A Trainer’s Tales Chapter 3

Everyone gathered in the break room for the Monday morning trainers’ meeting. Weekends were extremely busy at Good Dogs Come to Heaven Training Center so Monday morning was reserved for ring cleaning and staff planning. To enhance the camaraderie staff members took turns bringing food. Today, Sherry brought fruit salad and Jane baked one of her trademark quick breads. Linda slid a pan of brownies onto the table as she sat down with her cup of tea. Sailor squeezed his way under the table where he could count on the occasional contribution.

“Mmm, chocolate” Lisa cooed. “Breakfast of champions.”

Sherry went through the upcoming class assignments and schedules. There was seldom much change as each trainer seemed to have carved out an area of expertise. For example, Lisa had become the puppy master. She led all of the puppy classes and supervised the puppy play time sessions. Jane often assisted Lisa in addition to serving as the primary trainer for the Family Dog classes. As a retired school teacher Jane was well-suited to working with families, effectively engaging the children in the training process as well as their parents.

Linda had built the Rally program, teaching all levels of Rally competition. Over the last two years she had expanded the Rally curriculum to cover all venues. These had grown to be five different organizations that offered titles in Rally, each with differences in the rules for performance. Linda was thorough, making sure her students understood all the variations and were well-prepared to compete. She hosted regular Rally fun matches as opportunities to practice for competition. Most of the other trainers at Heaven had done some Rally with their own dogs. So even if shaky on competition rules, they were able to assist Linda, if needed, with teaching basic skills.

Andrea specialized in the behavioral classes, which were mostly shy dogs and reactive dogs. She also led focused workshops on confidence and skill building, for both dogs and their people. Many problem behaviors could not be addressed safely in a class setting so Andrea spent at least two days a week working one-on-one with clients either at Heaven or in their homes.

However, Sherry had originally founded Heaven as a center for agility training and that continued to comprise the biggest part of the schedule. Considering the investment required to purchase, maintain and store specialized agility equipment, it made sense that Agility classes filled the largest part of the weekly schedule.

This morning, Sherry displayed the monthly planner for February. She had already filled in the regular on-going classes. “First of all” she asked “does anyone have changes to the regular schedule?”

Jane peered at the planner. “I’m going to the Ian Dunbar seminar so I won’t be able to teach classes that weekend.”

“Do you want someone to substitute or should we put something else in that spot?”

Jane considered the question. “That will be week four of the Family Dog curriculum so a substitute would be fine.”

Sherry looked around for volunteers.

“I can do it” Andrea offered.

Jane, Sherry and Andrea each made a note about the change.

“What’s that big empty space on the schedule for the weekend before?” Linda asked.

“Agility trial that weekend” Sherry answered. “No agility classes because we’re all going to the trial.”

“Since it’s close to Valentine’s Day I could do a themed party” replied Linda.

Most of Heaven’s clients looked forward to Linda’s parties. The parties were always built around training games with a holiday theme.  With prizes for the dogs and refreshments for their handlers, everyone left slightly giddy. After deducting the cost of food, prizes and decorations the parties netted little profit but Sherry didn’t mind since the parties kept people coming in.

Sherry noted “The Old Church Kennel Club show is coming up in March so I’m expecting an increase in ring rentals as people get ready. We need to keep an eye on the schedule so we don’t accidentally double-book the rings” Sherry continued. “Since I have two out-of-town speaking gigs in February I‘ve asked Bill to manage the rental scheduling. Or any other scheduling problems that come up.”

Bill nodded silent agreement as he chewed on a slice of Jane’s banana bread.

Lisa shot a doubtful look at Andrea.

“Do you expect any increases in drop-in training” asked Linda “with people getting ready for the show?”

“Good point” nodded Sherry.

Andrea spoke up “I don’t think many kennel club people will be coming here for training.” She described last week’s episode with the bad-tempered Sue.

“Are there any other announcements? Questions? Comments?” Sherry asked by way of wrapping up.

“I have something” Jane spoke up. “I need everyone’s invitation lists for the annual dinner.”

Heaven’s annual dinner had begun as beer and pizza for Sherry’s assistants. Now, 10 years later, it had evolved into an appreciation event for people who referred business. Jane was handling the arrangements this year.

“Who is already on the list?” asked Lisa.

“Village Vet, of course” Jane replied.

“Not just the docs, right? The ladies at the front desk are in a good position to hand out our brochures” reminded Sherry.

“Don’t forget Patty from Happy Dance” said Andrea naming the local independent pet store.

“Do you have all the area pet sitters and dog walkers?” Linda asked.

“And groomers?” Lisa chimed in.

Jane held up her hands to end the barrage of suggestions. “Why don’t you guys just give me your lists?  I can come back to you if I have any questions. But I need to get an idea of how many potential guests.”

As the trainers drifted out of the break room Jane stopped to talk to Sherry. “Sherry, you know there are some people who seem to be here all the time. They come for agility classes with you; they do obedience classes with Andrea. They come for a lot of the special events. They’re like family. I thought it might be nice to invite them. What do you think?”

Sherry nodded assent. “That is a good idea. Some of those people spend thousands of dollars a year in training fees. ”

“Yes. Especially the people with multiple dogs” agreed Jane.

“This dinner is turning into quite the event, isn’t it” remarked Sherry as she headed back to her office.


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