Forever Pet Services
By Rebecca K. O’Connor
Awarded NAPPS 2014
Business of the Year
Heather Branch moved from the East Coast to California to chase her acting dreams. She soon became a familiar voice in Los Angeles. For six years she worked as a traffic reporter, delivering early morning and late afternoon radio reports on the state of the rush time commute. Then she realized that she wanted something different.
It was a hectic life, and although her early dreams had been focused on the acting industry, she found herself asking what really made her happy. She says, “When I came home from work every day, my dog Izzy was so excited to see me. I thought I wanted more of this in my life.” So she enrolled at Animal Behavior College to become certified as a dog obedience trainer and as a vet assistant. She quickly became certain this was the right course for her life.
Heather mentored with a dog trainer and interned at a vet office, but she was mainly interested in pet sitting. A pet sitter she found through NAPPS for her own animals was absolutely wonderful and Heather wanted to emulate her. Worried about stepping on toes, she called Debra Turk of All 4 Your Paws and asked about the business. Debra offered to let Heather work for her to get her feet wet and see if it was the right fit for her. Heather says, “She had been pet sitting for ten years and was wonderful. Having her teach me was amazing!”
The Beginnings of Best Friends Forever
There was no doubt that Heather loved the work and she knew the right thing for her was to start her own business. After two years of working for All 4 Your Paws, Debra suggested that Heather buy her business and they merge. This would allow Debra to focus on some other things in her life while still caring for some longtime clients. Heather jumped at the chance.
In January 2011, Heather set up her own LLC for Best Friends Forever Pet Services focusing on the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. It was a gradual year-long process to transition the company. At first the change was minimal, with Heather focusing on the business end and very little changing for clients.
After the transition was complete, Best Friends Forever had a grand opening party to rebrand the business. She rented a room at the local animal shelter and had a raffle to benefit the shelter. It was also a celebration. There is no doubt the merging was a success. The business grew 130% between 2011 and 2013.
Heather feels her success is due to that fact that she laid the foundation for her work. Rather than jumping fully in, she took the time to learn. She spent two years learning with Debra as well as putting in the work for her college certifications and for NAPPS certifications. She felt it was important to understand as much as possible about all the aspects of the job. Even though some of her schooling may not be exactly what she offers as a pet sitter, all of the information makes her a better sitter. For example, “I knew I wasn’t going to be training dogs, but I wanted to know what to do,” she explains.
She also feels that her success has a tremendous amount to do with her support system. “I knew I couldn’t do it alone and I didn’t want to do it alone,” says Heather. Having Debra made it all possible, but she has other help as well. Her husband, Scott Burt, is co-owner of Best Friends Forever while also working as an airborne traffic reporter. It isn’t unusual for Heather to hear the rush hour run down from her husband on the radio, but having a full-time job doesn’t get him out of helping. He loves pet sitting as well and often helps. “Sometimes we do jobs together, and that’s our date night,” Heather says, laughing.
Best Friends Forever has other staff as well, though, and Heather says that she is always on the lookout for potential staff, which has made building a team much easier. “The largest challenge is finding good reliable help,” says Heather. “The clients are resistant to meeting new people. They do not want to have to deal with a revolving door.”
One of Heather’s staff members was a fellow classmate she tracked down who was working as a dog trainer for Petco. After talking her into having lunch, Heather was able to convince her to work with her company as it grew. A second member of her staff is a client who became a friend, and when Heather saw potential in her as a pet sitter, she started working for Heather. Heather even has a member of her staff who was a fellow traffic reporter. When she heard Heather was getting into the pet sitting business, she asked if she and her husband could work with Heather part-time, and that has worked out really well. “Everything has gone slowly, but carefully and with observations,” says Heather. “I’m really happy to be providing jobs. We are always looking.”
Defining Your Goals
Best Friends Forever has priorities of “integrity, a spirit of service, cleanliness, continuing education, and charity.” These priorities, in addition to the business’s mission statement, help Heather stay on track. “If you are spiraling out of control you can look at your mission statement and get back to the basics,” says Heather. “If you have it in front of you and can look at it, it puts you back to why you are doing this in the first place and you can figure out where to go from there.”
NAPPS is an important component of meeting Best Friends Forever’s priorities as well. Heather says, “To me NAPPS equaled quality.” She signed up for NAPPS as soon as she started her business and utilized NAPPS resources immediately. “I learned so much even in the first tele-mentoring conference,” says Heather. “They are a must. Using NAPPS formatted paperwork and adjusting it to my needs has been incredibly helpful as well.”
