We love to hear the success stories from our clients and students at Hillside K9 Academy. It fills our heart to see the difference that our service can make in a family’s life and keeps us propelled forward in our passion to serve the community! Today we will spotlight one of our favorite stories, that of Benigne Dohms, her husband, and their working dogs.
Benigne’s dynamic story begins right after her husband’s job brought them unexpectedly from the University of Michigan to the desert of Tucson, Arizona. For many, the change of scenery would be a shock, but they immediately fell in love with the terrain, culture, and the ability to experience “The West.” After living there for a time, his career in exploration geology eventually transplanted them again to the foothills of California where he assisted in redevelopment of gold mines, and then again to Northwest Florida to oversee groundwater studies for superfund sites. When retirement began to appear on the horizon, there was no real question of where to go next, as their hearts longed to return to Arizona. In 2012, Benigne and her husband settled down in Payson, to a home that sits on a hill and has an unobstructed view of the Rim.
For Benigne, dogs have been a part of her life for as long as she can remember, and she has owned them since the age of 20. “Dogs have brought me smiles and laughter when I needed it. They have taken me on adventures and road trips to places I might not have ever seen otherwise. The regular exercise and long walks have kept me physically fit. Although a dog can’t talk, from them I have learned a different understanding of trust, unconditional love, responsibility, and the simple joys that gladden a heart. I have learned to try new things, overcome fear, and am better at accepting “failure” when tests, shows, or trials don’t result in a qualifying ribbon. My dogs are too often very good at embarrassing me, but I have also learned how to overcome humiliation because of them, and have gained patience, perseverance, and endurance.”
Later in life, Benigne’s passion fell on a specific breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdogs, or more commonly known: PON. Over the years, people have often asked her Why this Breed?
“Around the year 2000 I was doing research for a newsletter article on Poland when I came across information on the breed; it was love at first sight the moment I saw a picture of these dogs, but being 100% Polish, I knew I had to have one.”
At that time, the PON was still a rare breed in the U.S., with long waiting lists for prospective owners. In September of 2005, after 5years of patience, she finally brought home her first, Olek, and life for her has not been the same the since.
Olek was named for her great-uncle, Aleksander Kosiba, an avid explorer, professor of glaciology and climatology, and published author of books about his expeditions to Greenland. “Amazingly, my Olek had the same mischievous and warm personality as that of his namesake!” Trained in advanced agility, and earner of over a dozen AKC and UKC titles, Benigne opted to not enter trials with him so as to have time for a wider variety of activities. To this day she does not regret the extra personal time she was able to spend with him as a result. “We sadly lost Olek less than two months after he was diagnosed with a very rare nose cancer; there had been no signs or symptoms, the cancer was found by accident and baffled veterinary medicine.”
The Polish Lowland is an extremely intelligent breed with an incredible curiosity about everything, has an expression on its face known as a PON Smile, is adaptable to city or country living, is playful, virtually non-shedding, and filled with personality. “For a perfectionist, idealist, competitor, and ADDD person like me, this breed was both a match and a challenge.”
These days, she and her husband are kept company by their current Polish Lowland Sheepdogs, Bisia and Taz. Between the two of them, they have earned over 32 working dog titles. “Bisia [the polish equivalent of Betsy] is our prized herding dog. She is the first of her breed to ear herding tiles from AHBA and is currently the most titled Polish Lowland in the herding world! Taz lives up to the description of the iconic Tasmanian Devil. He is the first Polish Lowland to earn Lure coursing titles and needs only a few more point for his AKC CH title and has qualified for Barn Hunt.”
Benigne loves taking part in the wide world of dog sports and appreciates all the different flavors of working dog skills required to show and compete. She also connects with the teamwork and relationship that comes with the territory. “I would have to say that Rally, Tracking, and Herding are my favorite things to do with my dogs. Rally is fun, upbeat, and interactive, typically done indoors. Tracking is a quiet sport, requiring complete trust on the part of the handler to go with his/her dog. As it follows a scent laid in a series of right and left turns over a course of 440 or more yds to find an article placed at the end of the line. So, to speak; tracking fulfills natural activity outdoors for the dog and is a great opportunity for handler and dog to bond. Both Bisia and Taz are preparing for their field trials this fall, but herding is perhaps the one sport I really enjoy because there is something very powerful, almost magical in seeing the natural ability of a dog come to life when allowed to interact with sheep or goats.”
