Shortly before I launched the blog in June, I attended the world’s largest pet blogging conference….Blog Paws. It was being held in Nashville, so it was the perfect opportunity to get away and rub shoulders with other pet bloggers who could fill my head with the things I needed in order to launch RugbyJames.com. My heart was already full of what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t know how to do it.
I arrived at Blog Paws like a small town girl who had just arrived in the big city. With eyes and ears open wide, I tried to take it all in and not feel completely overwhelmed at the same time. The first breakout session I attended was called “How to Find and Tell Your Story for Social Media Success.” I was ready. iPad in hand, excitement brimming over, I was like a kid on that first day of school.
The speaker started her introduction by telling us that we were all in the breakout for shelter and rescue groups to find and tell their stories for social media success. What the what? I quickly looked at my brochure again, and there was absolutely nothing in the description that said anything about rescue groups. Rats! I knew I was in the right room, but I was definitely in the wrong class, and I was hoping my face didn’t show too much blush.
To calm my beating heart, I reminded myself that only I knew I wasn’t with a rescue. No one else in the group did, so my secret was safe, and I could fake like I belonged there. Phew! And then….horror upon horrors, the speaker now asked each one of us to stand, introduce ourselves, and tell everyone about our rescue group. Panic hit. Now my cover was blown, and everyone would know that I was an idiot for being in that session!
I was sure everyone could hear my heart beating as loudly as I knew it was. I was in the second half of the room, so I was given time to think of something that wouldn’t leave me looking like a complete idiot. As I tried frantically to form my introduction in my head, I started listening to what other people were saying in their introductions. And something really magical started to happen.
I connected with each of those other bloggers, because at our hearts, all of us love the animals we help. I found myself with a lump in my throat as I listened to descriptions of amazing work by dog rescues from all over the world, who were represented in that room. When it got to me, I knew exactly what to say. I said, “Hi! I’m Sally Hummel, from Knoxville, Tennessee, and by trade, I’m a professional dog trainer. My mission is to put all y’all out of business by keeping dogs in their homes and out of shelters and rescues.”
And that mission is at the very deepest heart of RugbyJames.com. I think many, if not most dogs end up in shelters or rescues because of naughty behavior. When I evaluate dogs, I often hear owners say, “If this dog doesn’t stop doing….fill in the blank….we’re going to get rid of him.” That’s always a heartbreaker for me, because I know if they don’t hire me, most likely, that dog’s whole world will be turned upside down in a new home, shelter, or rescue. And the owners, who likely really do love dogs, will simply get a new dog, and repeat the process all over again, not realizing that they are the problem…not the dog!
So much money, time, advertising, etc. has been spent in getting the word out to spay and neuter pets to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately puppies who don’t get a great start in life. However, there is next to nothing that I’m aware of, to educate dog owners to train their dogs rather than recycle them.
My little jewel Rugby James, is a recycled product of the shelter and rescue system. He’s a little dog with so much heart and such amazing qualities that it’s impossible for me to think of ever giving him up. But, being a professional dog trainer, all I have to see is his nutty behavior to know how quickly anyone else would send him packing to a new home, shelter or rescue. And by the time I adopted him, I knew that even though he was only 8-9 months old, he’d already had 4 other homes, and all of that shuffling and change had likely created who he was, and it was one wacky, messed up puppy. I knew that if he left my home, the only other alternative for him would be euthanasia, because he was just not a very adoptable dog, even though he was adorable. I knew that the buck stopped at my doorstep, and I held the power of life and death for my little speckled treasure.
So part of the mission that I also hold near and dear to my heart is to offer help, support and community for those dog owners who also have the “Rugby” dogs of the world. Those lovable little misfits who are a hot mess, but have captured our hearts with their little souls. You see, I think you really can live well with a little nutter of a dog. Just because I can’t take Rugby many places, or do much with him, it doesn’t mean that I can’t give him a great life or that he can’t be happy in a small world. We just do life a little differently than other dogs do, but it doesn’t mean that Rugby is a throw-away dog of no value or use to anyone. He’s opened my eyes to a great big online dog community and profoundly changed how I train dogs. For this dog owner, he’s the dog who has changed everything for me.