Heather has also found chatting with peers incredibly helpful, whether on NAPPS Chat or in person. “You learn so much just from people chatting,” she says. “Even at the conference, I learned about dog running and lock boxes. Learning about new things coming up is important.”
Advice for New Pet Sitters
Even though Heather got into the business slowly and carefully, there are still some things she would do differently if she did it over again. “I would look into the pet sitting scheduling software. I’m still working those kinks out,” she says. “I would have started with Quickbooks as well. Now I really see the value of it.” Doing scheduling and monthly statements by hand can be incredibly time consuming and she can still find herself up until midnight working on paperwork.
From what she has learned so far, she advises those who are just getting started to lay the foundation and take their time. “Have all the paperwork ready before you open your doors,” she says. “And of course, NAPPS will help you with the paperwork and much more.” She also recommends being licensed, bonded, and insured. “Don’t do pet sitting at any price without insurance,” she says. “Make sure the insurance covers all animals. If you start taking money, you have to be insured.”
Looking at the Future
Right now Best Friends Forever has primarily suburban and city clients who often travel for work. The business caters to the upscale community in the hills as well. Clients include doctors, lawyers and a mix of other professionals. The majority of the services requested are daily dog walks, but Best Friends Forever also provides a lot of overnight sits.
Most of Heather’s clients have dogs and cats, but there are a few unusual city animals in the mix as well. “We’ve even cared for chickens,” says Heather, noting that letting them out in the morning is easy, but putting them back in at night is a little more challenging. “I have video of me herding chickens. It’s pretty funny,” she says.
Her plans are for the business to remain the same at its core, but to keep growing. However, she admits that she and Scott need to take a harder look at their work/life balance. “We need to evolve into having more of a personal life,” she says. “That is a goal of mine in the next year and that will happen by finding more good reliable help.”
For now, though, Heather couldn’t be happier to have moved out of the entertainment business and into the pet sitting business. “I know I’m doing something good because of the love I get from the animals every day. Nothing beats that,” she says. “They don’t care if you’re wearing business attire or makeup. They are just happy to see you.”
This article was written by Steven Appelbaum and featured in the Professional Pet Sitter – Winter Publication 2013-2014 – Published by NAPPS.
Choosing the Right Breed of Dog for Your Family
The topic of which breeds of dogs are the best breeds is always guaranteed
to stir up healthy debate. Why? Most people have breed preferences. As
a dog trainer for more than 30 years, I can say without reservation that
it is important to remember that each dog is an individual, regardless of
its breed. I have seen some breeds not normally considered suitable for
small children act as perfect pets and companions, while others that are
very commonly considered great choices for kids were absolutely not okay
around them. I do not say this to cause confusion, but to educate all readers
about the necessity of taking a few other precautions when bringing a dog
into a family with small children.
Whenever possible, you should observe the puppy’s mother and father. Are they friendly and sociable around kids? Granted, temperament is also influenced by environment, but at least some of a puppy’s disposition is inherited. This is why it pays to see how mom and dad interact as well.
As a huge proponent of rescues, I feel it is very possible that you can adopt
a wonderful dog that turns out to be a fabulous companion for your children. Getting a puppy at 8- to 10-weeks of age enables you to create the experiences that will shape his personality. Although puppy-hood can be trying, getting a young dog is the best way to ensure (as much as anyone can ensure behavior) that his personality develops into the child-loving, good-natured companion you desire.
Remember that a dog’s breed is not a guarantee of the dog’s behavior. Whether you get a puppy or an older dog, it is important to observe his or her behavior prior to adoption or purchase. Is the dog fearful or skittish? Is the dog comfortable being handled? Is he/she friendly without being insanely rambunctious? You are looking for a dog that is very comfortable around people, one that is not fazed by sudden movements or being touched or hugged.
Basically, you need a dog that will not react negatively to the types of behavior the average small child will engage in with his or her dog. Here is a very short list (by no means complete) of some excellent breeds for small children.
Labs are wonderful, friendly dogs. They are usually eager to please and
tolerant of the sort of handling little tykes so often dole out. They are sturdy too, which is important with small kids. You will need to train the dog so he or she learns to be gentle and not knock the kids over out of sheer joy and exuberance.
They are very similar to Labs, although in my experience sometimes a bit calmer. They do shed a bit more than Labs.
