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Flat-Coated Retriever Milo enjoys the nice weather in his backyard in Puyallup, Washington. Maybe he’s thinking, “One day I will retrieve a real duck!” Photo by owner-handler Sherin Denny-Jenkins

Sherin Denny-Jenkins was out on a walk in Berlin in 2007 when she spotted someone coming her way with a dog. “All I could think was ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful dog!’ It was pretty and goofy at the same time,” she says. “I began talking to its owner and that was my introduction to the Flat-Coated Retriever.

Since then, the breed has been this Puyallup, Washington, Army wife’s conduit to meeting new friends and exploring the wide parameter of American Kennel Club sports.

Previously, she owned Golden Retrievers but her love affair with that breed was ripped apart with the loss of her beloved 5½-year-old epileptic Alissa. Alissa died of complications with medications while Sherin and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Charles Denny, were stationed in Baumholder, Germany.

“When I got Alissa, the plan was to do Agility. Once she was diagnosed with epilepsy, I was advised not to do so, since it could trigger a seizure.”

Shortly thereafter, Denny was transferred to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, but Alissa passed before the move in 2012.

Milo gets in some work at the Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers in Santa Rosa, California. The first step in Dock Diving is to jump off the ramp with confidence. “You got this Milo!” owner-handler Sherin Denny-Jenkins is thinking. Photo by Susan Shingleton

From One Retriever to Another

“At first, I wasn’t interested in getting another dog,” Denny-Jenkins recalls, “since I was still grieving. After two months, I began doing research on different breeds which led me back to the Flat-Coated Retriever and I knew that was the breed for me.”

She reached out to a couple of breeders in Germany and was “lucky enough” to get a puppy a week prior to moving to Texas. That was Cherry, a black female who turns eight in October and has been Denny-Jenkins’ agility partner since the get-go.

“For me, the biggest difference with the Golden is the Flat-Coat’s energy level. Both of my dogs (the other is Milo, a robust 67-pound male who turns 3 in August) have an off switch but when they are on, they are on! My Goldens were OK with just chilling and being couch potatoes for a couple of days. My Flat-Coats are fine with being lazy for a day or two, but come Day 3 they will stand in front of me and have that let’s-go-do-something look.”

Denny-Jenkins’ mosaic of activities with the two retrievers includes Dock Diving, Agility, Obedience, Rally, and Conformation, and has led her into countless corridors of friendships.

“My husband’s job requires him to be out in the field a lot, which means I’m by myself most of the time.” (She lives in Washington state; he is presently stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.)

With Denny-Jenkins trailing, Cherry clears a hurdle at a 2020 Agility trial at Argus Ranch Dog Sports & Training Center in Auburn, Washington. “You better hurry up, or I’ll finish the course by myself!” Cherry seems to be telling her owner. Photo by Nina Sage

Training and Transitioning

While in El Paso, she found a dog trainer and began classes in basic puppy obedience and focused on Canine Good Citizen certification. It wasn’t long before Denny-Jenkins moved on to competition-obedience classes with Cherry, where she met Eva Scholl-Grube, who also was from Germany. The pair hit it off, and Scholl-Grube took Denny-Jenkins under her wings and introduced her to many friends in dog-competition circles.

“I was so busy training my dog and making new friends that I didn’t realize that three years had passed and it was time for us to pack everything and move again (to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma in December 2015). I was talking to my sister (Sylvie Jenkins) in Germany and she asked if was afraid of moving again and leaving all my new friends behind. I told her I will quickly meet new people with the dogs.”

And the transition was seamless. Within a month, she and Cherry were training at Family Dog Training Center in Kent, Washington, which led her to a whole new circle of friends. Fast forward: Earlier this year she became an apprentice instructor there.

Quickly, she and Cherry were introduced to Dock Diving, which broadened that friendship circle even more.
In 2017, Denny-Jenkins was convinced she was ready for another Flat-Coat. But they were living on-base and her husband opposed the addition of puppy until they purchased a home nearby. Before the move to nearby Puyallup, Denny-Jenkins began reaching out to breeders seeking to find a quality puppy. Ultimately, she connected with one in Germany again, and guess what: The pup was born on her husband’s birthday, so how was he to say no?

Cherry with her North America Diving Dogs (NADD) Master Excellent III ribbon that she earned at the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America 2019 National Specialty. Photo by Sherin Denny-Jenkins

Sports, Sports, & More Sports

Asked what sports her dogs favor, Denny-Jenkins replies, “Cherry loves Dock Diving and Agility. Anything with speed appeals to her. Milo has only competed in Dock Diving and Conformation, the latter of which he is one point shy of his championship.

Early this year, Denny-Jenkins compiled a list of goals for each dog, but COVID has interrupted those plans big time. Fortunately, she has a large backyard, where she has put up some jumps and weave poles to keep Cherry and Milo busy and focused. “It’s important to keep them sharp mentally as well as physically,” she emphasizes.

Family Dog Training Center owner and lead instructor Kathy Lang says, “Cherry is a typical Flat-Coated Retriever: goofy, social, easily distracted, high energy and athletic. She’s a lot of dog and it’s so great to see Sherin using a patient approach to channel the dog’s talents into competition Obedience and Rally.

“When Milo joined classes in 2018, he came in with a goofy adolescent male personality, which provided a new set of challenges. Sherin is the perfect Flat-Coat owner/trainer/handler with her attention to detail, consistency, and calm demeanor. It also helps that she has a sense of humor and loves her dogs for their sometimes unpredictable antics while they explore the various dog sports.”

Milo goes for the gusto in Dock Diving at the 2019 Olympic Kennel Club Dog Show in Enumclaw, Washington. Photo by John Navitsky.

Never a Dull Moment

When asked about the pair’s’ competitive highlight achievements, Denny- Jenkins cites two. For Cherry, finishing second out of 74 dogs in the Dock Diving Senior Division at the 2016 AKC National Championship in Orlando, Florida. Her introduction to the sport came only months earlier.

For Milo, earning the 2018 North American Diving Dogs national distance jump Open Junior championship.

Asked about any Flat-Coat caveats she would offer someone considering the breed, Denny-Jenkins answers, “Be prepared for a lot of daffiness. They call them Peter Pan for a reason. There is never a dull moment when you’re around them.”

And public misconceptions of the breed? “The biggest, by far,” she answers, “is thinking it’s a black Golden Retriever. Or a long-haired Lab. Some even think my two dogs are setters.”

Want more info? Check out the AKC breed profile page.

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