• Cindy Benson

It Takes a Village To Raise….Puppies!

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

There were five of us managing the puppies in this transition to the creek field. To the far left Is Kathy, Krysta in on the right, and headed just off camera is Olivia. Barry is there somehwere as well!

#clickertraining #maremma #puppytraining #dogtraining


I am so blessed to have puppy trainers!


I love to play the training videos over and over. I see so much that I wasn’t aware of while I was focused on the training, and managing the video equipment, which does not come easily to me. But over and over I am struck by how fortunate I am, and the puppies are, to have so many different people willing to come here and train puppies with me.


One of the fringe benefits of keeping my puppies as long as I do is that I have time to develop a working relationship with some of the puppy buyers. The ones that live close enough, like Barry, come to train with me often. Some of them follow the training through the video series and come here to train with us a time or two as they can before their puppies go home with them. And then there are my anomalies; my gifts from the universe. Most specifically I am speaking of Krysta, Ronda, and Kathy. You have seen all three of them in the Blush Litter training video series, and the videos from 2018, so let me introduce you properly.


Enter Ronda and Krysta; mom and thirteen year old daughter. They came shopping for a couple of pet donkey geldings last year (2018) quite innocently enough. I had a litter of Maremma puppies here at the time, and the donkeys they bought were too young to leave, so our relationship developed as they got to know their new donkeys.



They came to visit their young donkeys often, and allowed me to rope them into becoming puppy trainers as well. Neither of them had ever held a clicker, or worked with a litter of puppies of any breed, so it all was new – and they allowed me to video record them! Using a clicker for the first time can feel awkward. Learning this skill while being watched and recorded can be a bit imposing so I really appreciated that they were willing to let me share their journey with others, lumps and all.


This is Ronda doing some one on one work with four month old Rosie. So sweet....

When the donkey boys were old enough to leave I was tempted to hold them hostage because I did not want to part with Ronda and Krysta. They live only two miles away but as I know so well life gets busy. It is easy to lose contact with people, even ones you are fond of. They told me not to worry…..they would be back.


At present (2019) Krysta comes here to work with me twice a week for two-three hours at a time. I do pay her but she won’t go far on my wages; I know her coming here is a labor of love. I trust Krysta like no other. She trains foals with me as well as puppies. She helps me groom dogs. Krysta’s read on the puppies is a wonder to see. I often turn her loose with training and management decisions while I tend to my video camera. I do not have “hired help” here at all, other than Krysta (and that statement feels like a slight to her) because I am so particular about the handling my animals receive. Krysta has become a trusted partner on the ranch.


Ronda stays when we need her, and entrusts me with Krysta the rest of the time. This family tends their children well so this is a big deal. Ronda is someone I admire and enjoy, and she is a wonderful puppy trainer in any circumstance!


And then there is Kathy, my oh my. Last year Kathy had the incredible good fortune of finding a well trained adult Maremma available for purchase. The day before she drove to pick up the dog Kathy and her partner Becky visited the ranch. She was interested in bringing home a working partner for Luna. This was the beginning of our enduring friendship.


This is Kathy training the pups in their very first clicker session. The stuffed toy in the photo was the first novel stimulus clicker toy we used to begin to condition the pups to an automatic positive emotional response to new things. Kathy was armed with chicken to reward the pups for interacting with us; they only wanted the toys!

Kathy, and sometimes Becky, drove two hours each way, almost weekly, to train puppies with me in 2018 until the pup we selected for them was old enough to leave the ranch. We stayed in touch and Kathy and I became good friends, to the extent that this crazy woman was willing to drive all the way to Minnesota with me to deliver two seven month old Maremma pups to their new homes. Now, in 2019, Blush’s litter is here and Kathy is back almost weekly to train this litter with me as well. We also plan to deliver a few of these pups; prospective homes include Montana, British Columbia, and Idaho right along the Canadian border.



As I reflect on all this my mind goes to that all of us have busy lives, and as we get older life continues to throw curve balls out of the clear, blue sky. Sometimes it all feels like too much to handle, especially in light of the work load I carry here on this ranch. So I have this barometer for myself: What will I remember in a year? If what I feel stressed about at the time isn’t in that scope I should probably not worry quite so much or just let it go entirely. I have learned to grab quality of life wherever I find it, and make time for it. Ronda, Kathy, and I have the years and wisdom to know that puppies aren’t little for long but that the memories will last forever. Krysta is ahead of the curve! She’s young, and already so wise.


Ladies, thank you so, so much!!!!!

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