Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Owner/Operator, Vom Kugelblitz Kennels & K-9 Police Officer
For centuries dogs have been deemed our best friends and are known to teach us about unconditional love and loyalty. They provide comfort, companionship and lets not forget they can also frustrate us more than ever with their need for attention, recklessness and ‘joyful’ playful behaviors. That’s also why we love them so much, right?! Some people even go as far to say, “My dog trains me.” So why is it that we love these furry friends so much? What is it about dogs that is so intriguing to us?
According to Jennifer Gambino, who loves absolutely everything about dogs, she says, “They live in the here and now, they live in the moment. They don’t hold onto what happened twenty minutes ago and don’t think about what’s going to happen in an hour. They are right here, right now. That’s how I live my life and I've learned it from my dogs. ‘Live in the moment.’ I wouldn’t have that mindset if it wasn’t for dogs.” Take it from Gambino, who is an ambitious powerhouse of a woman who is both a K-9 Police Officer and owner/operator of Vom Kugelblitz Kennels in Socrates, NY. She has devoted her life to her dogs as much as her dogs have devoted their lives to her. From a young age she has always had the natural ability to relate to and understand dogs. She has dedicated her professional career and in actuality her life to Cynology, the study of both canines and domestic dogs.
As soon as Gambino turned 18, she realized she could do, ‘Fun things.’ Immediately, she put herself out there and found established corporations that were able to provide her the opportunity to train, thereafter she applied those teachings. She learned about dog rescues, dangerous dog handling and natural disaster training through organizations such as United Animal Nations and Petsmart Charities Relief. She rescued animals from shelters and even went to New Orleans, LA during Hurricane Katrina to do disaster relief work.
Eventually, at a young age, she started her own rescue, which in her area at the time (Broome County, NY) was the first foster based animal rescue. She began to train K-9’s for State Troopers which led her to wanting to focus on purebred dogs. Even though she loved (and still does) rescue animal work she shifted gears and now the primary focus of her kennel is for dogs that are ‘destined for certain jobs.’ Which are police dogs, search dogs, detection dogs, sports dogs, etc.
“I wanted to know what it is like to raise a dog that is genetically good from the start. I had all this experience with these ‘bad dogs’ but they were raised incorrectly or had genetic problems. I wanted to get a Ferrari in front of me for once and see what it was like to drive that rather than piecing together a small broken up car.”
She still has a not for profit rescue where she trains and adopts dogs but it’s just a smaller part of what she does now. Primarily she breeds Shepherds and Malinoisalong with a dog training facility. It’s not just for K-9’s, she trains all dogs from puppies for home pets, dogs with behavioral issues, police training and sport training. Her focus on purebreds has been incredibly rewarding.
“It's really cool knowing I can bring something into this world that can make a difference.”
When it comes to training, she is always trying to better each and every dog that she makes. She says as a breeder, you need to identify the weakest part of your dog. If you plan to make it a next generation then you need to make sure you fill in those weak gaps and continue with the strong traits.
“As my generations emerge obviously I am trying to better every dog that I make. I'm not gonna breed a dog if it's not creating something that I myself wouldn’t keep and work.”
She has found a way to communicate with dogs easily through gaining their trust and understanding them on a higher level. Through her natural ability to work with them and her extensive formal training she has combined both teachings. She states that she has a harmonious relationship with them which in turn helps her to bridge the gap in communication between dogs and humans. Her uncanny ability to talk to dogs and also not being afraid to talk to people (in literally any situation) makes her successful at being a trainer, breeder and police officer. Being intuitive with both humans and dogs and understanding the science behind how dogs think makes her an ideal liaison.
“Dogs are very selfish creatures. Dogs are put on earth for themselves. We’ve domesticated them and taken attributes and aspects in dogs and have worked them so they can work for us.”
Gambino is the first female K-9 officer in her county. She had always wanted to work in law enforcement. At one point in her career she worked at a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens. She lived on campus where she was the full time handler of her security dogs. They held a variety of duties such as searching for kids who ran away. She created a program that taught teens to teach dogs. The primary focus was to help them get through their alcoholism and drug addictions.
Due to the boarding school closing down she found herself at a crossroads in life and wanted to follow a new career path. She decided,
“This is me. My dogs. My life. And I just went for it.”
