Meet Kerith Wells, GDB’s newest guide dog mobility instructor (GDMI). While we think this accomplishment is impressive, we also think her experience prior to joining GDB in 2015 is very intriguing as well. Kerith graduated from Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management program and worked as an animal trainer at Theater of the Sea in the Florida Keys where she was the primary trainer for an American alligator and sea turtles. She was also responsible for the nurse shark program and oversaw their training. In terms of animals she’s worked with, add: parrot, sting ray, Patagonian cavy, dolphin, and sea lion to the list!
We asked Kerith about her decision to transition from exotic animals to training dogs. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she was eager to return and knew about GDB from a class field trip to our California campus. She was initially hesitant to apply however, because training dogs represented a complete change. “Another GDB instructor I went to school with encouraged me to apply for the apprenticeship, so I finally did. It wasn’t until my interview, where I had the chance to observe training that I knew it’s what I wanted to do. I was amazed at what the dog is trained to do and how well it navigates its handler through a crowed environment. I was sold! Also, the concept of intelligent disobedience really intrigued me. To this day, it is my favorite concept around training guide dogs.”
Kerith also enjoyed the transition from training exotic animals to training guide dogs. “It was easy transitioning from exotics to dogs using positive reinforcement techniques. I really enjoyed my time working with exotic animals, but now, I can’t imagine doing anything other than training guide dogs for the blind.”
When she’s not at work, Kerith enjoys yoga and barre classes. She hikes and enjoys spending time with friends and her boyfriend.