The Man Behind QK

By QK Owner, Jennifer Broome

He is my best friend, my rock, my love and my biggest supporter. Only those who know me well truly know the secret to QK’s success. Jason Smith. He is my husband and the Vice President and REAL Operations Manager at QK. I like to say “If it breaks, bleeds or blows up, Jason will fix it!

Back in 2005 Jason was responsible for building the training building (mostly by himself with the occasional help from me and another builder friend), and he was the designer and engineer behind the project. That was the true start of Quinebaug Kennels because before Jason, I was running my kennel out of 2 dilapidated shed barns and my old farm house. I had a great service business going filled with love, pride and strong work ethics, but no facility to show for it.  Those were the days!  We were only dating then too, and this kind, hardworking, devoted man worked tirelessly from 4 or 5 pm until midnight for months on end, after his 8 hour full time construction job in Rhode Island, to help make MY kennel dreams come true! We got married 2 years later 🙂

Building the first building, Jennifer and Jason, stone by stone in 2005

 The day we opened the Quinebaug Kennels building back over 12 years ago, I think we realized, WOW, we got something here! The kennel filled up quickly and we went from about 2 or 3 employees to 5 or 6 in a flash. With each financial gain Jason helped to add to the facility, such as outside runs, landscaping and new fenced in play areas. Any of the money we made we turned around with back breaking labor ourselves to improve the trails, walkways, and grounds not only for esthetic purposes but for improved functionality, health, wellness and enjoyment for our client dogs. Each month, each year we poured our souls together into projects, always tirelessly led by Jason. The red barn workshop, the fenced-in training arena (oh we have stories about hand digging THOSE fence posts), the training field, the bird pens, the ATVs, the equipment upgrades (to make our lives easier) all led to improvements that collectively made us so proud because our clients always commented how gorgeous Quinebaug Kennels was each time they arrived. We took serious pride in our work and it showed.

Jason’s talents are amazing! He is a skilled carpenter who can not only frame, build and roof, his specialty is custom-building such as cabinetry and detail work. A skilled builder’s eye will notice and appreciate all of the details and pride in workmanship with Jason’s work. On one note it is SO FRUSTRATING because it takes him a long time to complete projects (ugh, married to the General Contractor!) but on the other hand once Jason builds it, the job was done meticulously right! Jason is as talented on a tractor as well, whether he is plowing snow, digging foundations, planting fields or creating trails. There is not a power tool that he has not mastered, and this thin, sinewy guy can outlift most gym rats when it comes to moving heavy objects. Oh, and did I mention his HOBBY is gourmet cooking!? That means that not only does he prepare his lovely wife 🙂 haha a scrumptious meal every night that looks like it came out of Gourmet Cooking Magazine, he is also the chef behind nearly every QK event to include our Open Houses, company parties, and regular clinics cooking for upwards of 30 people.

In 2012 we began to explore building another kennel facility to accommodate our growing business. We started with our own ideas and designs and in 2013 started the year long business 504 loan application. We just about signed our lives away together applying for this construction loan trying to convince the banks we were worthy of the huge loan and we would make good on being self-employed business owners building this monster project. We actually learned to laugh at the number of times we had to ‘sign our lives away’ promising to be responsible for the entire ‘fine print’ loan rigmarole. One year and many grey hairs later, we were approved for our loan and broke ground on The Lodge at Quinebaug Kennels in 2013. It took over 2 years to build and we went well over time and of course over budget trying to add every extra we could (walk out basement, stairwell, added rooms, etc). Other than a few contractors to do the earthwork, concrete, and sheet rocking and epoxy floors, Jason and his friend Eric built the facility by themselves. Through the worst winter ever of nonstop snow they framed. On weekends and after hours Jason worked nonstop by himself. His dedication, drive, determination and heart drove him to construct The Lodge. WOW. Truly look at that building!! It is amazing, a work of art and a display of our souls that we poured into our business that we love.

Jason and Jennifer in Nashville, TN, at the NRA Convention for Cabelas in 2016

In 2018 we are over 25 employees strong with a business that we are extremely proud of. As the President, I am often the leader of the projects, the enforcer, and the one to come up with the crazy ideas of where to go next. Jason is the one that brings them to fruition. Jason’s dedication to our own farm, our dogs and my horse soon-to-be-horses enable me to travel quite a bit doing dog demos, competitions, off site lessons out of state and more. Thanks to Jason I am so fortunate to be ABLE to spend my winters in Florida and Georgia furthering my dog training skills for nearly 3 months every year among the finest dog people in the country so I can grow, learn and network. Meanwhile, Jason is back home in the frozen Northeast enforcing the day-to-day operations and doing every possible job from midnight snow plowing, to septic emergency fixes, fixing broken fences, chain sawing downed trees, picking up game birds, running dogs to the emergency vets if needed at all hours and more. Jason is at the kennel by 8am every morning working often until 5 or 6 pm, and then he is the 10pm night shift to hand walk all of the puppies in our program as well as medicate any special needs dogs. Weekends and holidays are just another day for him at QK, he rarely takes time off. He is a worker and loves it. I actually wish that he would come on more adventures with me, but he loves the farm life and is a homebody. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my collective hours, days and months away keep our bond strong (and probably keep us sane since otherwise we work together every day!).

In all honesty, as a small business that continues to grow and push the limits with new ideas and projects, we would NEVER be able to afford day-to-day operations if it were not for Jason’s skills and talents. The number of sub contracted workers would send us bankrupt… snow plowing, landscaping and grounds, plumbers, builders, drivers, computer tech problems, human resource issues, and the list goes on.

Jason is also a true friend to all of the QK employees. He has done home inspections for our beloved staff looking to buy their first homes, he has assisted with their house projects, he has fixed their vehicles (on many occasions!), he has heard their problems and stories and offered advice or simply just listened in support. He knows more about them on a daily basis than I do because of his lovely, kind, patient interactions with them. They all adore and respect Jason (I am the mean one!).

So, the next time you drive onto the QK grounds, please look for Jason and thank him! He will help you get into your car when your dog locked you out, he will talk to you about a building idea, he will offer you dinner ideas and I promise, he will love and care for your dog just like one of our own!

To reach Jason jsmith@qkdogs.com

If you love QK, thank Jay!