I will admit to being a bit biased on the topic of Bassets. I have “been owned” by them for the past few decades. That said, my preference is based on experience. Bassets are often islands of calm, which is nice when the kids are bouncing off the walls. They tolerate the roughest treatment with a shrug and tail wag. They are goofy, friendly, wonderful dogs. A downside is they sometimes have a pretty distinctive hound smell, which is not for everyone. Still, these are amazing kid-friendly dogs. One other thing: they can get bigger than a lot of people realize. Males can weigh 85-plus pounds, making them a handful.
Strange choice? Not really. These gentle giants are great kid dogs. They are calm, loving, and infinitely tolerant. The only things to understand about the breed are 1) They often don’t live very long, only 8 to 11 years, and 2) they shed—and drool. Plus, well, they are huge, which poses its own challenges. Still, if you are looking for a lot of dog that is great with kids, this can be a very wise choice.
This is a good pick for children or parents with allergies. Poodles are highly intelligent and friendly, have good temperaments, and are good with children. Standard poodles are sturdy dogs who can withstand a fair amount of rough kiddie treatment. I have always liked this breed and over the years have seen numerous families with these dogs.
You will notice I did not pick any smaller breeds — bichon frise, cocker spaniels, etc. In my experience, the average one- to four-year-old child is, by his or her very nature, too rough for smaller breeds. It is better to choose a larger dog that can deal with small children’s normal behavior than delude yourself into thinking you will be able to monitor their interaction and thus keep everyone safe. Remember there is risk for the dog as well as the child.
Again, remember that every dog is an individual and if you are introducing a dog into a home with children, you should do research before you choose the right dog for your family.
Reading Cat Food Labels
How to determine what is really in your pet’s food.
By Sandy Robins
There is no question that reading cat food labels is not straightforward; in fact it can be very frustrating to the average cat owner. Cats are meat eaters (carnivores), meaning they require two to three times the amount of protein than omnivores, such as humans, do. Consequently, they rely mainly on nutrients found in animals—high protein, moderate fat and minimal carbohydrates—to meet their dietary needs.
For the layperson, the key is to look at the first three ingredients listed on the can packet or bag. By law, pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight, with the protein at the top of the list. However, it’s important to remember that the moisture content affects weight. So ingredients that are moisture-heavy, such as chicken or lamb, are listed higher on the ingredient list than the same ingredient that is added in a dry form.
In addition, similar materials listed as separate ingredients might out weigh other ingredients that precede them on the list. For example, chicken might be listed as the first ingredient, then wheat flour, ground wheat and wheat middling. In this instance, although chicken appears to be the predominant ingredient, when added together, all three wheat products could weigh more than the poultry. It gets more complicated because for a food to be called chicken, the ingredients have to be 95 percent or more of the total weight of the product. Then there are a variety of fancy names that crop up on the shelves—e.g., dinner, platter, delight and formula—that in fact means only 25 percent of the content is that particular ingredient.
A word about protein and feline basic nutritional needs: Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues and organs. They can be either animal-based (e.g.,chicken, lamb, turkey, fish and eggs) or plant-based (soy, vegetables and cereals). In addition, cat food often contains byproducts of animals or plants—the parts that people don’t normally eat. But don’t necessarily be put off by this. If a cat catches a bird it will eat everything—intestines, bones and all.
The type of meat products that most closely resemble what a cat would catch for itself in the wild comes from birds(chicken, turkey, duck and quail)and game animals(buffalo, ostrich, deer, and bison).Animal-based proteins also contain complete amino acids, such as taurine, arginine, cysteine and methionine. These are essential for cats because their bodies don’t synthesize them in adequate amounts. In particular, taurine is crucial to a cat’s diet and a deficiency is serious because it can cause blindness and fatal heart disease.
Cats also catch fish in the wild, so fresh fish can be an excellent addition to their diet. Fish is high in iodine and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy skin and fur.
Because ingredient definitions and designations are standardized, it is difficult to determine the quality of ingredients. Ingredient quality can only be determined from laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests.It is up to the pet owner to research various food manufacturers’ websites to get an idea of what they are offering. Once you’ve narrowed down the field, you should then discuss the diet with a very knowledgeable pet food retailer or, better still, with your cat’s veterinarian.
Since the pet food recall of 2007, cat food ingredients have come under scrutiny more than ever before.Accordingly,companies are going to great lengths to discuss their quality, such as human-grade contents.And inline with human food trends,organic ingredients are growing in popularity.
