Sue Parker says she tired of cooking, so instead of baking treats and serving them up in her canine bistro, she’s transformed the establishment – with the help of a lot of usual items procured from the Salvation Army – into a canine gym.
“They must have been saying, ‘What’s that homeless woman going to do with that?’” Parker said, pointing to rug-covered ramp built of plywood. Best guess is that the ramp was built to help a pet get on a bed or chair.
That’s what it’s being used for at the Ruff Wrangler Canine Workout Center in Conimicut.
Holding a plastic cup filled with peanut butter as a lure, Deb Quattrini coaxes Hunter to the top of the ramp. Tail wagging, Hunter likes the game so far. At the top of the ramp, he looks down on two trampolines, one placed behind the other. Now he’s to jump on the first trampoline and hop to the next to retrieve the morsel of pretzel Laurie Cary is holding out.
The objective of the exercise is to give Hunter a workout, get him acclimated to different environments and strengthen his core, explains Parker. She notes walking a dog on a leash is not going to provide this kind of exercise and help it readily adjust to new situations.
Hunter doesn’t know what to make of the trampolines, yet he’s interested in that piece of pretzel. He jumps to the side of the trampolines to join Cary. Everyone laughs – after all, he’s circumvented the unknown and found the prize. Neither Parker nor Quattrini give up. By the third try, Hunter is gaining confidence and is jumping on the trampolines.
Hunter, who Quattrini adopted from the East Greenwich Animal Protection League three years ago, is no stranger to training or people. Based on a DNA test, Quattrini said the dog is a mix of chow, pit bull, German shepherd, Rottweiler, Alaskan Malamute and beagle.
Hunter is a PVD Pup, one of the dogs that regularly visits Green Airport to relieve stress and provide a diversion to passengers. To fill that role, he has undergone extensive training. He’s good with people, too.
But the Swiss and French Alps offer a fresh challenge. Parker has eight giant plastic buckets. She’s turned some over – they’re the mountaintops – while other are bottoms down to create valleys. Hunter catches on quickly, jumping from the mountains into the valleys and back to the mountains. In the process, he’s gaining agility and Quattrini is running from one end of the Alps to the other.
Parker, a certified canine conditioning fitness coach, calls what she is doing as “parkour,” which is defined as a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training, only instead of for humans, it’s for dogs.
Parker looks to the center as not only training dogs, but also their owners to develop creative ways of exercising. She’s even got a punching bag – from the Salvation Army, of course – that she got Hunter to leap on. He wasn’t too keen on riding the lazy Susan, but Parker didn’t give up trying to get him to try it.
Hour-long center sessions are one-on-one. Multiple dogs just wouldn’t work, said Parker. The cost is $25, and Parker urged those interested in learning more to text her at 429-8017.
“You’re running around like a bunch of morons,” she said, looking at the array of obstacle challenges.
“They’re working everything,” she said of the dogs, “and at the end they’re tired and people are happy.”