Updated: Jan 3, 2019
A Meadville woman has pulled off a neat trick in an online contest featuring dog trainers from all over the country.
Not only did Hannah Ernst win the 2018 Greatmats National Dog Trainer of the Year award, she won it in style, like a Weimaraner in a black-and-white William Wegman photo.
Ernst took 43 percent of the 35,300 votes cast in the contest, outpacing the second-place finisher by 6,000 votes as well 20 other nominees. Her victory was announced Friday on the website of the contest sponsor, Greatmats, a Milltown, Wisconsin, flooring company specializing in coverings for dog training, dance and daycare activities.
Ernst, a Cochranton native and owner of Down Home Dog Training LLC, will be rewarded with $250 in Greatmats products or $150 cash.
With a comfortable lead already established halfway through the two-week voting period in November, Ernst was still getting used to the fact that she had been nominated.
“I’m just very shocked and happy about everything,” she said at the time.
Her participation in the contest came as a surprise, she said, after an unknown client or perhaps multiple clients nominated her, submitted a photo taken from her business’s Facebook page and then encouraged other clients to vote.
‘‘It spread like wildfire here,” she told Greatmats of the support from clients, friends and neighbors. “When I first was told about it, I cried, because of the fact that it meant so much to me to know that I’m impacting my clients lives. It just kind of flooded me with emotion all at once.’’
A biographical sketch posted to the contest website states that Ernst’s life has been “dedicated to dogs” since she adopted a stray when she was 11.
“I had been begging my parents for a dog,” Ernst recalled in an interview with the Tribune.
By that time she had already practiced for the “real deal” with numerous stuffed animals equipped with leashes, collars and other supplies, but her pleas for a pet of her own fell on deaf ears — despite some sad puppy faces on her part.
After no success with her parents, she took matters into her own hands when she noticed the abandoned dog wandering around Cochranton. The dog was clearly in need but was wary of people who approached it.
“I sat down at the neighbor’s one day and she came up to me,” Ernst said. “I went home and said, ‘Hey, I have a dog now.’”
The dog that had been abandoned by its previous owner ended up living until she was 18, Ernst said. Ernst’s victory in the National Dog Trainer of the Year contest came one year and one day after Lacie, the former stray, was euthanized, according to a Facebook post from Ernst.
Today, Ernst has seven generally obedient dogs.
“My youngest is a black lab about 16 weeks old,” she said. “He’s working on being pretty well-behaved, but he’s a good boy.”
Lots of people voting online seem to think his owner is a pretty good trainer, as well.
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