Carla’s Angels

More than just a kennel, Country Club Kennels and Training is a safe haven for the forgotten

From top Chris, Kristin, Isabelle, Jenna, Madison, Carla and “Nellie”
Tim Riethmiller
From top Chris, Kristin, Isabelle, Jenna, Madison, Carla and “Nellie”

It’s a drive and a time to get to Country Club Kennels and Training in Fauquier County, Virginia, a drive and a time filled—once you get off the interstates and main drags—with stretches of statuesque barns, sheds that are peeling some original paint, crosses and churches, markets, even a Baja Bistro, a tasty deli-style roadside restaurant serving generous portions of taco and enchilada dishes close to where you’re going. You can practically hear fragments of the Bill Danoff-penned, John Denver anthem “Country Roads.”

We’re far removed from Washington, D.C., its bike lanes and hundreds of restaurants and monuments and neighborhoods and eclectic and electric urban scene. We’re in the country—rolling hills, quiet, sky-filled, field-filled country where Carla Nammack lives and works and lives her twin creations, running her closely connected enterprises, the Country Club Kennels and the Chance Foundation which are at the center of her life.

It’s a life filled with dogs—her own dogs, currently a remarkable 13 in number, but also the dogs being boarded at the 44-acre farm and estate, being groomed, watched over, tended to, spoiled and exercised at the Kennels. There are also the rescue dogs getting tender care, training, socialization and medical attention so that they will more likely be adopted through the auspices of her great and loving charity effort, the Chance Foundation. The foundation is a no-kill rescue and adoption facility, nurtured by Nammack with a series of fund raising and charity events, donations from dog lovers who want to help and by a special place in her imagination and emphatic heart for the dogs that find their way to this place.

For Nammack, the line between her business and her foundation is thin. It’s almost a kind of perpetual motion machine that is bridged by nothing but serendipity and by the common denominator of the presence of dogs. The dogs—those coming here to be boarded for a kind of vacation of their own while their owners vacation—and those abandoned, often wounded and suffering dogs left behind and often saved from being euthanized have something in common. Both groups are loved—no other word for it—one by one and together by Nammack and her staff, in a human illustration of the famous unconditional love attributed to canines.

Nammack loves to talk about dogs—particular dogs like Nellie, or her own first dog which she got as a birthday present when she was nine, or dogs in general, and why they’re special. But you don’t know any of that when you turn into the driveway at Wind Haven Farm at 10739 Bristersburg Road in Catlett, Va. You see a long driveway, green fields, a shed, a lengthy area of vegetation and a tree- rich pond, an office, spotted by dog and animal sculptures here and there. “If it’s a dog, or a horse, I tend to buy it,” she tells you later.

We spot her coming accompanied by two dogs, a brown chocolate lab who comes to check us out with nose, sniff and friendly nudging, and another black dog. She walks at a brisk pace, smiles a greeting, accompanied by an outstretched hand, a petite, attractive blonde woman in a black top and white slacks. Nearby is one of her employees’ truck, with a placard that reads, “You would drink too, if you were a dog groomer.” Nearby, behind a large fenced enclosure, several dogs—recognizably big and small, a Beagle here, a Pomeranian, an eager Cocker—are barking out of curiosity and greeting.

After working in marketing for her father John’s business, she moved on to starting up the kennel in 1996, with the help and support of her dad. “How to describe him—a charismatic, hardworking, always supportive dad, a proud dog lover who taught me about the value of hard work, persevering, and reaching for my dreams.” Her mother is Aina Mergaard Nammack, an accomplished artist whose father was from Norway and mother from Spain. “She raised me to be responsible, independent, to care about others and to make wise choices in life. She is my role model,” she said. It’s hardly quiet in the kennel’s office—dogs—especially Nellie, who’s due for adoption and, while she’s been here, has acquired quiet diva characteristics. “You cannot get by her without petting her,” she said. Nellie, a beautiful, graceful small grayish Miniature Schnauzer came to Nammack as a rescue with the kind of story that seems typical of Chance Foundation rescues: “Nellie was found lying on the side of the road…someone spotted her and took her to the nearest shelter. She was matted, covered in fleas and ticks, filthy, with an infected tumor on her back. …. After l2 days at the shelter, she was scheduled to be put down, but Carla and two of her employees, Jenna Seale and Madison Ross saw her and immediately agreed that she did not deserve to die at a shelter. They brought her to the kennel assuming she would be a hospice situation. After some antibiotics, a good grooming and one day as the office greeter, she made a complete 180-degree turn around.”

