One Dog Who Made A Difference [Part 2]

In this next installment of our new series, One Dog Who Made A Difference, we speak to three more members of our team about a dog who has had a significant impact on their lives.

Dogs are incredibly powerful creatures. The bonds we forge with them, the lessons we learn from them, and the experiences we share alongside them will last a lifetime. Even though we may encounter several dogs in our lifetime, there is usually one pup who has an outsized impact on our lives. This series is designed to celebrate those dogs with a special place in our hearts.

Read on to learn about the stories of three more amazing dogs who have influenced, guided and changed the lives of our team at Highland Canine Training.

(Did you miss Part 1 of One Dog Who Made A Difference? Click here to read the first article in the series!) 

Jessa & Shadow

Firstly, we spoke with Jessa Morgan, Highland Canine’s professional dog trainer in Rock Hill, SC.

What is your dog’s name and breed?

Shadow, and he is a Husky/Corgi mix.

When did you first meet Shadow?

I met Shadow in 2018. I was halfway through my senior year of High School.

How did you meet Shadow?

My friend saw Shadow being rehomed on Facebook, and sent it to me knowing he was a mix of my two favorite breeds. I messaged back and forth with his owners at the time asking and answering questions. I talked to my parents, and then brought him home.

shadow husky corgi mix

Tell us about how Shadow has made a difference in your life.

Shadow is special to me because he pushed me into the dog training world – specifically behavior modification. He pushed me to get out of my comfort zone

As a kid, I had a ‘robot’ dog (well-behaved, never professionally trained, and got along with everyone and everything). My family is very social and company is common at our house, but this became a huge problem once Shadow joined our family. His favorite thing to bite was hands – and he developed quite the rap sheet in a few short weeks.

I was embarrassed and unsure what to do to fix what was happening. I started with private lessons with a local pet store trainer, and whilst that experience did help to build a relationship between us, it didn’t resolve Shadow’s biting.

This is where Highland Canine enters the picture. In 2019, they ran a free behavior modification clinic which we attended. Here, I truly felt like the root issues were actually being addressed.

Shadow made a huge turnaround – mostly because I was properly educated about what was happening. I began advocating for him and making sure he wasn’t getting into situations where it would be easy for him to bite. We worked on obedience, structure, and my overall understanding of him and his needs changed.

shadow husky corgi mix laying in grass

Going through the behavior modification process with my personal dog was the biggest drive for me to pursue my current career in the world of dog training. Shadow made me realize that not all dogs are perfect, and it humbled me to say the least.

I’m happy to report now in 2022, Shadow is thriving! People that met Shadow before our training cannot believe he is the same dog. A complete change. We’re able to go to outdoor festivals and enjoy pets from nice strangers, he joins me in assisting in training sometimes, and loves when guests come over to the house!

It takes time, consistency, and patience. It’s been a process, but it has been so rewarding. Shadow is truly one dog that changed the trajectory of my life, and I’m grateful for it everyday.

Shana & Tosca

Next, we caught up with Shana Parsnow, Manager of our Working Dog Division. Shana spoke about her Belgian Malinois, Tosca, and the difference she has made to her life.

shana parsnow with tosca

What is your dog’s name and breed?

Tosca (otherwise known as T). She is a Belgian Malinois. 

How old were you when you first met Tosca?

It was during my first year at Highland Canine, so I was 18 years old and just getting started at my dream job of being a dog trainer. 

How did you meet her?

Tosca was actually a wash out of the Police program, due to her fearful tendencies. 

tosca belgian malinois

Tell us how Tosca made a difference in your life.

Tosca is the most special dog that I have ever met, worked with or owned.

She has taught me so much about patience, not to mention an overall understanding of dogs as a whole.

On the one hand, Tosca is as sweet as can be; on the other hand, she has several triggers that make her unmanageable for most people, as well as making people fear her. 

tosca malinois by pool

Tosca is very selective with who she likes and allows in my (and her) house. She was grown when I got her, and is now six years old.

Her behavior issues have improved, and I manage the rest. I wouldn’t change a single thing about her. Tosca will forever and always be my heart dog.

Stasia & Castora

Finally, we spoke with Stasia Dempster, our professional dog trainer in the Statesville, NC area. Stasia told us how her Belgian Groenendael, Castora, has demonstrated to her the importance of working as a team with your dog.

stasia dempster and castora

What is your dog’s name and breed?

Castora – she is a Belgian Groenendael. 

How old were you when you first met Castora?

I was 26 years old. 

How did you meet her?

I had done a lot of research on the breed, but there were very few breeders of working line Groenendaels in the United States. Luckily, I found an amazing breeder in Tennessee, and I picked Castora up in the early summer of 2019.

castora belgian groenendael

Tell us how Castora made a difference in your life.

I did quite a bit of puppy searching before I got Castora. She was the first dog I ever got with the intention of training her to do a job that wasn’t related to obedience and impulse control. I wanted a dog who would excel at search and rescue, and I started her on trailing and navigating rubble at ten weeks of age.

Castora has done everything I have ever asked of her with enthusiasm and focus – even when it is something new and potentially daunting for her. She doesn’t do these things because I ‘force’ her to. We do everything as a team. Stora taught me what it is to work alongside your dog as a partner, and not as their boss.

Castora’s strengths are things that I couldn’t even imagine being able to experience. Through her, I learned how to appreciate dogs for what they are naturally, instead of trying to change them into something I feel they should be. I helped her cultivate the magnificent natural capabilities which she possesses, and she taught me how to be a better trainer.

Whether it’s finding lost people using nothing but her nose; zooming over seemingly impossible obstacles; searching acres of land for scent work hides; diligently demonstrating her intense focus in the Rally ring; or prancing stunningly at a conformation event, Castora still amazes me every time we work together.

She has shown me how incredible dogs can be when we let them shine – and how to be the best partner I can be.

castora face photo

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