We had the good fortune of connecting with Cat Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cat, what role has risk played in your life or career?

I am a huge risk taker and have been my entire life! To me, life is all about compiling stories and checking off your lifetime to-do list that adds to your end of life journal! Without a doubt I feel taking risks weaves incredible excitement into life and, no matter the outcome, you end up with some of the best stories to tell as you travel through this adventure called life!

When I look back on my life, my greatest accomplishments and adventures usually started with a risk that many people would not have taken! My business, K9 Wisdom Training and Consulting, was definitely a huge gamble that I am so happy I decided to take more than ten years ago!

When I feel passionately about something I tend to jump right in! I am super nerdy and back it up with research along the way so I can make wise decisions, but I am willing to take the risks that are thrown my way because I feel confident in my ability to tackle problems as they arise!

I have always felt the connection I have with taking risks is why I have always felt a bond with the “trouble maker” dogs. Dogs who exhibit aggressive and reactive tendencies are riskier to work with and are larger puzzles to “solve”. Having a positive attitude about taking on risks has helped me save dogs in shelters and help owners who have trickier dogs that many other trainers refuse to work with. These dogs have become my passion throughout my career and are highlights to my day.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?

Ever since I was a child I would lean in close and whisper to my dogs that they were my wisdom. It started at the age of 10 with my first dog Pepper. This sentiment is still whispered daily to my current dogs, and has become a tradition I’ve shared with the 12 dogs who have blessed my life. When the day came to register my business name, the name K9 Wisdom came to me as fluidly as the word wisdom has left my mouth countless times before as I whispered it to my dogs.

I feel that this career path was paved for me since childhood! Animals have always made more sense to me than humans have! As a child I felt that I could have a “conversation” with a dog easier than I could with people, and I felt a connection when I was near animals that I didn’t feel anywhere else!

As I grew up, I realized that people are amazing as well and that they are actually easy to communicate with. Especially when we are communicating about the one subject I love to talk about – dogs!

The early stages and ideas of my dog training business, K9 Wisdom, actually started in 2002 while I was in college for visual communications and graphic design. If I’m not doing something with my dogs I am typically exploring my creative side. Painting, drawing, photography, graphic design, writing, metal stamping, vinyl decals, and creating jewelry have always been huge outlets for me! After graduating high school I was torn between going into the animal field or art field. Visual communications felt like a wise decision at the time and a couple years into college I chose to do a research paper on animal shelters and rescues. This research paper altered the path I was walking in life, and I am so glad it did!

During college, my dog Odis (Border Collie/Golden Retriever) and Amsterdam (a Border Collie/Australian Kelpie) were my sidekicks. They were both rescue dogs, and were my inspiration on wanting to write the research paper on rescue and shelter dogs. Once I deep dived into the rescue world, there was no turning back! I knew I had to help, and I immediately shifted gears towards a different career!

Through research, I learned that a large majority of the dogs that end up in the shelters across the United States are there due to typical dog behaviors that people do not know how to live with. Jumping on guests and family members, going to the bathroom in the house, pulling on leash, barking at the mailman and not coming when called are many of the common dog behaviors people do not know how to handle. Many of these behaviors are easy to work with if you know how to train and communicate effectively with dogs, and if owners had this knowledge they would be less likely to return their dog to the shelter. I knew right then that was how I was going to be able to help!

I began soaking up training books and enrolled in the only dog training school that was around at the time, Animal Behavior College. Not too long afterwards, my dog Odis died of cancer. It was devastating and a huge emotional setback for me, but I felt like I owed it to him to continue forward helping dogs.

I began mentoring under a force free trainer and also working in the Training and Behavior Department at the Longmont Humane Society. While working at the humane society I gained invaluable experience working with homeless dogs with behavior problems, conducting behavior evaluations, assessments and matching the right family with the perfect dog. I was hooked!

After working at the Longmont Humane Society for some time, I began to feel some major compassion fatigue. I knew I had to leave the shelter world for a bit, but I was torn on where to go with life from there. Rescue dogs were my life!

One day when I was on a hike with my two dogs, Amsterdam and Avery (American Pit Bull Terrier) I had this crazy idea to open up my own dog training business. During that 3 hour hike up in the Poudre Canyon I came up with a game plan on how to go about opening up my business and made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t back down! My mantra was – “if I fail, no big deal. I’ll just go back to working for someone else”. I felt like I had a sense of security with my (very) rough Plan B! It was naive, but it was the change of adventure I needed in my life at the time!

