Story by Jasmine Marie; photo by Silver Paw Studio
I was 12 years old when I trained my first dog. She was a German Shepard named Onka and she was owned by my neighbor, who had trained and competed in obedience for many years. This was my introduction to formal dog training after being born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. Onka was a great dog to work with as she was just as willing to learn as I was! I was 13 when Onka was fully trained and placed into her permanent home. She spent most of her days at a long-term care facility with her owner who worked there.
During my senior year in high school, I took an Animal Technology class at Front Range Community College. The class was an introduction to veterinary care for all types of animals: farm animals, domesticated animals, even rodents. This class required students to complete an internship. Because I had more interest in working with healthy animals (mainly dogs) than working in a veterinary clinic, I did my internship at a local dog boarding kennel and breeder of champion Golden Retrievers, Crystal Glen Kennel.
After my internship, I was hired in the kennel, and assisted with the in-board training dogs as well as training all Golden Retriever puppies and adults. I worked for Crystal Glen Kennels off and on for the next 16 years. During that time I learned dog behavior, grooming, ethical breeding practices, and how to professionally care for large numbers of dogs. I also expanded my formal obedience training knowledge to include agility, confirmation, and rally, and I was responsible for getting many dogs ready to compete in AKC shows. I even put several rally titles on many champion Golden Retrievers, including my own Golden Retriever, Jacob, who became the Mile-Hi Golden Retriever Club’s Top Rally Dog in 2012.
In 2001, I drove to Fountain every weekend to work alongside an American Bulldog breeder and dog trainer who also specialized in protection dog work. I assisted him with private obedience lessons as well as protection/working dog lessons, which allowed me to work with the Evergreen Police K-9 unit. I also spent a summer in Fountain and worked at his wife’s veterinary clinic, High Country Veterinary Hospital, to gain more knowledge about medical care.
In 2003 while finishing my associate’s degree in horticulture at Front Range Community College, I took a human-animal connections class offered by Larimer Animal-People Partnership (LAPP). This is when I discovered my passionate interest in the human-animal bond. During class, I was the only one who needed a box of tissues while watching films of animals interacting with humans in need. I simply did not understand why no one else thought bunnies sitting on the laps of child burn victims wasn’t moving?! Or why a manta ray inspiring a child with muscular dystrophy to get up out of his wheelchair and walk wasn’t worth a tear?!
I moved to Steamboat Springs in 2005 and became a certified master groomer before moving back to Fort Collins. I discovered HABIC in 2009 and instantly enrolled to become a volunteer with my Golden Retriever Jacob. Later that year I enrolled at CSU to receive my degree in Social Work with an emphasis on the human-animal bond. As a student I was the HABIC intern and became a member of HABIC’s Advisory Council in 2011.
I graduated with my BSW in 2012, and began working at Crossroads Safehouse while also managing operations at Crystal Glen Kennel. In December 2014, I finally said good-bye to Crystal Glen and became the HABIC Dog Trainer and Denver Program Coordinator, and opened my own dog boarding, grooming, and training business, Playful Pups LLC.
Since 2014, my role at HABIC has evolved as we have grown and gained more resources. Currently, as Dog Trainer and Program Coordinator, I focus on training for our teams in Northern Colorado. I also work with all of the schools where we have a HABIC program. Although our school programs are paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been dedicated to staying connected with our schools. Emails and fun flyers with familiar furry faces let school professionals and students know that they are still in our thoughts. I am also getting ready to certify my third HABIC dog! I have enjoyed watching HABIC grow over the years and I look forward to seeing where the future takes us in this ever-growing world of Human Animal Interactions (HAI).