For the third part of our series, One Dog Who Made A Difference, we speak with three more members of our team who wanted to share the stories of a dog who has had a significant impact on their life.
As we saw in the first two installments in this series of articles (if you missed them, take a look! Part 1 and Part 2), humans and dogs can form incredibly strong bonds. Since starting our business back in 2006, our mission has been to strengthen the human-canine relationship through our proven dog training programs. We know that, over the years, our trainers have worked with countless dog owners who would be able to recount their own stories of a dog who made a difference in their lives.
Read on to learn more about three incredible dogs who have left an indellible impact on members of our team.
Brandi & Mynkus
Firstly, we spoke with Brandi Wallwork, who provides professional dog training services in Atlanta, GA for Highland Canine Training.
What was your dog’s name and breed?
Mynkus (prononunced Ming-cuss), and she was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
When did you first meet Mynkus?
Mynkus was my dream dog as a child. I saw the movie Murder She Purred which featured a Pembroke Welsh Corgi as one of the main characters. It was the first time I had ever seen a Corgi, and I fell in love.
For my 16th birthday, my parents took me to a Corgi breeder and I picked out my own Corgi puppy. Mynkus was the boldest and most pushy puppy of the litter – something I would have noted now that I have learned to test dog and puppy behavior.
Tell us about your initial experiences with Mynkus.
We brought her home that day, my head full of dreams for our future together. Our family had always just had family pets that stayed at home and lived on our property. This was back in the early days of the internet, before Corgis were in the public eye, so no one ever knew what Mynkus was.
We were unaware of how to properly socialize and raise a high energy working breed like a Corgi. Sometimes, you have to learn by mistakes. For me, Mynkus was the dog I would make any mistakes with, but also learn the most from. She changed the course of my future and pushed me to strive for where I’m at today.
How did Mynkus made a difference in your life?
By Mynkus’ first birthday, she was becoming more and more aggressive toward our two other family dogs. We did our best to manage the situation, separating her from the other dogs.
When I was 19, I moved to Georgia, and Mynkus eventually came with me. I began researching, trying to seek answers as to why she seemed to have every sort of aggression I read about. She seemed to be possessive, territorial, and would attack any animal without any obvious triggers except their presence.
I sought out help from purely positive trainers in my area. I loved Mynkus dearly and I thought this would be the best route for her. Unfortunately, I only received one of two answers from the many trainers I spoke with.
The first answer was, ‘we need to work on her obedience’ – but with no clear explanation of how that could possibly help her severe aggression. I could not understand how obedience on its own would fix anything. Mynkus was the most treat-motivated dog I had ever met, until she so much as heard the jingle from someone’s keyring, thinking it was dog tags. She would even try jumping out the car window to get to the ‘dog’ whose dog tags made that sound.
The other answer was that she would need to be euthanized. I was shocked and horrified that that would be their answer. I knew there had to be a better way and I came to the conclusion that I would have to learn it myself.
Therefore, I became a dog trainer. I enrolled in Highland Canine’s obedience and behavior modification program and attended the School for Dog Trainers in North Carolina. After receiving a job offer in their service dog division, I stayed there.
Mynkus attended with me and our relationship grew immensely. As my knowledge and experience increased, I became more capable at understanding her mental state and what I needed to do to help her. At eight years old, she was never ‘fixed’ of her aggression problem, but she learned how to be more comfortable around other animals, and she looked to me for guidance in situations where she would have previously tried to attack.
I knew other families must be faced with the same heartbreaking problems and my passion became to help others whose lives were affected by behavior problems.
Mynkus was my everything – and she still is to this day. She passed away in 2020 at the age of 14. I wear a necklace with her face engraved on it everyday to remind me of everything she taught and everything I have yet to learn. She’s my inspiration and the reason I am who I am today.
Brittany & Pippi
Next, we spoke with Brittany Mojica, Highland Canine Training’s professional dog trainer in Tampa, FL.
What is your dog’s name and breed?
Pippi, and she is a mixed-breed dog.
How old were you when you first met Pippi?
I was 15 years old. I acquired Pippi about two years before going to the School for Dog Trainers.
Pippi was deaf, had been re-homed six times, and had a bite history.
Jason [Purgason, President of Highland Canine Training, LLC] helped me to train her, and eventually this training helped her to pass her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.
