I graduated in 1989 from Gettysburg College with a B.S. in Biology. It was while I was bouncing around the entry level worlds of environmental consulting and laboratory research that I got my first Standard Schnauzer (SS), Alex. I was working from home then, telecommuting, and I missed having a dog. I did some book research and decided on the SS because of its size and intelligence.
The hard part was finding one. I didn’t know then that there was a difference among breeders and just assumed that all puppies got advertised in the paper. By a miracle, I not only found Alex, but his breeder, Pat White became my mentor. When she sold him to me, she said he’d be good in obedience and I should consider pursuing it. Right, I figured, sure.
Our purchase contract stipulated that I would enroll Alex in obedience class. We did great! He was so easy to teach and eager to learn that I completed the entire curriculum of classes that Dog Sense in Rockville, Maryland offered. By then I was hooked enough that I apprenticed to assist and then teach basic and intermediate dog obedience classes. I also gave private lessons (including some with aggressive dogs). I was a regular trainer for Dog Sense for about seven years until I had my first baby. During that period of time, I also became a veterinary technician and served as a surgical assistant for several vets. Ultimately, I determined there just wasn’t enough money in being a vet tech and I’d rather be in business for myself. I also knew then that Andrew and I would be having children so I decided to go to dog grooming school. I figured that training would enable me to make a better living and also work from home.
About half-way through grooming school, Pat White asked me if I was interested in another dog. She was so happy with how I had trained Alex that she offered to sell me the pick female from her current litter, Gretchen. At the time, she couldn’t keep another female but said Gretchen was too nice to let slip away. But there was a catch: I would have to learn to groom and show Gretchen. Seemed like no big thing. I had a great teacher at the grooming school who specialized in hard-coated terriers and she taught me how to strip. She also introduced me to dog showing by letting me assist her and her partner.
That was almost seven years ago. I have been showing dogs ever since, though that win at the National Specialty was my biggest win of all. Gretchen and I hadn’t been in the ring in over a year!
I tried many times to breed Gretchen but due to bad luck and probably some inexperience I only succeeded in getting one litter about 3.5 years ago. She delivered a single puppy last January but the puppy died in about 36 hours. So, Gretchen’s daughter Mica (owned by my mother) is now carrying on the lines I am trying to build on. I had been looking forward to breeding Gretchen to Archie since she was a puppy. I knew he brought many good qualities, both mental and physical, to his puppies. I will almost certainly repeat the breeding because I got so many qualities that I was looking for, just not in one puppy.
I’ve been a professional groomer for about seven years. Though I now specialize in show dogs and hand stripping, I have done all-breed production pet grooming for several area vets and still have some dedicated pet clients who come to my house. I also do some boarding and some training lessons.
My “new” dog activity is herding. All the dogs love it. It keeps Alex young and keeps any of us from getting into a same old, same old rut.