K9 Connection Staff

Abby Rogers – Training Lead / Client Support Lead

Abby has always loved animals but growing up did not have any of her own. She got her fix from friend’s pets & a ton of Animal Planet. When she started college she began as Pre-Vet, but quickly realized that veterinary medicine was not a good fit. She nearly changed paths entirely, but decided to give the Animal Behavior, Ecology, & Conservation Program a chance before moving on. It was through this program & related courses that she took an interest in Animal Cognition. At the end of college, Abby decided that dog training was the way she wanted to use her degree. She has worked in multiple dog boarding, daycare, & training roles before finding her way to K9 Connection. Outside of training, she enjoys board games, hiking with her German Shepherd Mika and rescue Pomeranian mix Rigatoni, playing volleyball, & going snowboarding!

Kim Kocol – Dog Trainer – Board and Train, Private Lessons, Scent Classes

Kim has loved animals her entire life and has worked with all types of animals from birds of prey to reptiles she likes to stay well rounded in the animal world. Kim started out grooming in the dog world and quickly wanted to get into training, when she saw an opening with us she immediately took the opportunity to continue her education and sharpen her training skills. Her dogs Johnny and KK are her partners in crime, they enjoy finding cool new hiking spots and going to Buffalo’s local dog friendly patios and events to proof their good behavior together! In her time away from dogs Kim loves photography, swimming and cheering on our Buffalo Bandits Lacrosse Team.

Tracy Woodruff – Dog Trainer – Private Lessons, Group Classes

Tracy’s childhood dog was a German Shepherd named Sarge, and as a quiet, shy kid, all of her time was spent with him! This is where her love of dog training began–as well as horses, cats, the kitchen sink! After an apprenticeship at K9 Connection in 2015-16, Tracy took time off to learn and came back to us as a CGC Certified Evaluator, currently studying for the Canine Fitness Certification, and has plans to become a TDI Evaluator. Right now, Tracy has her working rough collie I Know You Ryder, a black mouth cur Tennessee Jed, a redbone coonhound mix Scarlet Begonias, and a part-time doodle named Hudson. Throw two cats, Hank and Ernie, into the mix, and there ya go! Specializing in private lessons and group classes, Tracy loves helping to put the puzzle pieces together when it comes to your relationship with your dog!


Lexi Chase – Training Lead – Board and Train,  Agility Classes

Lexi’s whole life she’s always had an interest in dogs. When growing up she constantly had a companion by her side at all times and it was an easy choice to major in animal behavior at Canisius College, where she will be graduating in spring of 2022. She found K9 Connections because of my dog, Kylo, who needed some training. Now her and Kylo love taking agility lessons on their spare time. She loves to do agility, foraging activities, pack walks and much more with the enrichment dogs.

Chris Russell – Enrichment Lead / Board and Train

Stationed in Afghanistan, Chris was covering the gate guard when a random dog approached. After giving the dog some Cheerios and water, the two became fast friends and were able to hang out together during the duration of his time on that post. After finishing his contract in the Army, Chris found himself not knowing what he wanted to do. Taking a chance, he started out with a dog daycare job where he was able to tap into his love of dogs from childhood and the Army–and shadowing trainers who worked with veterans and their PTSD dogs. Next, Chris ended up as a manager of a dog daycare program in Connecticut. This brought him back home to Buffalo where he ended up finding K9 Connection–where he now works with our Enrichment Daycare dogs with his dog Scully! Outside of work, you can find Scully and Chris on camping trips and watching sports–especially Arsenal in the English Premier League!

 Jake Smolinski – Videographer, Enrichment Assistant    

Coming from a documentary and film background, Jake never expected to find himself in the dog world! However, making training videos, working with the dogs, and documenting life at K9 Connection is now one of his passions. You can find Jake hanging out with his grumpy, old shih tzu, Po Boi, in the office working on all sorts of media content for the K9 Connection crew. 

Jake graduated from La Salle University in Philly with a Mass Media and Digital Art degree, working in the city for three years producing documentaries that profiled innovators in the Greater Philadelphia area. After finishing the 18 part docuseries, Jake moved back to Buffalo to be closer to family and happened to fall into the K9 Connection position! It’s been “dog”umentaries ever since!