don’t rightly know. Our family is expecting it’s second
baby and since “Nanny” is Kinsey’s favorite job title she’ll probably be busy helping me
with diapers and snack time. We plan to continue our scent work and try to get her at
ease around other dogs so she can compete but that may not be in our stars. She is
becoming a lovely little “Box Dog,” a dog that spends hours lounging around a Cross Fit
gym, and greets gym comers with a wag. She still doesn’t want to be touched by
strangers, that’s her right, but she’s decided there are a few people in the world whose
laps need sitting in and whose faces need a good licking.
We are so grateful to the Riffle Memorial Scholarship Board, Paws and People and
Nancy Tanner for granting us this great opportunity. We look forward to a future full of
games and adventures, teamwork and mischief! ~ Noah