A Meadville woman is the “lead dog” in an online race featuring trainers from all over the country.

Hannah Ernst, a Cochranton native and owner of Down Home Dog Training LLC, was the leading vote-getter at the halfway point in the two-week voting period for the 2018 Greatmats National Dog Trainer of the Year. Greatmats is a Milltown, Wisconsin, flooring company specializing in coverings for dog training, dance and daycare activities. Voting in the contest continues at https://www.greatmats.com/2018-greatmats-national-dog-trainer-of-the-year.php through Thursday.

“I’m just very shocked and happy about everything,” Ernst said of her success in early voting for the contest.

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.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Ernst said. “Right now it looks good. I’m just blessed to be in the running with some phenomenal trainers.”

Twenty-two trainers from 17 states were nominated for the contest, which was “designed to recognize Dog Trainers who have made a difference in the lives of their clients, animals and communities through the virtues of service, integrity and quality,” according to a Greatmats press release.

As of Friday, Ernst had accumulated 6,227 votes in the contest, giving her a sizable lead over the second-place trainer, who had 5,259 votes.

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.

She 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, clearly in need but 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 surviving for 18 years, Ernst said, before being euthanized a year ago.

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.

The top two vote-getters in the contests will advance to the finals. A winner will be determined by Greatmats based on the trainers’ demonstration of service, integrity and quality.

The trainer declared the contest winner will be rewarded with $250 in Greatmats products or $150 cash. The winner will be announced Dec. 14.

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.


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