ROCKFORD, Mich. — A West Michigan woman and her dog spent a chunk of their extra free time during the pandemic putting together a book about dog training, eventually getting it published by a company in Grand Haven.
Ronnie Blackwell has chewed out her own corner of paradise at her home in Rockford, where she runs Blackwell Farms, boarding just a few dogs at a time.
“This is just a sampling of the 800 dogs I’ve watched here,” Blackwell told FOX 17 as she showed off one of her walls almost entirely covered in photos of dogs she's taken care of at her home.
“As a dog trainer and a dog boarder, I take up to eight doggy guests. So it seems like a lot of dogs, but they all just live right here in my home as if they were all my dogs.”
Among the many doggy beds and furry housemates, is Bennett. The 5-year-old Labrador Retriever lives full-time with his mother Ronnie, and acting as a sort of host to the other dogs.
"We all slept together as a pack, so I get the big bed and then at night time I just spread all the fluffy dog beds all around my bed,” Ronnie said.
She follows the same routine for every canine guest that comes through Blackwell Farms, greeting them for their stay at a special back door of the home.
"The new dog guests will come out here and have a chance to wonder around, sniff around and do a bit of potties first," she said standing on her back porch.
"Then we meet the dogs 1 dog at a time, then I just watch their body language and I make sure the dog guests go back to their relaxed body language in between each one of the dog pack mates coming out to meet them."
Needless to say, when the pandemic hit, life changed drastically for the pair.
“I was a very busy dog boarder, full nearly every single day of the year, to all of a sudden in March, it all came to a halt. And, and I was just kind of like, yikes, what am I going to do?"
But Ronnie has never been the type to just sit back.
“So I said, Bennett, dude, you got to get a job. And so he did, and he started to write.”
And eventually, with just a little bit of help from his mom, Bennett wrote a book called Yes! Dog Training Made Simple.
“He's always been a good writer anyway, and he's a quirky fella. He's got a funny sense of humor, which is very different than mine,” Ronnie said of her young canine author.
Ronnie and Bennett wrote up a draft and has several of her boarding clients give it a read and offer their feedback.
“It was interesting to kind of weigh that. But, then it went to the editing process, and then the editor knew a publisher and said, Hey, publisher, this is a really good book.”
Splattered Ink Press and Publishing based out of Grand Haven decided to publish the book.
“It takes you through the basics of the things that I see on a regular basis. So, living with a dog, wanting a dog to be a good family member, wanting a dog to be calm.”
And while Blackwell Farms isn't going anywhere soon, the duo is already dreaming up ideas for their next project.
“We've gone in many different directions as far as what our next book might be together,” she said.