A Walk on the Wild Side

Jennifer Broome pictured with her lab, Quinebaug’s Sweet Scent of Sassafras SH, aka Sassy.

When Jennifer Broome ’95 was growing up in Tom’s River, New Jersey, and along the eastern shore of Maryland, she spent most of her time outdoors. From the age of eight, she was a waterfowl and bird-hunting enthusiast, learning from her father, who also instilled in Broome an appreciation for the importance of land preservation and conservation. Add to this mix her interest in sailing and a strong competitive spirit, and it becomes clear why URI was an excellent choice for Broome’s college experience.

“The ingredients were all there for me,” says Broome. “I was drawn to the New England landscape. I wanted the unique wildlife and biology management program URI offered. And I was excited to join the sailing team as I had been a competitive sailor and instructor on the Barnegat Bay for most of my childhood and teenage years.”

The connections Broome made in the classroom; as a member of the equestrian club; in the field as an intern for Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management; working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Charlestown; and on the water as part of the World Cup Collegiate competition in 1992 in Paris (URI’s team came in 2nd) have served her well in her personal and professional life.

She was emboldened by her overall URI experience, using it as a catalyst to launch her dream career. “As a kid, I had a dog-walking business,” Broome muses. I was always very responsible and I was always a go-getter. Putting together my passion for hunting, the outdoors, and dogs led me to want to start training hunting dogs.”

Today, Broome and husband Jason Smith, a Warwick, Rhode Island native, own a 100-acre farm and dog training facility, Quinebaug Kennels, in Canterbury’s “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut. Smith, a builder by trade, serves as Quinebaug’s operations manager. “If it breaks, bleeds, or blows up, Jason fixes it,” Broome says, adding, “We’re a great team.”

Broome calls Quinebaug “the ultimate mecca for dogs,” and she proudly shares that business is booming, expected to expand threefold within the next year. “It’s an aesthetically beautiful facility, and we take care of it impeccably.” With a staff of 16 people and growing, Quinebaug also provides a great career for those who love the dog industry. Broome points out that she offers mentoring and apprentice programs. “URI students should definitely contact me,” Broome states. “Our programs could be a great part of their ongoing education.”

One of only three dog training sites in the country to be sponsored by Cabela’s, a huge retailer of outdoor gear for hunting, fishing, and camping enthusiasts, Quinebaug is the premiere facility for an elite group of canines. In fact, a full one-third of Quinebaug’s clientele are New York City dwellers. “We run a shuttle door to door,” explains Broome, “making it easy for hunting dogs living in the City during the week to be trained for weekends at their country homes.” A number of New York clients are also current and future championship dogs preparing at Quinebaug for various competitive trials and shows. Broome and her staff offer these urban dwellers “a fantastic opportunity to run around and play with packs of well trained dogs. Whether we are just boarding, doing fitness training, obedience or gun dog training, we make sure we send our client dogs home groomed, happy, healthy, well trained and well exercised!” Broome enthuses.

Classes at Quinebaug range from basic puppy obedience and socialization to problem behaviors, for all breeds of dogs and puppies. Advanced hunting techniques are also offered. The dogs and owners are eager participants. Quinebaug’s website and Facebook pages are filled with glowing testimonials. “I love what I do every day. Connecting with dogs is a defining moment for us, for the dogs, and for their owners, who become our friends.”

Quinebaug enjoys an excellent reputation both regionally and nationally. Ducks Unlimited, a leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation, is another prominent supporter. Broome in turn offers Ducks Unlimited free dog training, lessons, and demonstrations to assist with fundraising.

Broome spends winters in Madison, Florida, near the Georgia border, an area best known for its quail hunting. “It’s like a sabbatical for me,” says Broome, adding, “I spend six to eight hours a day there training with the best trainers in the country, challenging our dogs’ athleticism and intelligence, honing my skills as a professional, and continuing to learn.”

Broome’s 100-acre farm and dog training facility, Quinebaug Kennels, in Connecticut.

Broome and Smith own six dogs—five Labrador Retrievers and a German Short-haired Pointer—as well as an Arabian and a Nokota horse. They are AKC breeders of merit for these two breeds and have shown at the Westminster Kennel Club show in Madison Square Garden with their GSP CH Abbe Lane’s Sweet Little Elsie MH JHR CGC. Broome describes the animals as “working, competing, and hunting dogs, and of course, our pets!” These “furry kids” cuddle up with Broome and Smith to sleep at night. “First we train, then we spoil with love and affection,” Broome adds, laughing.

Recently, Broome and Smith were approved to clear land for the New England cottontail rabbit. They have benefited from tax credits for wildlife management. Broome states, “Rhode Island provided me with a land and landscape I loved. URI gave me the opportunity to learn not only about forest management—which has been a huge asset in managing our farm—but also about our state park system. I have a great appreciation for state parks, where I ride my horses, hunt, and hike on a regular basis.” Broome is published in Field and Stream and Gun Dogs Online, and has produced a number of instructional videos, expanding her professional reach.

Broome’s latest venture involves working with dogs to assist autistic children. She is excited to explore this new horizon. “It’s a great next step for Quinebaug,” Broome reflects, “Seeing kids reach and exceed their potential with the help and love of well trained dogs—it doesn’t get more rewarding than that.”

—Melanie Coon