Although very fulfilling, Benigne’s experience with working dogs hasn’t always been a breeze. When acquiring Taz from his breeder, they asked her what she wanted in a puppy. However, what she found in Taz was far more than the “energetic, outgoing, fearless, playful show quality” pup that she had envisioned. Taz was entered in a Puppy Class at 10 weeks of age and excelled with everything taught to him. A very outgoing dog, he even began introductory herding by 12 weeks of age. He was also taking a Handling Class to prepare for the show ring. Everywhere he went, he had a good time and showed it in exuberant body language and barking. “I was told to ignore the barking, he would outgrow it, it was his way of saying I’m happy. Looking back now, I see what was the beginning of ‘demanding’ to be noticed, to be paid attention to in all the places he went for classes or training.”
Between the ages of 7 months and 1 year, Taz spent most of the time in the Northwoods, on acreage, and generally away from people. This gap in adequate socialization, other than being with Bisia, brought out the extreme Alpha in Taz; and he was diagnosed by some as “reactive” and “aggressive”. Benigne soon found herself in a tight spot. “All obedience classes offered in Phoenix generally are evening classes, held in the winter months; living in Payson makes it burdensome to return home after 11 pm from such classes, and travel in snow or ice eliminated me from all of the training offered by clubs, or so I was told.”
As the barking and half-friendly sounds from Taz grew worse and worse, Benigne took part in fewer and fewer dog sports with him. By the time he was 15 months old, she had tried a variety of collars, leashes, and harnesses to reduce his pulling and tendency to lunge at people and dogs, and by age 2, had given in and was using a prong collar.
In late spring of this year, Benigne saw a post on Facebook for a group class at Hillside. All the features of the class mentioned in the announcement sounded like what she had been searching for. “Within 5 minutes after my arrival that first evening, Shawn instantly recognized what I needed help with and began immediately to work with Taz. No dog I have ever had has been as great of a challenge in good behavior training as this one, yet Shawn is the first person to break through to the canine level of Taz and help him become a better and happier dog.”
Benigne has since reached out and thanked the trainers at Hillside for the amazing difference that she has seen in Taz. We were so touched by her story, we asked if we could publish it in hopes that more of our clients will come forward with theirs as well! Do you have something to share about your experience with training at Hillside K9 Academy? For the month of September, we are offering $5 coupons towards daycare, boarding and grooming to anyone who leaves us a review on Yelp, Facebook, or Google. Just reach out and let us know your story and save instantly on services for your canine companion!
As the change of season approaches this September, we are excited to celebrate the 3 year anniversary of our close friend and Hillside Lead Kennel Technician, Lynda Zellner! Find out about Lynda’s hand in helping Hillside K9 Academy come to fruition, and how she came to be one of our most important family members.
Although originally from New Mexico, Lynda Zellner is as much an Arizonan Native as anyone around. After falling in love with the Northern Arizona landscapes and culture, Lynda's family put down roots here in the Verde Valley in 1972. Since childhood Lynda has lived in rural Camp Verde, and has never had an urge to leave.
In her adult Life, Lynda has made it a point to surround her with animals. For 20 years, she owned and operated an established Camp Verde grooming business, and developed strong ties with local dog owners from all walks of life. She gained the respect of her peers two and four legged alike, and although life has thrown her curve balls, her path has never wavered. After nearly two decades in the canine business, Lynda retired from entrepreneurship in 2005 to pursue a long-creeping passion: dog agility.
“I developed a taste for agility training after falling in love with the Australian Cattle Dog Breed. They are very high energy and work-driven dogs, with quick minds. Many people who own cattle dogs find them to be overwhelming, but really, they just need a job to do. Working agility really works out well for high energy dogs of any breed, as it keeps their mind stimulated and helps keep their bodies in shape.”