“A question we often get from pet parents is ‘how do I know if this food is organic?’” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Castor & Pollux, a manufacturer of natural and organic food for pets. “There are strict labeling requirements around organic that enables pet parents to know the differences between products.”
A product with 70 to 94 percent organic ingredients can state on its label, “Made with organic…” but it cannot include the USDA logo, according to the USDA’s National Organic Program. However, those ingredients must still be certified by an independent third party. Products with 95 to 100 percent certified organic ingredients can use “organic” in the product name and bear the USDA logo. Both categories of organic products must include the name and contact information for the certifying agency on the back of the package.
Another growing trend is for single ingredient foods, which definitely makes it much easier to read a label.
Finally, you can read labels all you want, but the big question is whether you cat will eat the food.Pet food manufacturers, especially those whose products are grown and manufactured in the USA,try hard to be very transparent about what they are offering and are happy to talk to pet owners and discuss their concerns. So, once you have narrowed down the field, don’t be shy to ask for a sample directly from the manufacturer. Any company that proudly stands by what it sells will be only too happy to oblige.
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats
Eliminating Your Pet’s Wintertime Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs in dogs and cats, too.
By Stacy Mantle
People aren’t the only ones susceptible to wintertime blues. “PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months,” reported Psychology Today.
Symptoms in pets typically manifest as behavioral changes such as inappropriate soiling, aggression, lethargy and separation anxiety.
Pets are just as likely to become depressed during winter as their people, according to Mary Lee Nitschke, professor of psychology at Linfield College in Oregon,
“If your healthy dog or cat becomes lethargic or loses interest in everyday activities, [he or she]may be suffering from a simple lack of stimulation,” Nitschke said.
Melatonin and serotonin are the two hormones responsible for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
“The pineal gland is light sensitive and melatonin is usually secreted at night in darkness—the production of melatonin is actually inhibited when light hits the retina,” said Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.“So in response to low-light conditions found in the winter more melatonin would be produced.This causes tiredness in people, which means it could likely cause the same in dogs or cats.”
If you find your dog is begging for extra treats in winter, it could well be due to a lack of serotonin. As humans, we “self-medicate” with foods such as chocolate or sugar-based snacks, all of which release serotonin in our brains.
“In the brain, serotonin affects appetite, mood and sleep,” Coren said. “Low levels of serotonin are also known to have a distinct effect on the mood of people and animals.”
Sunlight is necessary for the production of serotonin, which is why we often seek out warmer locales for our vacations and why a dog or cat may be found napping in a single ray of sunlight.
Shorter days mean less light and that can create problems for pets.
“Give pets extra light during the winter months,” Nitschke said. “Light is intimately tied to the functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands, and can stimulate the body to release hormones that have an uplifting effect on mood. Just a half hour a day on a sunny back porch or window perch may do the trick.”
Special lighting, including “full spectrum” and “daylight” bulbs, are also encouraged for people and pets. Sun rooms, which help to focus the sun’s rays, are also popular among those in colder climates. Max Marvin, owner of Pawsitive Lighting, has even developed a light box to help conquer those wintertime blues.
Perhaps the best solution to SAD is exercise.
“Even a walk around the block releases endorphins,” Nitschkesaid
While walking is excellent for those who can get outdoors, it’s difficult if you’re snow-bound. There are other solutions, including treadmills specifically designed for pets, like those from PetZen. And adding a K9FITVest with weights helps tire a dog out more quickly.
It’s important to keep your pet mentally and physically engaged during winter. Even if it’s just selecting a new smart toy to implement at feeding time or taking a new route during walks, doing so can help stimulate your pet’s brain and result in increased activity levels.
Specialized toys and equipment can help you and your pet ramp up on endorphins during the cold winter. Try integrating instability training to keep dogs focused, balanced and flexible. You can view an entire line of products devoted to this type of training at DogTread.com, and it’s perfect for athletic dogs, too.
Balancing Acts: Teaching your dog to balance on specially designed exercise equipment can help focus him on the task at hand.
Doga: Master the relaxing art of dog and cat yoga by stretching with your four-legged friends. Yoga is a great way to relax yourself and your pets. Try downward facing dog, pigeon poses or anything that looks doable. Be sure to avoid overexertion and never try any complex poses without guidance from a qualified Doga instructor.
Scavenger Hunts:For some breeds, nothing gets their minds off the weather as a good hunt. Try placing small treats and favorite toys in various areas of the house that might not have been explored as actively as before. Start off easy with one placed under the bed and then move into more complex searches. You might just find you have a future search-and-rescue or scent dog on your hands.
