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Traumatic death of beloved pet sparks lifelong dedication to dog welfare

After Katie Shannon’s cherished childhood pet Stubby was killed when she was 11, she decided to dedicate her life to the welfare of dogs.

Stubby, who was Shannon’s best friend, was killed by thugs who came in the middle of the night looking for her brother.

“They took him and they ran him over and it just broke my heart. I wanted to flip the script,” she said.

“Instead of getting really angry I wanted to actually channel it into something wholesome and good, and something that’s going to make life better for other dogs.”

In 2007 Shannon and her husband Dean moved to the West Coast, and have since helped thousands of dogs and their owners through their business running praise-based obedience classes.

Now, after 17 years of helping people get the best out of their relationships with their furry companions, they have turned that experience into a handbook for dog lovers, dedicating it to Stubby’s memory.

Titled It’s Not The Dog We're Training, the book contains heart-warming stories and guides owners through every aspect of having a dog, from keeping them safe and healthy through to grieving the loss of a pet.

“You’re blessed to have a dog in your life, as far as I’m concerned,” Shannon said.

“They’re just magical little creatures, and as soon as they know what does please you they just want to do that and get more praise for it.”

The couple run their empathy-based cat and dog boarding facility, Two Brown Dogs and a Cat, at their Rainwater Homestead property near Greymouth.

They moved from the North Island in a house truck and bought four hectares of land that was mostly gorse for $20,000 in 2007.

“It was magic, and so we’ve just been pioneering it ever since - looking at what we've got and making the most of it and using what we have,” Shannon said.

They grow vegetables and fruits, and, as well as dogs and cats, have turkeys, pigs, ducks, milking goats, sheep, rats and a rabbit.

They also take one of their dogs, Mrs Higgins, for children to read to at the Grey district library, and they foster and re-home orphan dogs.

Their off-the-grid property uses solar, wind and hydro power from a water wheel in a creek for electricity.

“We don’t have a TV so we brainstorm a lot and both of our passions are the property and what we’re doing here.

“And of course, there was never going to be a life without dogs. I can’t imagine it - don’t want to imagine it.”

Shannon says the single most important thing for owners to do is praise their dog for coming back.

“So even if you’ve chased that little sucker up and down the beach for two hours and you really want to strangle them, praise the dog coming back to you.

“They should always feel safe to come back to you, regardless of what they’ve been up to,” she said.

The couple - who foster teenagers - also work offenders, particularly those who have been through youth court, to help them learn about having empathy for animals. Offenders are sent to them by police or Corrections, and they learn how to be kind to animals - even the two rats the couple have at their property.

“These kids are starting off, learning to be cruel to animals and then going on to end up in jail as violent offenders,” Shannon said.

“We initially wrote the book to give them some sort of handbook to take home, and it kind of morphed into a handbook for the dog obedience class as well.”

The title for the book came from a phrase the couple use all the time.

“People ring up and say, ‘can you please train my dog?’, and we say, ‘it’s not the dog we’re training’.

“The dogs aren’t something that you can just pre-load with information and be like, ‘right off you go, be a good thing’. It’s all about relationships and communication, and getting your commands right and holding your boundaries firm.”

The couple are launching the book on Saturday with an open day for 40 people and their dogs. They will have prizes on offer for an obstacle course and challenges involving a sausage catapult, a wheelbarrow and an egg and spoon element.

The book is available at or from PaperPlus Greymouth and Hokitika.

read the orignal news article here


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