Larry LaRue: Dogs and their tales unite outdoorsman and daughter

Staff WriterFebruary 19, 2014 

Former News Tribune outdoor writer Bob Mottram and daughter Dianna Young have written a book called “Think like Your Dog: And Enjoy the Rewards.”


After 40 years in the newspaper business, the last 24 as the outdoor writer for The News Tribune, Bob Mottram retired in 2003.

One week later, with their Tacoma home sold, Mottram and his wife, Karen, hit the road in a diesel pickup that hauled a trailer. They were headed to parts unknown.

“We didn’t come back for 13 months,” Mottram said. “We were in search of the real America. Eventually, I wrote a book about that trip.”

Mottram’s career had taken him from Alaska to Mexico to Florida and hundreds of small spots between. He hunted and fished and wrote.

“Dad was in the Alaska tundra on Sept. 11, 2001,” daughter Dianna Young said. “The column he wrote about 9/11 was one of my favorites. I didn’t hunt or fish, so growing up I never read his work.”

Young headed out on her own search early, and it didn’t stop on the North American continent. After graduating from Stadium High School, she chased her dream.

“I wanted to be a dog trainer, and the most renowned master trainers were in Europe,” she said. “I spent three years in Germany, and when I finished that I studied in West Virginia and became a registered trainer in 1990.”

She worked with veteran John Henkel in Connecticut. He trained dogs for the military, for the movies and for paying clients that included celebrities.

“I always knew I wanted to come back to the Northwest, and when I did, I first looked at land in Gig Harbor for building kennels,” Young said. “I realized I couldn’t get a conditional-use permit there.”

Her search ended on Camano Island, where she bought land, built her home and business, and opened Camano Island Kennels.

The business flourished, and she and husband Jason opened Stella Ruffington’s Doggie Daycare in Seattle. Her brother John Mottram, a lawyer, managed that operation. “We’ve got a shuttle from our Seattle facility to Camano Island, and it runs every day,” said Young, now 46 and the mother of 31/2-year-old twins. “The Seattle operation is largely day care and boarding. Most of the training is on Camano Island.”

When she was approached about writing a column for a small local paper about six years ago, she turned to her father. Mottram would talk over dog issues with her, watch her work. Then together they’d hammer out a column.

They wrote a blog together, and the partnership clicked. Father and daughter found they enjoyed the process and shared a love of dogs.

“I’ve been an outdoorsman my whole life,” said Mottram, now 73 and living in Anacortes. “I bred and raised dogs as a kid with my dad. Watching Dianna work with clients opened my eyes. I learned a lot about dogs, a lot about people.”

A publisher who’d handled one of Mottram’s fishing books read their columns and wanted to make a book of them.

“Probably 12, 14 years ago the notion of a book struck me,” Young said. “I’d gather files and folders. I was collecting ideas, thoughts, topics.”

All from her own experience, working with dogs and dog owners

One woman, for instance, believed the family dog respected her husband and son, but because of her high-pitched voice had none for her. Young brought the woman and her dog in and, through conversation, found the root of the problem.

It wasn’t the dog. It wasn’t the pitch of her voice.

“She’d been afraid of dogs all her life, that was the root of it,” Young said. “We had to build her confidence with the dog, and we did — and we had her interact with other dogs, as well. “Dogs are pack animals, and if no one is the leader, they’re forced to take on that role. If you don’t protect the pack, they will. If you’re not leading, they will.”

Mottram heard that story, made it a chapter.

“The book is a training manual, but much more,” he said. “It goes to the heart of how canines are hard-wired, how we work with that.”

The end result was “Think Like Your Dog: And Enjoy the Rewards,” published last fall by Island Book Publishing.

For father and daughter, it was a project that brought them closer. While they worked on it, they talked every day and produced a book Mottram said he’s proud of.

There was an even better result.

“We talk more often than we did before this all began,” Dianna said.


“Think Like Your Dog and Enjoy the Rewards” is available through or the author’s website,

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638

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