Lynda’s drive for agility training never showed signs of slowing, and she mastered the art quickly. Not much time passed before her home in Camp Verde developed into a full blown training facility as she added more and more equipment to her property. As soon as Lynda realized that this driven interest of hers was not going to pass, she invested in her first Aussie dog, Willow. It became apparent that this investment paid off as the two of them moved on to win countless ribbons and several titles in shows across the four corners.
Lynda’s accomplishments did not stop there, however, as her reputation began to spread. Soon members of the community began bringing their high-energy pups to her for training. “Ziva was my most memorable pupil. She and Willow often competed and received ribbons side by side. They became fast friends, and her owner and I still love taking them hiking and swimming together. They always have a blast.”
After Willow’s accomplished retirement from competition, Lynda’s next canine investment came in the form of JD. “I worked with JD for a few years, and he showed great promise!” Unfortunately, life had other plans, when JD developed hip Dysplasia, and was not able to enter into competitions. “I don’t think he minds his early retirement. He really enjoys being the spoiled baby of the family, and still gets plenty of exercise on the property.”
Lynda’s next pupils arrived in the form of Cleopatra Diamond, and Cheyenne. “Cheyenne is my youngest dog. She has been great, and is already beginning to compete at just 3 years old. Cleo is a rescue Cattle dog and still has a bit to go, but I am working with her diligently and have high hopes.”
To supplement her agility training, Lynda began work at Montezuma Veterinary Clinic as a kennel technician. There she met Shawn and Jennifer Tucker, who were regular clients. Lynda connected with Shawn through their shared passion for training, and the three of them became close friends. Shawn had many local training and boarding clients and was beginning to run out of room on their property. Thankfully Lynda offered her training course, which began their professional working relationship.
In September of 2015, Lynda left her position at Montezuma Veterinarian, and reached out to Shawn and Jennifer, who had opened the Hillside facilities nearby just a few years before. They were excited to bring Lynda, with her canine expertise, into the family, and have been so happy to work with her these last 3 years.
These days, when Lynda isn’t working with the other Kennel Techs at Hillside Canine Resort & Spa, she continues her work with Cheyenne and Cleo, and still trains many dogs in the community, often going as far as volunteering for field trips with Hillside clients like Casey, an Irish Setter who needed a bit of socializing. “When Casey’s mom was in town, we would take him down to the creek with my other dogs, and have loved seeing him grow and learn by example. He has come a long way, and adds to my daily drive to help our community of four legged friends!”
If you see Lynda during your next visit to the Hillside Facilities, feel free to say "Hi!" This spotlight, along with all of our September specials, event announcements, and more fun tid bits will be featured in our Monthly Newsletter. Not a subscriber? Sign up on our Facebook page!
This month we are turning the spotlight on a very inspirational member of our client family, Kate Goshorn! We have loved getting to know her and her family this year, and look forward to many more years of watching her canine grow.
Born and raised on a cattle and sheep ranch in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Kate has been an avid animal lover since her infant years. “My very first word was “horse” so they have been a big influence my whole life. Event just hanging out with them is so fulfilling, we have the best conversations.”
Her passion for riding, grooming, and playing, and her deep connection with animals has shaped her being more than anything else. “All of my choices in life have been due to animals. I got my veterinary technicians degree because of them. I worked as biologist in Colorado because of them and I was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator because of them. They have brought me joy, purpose and happiness. “
Kate spent most of her adult years in her home-state-at-heart, Colorado, deepening her knowledge of nature and all of its inhabitants. There, she met her husband, Mark, and in 2010, the two of them move to the Verde Valley, so that he could take a position with the local Forest Service. Kate didn’t stray far from this path when she accepted a management position at the Arizona Natural History Association, located at the Red Rock Ranger Station. “Our association partners with the Forest Service and provides education and interpretative service for them.”
Kate and Mark’s home environment is as teaming with nature as their work lives. They share their home with three cats, Cooper, Blaze, and Jester. “Both Blaze and Cooper came to the vet Clinic Cottonwood I used to work for and Jester is a Colorado kitty. Blaze was supposed to be my barn cat, but he soon discovered the comfort of being an indoor cat.”
