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Jennifer and Jason Rigney stand with their dog Jim Bear in front of a stream.
A hiking trip with their dog Jim Bear to Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee inspired Jennifer and Jason Rigney to make major life changes.

Rescue dog takes its owner to the bank

Jennifer Rigney found happiness through a pint-size pet with an underbite and a new banking career at Wells Fargo.

Jennifer Rigney felt lost.

The pop rock alternative band she’d been the lead singer of for years in Nashville, Tennessee, had just broken up. Even worse, she and her husband were working such long hours in retail jobs that they felt like ships passing in the night.

A trip with her husband and rescue dog Jim Bear helped Jennifer Rigney find the clarity she needed to make a career change. (2:49)

Then, a chance visit to the Nashville Humane Association led to them falling in love with and adopting a 20-pound mixed-breed dog with a severe underbite they named Jim Bear. This was when things started to look up for the Rigneys.

With their new dog in tow, the couple celebrated their wedding anniversary with a trip to Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park. Admiring the state’s tallest waterfall, hiking, and soaking in the solitude of nature, both felt their stress slipping away. And they both agreed: Something had to change.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do where we can do this more often?’” said Rigney. For her, the answer was a career switch from clothing retailer to Wells Fargo.

Rigney thought about all the times she’d walked into Wells Fargo’s Green Hills branch in Nashville as a customer and seen the staff’s teamwork and customer care in action. She remembered how then-teller Cali Bombardier and other staffers often said her personality and customer service skills from managing a retail store would translate well to banking and Wells Fargo.

Finally, she worked up the nerve and completed the online job application. With the submission screen up and amid a brief final moment of hesitation, her husband, Jason, encouragingly hit the “send” button. She got an interview the very next day, and she joined Wells Fargo as a personal banker on Sept. 8, 2015.

“Because of Jim Bear and Wells Fargo, my life is completely different, and our lives are completely different as husband and wife,” said Rigney, who became manager of a Wells Fargo branch in Brentwood, Tennessee, in April 2018. Jason Rigney changed jobs too, from restaurant manager to working in account sales for a heating and air conditioning company.

“We couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I have nights off and have been able to explore nature and commit to things with Jim Bear outside of work, like agility classes and American Kennel Club competitions. We also hike together as a family and can go places on weekends. None of that would have happened if we had never adopted Jim Bear, and if I had not joined Wells Fargo.”

Photo in Wells Fargo’s Brentwood, Tennessee, branch of Branch Manager Jennifer Rigney, Service Manager Sonya Green and Lead Teller Rebecca Brubaker.
Jennifer Rigney with fellow Wells Fargo team members Rebecca Brubaker and Sonya Green in their branch in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Problem solver

For a company seeking to build a better bank and reconnect with customers through such changes as empowering branch team members to solve more customer issues locally instead of referring them elsewhere, Rigney’s ability to simplify and solve issues has been a particular plus.

“I love teaching and problem solving,” Rigney said. “Through the changes Wells Fargo has made in Consumer Banking, I’ve become even more encouraged to do what I know I do best: help make banking easier and better for our customers and my teammates.

Circular cutout image of Jennifer and Jason Rigney’s dog Jim Bear

“Being able to share that knowledge with a new banker or other member of my team is so wonderful,” she said.  “When I see my bankers and tellers later using the tools, resources, and ideas I showed them to help a customer with a tricky situation, that’s what it’s all about.”

‘One proud and very happy pooch’

Jim Bear’s life has also gotten even better since that trip to the waterfall.

From their first AKC competition in agility trials in 2018, Jim Bear and Rigney have won seven titles in 11 trials as he seeks to become a Preferred Agility Champion and compete at the master level.

In January 2019, the Hallmark Channel flew Jim Bear and the Rigneys to Los Angeles to film “The American Rescue Dog Show,” which aired in February. Jim Bear won the “Best in Underbite” category and earned the Nashville Humane Association a $5,000 donation in his honor from the Pedigree Foundation.

“When I think of everything that happened after we adopted him, after that trip to the falls, and after we changed jobs, and where we are now in our lives, it’s kind of amazing how much your life can change based on the choices you make,” Rigney said.

“We’re all in a much better place. I love Jim Bear’s underbite the most, of course, but also the way he taught me things about myself. Like camping and hiking, there are a lot of things that I didn’t know were possible or I would enjoy had he not come along. Jim Bear is a wonderful companion, friend, and one proud and very happy pooch.”

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