Meet our new trainer, Kelsi Long, who works at our Chattanooga location! Kelsi hit the ground running in August after completing our grueling Trainer Course in Boise, and we’re so happy to have such a hard worker on our team. She’s passionate, talented and dedicated to exceeding our clients’ expectations. Get to know her in this fun interview!
1. What is the best thing you have bought so far this year?
Bought? Adorable baby clothes for my niece who was born in March! Does that count?
2. Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?
Sign language. I took two semesters in college and absolutely loved it. Wish I would have stuck with it, but it’s never too late!
3. What is an item on your bucket list?
My favorite thing about “bucket lists” is that they are always changing! I have always loved traveling (thanks to my parents) – so places like Australia, New Zealand & Africa are on my list. Lately I’ve been wanting to tackle scuba diving.
4. When did you get into running and why?
I actually attempted to run track in school, but got bored running in circles so that didn’t last long…then our mom started running 5ks for a change in her health, and wanting to complete a half marathon before she was 60 years old. I don’t remember the year she started, but my sister and I started running different races with her (proceeds always going to a great cause) whenever we were back in Ohio. We also did a few triathlons with her! When I moved back home, we started doing more and more together around the Cleveland area.
I have loved the virtual option the past couple years, because we have been participating in these runs for so long it was nice to still be able to support those groups from a distance while being out of town. Fun fact: I’ve made 5 queen size quilts out of all the t-shirts from those races! Thanksgiving morning is probably my favorite run of the year! I think we’re going on 9 or 10 consecutive years.
5. What’s been your most challenging race so far?
My first half marathon. Holy macaroni. I signed up for a trail run, I didn’t want to run 13.1 miles on pavement and thought the scenery would be better through a park. My shoes got soaked and ruined (luckily I needed new ones anyways), I had horrible blisters, I was so dehydrated by the end of it, my dog beat me across the finish line (and he looked so happy doing it – he and my sister came to watch and occasionally he would run some of the distance with me then go back to her). I definitely underestimated and learned from that run. I’ve also never looked at watermelon the same – don’t ask. My second half marathon went much better. I actually completed it while out in Boise for the trainer course and Hilo ran the last 3 miles with me!
6. You’ve worked in the veterinary field. What made you decide to pursue dog training?
I loved working on the medical side of animals. It lasted about a year and half, but I learned so much and loved everyone I came in contact with. Occasionally we would have clients whose dogs didn’t quite match (energy levels – which isn’t a bad thing), but sometimes owners would look to medications to help calm their dog instead of training. Like I said – not a bad thing, but it made me start to think more about how I could help and make a difference with owners and their pets. I started to look more at animal behavior and the “why”, I read so many books, shadowed a few different trainers, and got a job with a company who had a dog day care and a kennel/training facility. I learned a lot about body language in the day care as well as time management in the kennels. Caring for 30-40 dogs can be tough! I’ve also volunteered with different animal shelters; Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is one of my favorites! The last time I was there I got to strut with Hatomi around the block to help her chances of getting adopted! Walter was my favorite pup at the daycare (we started #wednesdayswithwalter on Instagram and always showed silly faces), and Capone was my favorite client at the vet clinic, I actually almost adopted him but his owners decided to keep him.
7. Why Valor K9 Academy?
Why not! I found Amy through social media, attended her Shadow Program in Fall of 2019 and the rest seemed to have worked out (assuming she keeps me around!). In all honesty, after I attended the Shadow Program, I knew I wanted to work for her and this company, it was only a matter of time. The methods we teach are the most beneficial for how dogs learn and they last! I worked with a company who was very old school, and dogs learn so much quicker with Valor’s Methods it has been interesting to see all the differences. I also like our approach with teaching owners. We teach what the behavior is, how to teach it to your dog, and why it’s important. Some companies just go through the motions with training, not explaining the science behind it – we aren’t like that.
8. What are your long-term goals as a dog trainer?
The long-term goals I have right now are becoming a Canine Fitness Trainer, teaching group classes, working with rehab cases, and teaching a NoseWork course. Over the summer we had a team retreat and Trainer Samantha introduced us to canine fitness, I was hooked. I asked for her binder to learn more about the program, and wanted to sign up immediately to gain more knowledge (I’m glad I set it aside for a little bit while I get settled here in Tennessee). A group class I think would just be fun! Rehab cases are just incredible and not a skill every dog trainer has, but they’ve always had a soft spot in my heart. NoseWork I find very intriguing, plus my dog loves it! He was great at finding his toys on the playground out in Boise. When he gets down to Tennessee, I’m hoping to find a facility to learn more about it and challenge him a bit more.
9. Tell us about Hilo!
Oh my goodness, where to start with this handsome pup.. Hilo is a 7-year-old Australian Shepherd, although a lot of people think he’s mixed with something because he’s massive (68 pounds). He is named after Hilo, HI (his two brothers Kona and Kai have relevance to Hawaii as well). My mom picked out Hilo while my dad was working from home. They had another aussie puppy back home who was just 6 weeks older, and decided he needed to have a brother, plus our family has never just had one dog at home. Then when my dad started going back to the office for work Hilo became my dog. I moved to Virginia and he came with me, that’s where all of our adventures and my dog training began. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect first dog for me.
As a puppy he challenged me, but in the best of ways. He used to refuse to eat out of a bowl because he wanted to train instead – the food was way more fun when he had to work for it. He is my adventure buddy in every aspect. He loves the water, thank goodness, (thanks to living in Cape Charles and the Outer Banks for a few years), it’s now impossible to keep him out of it. He enjoys car rides, loves to play with toys and just has a goofy personality. His eyes captivate everyone. Hilo has also participated in a lot of 5ks with me over the years, he absolutely loves it and gets attention from everyone while we’re running. If my sister and I are running together (she tends to run faster), he will go back and forth between us, he never gets in the way but I wish I knew about tab leashes sooner!
I’m spoiled with him, while he isn’t perfect, he’s been the best dog for me and I’ve learned so much from him over the past few years and I can’t wait to get him down in Tennessee! Life is more fun with a dog – not to mention all the new adventures we will get to go on!
Thank you, Kelsi, for everything you shared so we can get to know you better!