They share their property with three horse that Kate spends much of her free time with. “ I show dressage, so all three of our horses are warmbloods. Tess is my 17 year-old mare and she is retired from riding. She, in 2016, gave me Bam Bam who is only 2 now but is my future competition horse. And we have Jack, who is my current riding horse.”
In addition to horses, they also keep four chickens. “ Our chickens don’t have names, but I can identify each one of them. They would like to be house chickens but my husband says no on that idea.”
The newest addition to Kate and Mark’s family is Freya, their black lab puppy. “Freya was a bit of a surprise to us. We were on a waiting list with Daisy Mountain Labs and were really far down on the list. I thought it would be fall before we would get a puppy, but the stars aligned and she came to us in February.”
I have heard stories about puppies, and particularly labs, who have eaten people’s walls, torn up carpet, destroyed couches and so on. But thanks to Hillside, Freya has never show any of those tendencies. “
We have Freya to thank for bringing Kate and Mark into the Hillside family’s lives. Since early spring, they have taken full advantage of our daycare packages. “Day care has been amazing for both Freya and us. She loves to go and wrestle with friends and then come home and crash. She has never destroyed anything in the house, does not rip up her toys or dig in the yard. I know it is because she goes to day care and gets out all of that destructive energy there. I have heard stories about puppies, and particularly labs, who have eaten people’s walls, torn up carpet, destroyed couches and so on. But thanks to Hillside, Freya has never show any of those tendencies. “
Freya has really captured the hearts of everyone in the Hillside Family. We love to see her and her family, and the feeling is mutual! “I love that Hillside is a small family operation. Everyone is so friendly and nice, and they all know Freya. I know she gets the best care there possible too which gives us peace of mind.”
Today we are excited to shine the spotlight on one of our loyal clients, John Mullen, and his four-legged working companions. Read more to learn about the role that dogs play in his and his family's lives, and what brought them into ours!
John Mullen is a fourth generation Arizonan. Born and raised in Tempe, he built a career in the lumber industry there, surrounding himself with family. John and his wife have always enjoyed the antics and unique personalities of dogs, so after their third son was born, they became interested in the campanionship of a family dog, and raised their three boys alongside two golden retrievers.
"First and foremost, any dog, even a working breed, is primarily a companion. "
In 2012, John retired, sold his lumberyards, and settled down with his wife in the Village of Oakcreek. Today they are joined by their two 5-year-old working dogs, Rheanna, a female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and Kona, a female Pudelpointer. John has trained Rheanna and Kona to hunt, and when he can, he keeps them busy tracking and retrieving upland gaming birds, primarily Pheasant, Chukar, and Quail. "First and foremost, any dog, even a working breed, is primarily a companion," he shares, "If I am Lucky, I will get to hunt with my dogs about 5% of the time."
"All dogs, no matter how small or large, follow [pack] instincts. Teaching them [obedience] early will make for a life long, well-mannered companion."
John goes on to share about the pack animal nature of dogs, "The need for obedience is paramount. All dogs, no matter how small or large, follow the group instincts. In order to keep the balance, there will always be an alpha in the pack. If an dog's trainer or handler (owner), does not step up to become that alpha, then the dog will, and things will become difficult. This lack of balance is the root of all behavior issues with canines." John believes that no matter what kind of dog you have or their role in your life, teaching them essential commands early, like "heal", "come", "sit", and "stay", will make for a life-long, well-mannered companion.
John has been bringing Rheanna and Kona to Hillside for over 3 years now, taking advantage of our grooming and luxury boarding services. "Hillside has been a valuable resource for us. Their staff are great, caring people, and being located right off I-17 is very convenient when travelling to Phoenix and flying out of Sky Harbor."
We have very much enjoyed getting to know John, Rheanna, and Kona, and want to thank everyone in the Verde Valley who have allowed us to serve them and their four-legged families! Stay tuned later this month for team spotlight on the Hillside family!
At Hillside, dogs are our passion, but most importantly, their parents are our family! Therefore we take every opportunity to reach out and get to know our clients so that we may better serve those who support us, and keep our facilities open to serve the public. Today we are honored to sit down with two of our loyal customers, and very important citizens, Tina and Jodi, to learn what drew them to Hillside, and how their experiences here have affected their lives.