Teach them a New Trick: Dogs love to learn and the lull between hurricane walls is a great time to encourage them with a simple task; Teach (or re-teach) your dog to shake or fetch. While disasters are not an optimal time for animals to learn, a simple activity can help them relax by getting their minds off the danger at hand—and it will prove distracting for you as well. Start with something simple (such as“Sit”) and then move into the more complex tricks that only time and willingness can conquer.
Spa-Day: Master the art of relaxation even while it’s storming outside. Massage is known to release endorphins and increases beta-endorphins in plasma, which encourages healing. Try some simple relaxation massages by sitting next to your pet and gently massaging his paws, neck and shoulders.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of Pets Weekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com
Keep your pets warm, dry and healthy.
By Lisa King
Right now much of the East Coast and Midwest is suffering record cold. We’re all familiar with the dangers this kind of weather poses for people, but pets are even more vulnerable. A simple rule to follow in extreme cold is to keep your pets inside with you as much as possible. Here are some tips to keep dogs and cats safe.
- Cats should be kept inside all the time, but especially in very cold weather. They tend to seek shelter when it’s cold, and can crawl into dumpsters or other spaces and become trapped. They can also suffer frostbite or hypothermia, become lost or freeze to death.
- Your dog’s susceptibility to the cold depends on many factors, including age, health, length of coat, breed and weight. If you have a healthy Alaskan Malamute or Siberian Husky, he will love an occasional frolic in the snow. Small, thin or shorthaired dogs feel the cold much more acutely and should wear dry doggie coats or sweaters and possibly booties when venturing outside. These sorts of dogs should go out only to relieve themselves when temperatures fall below zero. Very young or very old pets and pets with chronic illnesses cannot regulate their body temperatures as well as healthy adult dogs. Hypothermia and frostbite on feet, ears or tailcan affect any pet.
- When you do take your dog outside in the cold, stay with him. On walks, keep him on leash at all times. Dogs can lose their way in the snow because scents they depend on to find their way home are muffled. Make sure your dog has a current ID tag on his collar and has been microchipped. Don’t let your dog walk on frozen water, such as a pond or lake. If he falls through the ice he might die of hypothermia.If he gets wet, use a blow dryer or towel to dry him.
- If your dog must stay outside for any length of time, provide plenty of unfrozen fresh water. A heated water dish comes in handy. Also provide a sturdy shelter with soft bedding, such as straw. Make sure the floor is raised off the ground and that the door faces away from the wind. A door flap will help him retain heat.
- If your dog begins shivering or whining, or otherwise appears to be in distress, get him inside immediately and warm him up.If symptoms persist, contact your veterinarian.
- If you plug in a space heater or light a fire, don’t leave pets near them unattended. Use screens in front of all fireplaces.
- Antifreeze is very toxic to pets and de-icing salts and other chemicals can get on your dog’s feet and cause irritation. Clean his feet after he comes in from a walk.
- Cold weather is just as dangerous as hot weather to a dog left in a car. A parked car can turn into an icebox after too long in freezing temperatures.
- If you park your car outside, check under the hood and make plenty of noise before starting it to make sure no feral or other outdoor cats have sought out the warmth of the engine.
- Never shave a long-haired dog or cat in cold weather. It may be easier to groom a shaved Persian cat, but she needs her fur to keep warm. Brush your long-haired pet’s coat regularly to prevent mats. If your dog has longish hair between his paw pads, trim it to reduce snow and ice buildup.
- Make sure all your pets have warm, draft-free places to sleep. Pet supply stores carry heated mats and beds that your dog or cat will appreciate when temperatures are low. Arthritis is aggravated by the cold, so a warm, soft bed can help an arthritic pet stay comfortable.
As the arctic blast that is slamming most of the U.S. recedes and temperatures rise to a more typical winter range, you and your dog can spend more time outside enjoying the snowy landscape. But please leave Kitty indoors.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”
How to keep your canines happy during wintertime romps.
By Audrey Pavia
Snow has been plentiful so far this winter, which is good news for dogs who romp in the white stuff. Not only is playing in the snow fun for dogs, but it also helps get rid of excess energy.
Before you bring your dog outside to run in the snow, take some precautions. Snow and cold weather can be hazardous to your dog’s health if you’re not careful.Frostbite is a distinct danger for most dogs’ ears, and snow and ice can cause plenty of discomfort on bare paws. It can also reduce traction, causing your dog to slip and fall.
