In the spring of 1997, a young bulldog named Thor came to live with us. A few weeks later we heard about a dog training facility called Paws-Abilities, not too far from where we lived. At that point in our lives we still made the foolish assumption that the training actually was given to the dogs.
Then we came to the facility and met Larry and Dana Babb. First came Puppy Kindergarten with Dana. “What is the first thing your dog needs to learn?”, she asked. Like most there, we thought a sit, or stay, or no bites, or something like that was the correct answer. “Their NAME!”, she said. Thus began what has turned out to be a wonderfully loving 18 year relationship with an astonishingly talented group of people. And an amazing collection of dogs over the years.
Dana’s Puppy Kindergarten gave us the first set of truths about dogs: They are already programmed to do whatever we want them to do. Simply because their number one priority is to please us. With that simple task of pleasing us comes their food, shelter, love, medical care, and all the benefits of being a member of the family.
Then came lesson after lesson and in a very short time we realized that the obedience being taught was not for the dogs, but for us humans. Be obedient to consistency. Be obedient to understanding that the dogs will learn much faster than the humans. Be obedient to the realization that everything you thought you knew about dogs…….was going to change. Continually.
By the time Thor finished Dana’s Puppy Kindergarten, he was already a gentle and loving bulldog. With a lot of new friends from class, and an invigorated pair of handlers who were eager to continue training……..themselves.
Enter Larry Babb. The voice of leadership. The voice of authority. The voice of knowledge. The voice that every dog perked up to listen to, and most of all, the voice of true and unconditional love for all dogs.
When Thor was about a year old, a new member of the family came to live with us. Rudy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. Boom. Right into Dana’s Puppy Kindergarten. Then into Basic Obedience with Larry. This has been our pattern over the years. When Thor passed away at age 11, a new bulldog named TeeJay came to us. He also went through the cycles of Puppy Kindergarten and Basic Obedience.
We now have a new Cavalier (Mick) who came to live with us after Rudy passed away at age 14. And now we have the newest member of the family, Russell. He is two, but has already become a superstar in his own right. After completing Puppy Kindergarten, Russell then completed the AKC Star Puppy program. That then led to Basic Obedience and Beyond Basic Obedience. And Mick has gone with him all the way. Most recently, both completed the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification. Thanks to the expertise of Trainer Sher Yeuroukis
However, Russell wasn’t done with expanding his skills. After a friend suggested we audition him to play the part of Rufus in Legally Blonde the Musical, performed in August of 2015 by the Auburn Community Players, we found that Russell is a natural when it comes to performing. He was a hit with the cast and audiences and loved the experience.
A couple of months after the stage production, Russell auditioned for a commercial to be filmed by Lenz|Skerritt Media, for Amazon Prime Air. That video can be seen on YouTube at https://youtu.be/MXo_d6tNWuY and in the first week alone, it had more than 5 million views.
We don’t know how far Russell’s “acting career” will take him, but one thing is true for all of the dogs we’ve had in our home. They were all very loving and loved members of our family, because we learned from the best that all dogs have paws-abilities. And through the education they provide to the humans, the dogs receive the benefit of having better, more proficient handlers, who bring out the best in their pets by bringing out the best in themselves. All humans have paws-abilities, too. If they don’t, they should think about taking lessons from the pros.
When we first walked into Paws-Abilities in Tukwila, back in 1997, we had no idea that we would have such a long and rewarding relationship with them. Larry and Dana have been incredible tutors and mentors. And although Larry’s passing has left a huge hole in our hearts, his legacy has always been equally shared by Dana, and now that legacy continues to grow in their new facility in Fife. Although Jennifer Babb-Dotson was just a little kid during Thor’s life, she has now grown up to be a terrific facility manager and helps Dana in carrying on the Babb family legacy of bringing love and compassion to all of their four-legged and two-legged friends.
When you come to Paws-Abilities, you aren’t just a human and a dog, you are friends and family. Just ask Russell. Or Mick. Or any of the thousands upon thousands of happy and grateful customers.
Respectfully and lovingly,
Norm & Tia Bailey