Tina and Jodi have been coming to Hillside with their dogs for almost a year now. Originally from Indiana, Tina has lived in the Verde Valley for over a decade, and serves the community through Social work. Jodi moved to Arizona from New York close to four years ago, and also serves Verde Valley residents as a respiratory therapist. These two community members are avid dog lovers. “Working dogs have always been a part of my life. Growing up, my dad trained our beagles to hunt rabbits. My favorite beagle was named bandit. We were pretty close!” shares Tina. Jodi’s favorite family dog growing up was a Lapso Apso named Spunky.
Thanks to training and socialization in their daycare and boarding service, he is now doing great! We are seeing his health improve immensely, and his confidence is growing every day. Samson now smiles and thinks he is a lapdog, which we do not mind!"
In addition to serving the humans in their community, Tina and Jodi have made it a point to open their home to animals in need. For years, they have indiscriminately taken in rescues, some with mysterious pasts and behaviors. Their two dogs, Samson and Stella are some of Hillside’s favorite visitors. Samson, the first to be rescued, is a ten-month-old American Staffordshire Terrier and Australian Shepherd mix. “We are not sure what happened to him, but he was only 2 pounds when we got him,” Tina Shares, “ He was severely malnourished, and was scared of his own shadow. Thanks to Hillside training and socialization in their daycare and boarding service, he is now doing great! We are seeing his health improve immensely, and his confidence is growing every day. Samson now smiles and thinks he is a lapdog, which we do not mind!”
Stella, their Chiuhuahua , Pomeranian, and Dachshund mix was found by their daughter, Tori. “Tori searched for days for the perfect puppy. Finally she came across her best buddy through a breeder in Phoenix, and we have been delighted to learn that she is extremely smart and picks up tricks quickly!”
In addition to their dogs, Tina and Jodi have a clowder of rescue cats, Jerry Garcia, Marley, and sisters, Alex and Piper. “We fondly call Jerry Garcia ‘Jerry the fat cat’. We found him in a rescue shelter as a kitten, after he had been pulled from a fire with a burnt tail. Sadly, the smoke caused him to lose his meow. After some tender love and care, he is doing great now, with all of his hair regrown, and even his meow has returned! He loves food, and will start knocking over things when hungry. He loves to affectionately rest his paw in your hand, and out of all our cats, we think he is the best snuggler.”
Their second cat Marley, was rescued from a shelter in 2010. “She was sadly abandoned by her owners in their home after they moved out. She is a great and quirky cat, who will only accept affection on her terms. She is not shy, however, and will head butt you when it is time to pet her.”
Alex and Piper were found in a dump as kittens, and also came to Tina and Jodi via a shelter. “We’ve found that Alex does not like being inside at all., so now she is a happy outside cat. Piper loves to roam around outside as well, but is more comfortable inside.”
We have really loved getting to know Tina, Jodi, Stella and Sampson in their many visits to Hillside for grooming, daycare and training! We are also super excited to welcome their daughter Tori as the newest member of the Hillside family this month, and look forward to many years of serving them and the community.
In April, we were so excited to hold HIllside’s open interviews day at our facilities. So many wonderful Verde Valley residents came out and put their best foot forward. We were also pleasantly surprised that a few familiar faces came out, as well, our clients! This month we are turning the spotlight on the newest addition to our team, Tori Bracy.
Tori moved to the Verde Valley from Phoenix just over a year ago, when her mother was offered a position at the Verde Valley Medical Center. Although she had the option to stay and finish school in her hometown, she decided to make a change and migrate up here, as well. “I really wanted to get out of the city and try a different lifestyle. It was a good choice. I really enjoy the slower, more relaxed lifestyle of the Verde Valley, and it is so beautiful!” Tori shares.
Tori is no stranger to Hillside. Her dog Sampson, has been a Hillside K9 Academy pupil, and she has joined him on occasion in his training. “I really love the atmosphere here, and when I heard that a kennel tech position was available, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do what I love for a living.” Tori now has a hands-on job, caring for (and playing with) Hillside’s daycare and boarding residents. “My favorite thing about working with dogs is just how rewarding it is! They are always so happy to see me, especially when I have treats. It is so much fun, I really had no idea that work could be so enjoyable. I don’t know if I could ever move to a desk or counter job after this.”
