We wanted to help you get to know the owners/trainers of NoCo Unleashed by telling you a bit of our stories. We are going to start with our early life with dogs.
Megan Wallace, CPDT-KA, CNWI, CCUI, was born into a family of dog lovers. One of her earliest memories is crawling over the family Golden Retriever, Brandon, who was a year old when Megan was born. She was named by Megan's eldest sibling, after the dog on Punky Brewster. Right around her 2nd birthday, the Donovan family brought another puppy into their lives, an Old English Sheepdog named Rags. Megan's first word was "Dog". There are pictures from her childhood of her using her doctor playset to play "veterinarian" with Brandon, as well as a picture of her with a tennis ball in her mouth! Her mom reports that she was always asking to go outside with the dogs as a toddler.
At around age 11, her passion for dogs hadn't slowed down a bit. She started getting interested in therapy dogs, and attempted to train Brandon and Rags to be therapy dogs. Keep in mind they were 9 and 12 at this time, so not really suited to a new career. She became certified through the Delta Society as a handler, without a dog, just so she could go with the therapy dog teams on their visits. Around this time, her dad took her to a local dog show to check it out. It was there that Megan saw a girl she knew from swim team showing her Shiba Inu in Junior Showmanship. From then on, she became obsessed with the idea of getting a dog to show.
One thing is clear - Megan has extremely supportive parents, who helped her buy her first Border Collie , Shadow, when she was 12. While Southeastern New Mexico did not have much of an active dog show scene, with the help of her parents, she traveled to as many shows as possible, and learned everything she could about dogs, shows, training, breeding, and more. Another Border Collie, Gyp, came along, and became a faithful friend to her younger sister. Megan's first job was working for a breeder of Briards, helping with grooming and dog care. While classes and shows weren't plentiful, she found a wonderful mentor in dog training who helped hone her training skills. Her mentor also happened to breed a litter of Border Collies, from which the Donovan family bought Faith. Faith became the foundation bitch for their breeding program, as well as her mother's search and rescue dog and dedicated companion. Their first litter was born when Megan was a senior in High School.
As you can see, Megan was deeply steeped in the dog world before even leaving for college! Next time, we'll learn about Victoria's early life with dogs. After that we'll talk about how both of them became dog trainers, and what led them to becoming owners of NoCo Unleashed!
Megan went to college at Colorado State University, with the intention of getting a degree in Biology, and applying to vet school. Shortly after her first year, when she moved out of the dorms, it was decided that she should take Pirate, the puppy the family had kept from their first litter. He had experienced the results of some unfortunate training advice, and was starting to become difficult to handle due to reactivity toward other dogs.
Around this time Faith's second litter was born, and Megan had planned to take one of the puppies. This pup was Tori, who in time also developed some difficult behaviors with meeting strangers. In dealing with Tori's behavior issues, she met an amazing mentor who taught her all about how to address behavior problems using non-aversive methods.
Pretty much every trainer you talk to will tell you that they became a professional trainer because of "that dog", who taught them so much that they almost couldn't help but pass that knowledge on. The same was true for Megan with Pirate and Tori, she shifted her desire to go to vet school, and started learning everything she could about dog behavior and training.
During college, Megan also started working for a grooming salon, where eventually she learned to groom dogs. Over the years before she opened her business she worked in doggie daycares, boarding facilities, and grooming salons. She credits all of this work with her ability to read dog behavior, and manage them even in less than ideal situations.
In 2013, Megan worked for Dogs' Own Grooming and Daycare, where she was able to teach classes at night and start her own training business Dogs Deciphered. One of her favorite classes to teach was and always will be K9 Nose Work, where she chanced upon meeting Victoria. In our next story time, we will talk about "that dog" that got Victoria into training, and how she ended up in Megan's Nose Work class!