How did you meet Pippi?
Pippi was living at a training facility here in Tampa that we were using for our other dog so we could keep him. At that time, I was watching her go in and out of the rescue, because nobody could handle her.
How did Pippi make a difference in your life?
Pippi taught me so much about time and patience, along with making me realize that I had a passion for dog training – she is the reason we reached out to the School for Dog Trainers. Pippi, despite all of her rehomings, was still was a happy dog.
Kress & Rocket
Finally, we spoke with Kress Walters. Kress has been our professional dog trainer in Charlotte for a number of years, and offers Board & Train programs out of our training center in Harmony, NC.
Kress tells the story of a Carolina Dog he and his wife adopted, named Rocket (originally Papi).
A few years back, my wife and I had a stray dog named Doobie that we took into our lives. We had been debating adopting another dog, and I saw a story on the news of a rescue organization that was having to close due to money issues. However, they weren’t closing until the last dog was adopted – so we figured that was our chance to help a dog and the group.
We went to meet a dog named ‘Papi’. Papi was described as “a little timid at first and the Teddy bear type”. We met the timid boy, took the last dog in the shelter with us, gave him a new name of “Rocket”, and took off on our way.
Rocket was approximately one-year old at adoption, a 40lb off-white Carolina Dog with one ear that stood straight up and one that flopped over (unless the wind was blowing in the right direction to hold it up). I’m not sure how long the rescue had him, but he was basically feral. The weird thing was that he was perfect on a leash if you were able to get it on him. I’ve walked hundreds of dogs, and when I say perfect, he was.
We soon realized when we let Rocket in our fenced yard that he wouldn’t come back in the house. He would hide in the bushes, go sit in the corner, or run from you.
Our solution was to enlist Doobie to help. I made a 3 foot leash to tether them together, so wherever Doobie went, Rocket went too. It worked quite nicely on helping Rocket come to us and back into the house (thanks Doobie – I know it was annoying).
Meanwhile, going from A to B in the house meant walking behind furniture to get where he was going, never taking the quickest route, and always avoiding people. He was starting to warm up to Sharon, but me, not so much (just yet). The smallest baby steps were huge strides in his life as well as ours, which is a valuable lesson I learned.
We took him on trips, treated him as normal, and didn’t feel sorry for him in the least. He had all he needed – food, water, shelter and love – so suck it up buttercup.
Moving forward a few months, we had a big snow and were taking the dogs for a walk. I have no idea what happened, but his switch flipped in that snow. Rocket initiated play with Doobie, and then it was on.
The next day we were going sledding, and we took Doobie and Rocket with us. I had a cheap plastic sled, put Rocket in my lap, and off we went down the hill. He was so happy – like he was reborn. Back to the top of the hill, and we would repeat it over and over. He loved it. How does the most timid dog love sledding, all of a sudden? It was crazy. It was the most happy he had ever been in his life, and maybe for us as well.
At this point in my life, we were selling a family business, so I was faced with a life changing choice to either stay in the business or find a new career. This little timid, feral dog that had come so far made me realize I was going to research dog training as a career. I found Highland Canine’s School for Dog Trainers within an hour’s drive; I was accepted, graduated, and have been employed here at Highland for more than 11 years.
This story does have a bittersweet ending, I’m sorry to say. Rocket succumbed to liver cancer at only 3.5 years old.
I am happy to say I love my career with Highland Canine, and haven’t regretted my life-changing decision once. Since then, I/we have adopted other dogs with issues:
- Amos was a Second Chance dog from Highland, another timid dog that lived a nice long life.
- Emmy, a Staffie that was rehomed due to breed restrictions. She’s still around and enjoying life.
- Sully, a cockapoo, is an owner surrender who at one time was the #3 ranked lap dog in the world in the sport of dock diving (was in the top 6 for 4 years).
- Kobe, my newest owner surrender, is a Belgian Malinois that is testing my patience everyday but he’s living the best life.
To wrap things up, all of these dogs have made a huge impact on my life, but Rocket and Doobie were the most instrumental. These two dogs have helped me make a difference in the lives of somewhere between 750-1000 dogs – and their owners. Thanks fellas, I’ll never forget you, and I miss you everyday!
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