I really love the atmosphere at [Hillside], and when I heard that a kennel tech position was available, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do what I love for a living."
In addition to the daily joy of working with both Hillside’s canines and their paw-parents, Tori hopes that she will be able to witness her wards grow and provide a positive influence on their lives, like she does at home with her own animals. “I currently have 2 dogs and 2 cats at home. Stella and Sampson, my two dogs are around 10 months old. Stella, our Dachsund mix, is great, she is such a happy dog. Sampson, our Staffordshire, however, developed some serious aggression issues.” After bringing Sampson for an evaluation, they began one-on-one training at Hillside, and with work, graduated to group classes. “Sampson has really come a long way, he is so much more relaxed around other people, and now is a regular client of Vicky, Hillside’s groomer!”
We are so excited to have Tori on our team, here at Hillside Canine Resort and Spa, and want to invite you to come and meet our newest family member! She can be seen interacting with our residents in the play yard, or taking walks around the property with our more shy fur-guests.
In honor of National Admin Professionals Day, we are turning the spotlight onto Hillside’s front desk administrator, Auli, and her full canine pack!
Auli is a Mingus Union Alumni whose love for animals has been infectious in the Hillside front office. Born in Eatonville, Washington, she moved to the Verde Valley at just 1 year old and has lived here her entire life. A full-blown animal enthusiast, it has been her dream to own a business similar to Hillside, so when she spotted an ad for a position there, she jumped at the chance to work with dogs. “I have trained my own dogs, and the dogs of a few friends, and thought that this would be a perfect environment for me to be in to nurture that passion!” Auli shared.
At home, Auli has 7 animals including 6 dogs, each with a completely unique and quirky temperament. Today I sat down with her to talk about her family of canines, and how their personalities enhance her life.
We'll begin with Rocky, her 2-year old Shit Zu-Maltese mix. He is the most therapeutic soul in the pack, never leaves Auli's side, and is the most photographed of the family, most likely because he loves to get his hair cut at Hillside! ”Rocky is my emotional support dog, and a momma's boy. His favorite thing to do is to rub his face against other faces, especially humans. It’s very calming and shows that he is made of just pure love."
Carub, her 15-year-old chocolate lab loves just about anyone who will go on a walk with him, including her neighbor, who she loans him to for that reason. “He has a mean bark, but really wouldn’t hurt a fly,” she remarks.
Chicka, her cuddly Chihuahua, is not typical for her breed. “She is basically a cat in a dog’s body and loves to spend all day sitting in the sun, just looking out a window.”
Ringo is her 5-year-old Jack Russel, who is solid muscle. “Ringo is very entertaining, and can run and jump endlessly without tiring, I really hope he can go forever!”
Delilah, her 3-year old Sharpei-Lab mix is not small in size, but thinks she is a lap dog. “Delilah is an interesting one. She is typically very shy but plays favorites with both people and other animals. She and will only socialize when she feels like it, and we haven’t cracked the code of who that may be from one moment to the next, but when she does, she is a a puddle of love."
Last, but not least, Cookies’n’Cream is her 4-year old Blue Tic Healer. “He is our lovable hunter. He has endless energy and loves just about everyone and everything in life. It is all an adventure to him.”
In addition to Auli’s pack of animals, a Calico cat named Niko has a place in her heart. “Niko is an outdoor-only cat. He graces us with his presence but hates to be picked up or touched. His affection is coded, and is really only shown through his selective meow, which is awarded only to people who he knows well. We understand, and accept it gladly when it comes!”
Since this last Winter, Auli has been a wonderful member of the Hillside family. Her love for dogs have fueled the passionate enthusiasm that has extended to the personable customer service that she provides at our reception desk. “I am in love with all dogs’ spirit, and love that no matter what, in every dog, their love for their owner never changes. Interacting with all of our clients' canine companions on a daily basis is the best food for the soul.”
