Kathy Markey has been volunteering at animal shelters since Hurricane Katrina, when hundreds of abandoned pets wound up there. Since then, she has upped her skills, graduating from Animal Behavior College as a certified dog trainer, while continuing to assist at Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, Labs4Rescue, Lovers Not Biters and Animal Rescue New Orleans. Her goal is to teach dogs good manners to make them more adoptable and to make sure they adapt well to their new homes.
“I get to see people so happy when this was an animal going to be euthanized or in the shelter two or three years, and then given a good home,” Markey said.
Helping out at ARNO several years ago, Markey noticed one dejected mutt in its feral dog program. “You need to get a home,” she advised and considered her friend Marnie Woynowski, assistant principal at Holy Name of Jesus School where Markey teaches physical education. At least 10 Holy Name faculty members adopted rescue dogs through Markey.
“This is a Marnie dog,” she remembers thinking.
The golden retriever and border collie mix now named Nola had survived on the streets of Central City for probably five years, apparently eating discarded food from overturned garbage cans and dodging teasing kids on bicycles. Woynowski adopted the dog and immediately took it to PetSmart for pampering.
“I brought her home and she laid on the carpet and never moved. She said, ‘I’m home,’ ” Woynowski said.
Though docile inside the house, Nola had never walked on a leash and seemed aggressive outdoors. Markey was able to help Nola overcome her fears.
“Markey reads animals. She instinctively knows what’s going on in their heads,” Woynowski said.
Though Nola may still balk if her tail is touched, she exhibits no sign of a forlorn past. She is perfectly content just being a family pet.
“They just want to be loved,” Woynowski said.
“Markey has come in to work with our most troubled dogs,” said Mary Simon, founder of Lovers Not Biters. “She has helped our dogs that have shown aggression to overcome their fears and learn positive behaviors.”
People adopting dogs from a shelter can often become frustrated by misbehavior. Markey often visits adoptive homes to demonstrate effective dog training techniques and ease the transition. If there is undesirable behavior, she explains why the dogs act that way. A predictable routine and consistent communication may be all that is necessary to calm them down.
“I’m not really here to train the dog. I’m here to train you so you can train the dog,” she tells people.
Both Markey and Woynowski believe mixed breeds make the best pets. Markey’s adopted poodle mix Whoodie wears goggles and rides around with her on a scooter.
“In the gene pool, you get the best qualities of all these dogs. Put them in a good home, and you’ve got a winner,” Woynowski said, as she stroked Nola, laying peacefully at her feet.
“Once they love you, they love you hard. That’s a shelter dog.”