The best ways to protect your dog during snowy weather include the following:
• Keep nails clipped. The shorter your dog’s nails, the less likely he’ll be to slip on the snow and have ice buildup in his paws. You should have your dog’s nails clipped regularly anyway to help him maintain healthy paws. If his nails are overgrown, cut or grind them yourself, or have it done by your groomer or veterinarian.
• Trim paw hair. If your dog grows a lot of hair between the pads of his paws, take a pair of scissors and cut the hair so it’s even with his pads. This will help attract less snow and ice to his foot. Be careful not to cut your dog’s pads as you are trimming. Make sure your dog is comfortable having his feet handled before you attempt this. If your dog struggles, ask your groomer or veterinarian for assistance.
• Try dog boots. If your dog still has trouble with ice and snow building up in his paw pads, consider rubber or nylon dog boots. These will protect his feet while he walks through snow. If possible, take your dog with you to the pet store when you buy the boots so you can try them on to make sure they fit. It will also give you a chance to see if your dog will actually wear them. Some dogs won’t tolerate boots and will pull them off. Expect your dog to walk funny the first time he wears them. In time, he should get used to the feeling of having something on his feet.
•Dress him warmly. If you have a shorthaired dog, a toy breed with not much hair, an older dog, a young puppy or a dog with health issues, consider dressing him in a sweater or coat before you take him out to play in the snow. If your dog plays rough-and-tumble in the white stuff, check the garment periodically to make sure it’s not soaking wet.
• Give breaks.To avoid frostbite, give your dog plenty of breaks when he’s out in the snow. Have him come inside to warm up for a bit before you let him go back out to play. Keep an eye on the tips of his ears, since these are most sensitive to developing a problem. If your dog’s skin begins to turn pale and feel cold to the touch, get him indoors right away. If the skin becomes red and swollen after it warms up, take your dog to a veterinarian right away for treatment of frostbite.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visitwww.audreypavia.com
ABC Dog Training Program
Student of the Month
When Karen Garmon was just 14 years’ old, she met a woman with lupus who had several service dogs to help her with everyday life. Karen knew right then that she wanted to become a dog trainer to help others in similar situations. However, it wasn’t until recently—when her children were old enough—that she enrolled at Animal Behavior College to pursue her dream of becoming a dog trainer. Karen recently finished her externship and is currently doing her volunteer hours for ABC’s Students Saving Lives program. After her externship, the owner of a veterinary office reached out to Karen to see if she would be interested in teaching classes and working as a behavior consultant. She never imagined she would have such a great opportunity presented to her before she even graduated. She was pleasantly surprised by how things seemed to fall in place.
“The options are really limitless, and the sky is truly the limit,” Karen said. “When you love what you do, and the work is fun, you know you have found your niche.” Continue reading
ABC Grooming Instruction Program Student of the Month
Darline Jackie Griffin
Darline Jackie Griffin lives in Des Arc, Ark., and is in the process of completing her externship. She has been working with her mentor on a daily basis since October 2013. Jackie (as she prefers to be called) decided last year to pursue this career because of her love and passion for animals. Prior to attending the ABC grooming program, she worked as a carpenter for 10 years, ran a dairy bar and was also a private caregiver. Jackie loves working with her mentor and is thrilled that she gets to work with animals every day. Continue reading
ABC Veterinary Assistant Program
Student of the Month
Miriam Trent lives in Mulvane, Kan., and is the proud “mother”of a pit bull, two guinea pigs and a betta fish. A stay at home mom, when she’s not at the shelter working on her externship, Miriam often goes out to her Mom’s to work with her horses and other animals. Miriam’s life goal is to work for the Humane Society; she wants a rewarding job where she can make a difference. Continue reading
Dog Obedience Instruction Program
Canadian Student of the Month
It is not often that people become known within their industry solely by word of mouth, yet that is exactly how current ABC student Nikki Headon became involved in the dog training world. She began doing basic obedience in the Lloydminster area (which straddles the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada) for extremely cheap or sometimes even for free. Around that same time, Nikki began volunteering at her local SPCA. Between her obedience training and volunteering, she quickly became known for her work with particularly aggressive dogs. She was inspired to work with dogs that most people would have given up on. This passion for helping dogs in need prompted her to start her own dog rehabilitation and rescue. Coca’s Promise specializes in helping dogs with behavior issues and has helped many cats and dogs find their forever homes. Continue reading