I met Al Younger several years ago. I was on assignment for , tasked with writing a story about this man who raised German Shepherds and worked miracles in training dogs of all types.
I first met him at his house in Westminster. Driving down his lane I was greeted by several of his dogs, which for the record looked more like black wolves at first glance. They were large and I had never seen black Shepherds before.
It didn't take long for me to understand some things about Mr. Younger. As he introduced me to his dogs (which he referred to as his children, and treated like a doting parent would treat his children) and candidly shared details about his life--it became clear to me that he was wise. Not wise like he read a lot of books, but wise like life had thrown a lot of lessons at him. Wise like he learned the hard way.
He told me of his childhood -- of biological parents who didn't do a very good job, and foster parents who gave him the upbringing he needed to become a decent person. He told me how he grew to love dogs at a young age, thanks to those supportive foster parents.
He told me stories of he and his wife, Wanda, educating children about interacting with dogs. He said he had a unique understanding of dogs and that dogs and their pack mentality made sense to him. It seemed to me that he could relate to and trust dogs more than he could humans, I concluded that it had something to do with his challenging childhood.
But whatever it was, I learned from talking to people who had hired Al to train their dogs, that he truly was gifted. I spoke to a mom of two autistic children. She said that Al literally changed her life. Al worked with her children and their dog. The result would be a child-dog relationship that truly helped the child evolve in a more confident, secure kid.
More than five years later, I still remember some of the things I learned from Al that day. I think the most poignant thing he said to me was "the most important thing a parent can give a child is self-confidence". I had very young children at the time and as they have grown up over the years, I have often remembered what Al said and I think he was on to something. I think that was one of those things he learned the hard way.
I was sad to hear from a friend that Al passed away at his home Thursday, May 31. When I heard the news, I immediately remembered him at his house, surrounded by eight or 10 large dogs who didn't take their eyes off of him.
Al impacted a lot of lives, including mine. My condolences go out to his wife Wanda and his pack of Shepherds who are surely missing their alpha dog.
Patch ran a video story last year about Younger and his dogs. The video is attached to this post.
Did you know Al Younger? Share your memories of him in the comment section below.