PS_Fernando GonzAlez copy.jpg

When Fernando Gonzalez confronts aggression in dogs in his work with Two Tails Training, he sees it as reflective of the changes he’s made in his own life. He’s proud of going to therapy and making intentional changes in himself to influence those around him. 

Gonzalez’ first foray into dog training was eight years ago, when a friend brought him a pit bull that had been abused in dog fights. The friend asked Gonzalez if he could address the animal’s aggression. Over the months and years that followed, Gonzalez learned that he had a “healer presence.” For a time, he juggled work as a bartender and dog trainer, but four years ago he made Two Tails his full time job.

“Oddly enough, I won a lot of clients with promotional material that said, ‘Your dog isn’t shitty — you are,’” Gonzalez said. “That was a bit of a surprise.”

Alongside his dog training work, Gonzalez established the nonprofit Renaud Foundation, which helps address the risk of suicide, particularly among veterans. It was created in memory of a friend who moved from Florida to Colorado at the same time as Gonzalez, but took his own life just a couple of months later. “It was a very traumatic experience,” Gonzalez recalled. “I saw more of the same issues in my community and I specifically built the foundation as a way of helping those who are most affected by trauma. So I chose to focus on helping veterans by means of meaningful dog companionship.” 

The Foundation’s work has been on hold during the pandemic, but will re-launch this year. 

Through his work with Two Tails and Renaud, Gonzalez has become a volunteer in training with NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness), with a goal of destigmatizing mental health challenges, and working with people who have been affected by suicide.

Gonzalez has seen his business grow rapidly over the past two years, and has now trained well over 1,000 dogs in the Pikes Peak region. The expansion has been successful despite the fact that when the March 2020 pandemic lockdown hit, his business operations were not yet fully in place — Gonzalez simply made it work. In the process, he has been able to create jobs, build a culture of inclusion and bring forth a vision for what it means to create a national hub for dog training. 

Two Tails has focused on dogs with serious behavioral issues, and its trainers have been able to save several dogs slated for court-ordered euthanasia, rehabilitating them instead. The Two Tails team also helps people around the world via Zoom trainings in several different states and countries; bring dogs to work with children in special needs programs; and help families build healthier relationships with their pets. Gonzalez makes a point of working with customers to postpone payments and reduce costs for those facing economic challenges.

“My Cuban parents were always pretty open and accepting of everyone,” Gonzalez said. “From the time I was young to now as a business [owner] I’ve always promoted and accepted a culture of not discriminating against anyone’s race, creed, color or religion. This mantra is something that carries with me in both my professional life and my personal. Everyone is welcome.”

Nominator Forrest Senti said Gonzalez “has not only had an impact on our lives given that he helped make our relationship with our dog 10 times better, but he’s also had the same effect on almost a thousand different families. ... 

“Fernando’s work with dogs has made the lives of people in our community better,” he added, “and it’s an area not often looked at to celebrate."