Today we honor Hillside Founders, Shawn and Jennifer Tucker, and sit down with Jennifer to learn about their experiences working with the community and their animal companions.
These two hardworking professionals have dedicated their lives to the care and training of dogs from all over the Verde Valley and across the country. They have earned the respect of neighbors in the Northern Arizona community, which has given their businesses the reputation for being the #1 canine resort & spa and dog training facilities in the state!
Jennifer and Shawn have been together for over 11 years. After meeting at the baby shower of one of Jennifer’s former employees, they settled down in Phoenix, Arizona, where Shawn was born and raised. At the time, Jennifer worked in legal arbitration and negotiations, and Shawn commuted 4 days a week to the Verde Valley where he worked as a firefighter. After 4 years of this commute and finding themselves empty-nesters, they moved to Camp Verde, and Shawn to this day continues his public service at the (Camp Verde) fire station.
Q: Have you and Shawn always worked with animals?
A. I really became influenced by Shawn’s passion for animals. I grew up around dogs and horses, and cared for our children’s dogs, but Shawn has really made it his life’s work, and now it is mine. He has been training dogs for over 20 years, and continued his work under a very well-known dog trainer who produced police and bomb sniffing canines for the Boston Police department.
Q. What made you two want to open the Hillside Facilities?
A. Hillside really chose us. When we moved here, people constantly sought out Shawn for training, often asking us to keep their dogs while we rehabilitated them or when they had to leave town. We always agreed, but eventually found ourselves overwhelmed, caring for so many dogs on our own property, so we sought and bought a beautiful property with a view of the Verde Valley, and opened the Hillside facilities in 2014.
...the most fulfilling aspect of this journey - translating our plan of helping others into action. Two-legged and four-legged alike.
Q. What are your favorite things about running your own business?
A. We really love the opportunity to be a positive influence on the community, and to be able to give back. This is a huge reason why we founded the non-profit “Northern Arizona Service Dogs.” It has been the most fulfilling aspect of this journey, to have the ability to improve the lives of others, and translating our plan of helping others into action. Two-legged and four-legged alike.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you have faced in this line of work?
A. We’ve honestly been surprised to find that it is not always easy to find others who are as passionate about animals as we are. We have a great core group of employees at Hillside, and are so thankful to have them in our family. As we grow, however, finding others who compare in their dedication is a rare thing!
You are a one-man-band, until you build rapport with your community and prove reliability. Later on, it is so important to surround yourself with others who are equally reliable.
Q. Is there any advice you would give to someone who wants to venture into entrepreneurship?
A. Plan, plan, plan! And ultimately, give it a shot, because with follow-through it will be worth it. You will have to be your most motivated self, because in the beginning it is just you, running everything from maintenance, the books, and customer service, to the hands on and nitty gritty. You are a one-man-band, until you build rapport with your community and prove reliability. Later on, it is so important to surround yourself with others who are equally reliable, because delegation is the key to a smoothly sailed ship.
Q. Have you ever had a moment since founding Hillside where you thought, “This is it, this is why we do this.”
A. Yes! Once, we were able to help a local Verde Valley couple who were very much in need of a dog. He was a disabled veteran who was about to give up after being on the “Soldier’s Best Friend” list for almost two and a half years, with countless run-arounds. Shawn searched all over for a suitably tempered candidate, and eventually was able to adopt a dog from a Phoenix couple who could no longer take care of him. We cared for him at the facilities, trained him to become a certified service animal, and later donated him to the veteran and his beautiful wife. That dog stills serves them today.
Q. What are your favorite local businesses to support?
A. We have several! Personally, we love to eat at a local mom-and-pop restaurant in Camp Verde called La Casita. I like to support Hannah’s Nails in Camp Verde, as well, and go there as often as I have time. We have sponsored South Verde High alternative school, so that they can have a prom, and felt so blessed to have them come and do the beautiful murals that surround the Hillside doggy suites.
[Our pets] are all really good sports about sharing our attention with the community’s dogs and are great role models...
