Dianna M. Young, a co-owner of Stella Ruffington’s Doggy Playcare with her husband, Jason, is a certified professional dog trainer, as well as author of Award-Winning book Think Like Your Dog and Enjoy the Rewrads, specializing in behavior, and has served in the pet industry for more than 26 years. Since 1997, she has operated Camano Island Kennels, a dog training and boarding facility about an hour north of Seattle on Puget Sound. In December of 2011, Jason and she acquired Stella Ruffington’s, and have combined this West Seattle operation with their Camano Island one in order to offer area dog owners as wide a range of professional services as possible.
Dianna is a native Northwesterner who began her professional dog-training career in Germany in the late 1980s. She studied there for three years under a number of skilled master trainers, then returned to the East Coast of the United States to enroll in a nationally accredited school for dog trainers. After successfully finishing studies there, Dianna worked professionally on the Eastern Seaboard for several years, before eventually coming home to Western Washington to establish her own training and boarding operations.
Jason Young was raised in Alaska, and started out adult life in a military career. When he met Dianna he was a senior noncommissioned officer in the Army’s elite Green Berets, with whom he had served several combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was in the Army in the Middle East, in fact, where Jason first encountered highly trained canines and discovered how valuable they were to him and his men in combat there. He and his squads worked with the dogs nearly every day or night, and came to rely on them for their dependable skills in sniffing out roadside bombs and other potential booby traps and in providing physical protection for their human partners on combat patrols.
Jason’s military training had developed and honed his skills as a manager and as an instructor, and upon meeting Dianna in 2005, it seemed as though everything finally fell into place. Here was an opportunity to work permanently and professionally with dogs alongside Dianna, while making good use of the organizational skills and instructional skills that the Army had taught him.
Mike Priebe is a man who considers himself especially lucky to work at Stella Ruffington’s. Why? Because he’s a dog person who has been going through life without a dog.
“I’ve always been a dog person,” Mike says, “but I haven’t owned a dog in my adult life. I’ve lived the vast portion of my adult life in small apartments. I haven’t lived in places where I could have one.” Stella’s, he says, is a wonderful outlet for the dog-lover inside of him.
Mike has several years of professional canine-care experience under his belt, and is Stella’s primary weekend man. He works overnight most Saturday and Sunday nights, and all day on Sundays. He makes sure the dogs are happy, feeds the overnight guests and sees that they get safely bedded down, and provides supervision for them both day and night. He also checks dogs in and out for clients, and keeps the store clean. When he’s not working, he likes to read – mostly history and literary fiction.
Mike enjoys interacting with Stella’s clients, because he likes people. But he enjoys the dogs even more. “I want people to know that I really like dogs,” he said. “I enjoy the time that I spend with their dogs. I enjoy the time that I’m here.”