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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Unforgettable Student: Richard Yanez (& Linda too!)

Pictured: The Yanez family (Richard, daughter Carly, and Linda) with their four-legged kids, including Maggie (the gray-muzzled Golden) who started it all.

Back in the mid-90s of the last century (!), I was teaching BIG classes sponsored by Yakima Parks & Recreation. In the summers we met at Randall Park. I routinely had 20 or more students in a class, held classes two to three times a week, and started new classes every eight weeks.

At the first week of a new Thursday evening session, I looked around and briefly assessed the waiting students and their dogs. It was the usual mix of unruly Shepherds, Schnauzers, Labs and mutts, with expectant and desperate-looking owners. Over in the corner, sitting in the grass with an exuberantly out-of-control Golden Retriever puppy, was this young couple wearing big, sheepish smiles.

Richard and Linda Yanez didn't impress me that first night as being serious dog parents. They were so easy-going and enamoured with their dog's behavior that they didn't seem too motivated to change it. I figured they loved their dog just the way she was, and were just there to have a good time.

By Week Two of the class, I knew I was wrong. Richard and Linda told me they'd been embarrassed by their dog's behavior the previous week. So they'd been working with her daily and were committed to taming this little problem child. They listened and observed closely in class. They helped each other. They were focused on their task, which they took very seriously. They wanted their dog to be safer, nicer to be around, and easier to take places.

Their dog, Maggie, responded well. She was a Golden, after all, with a built-in will to please. Her soft nature required gentle but consistent handling, which both her "parents" mastered. Richard did most of the work with her in class, primarily because Linda was shy and lacked the confidence to work in a group. But she was always Richard's coach, and did most of the homework with Maggie.

To my surprise, they were so excited and motivated by their success in the "Beginning" class that they signed up for the "Intermediate" session and prepared Maggie for AKC obedience competition. Maggie was their first dog, their only at-home child, and they took her training as seriously as a two-legged kid's report card.

Richard and Linda continued taking consecutive training classes with me for several years. Maggie earned her Companion Dog (CD) obedience title in competition, and they continued training her for higher echelons of competition. Meanwhile, they adopted a big, rangy stray named "Drifter" and took BOTH dogs to classes. By then I had opened the full-time facility on Ahtanum Road. Since Drifter was a mixed-breed ineligible to compete in AKC trials, and Maggie was getting older, the Yanez family eventually took a break from training and just enjoyed their well-behaved dogs at home for a while.

About four years ago, Richard popped back into Manning Dog Training. He had a new career dream! He wanted to retire from his government job and relocate to Boise, Idaho, where Linda had family. They wanted to open a DOGGY BAKERY! Their facility of their dreams would also house doggy day care and training classes similar to Manning Dog Training's "Leadership Classes."

Richard hung around our training studio, brought in samples of his fancy baked dog cookies, asked lots of questions, observed, helped, and sat in on many classes. I was happy to mentor him, since people from other areas in the northwest were frequently asking me for referrals to other trainers who did things our way..and up to that point, there'd been nowhere else to refer them. And I knew that Richard and Linda were going to put their "all" into their new dream.
In 2004 they left for Boise, bought an old welding shop on a busy arterial, and remodeled it into a WONDERFUL, happy facility for dogs. "The Dog House" is a bright, attractive place with a big reception area, retail shop (they sell tons of Flint River Ranch pet food, plus unique and high-quality toys), a multi-room and indoor/outdoor doggy day care facility, and a roomy classroom with big windows. Linda runs the Doggy Day Care (and has become a confident businesswoman and a savvy "house mom" for the daily visitors). Richard helps with Doggy Day Care and teaches the classes which follow the same basic format and philosophies as mine did. They have a dedicated following of patrons who loudly sing their praises for the miracles they've worked with their dogs. The Dog House also contributes significantly to public service projects in the Boise community. Just this past year, Richard and Linda's business collected enough contributions to purchase a boatload of pet oxygen masks for the local fire department and EMTs.

It's a great honor to have Richard and Linda perpetuating Manning-type dog work in Boise, and to know how many people they're helping. It's also a confirmation of what a great country we live in, where a couple in their 50s can still pursue a new career goal and find success. And, it's an awesome reminder that each of us is like a pebble thrown into a pond. The ripples we each create radiate outward to infinity, and affect others' lives in places and ways we'll never know about.

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