Employee Spotlight - Robin Rutherford Cost

Effectuation appeals worker spends free time with the dogs

For the past 19 years, Robin Rutherford Cost has dedicated her life to her furry, four-legged friends. When she's not working as a Healthcare Marketplace effectuation appeals clerk for Federal Services, she's training dogs and puppies to be their best.

Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, Rutherford Cost said she always knew she wanted to have a dog. After moving away to college, she adopted her first dog, a whippet named Prudence. She quickly learned there's more to being a pet owner than she thought. She needed help and began taking her dog to obedience training, something she instantly loved.

Rutherford Cost later earned her training certification and now volunteers to train dogs, puppies, and future therapy dogs at the Wilkes-Barre Dog Training Club.

How did you decide to become a dog trainer?

Growing up, I always tried to convince my mother to let me have a dog. I joined the local dog club before I even owned one. I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and got my first dog. You only understand what it takes to have a dog once you get one. You have to be home every eight hours to let the dog out. I came home one day, and there was a watermelon-sized hole in the drywall of my apartment. I was at my wit's end. I decided, "OK, it's you and me. We're going to figure this out." I joined the Columbus All-Breed Dog Training Club and started learning to train dogs, including my own.

What other experiences have you had working with animals?

I lived in New York for a while. I was a dog control officer and humane educator. I had a rescue group. I was later the manager at a dog shelter that went from a no-kill to a kill shelter. I would bring dogs home before they were euthanized and back when there was room at the shelter again. My husband would say, "What are you doing? You can't bring them back!" Almost all my dogs over the years have been from a shelter.

Image of Zepp and willow

Do you own dogs now?

Now, I have two Dobermans and a beagle-Jack Russell terrier.

What type of training do you provide now?

I returned to Wilkes-Barre Dog Club, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and became an instructor, and I love it. It helps the community. I'm a volunteer, and we offer inexpensive six-week classes. You must like animals, but you have to love people, too. Many people who come to the classes have had dogs before but have problems with their current dog. Sometimes it's because they don't get along with other pets - cats or dogs. It's nice to help them develop a positive relationship with their dog. 

How does dog and puppy training differ from training therapy dogs?

One of my Dobermans is a therapy dog. There are a few national groups as well as some local places that offer training certifications. One test that is required is the Canine Good Citizen Test. 

What's your preferred method of teaching?

I also attend Association of Pet Dog Trainers conferences. I still use the techniques and lessons from conferences I've attended over the years in my classes today. You see trainers on YouTube who still use slip leads, prong collars, and shock collars. It's sad. A lot of countries have outlawed those. There are plenty of trainers with techniques that get great results within the same session. It's not necessary to use those tools.

Has your dog training skills helped your current role at Maximus?

I help with the appeals for the U.S. Healthcare Marketplace Effectuation team. I was in a temporary role, then joined the call center before starting the position I'm in now. I was curious to know if I would like to be on the phone all day, but I loved it. Like working with frustrated pet owners, I sometimes deal with angry customers or medical providers. Whether I'm taking care of an appeal, an insurance issue, or pet owners, most people are thrilled when someone listens. I'm a calm person, and I don't take comments personally. In either situation, I have to act quickly to resolve the problem, and usually, they're very appreciative.