Nellie—scheduled for an operation to remove the growth on her back—has since been adopted by two women who had previously adopted two others dogs from the Chance Foundation.

More than a few times, rescued dogs get adopted by Carla herself. She has “13 dogs, at last count, not counting the ones who passed on,” she said.

There are other stories than Nellie’s—including that of Pom Pom, a small, energetic Pomeranian hit by a car with devastating effect. Pom Pom had part of his jaw removed by surgery, which had the salutatory effect of making him appear oddly cuter.

Her own first dog? “I got to pick for myself,” Nammack said. “There was this one dog, they were all puppies, and I just scooped him up right away.” He was a ninth birthday present, “part great dane, part mastiff, part boxer.” He got quite large. His name was Treve. It was the start of a love affair with Great Danes, who “are just big babies”. You can tell—there’s a painting of one of her Great Danes in the house, and he’s on the kennel’s business card. “Sampson,” she said. “Handsome Sampson, he was the most majestic boy on earth. He was my best friend and was perfect in every way.” If it is true that, as some have claimed, that “all dogs go to heaven,” there are probably quite a few dogs who will think that heaven looks just like the Country Club Kennel grounds, the green, green grass—and pool, and pond and vast exercise yards and runs—of home.

Here’s what you see and get when a dog is brought for boarding here—extra-large kennel runs, exercise and play time six to seven times a day, all play closely supervised and only with the owner’s permission, supervision by a staff of 12 plus volunteers, a pool, a waterfall pool and the ponds. This is a place where dogs forget to think about their owners.

Nammack, an expert trainer herself—you can find her advice on various training and behavior issues on You Tube videos and her website at www.countryclubkennels.com—is straight forward about her love of dogs. “Dogs,” she said, “don’t want that much—food, a little attention, sleep, play—and they’re happy. And that’s the least you can do, because they give so much back.” And it goes without saying, the best, most valuable medium of exchange—when all is said and done—between humans and dogs is love.

Nammack started the Chance Foundation in 2000 after a heart-rending meeting with a dog named Chance whose time left in life could have been measured in minutes or at best hours, but who was rescued and saved by her and in turn inspired her to do more. Dogs up for adoption, their stories and their life and times show up on the Kennel website—their faces, their journeys are both touching and joyful, and for dog lovers, a treat. Nammack leads us on a journey with her dogs, from her office, where a pug and the Beagle Pringles eye you with hope, to the pool, where the brown lab and the expectant Cocker with the tennis ball always in his mouth leap exuberantly into the pool and time again.

Through the spacious house we go, where sometimes geese fly overhead, and the orange cat comes out for a look, and off they all head to the pond, Nammack moving ahead like a pied piper, the dogs behind, in front and beside her. Pom Pom—who avoided the pool’s depth—leaps into the pond like a breaststroke swimmer, time and time again, then rolls in the grass, showing none of the vanity of a Pomeranian.

It strikes you then watching them all—Nammack, the handlers, young women and the dogs—that this is a happy site and sight. With the dogs leaping in, shaking off water, Nammack’s slacks turning muddy brown (“I knew I shouldn’t have worn white today”) there is no affectation here at all, everything—dogs and human, Carla Nammack and her angels, the dogs—are all in the moment, Kennel and Chance together.

For more information, please visit Carla Nammack’s website at CountryClubKennels.com.

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Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:50:47 -0400

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