There were many trials and tribulations along the way! Running a business is no joke, and the amount of hours that go into it are beyond describable! It’s draining, and isn’t for the faint of heart! For one thing, it wasn’t all about training dogs! Nope! That seems obvious, but it’s not as obvious until you’ve actually done it! In addition to being a dog trainer, I also had to be the secretary, the scheduler, the bookkeeper, the planner, and the advertiser (good thing I went to school for visual communications! Ha-ha!)

My focus is a bit broader these days than where I started, and I love working with committed owners who love their dogs and would do anything for them! It helps counterbalance the days I spend at the shelter where dogs are dropped off, sometimes with minimal care of what happens to them! My business now offers a day school, playgroups, group classes, board and trains and private one on one training.

With that said, I am still very focused on the rescue dogs, and help out many local rescues through counseling, discounted and free services and assessments! In addition, I have created and have been teaching a 12 week long advanced volunteer class at Animal Friends Alliance in Fort Collins for 9 years now. The class is all about teaching volunteers how to train shelter dogs, decrease reactivity and aggression and increase the adopt-ability of the shelter dogs. My main goal for the K9 Coach Class is to set dogs up for success in finding and staying in their forever home. The program improves dogs chances of being adopted through training and manners, and my hope is that it will help the adopted dogs remain in their adopted homes for the dog’s entire life!

In addition to the K9 Coach class that I created, I have added a program to my business called Pay It Forward. The Pay It Forward program is all about giving back to the rescue dogs after they have been adopted to set them up for success with staying in their new home! Teaming together with Animal Friends Alliance, we offer discounted rates for people who have adopted a dog who has challenging behavior problems. Through the Pay It Forward Program my business also offers a free workshop called Who Adopted Who that is open to all rescue and shelter dogs. This workshop is where newly adopted owners can bring their dogs in for free training and behavior advice. Our hopes with this program is that this will help the dogs remain in their homes.

The Pay It Forward Program, The Who Adopted Who Adoption Workshop and the K9 Coach class takes me back to my roots of looking for ways to give back to my community and the desire to improve the lives of shelter dogs and the humans who rescue them!

Long story short, my business is successful! I, luckily, have not needed to fall back on Plan B… though there’ve been countless 18 hour workdays that have almost changed my mind!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

Being a Colorado native, this ones easy! I’d recommend showing them what Colorado truly is about – mountain adventures, breathtaking views, four wheeling, amazing music, good beer, better company and of course – dogs!

I would encourage them to pack up a camper and head up the Poudre Canyon, stopping at the Mishawaka to enjoy a show and some of our amazing local beer! From there, I’d recommend heading up to Cameron Pass and find a camping spot that’s tucked away and off the grid.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

My success is due to so many people! I truly feel like this could be an endless list and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many brilliant and rad humans, so I’ll try my best to keep it short!

Credit is due first and foremost to my immediate family! My husband, Kyle and my three amazing daughters – Anna, TilerMae and Lyric. They have always advocated for my success and have endured and stood by my side as I work endless hours to make my dream a possibility.

Second shout out is to my brothers ,Tim and Matt and my mom. My younger brother Tim has been an incredible asset to my business by helping with construction builds and for bouncing entrepreneur ideas off of! I’ve looked up to my oldest brother Matt since I can remember, and without his guidance and support throughout my entire life I wouldn’t be who I am today! My mom is an amazing lady, who has taught me to be tough and strong, and I thank her for all the wisdom she’s given me!

Third shout out goes to all the entrepreneurs, dog trainers, dog handlers, dog lovers and behaviorists who inspired me, took a risk on me, mentored me and allowed me to steal their knowledge and bounce ideas off of! A few stellar women who deserve shout outs are Lisa Sauer, Teresa DeGuelle, Sarah Clusman, Aimee Sadler, Kim Clarkson and Suzanne Clothier. These women have shared their knowledge with me, expanded my horizons and inspired me and I wouldn’t be the same trainer or person without having them in my life!

Last shout out goes out to my employees! A business isn’t a business without a solid team, and there’s not enough adjectives in the world to describe how stellar my team is! Their innate dog handling and training talent blows me away on a daily basis! So last but definitely not least, a huge shout out to Sarah, Kallie, Maddy, Marcia, Heather and Travis for being amazing dog handlers, human trainers and just down right rad people! They all inspire me! My business wouldn’t be where it’s at without them!

Website: www.k9wisdomtraining.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/k9_wisdom_dog_nerd

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/k9wisdomdogtraining

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcMOQD–QtjdfQtdznXW78w

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