Best of Whidbey: A career shaped by simple childhood desire

Those that want dog-training lessons and private canine tips need look no further than Whidbey’s very own dog whisperer — Corinne Boon, winner of the Best of Whidbey award in the dog training category.

Boon’s journey as a dog trainer began right after she graduated… grade school.

“I wanted a dog when I was 13, and my parents said I could have a dog if I joined 4-H and trained it, because they didn’t want to have a wild dog in the house,” Boon said. “So I joined 4-H and got my first dog.”

As it turns out, Boon bonded with a dog that could have been too much of a handful for other 13-year-olds — a Doberman that she named Rusty.

Like other dogs in her breed, Rusty had a lot of energy, so Boon said the first skills 4-H helped her develop with her furry friend involved self-control.

“She was a Doberman, so I trained her to heel — which is walking by your side quietly — and sit and stay and recall,” Boon said. “Everyone’s afraid of big, scary dogs, so I taught her all kinds of cute tricks so people would like her and not be afraid of her.”

Boon said she was inspired by the 4-H program. What started as a keen desire to own and love a dog grew into a passion for all dogs, she said.

She competed in 4-H competitions until she aged out of the program at 18. Each competition taught her a different lesson, honed her skills as a dog trainer at every wag, until all her hard work took her and her four-legged companion to the state level.

“4-H gave me a platform to share my love of dogs with everybody,” Boon said. “Later, I became a 4-H leader for 35 years, and all of our children grew up training dogs in 4-H.”

Boon has since turned her passion for dogs into a couple of business enterprises.

One such business is called Corinne’s K-9 Cuts, a dog grooming salon she runs in a shop attached to her house in Oak Harbor, she said. For Boon, dog grooming and training go hand-in-hand, because one has to understand how a dog responds and reacts to give a good cut.

“I’ve been grooming dogs for about the same amount of time (as training them),” she said. “I worked at a veterinary clinic when I was 16 and learned how to groom dogs.”

Boon said dogs have stolen her heart so irretrievably that she has molded her professional and volunteer activities to revolve around them.

Dog training isn’t the least of these pursuits.

“I love people and their dogs,” Boon said. “They come to me with problems that I try to help them figure out — why is their dog barking, why is their dog jumping, why is their dog chasing the skateboard.”

She also admitted that calling the shots at her own businesses has its own perks. But she doesn’t mean she’s glad she doesn’t get bossed around. Rather, she’s glad she has the freedom to help so many people.

“It’s fun to be your own boss and be around people that love their animal — they don’t just have their dog tied up outside,” Boon said. “They’re bringing it here to get it beautiful, and they want to figure out ‘how to get my dog to not eat the inside of my car.’ So I just try to help people with dogs.”

One of the greatest joys of Boon’s life is showing her Smooth Collies. She said training them and learning with them is as important for each dog as it is for their owner.

“The more you train your dog — they never stop learning — the bigger connection you have with your dog,” she said. “People just have a dog because they think they have to have a dog, but they don’t even teach it to sit; you don’t even know what it can learn until you try.”

Boon has made herself available to help community members train their dogs. She offers limited classes for obedience training. Every session is four weeks long, with a total of eight classes in each. Call 360 675-0950 for more information.

Looking back, Boon said she was humbled to realize that much of the paths of her life were shaped by one, simple childhood desire.

“I just wanted a dog,” Boon said,” but you can’t just have a dog; you have to have a good dog… Everyone wants to be around a well-behaved dog, but nobody wants to be around to big dog that claws them or the little dog that barks and bites them. Training helps people keep their dog.”

It’s Boon’s mission to help make that happen.

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