Q. What animals are a part of your family?
A. Silver is our miniature poodle who you may see napping next to the groomer behind the Hillside office. Tiger is our rescue cat who is really the Hillside Mascot. He is very laid back, and provides a valuable service when acclimating canine trainees to the presence of cats. Shawn’s babies include a Belgian Malinois named Apollo, and a Dutch Shepherd named Kimber. They are all really good sports about sharing our attention with the community’s dogs and are great role models for less confident dogs.
Q. Is their any news you would like to share about Hillside?
A. We are currently making a big push to expand our staff, and are opening our doors to the community this Friday for open interviews. I am really hoping this face-to-face style of applications will result in quality additions to our family.
Q. Speaking of additions to your family, I heard you have had an exciting one recently.
A. Yes! Shawn and I have a combined 6 adult children in our clan. Just last week we welcomed our very second granddaughter into the world, Ms. Katherine Renee. She is just so beautiful, I am completely blown away at the love, joy, and excitement she has brought to us and all around her.
Congratulations, Shawn and Jennifer, on the expansion of both your personal and professional families. It seems as though this spring marks another huge step in the lives of two of the Camp Verde’s most cherished entrepreneurs, and we wish them all of the happiness and success that they deserve!
At Hillside Canine Resort & Spa, our employees are like family. Today we are excited to highlight our team member Victoria, who shares why she came to Hillside, and some of the most important things she has done and learned in her years here.
21-year-old Victoria, or fondly known as Vicky, has lived in the Verde Valley her whole life. Born in Cottonwood, she attended Camp Verde High school, where she evolved a close sense of community. “I’ve never really had an urge to leave, and although many people I know have moved away, this really is my home,” she shares.
In the Spring of 2016, Victoria spotted an ad for a Kennel Technician, and jumped at the chance. “I just love animals, and own a dog, and several other animals varying from cats to tarantulas. I was super excited to have a chance to work with them closely, and have loved every minute of it. It has been very fulfilling to keep canine family members company and taking them out to play. It’s also been a great learning experience.”
After working closely with many local and travelling dogs in Hillside’s boarding and daycare programs, last year, Victoria made a lateral move into grooming. The opportunity for creative expression and greater chance to help animals in need made the new position very appealing to her. “For the most part, it’s a fun way to bring out the natural beauty in dogs, but there is another aspect that really drew me to it. I have come across many unfortunate cases of dogs that have gotten themselves into trouble, or gone too long between grooming and nail care, and take seriously the opportunity to be able to educate dog parents in keeping their babies happy and healthy.”
"I take seriously the opportunity to be able to educate dog parents in keeping their babies happy and healthy."
In one case Victoria shares about a toy poodle that came in multiple times with a matted and unmanageable coat. Poodles don’t normally need what is called a “puppy cut”, or a short, single length shave all over, which is all that she was able do during each visit. This results in a very uniform, fluffy look, which does not take advantage of this breed’s natural features. “Their tight and curly coat needs more maintenance than other breeds, and after working with her owner to keep on a regular grooming schedule, including regular brushings at home, we eventually have been able to give her a more classic poodle look, with a slim body and voluminous ears, paws, and tail!”
In a more severe case, Victoria recalls a rescue dog that had just been adopted and was brought in immediately by his new family. “This poor chow had a severely matted coat. The owner, Jennifer, and I worked together for over an hour and a half, very carefully removing the fur a little at a time, and picked hundreds of foxtails from his skin. He had so many sores, which we gently treated, and seemed so happy afterwards, like a completely different dog.”
The most frequent challenges that the folks at Hillside face are deformed and twisted nails. “Depending on how fast they grow, we really encourage owners to bring in their dog up to twice a month for nail maintenance. If left too long, nails can begin to twist and curl, which can be very painful and impede walking. This is especially important for breeds and older dogs that may be genetically disposed to weight gain or hip problems. Even after long, curled nails have been clipped, there is only so much length that can be taken off comfortably, and the deformation may still remain until one or two more trims in the future.”
Victoria works full time, beautifying dogs from all over the Verde Valley, and enjoys adding personal touches like bandanas, ribbons and bows to her canine masterpieces. Visit us Monday – Saturday 9am to 2pm, introduce your favorite canine companion, and leave with a happy, healthy, and beautiful pup!