One of our favorite parts of working to provide canine services and trained dogs to the community is the flood of thank-you emails that we receive on a weekly basis. We love to hear from people with whom we have had a positive affect on their lives. Just recently, one very special email stood out to us, and we just had to reach out to them for a follow-up! Get to know Kristi and take a look at how Rossi has changed her life.
Kristi Knight is a Texas native born and raised in Weatherford, a smaller city about half the size of Flagstaff. Growing up, Kristi was fortunate enough to live with the same two canine companions from the age of 6 to adulthood, and still feels the compassion learned from that bond to this day. In July of 2018, Kristi decided to expand on that empathy for others through enrollment in the ASU Doctorate program with a focus on Occupational Therapy.
People often think of police Rottweilers and German Shepherds when they think of protection dogs. Temperament and training, however, is just as important... Any dog with the right drive and sense of loyalty to their owner has the potential be a protection dog.”
Despite her excitement to further her career, moving to the Phoenix area proved to be a bit of a shock. At more than a million and half people, compared to the 30,000 in Weatherford, Phoenix’s sprawling urban area changed her perspective on what it means to live independently while feeling safe. “Living in downtown alone I felt very uneasy – I had just moved into a city for the first time, started graduate school, and didn’t know anyone in Arizona.”
Enter Hillside K9 Academy. Just one month after her move, Kristi decided a protection dog would be the best option to ease her big-city anxiety. After an extensive internet search, she landed on Hillside’s website, and decided to pay the facilities a visit. Kristi showed drove up fully anticipating the need to adjust to living with a large-sized protection breed, compared to her childhood companions. “This is a common misconception that we hear often,” Hillside’s manager, Jennifer, shares, “People often think of police Rottweilers and German Shepherds when they think of protection dogs. Temperament and training, however, is just as important as pedigree, and size does not matter at all. Any dog with the right drive and sense of loyalty to their owner has the potential be a protection dog.” After a detailed discussion with Kristi about her lifestyle and needs, Jennifer offered to bring out the Academy’s available dogs for a meet and greet, beginning and ending with Rossi.
Rossi is a medium sized Dutch Shepherd, a relative of the German Shepherd, but slimmer and with a focused and more mellow disposition. She was one of the first puppies that Jennifer invested in when she and Shawn opened the facilities in 2014. “She has always been my favorite,” Jennifer says, “and although it was bittersweet putting her up for adoption, I was determined to find the perfect owner that would love her as much as I do.” Upon meeting Rossi, it was love-at-first sight for Kristi, “When Rossi was brought out, we clicked instantly. It was a match made in heaven!”
6-months later, Kristi and Rossi are now an inseparable pair. “Rossi continues to astound me with her intelligence, alertness and puppy-like joy. Since adopting her, I have felt absolutely safe, never lonely, and am always happy to return home. She made my transition easier and more enjoyable. Rossi is incredibly intelligent, poised and alert – she gets compliments daily on her good looks and obviously obedient disposition. And even at 4 years old, she picks up new tricks in under 10 repetitions!”
Rossi’s protection, alerting, and home security training is only part of her new life. As any trainer will agree, you can teach a dog a to be a driven working animal with and infinite number tasks, but they will always remain true their loyal companion and puppy-like nature. Kristi fondly sees the proof of this daily, “Rossi loves plush toys and carries one with her anywhere, and anytime I let her; whether we’re on a run, sitting out in public, or just out and about. She also enjoys sitting on my feet and knocks my phone out of my hands when she’s not getting enough attention.”
These days, when Kristi isn’t in school, she resumes her previous life of hiking, trail running, and hanging out in coffee shops with Rossi by her side. “She has brought an incredible amount of joy, security, companionship, and adventure into my life. The stability she affords me as a graduate student in a huge bustling city cannot be overemphasized. I am so thankful to have Rossi!”
The best part of this pairing, for us at Hillside, is that we still get to visit with Rossi during her regular grooming and boarding visits!
“It has eased my mind when traveling to know that Rossi is safe, being treated well by people she knows and is comfortable with,” Kristi shared with us, and we are more than happy to provide that for the both of them for many years to come.
Are you looking for your perfect canine companion? Check out the current trained dogs for sale on our sister site here.
This month we are shining the spotlight on another training success story from our clients, Gioia and Eric! We never tire of helping transform dogs into fully integrated members of our community’s families. We find it eternally fascinating how different canine siblings display diverse personalities, and sometimes, levels of mischief!
Gioia Cohen and her husband, Eric, first met in Alabama working in the health industry, and have been serving the Verde Valley community for over 12 years through Gioia’s nursing and music and Eric’s work as an Interventional Cardiologist. Growing up, they have both always had dogs and occasionally cats. “We were youngest children in our families, so our dogs were our best friends as long as we can remember!” Gioia shared.
Currently, they live with their children and two dogs, 7-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog Lizzie, and 3-year-old White Golden Retriever, Lucca. “Lizzie thinks she is a lap dog, although she weighs almost 70 pounds. When we first got her, I did not want her on the furniture, so I searched for the perfect bed to fit both of us, so that I sit with her.” When they found Lucca, whose mother’s name also happened to be Gioia, they knew they had to have him. “I mean, how can we not have a puppy from another Gioia!” she laughed.
“Our animals provide love, companionship, and warmth unimaginable, they make us laugh and feel loved every single day.”
Gioia and Eric can often be found cuddling with their furry loved ones, and when family relax-time is over, their children love to take them on hikes and take advantage of Lucca’s retriever instincts through daily ball throwing. “Our animals provide love, companionship, and warmth unimaginable,” said Gioia, “they make us laugh and feel loved every single day.”
The Cohen family have been Hillside clients for 2 years now, and we have been thrilled to get to know their two and four-legged family. “While boarding and grooming with Hillside has made our life easier, it is the training that has been the most valuable.” Early on, Lucca, the younger of the two dogs, was described as a gentle but rambunctious fellow. Although easily potty trained and taught to be mannerly with his food, Gioia struggled with his behavior around other people. His older sister, Lizzie, was more behaved, but really knew how to push her little brother’s buttons and exerted her influence to help him misbehave. “We solicited the help of Shawn in training Lucca in hopes that better manners would help neutralize the encouraged problem between the two. After a few week stay at their in-kennel bootcamp program, not only did he come home a gentleman, he was also healthy and happy!” The family was delighted at this transformation and it was apparent to them, during a customary follow up session before returning home, that a bond has developed between trainer and dog. “It was obvious that Lucca loved Shawn, and that Shawn cared about Lucca, too. I think that was the key in the success of his training.”
"...not only did he come home a gentleman, he was also healthy and happy!"
The Cohen family love the rural setting of the Hillside facilities. When asked how they would describe their visits they shared, “It feels like a happy place for your animals the minute you drive up. The thing we like best, though, is the care that the entire staff displays for our dogs. Jennifer and Shawn have a great team and the dogs are always so excited when we arrive there. That makes it so easy for us to take them no matter what service we are using, and isn’t that what all pet parents want?”
Thank you so much to the Cohens for letting us peek into the life of your beautiful family and for sharing your Hillside experience with us. We always love to see Lizzie and Lucca’s happy faces pull up to the front office and look forward to many happy years of service to you!
Jennifer and Shawn have a great team and the dogs are always so excited when we arrive there. That makes it so easy for us to take them no matter what service we are using, and isn’t that what all pet parents want?”
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!
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.
Kaila Haas - Passionate animal lover and fan of the Hillside Canine Resort & Spa family!