She was accepted into a police academy and eventually landed a job at the Socrates Police Department as the K-9 officer. She says, “It's like literally a dream every time I wake up.” Everyone she trains with, it’s like a big family, they all work together. She could not feel more fortunate for the team. Last year, her police dog won ‘Top Narcotics Dog’ in the USA through the USPCA. This is an incredible accomplishment. USPCA’s primary focus is to engage in training and certifications for police and working dogs to advance in public safety. Their website states, “Police departments see resources diminishing daily. The USPCA Foundation was set up to help maintain and further K-9 by assisting officers and agencies providing and maintaining this vital law enforcement tool.” The USPCA plays a vital role in the progression of K-9 performance and the safety of our communities.
One of the most rewarding moments in Gambino’s career was about four years ago. She was still in the academy but got a call from the state police about a search and rescue and to bring her dogs. A man had been missing for thirteen hours and at that point hundreds of people and K-9 units had already been on the scene. Fairly quickly her canine training dog found the man, barely alive.
“All that time and training saved his life. There is nothing compared to being out there with your dogs and trusting them and saving someone else's life. All the awards don't compare to that.”
What brings you the most rewards in life typically evoke heightened emotions. Her dogs bring her the most joy and accomplishment but also carry the hardest part of her job. Losing a dog is like nothing else. She says, “Studies show that the loss of a pet is way worse than the loss of a person most of the time.” Each individual relationship with a dog is different, in the same way that it is with humans. She has lost human family members and mentors, which has also been incredibly hard.
Gambino says the difference is, “They (humans) gave me so much. Every day when I do stuff and accomplish things I can carry on what they gave me. With dogs I can’t pay that homage. Losing a dog is rough.” Being a police officer comes with so much emotional and physical stress. Gambino has the ability to turn off and decompress. It helps her get through the stresses of the job.
“Every day i see horrible things and deal with horrible things. I can't take every ghost with me, it's part of the job.”
Gambino takes inspiration from her dogs as we take inspiration from her. The police force itself may be male dominated but in her department, she feels no criticism. Everyone she trains with, they all work together. As a female police officer and a dog trainer she definitely gets some looks but she says she truly doesn’t care and nothing really gets to her. Basically, it’s not worth it to care. She says,
“My philosophy is, I don't put much emotion or energy into things I cannot control. I can’t change people. If I've offended someone, that's on you. Obviously I'm doing something right if people are talking about me. If someone’s gonna say crap about me then i'm gonna work ten times harder to get to my next step. Don't let that stuff bother you, let it fuel you to move forward, harder and faster to achieve more goals.”
What is some of Gambino’s advice that people can take and translate into their home environment?
She says a common problem with pet dogs is the lack of communication. Dogs and their owners need to figure out what we can give and take from each other. We need to give them boundaries, rules and respect. They will in turn give their human counterpart the same.
“If you look at every human relationship it’s a give and take. It’s no different than dogs. It’s always gonna be that. Every dog has a purpose and if we can figure out what that is and can communicate effectively with them then the relationship is a lot more harmonious.”
It’s important to make sure that you have mutual trust and respect with your dog. Humans need to keep the lines of communication open and dogs will reciprocate.
“People put these human emotions on dogs and feel that they think like we do and believe their dog has a vendetta against them and anthropomorphize them. That is a huge misconception. Dogs are dogs and not people. They don't think like us, they don't process like us and they don't live life like us. So if we really wanna get the most of our relationship with them we have to treat them like dogs and not like tiny people.”
There is a lot in store for Vom Kugelblitz Kennels. In this upcoming year they plan for a large expansion. She stresses that her kennel is ‘Quality over quantity.’ They want to be able to offer extended training services to the public and also be able to offer more dogs to police departments. The new facility will come equipped with a large training building with indoor and outdoor runs. She wants to be able to help as many dogs as she can and develop working dogs to be even stronger and smarter.
“If I have a goal, I'm gonna achieve it yesterday.”
There is no doubt that with Gambino’s work ethic and skill set that she is going to be able to provide an even better educational and training facility for so many animals. She also has developed an intern program which is relaunching this coming January. The six month program is primarily female focused. Gambino’s goal is to utilize the intern program to empower women by showing them that they can accomplish their dreams.