Joining the SportDOG team has taken me places I never dreamed I would be able to go. SHOT Show, Game Fair in Anoka, MN, the Bird Dog Hall of Fame in Grand Junction, TN and various hunts that would have taken me years to pull off on my own accord. All of these have been incredibly special to me for a variety of reasons. SHOT Show brought with it a feeling of VIP status in the shooting, hunting and outdoor industry being able to view the newest releases of all of my favorite brands, Game Fair introduced me to my first Dock Dogs event and I got to meet many of our fans and customers in person and the Hall of Fame induction was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had the pleasure of attending. I have gotten to attend many extraordinary events on behalf of SportDOG, and all have been exceptional, but the one that has had the most profound effect on me to date is Pheasant Fest 2011.
Last year was my first appearance at Pheasant Fest, and it is a memory I will cherish always. Like Game Fair, I got to meet an astounding number of our fans and supporters, and I really cannot express to you what a great joy that is for me and the rest of the SportDOG team. It’s awesome to get to interact with you guys, hear product experiences and see families out enjoying a day dedicated to the arts of hunting and conservation. What really stood out about this event for me though, was our ProStaff. Rick Smith, Rick Grant and Tom Dokken were all at the show with me, working the booth. By then, I had gotten to talk to all of these guys a lot on the phone, and I had even met Tom Dokken in person, but Pheasant Fest represented three full days of getting to hang out with these guys, see their seminars and talk about everything dog training.
We talk a lot about how much our ProStaff does to help us conceptualize and perfect our products. We talk about what incredible trainers they are. All of this is true, but what we could not do justice to, even if we dedicated a thousand blogs to the subject, is what great people they all are. They truly amazed me with their willingness to talk me (a young lady from backwoods Tennessee with limited access to upland birds and little success in the area of dog training) through every aspect of my training experience. They were patient and kind and willing to talk for hours. While they may have chuckled a few times at some of my past training fiascos (a much nicer response than some are owed I assure you) they never judged or condemned me for my missteps, but instead led me to be able to overcome some of my past errors and to have the faith in myself to make them better in the future, and that experience was not limited to me.
Tom Dokken is basically a rock star of the dog training world. He filled our booth with people wanting signatures on his book and advice on their training, and Tom spoke at length to each and every one of them. He is always excited to talk to anyone and everyone about dog training, hunting and shed hunting. It is incredibly humbling to watch him work, and the same can be said of Rick Smith and Rick Grant. Rick Smith, his brother Ronnie Smith and their dad, Delmar, are basically the First Family of dog training. I think together they represent over 80 years of dog training experience, but they are all as patient and kind as you can find in any human being and they will talk to you for as long as you are willing to listen and learn because they sincerely want to help you. Rick Grant also offers a humble style and willingness to go the extra mile to make sure your experience and your dog’s is the best it can possibly be.
I think I was most blown away by this group of guys at our last dinner. As the only representation of SportDOG employees (Sales Manager Josh Miller was also there, but at this time he was not on our payroll) the guys came to the table with a plethora of praise, critiques and criticisms for our entire line of products. I heard every detail of win and miss in the six years that had transpired since we were founded in 2003 and I started in 2009. It was a lot to take in, to say the least. Then, just when I was feeling overwhelmed, Rick Smith looked me in the eye and said “The most important thing to know about any of this is that we’re telling it to you because we care. We are rooting for you guys, and you’ve all come so far. We want to make sure you all continue to lead the way. We’re proud to be a part of this team, and we want to keep it that way.” This statement was followed by adamant agreements from Tom, Rick Grant and Josh, and I whole heartedly believed them. I still do. Though I had suspected it my entire career here, that dinner cemented for me that we have the best possible support in these guys, and our entire ProStaff line-up.
Since leaving Pheasant Fest, Tom has helped me train my lab mix while visiting our Knoxville office. Rick Smith extended the invitation to the Hall of Fame Induction mentioned above and Rick Grant continues to be a consistent voice of advice and guidance. Josh Miller has also come into his own training fame with his dog Easton. The pair are now the NASHDA World Shed Hunting Champions. I could not be prouder to know these guys. They have taught me so much, and I know I’ll learn so much more from them over the years.
If you’re going to be at Pheasant Fest this weekend in Kansas City, MO, I strongly recommend stopping by our booth and taking the time to talk to these guys about any questions you may have. Rick Smith, Rick Grant and Tom will be joined by Ronnie and Delmar Smith and Jim Morehouse. Together, these guys represent more than 85 years in dog training, and they are more than willing to share all of that with you. Also, definitely try to see at least one of their seminars. The Bird Dog stage is right by our booth and there are seminars planned every hour. One conversation with these guys and you will understand exactly why I am so glad to know them and have them as friends and mentors.
Hope to see you this weekend at Pheasant Fest 2012.
Eleanor, El, Marshall is Assistant Marketing Specialist for SportDOG. She joined the team a little over 2 1/2 years ago. El is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with majors in Business and Communications. She is a die-hard UT fan, even through the rotten years. El lives in Knoxville with her beagle, Blitz, and her four year-old son. She is a proud momma who intends to educate her son in all things hunting as soon as he’s big enough to carry a shotgun.