School is out for the summer, bringing splash pools and a plethora of canine guests at Hillside to kick off our busy vacation season! With warm weather also brings positive changes within our work family. This month we are shining the spotlight on a very important employee who often works behind the scenes to keep our ship running smoothly: Marisa Carrara. Read through to learn about her journey over the last 3 years and to learn about an exciting development at the Camp Verde resort and spa facility!
A Verde Valley local, Marisa, was born and raised in Sedona. Growing up, Marisa's love for the cat and dogs in her life fed her dream to one day put her compassion for all creatures to use in their most vulnerable moments. After high school Marisa left her family and the Verde Valley to put her dream into action by enrolling in the University of Arizona's pre-veterinary program. Although fresh and exciting, her life in Tucson was not fulfilling enough convince her to stick around during school breaks, so Marisa found herself returning to the high desert often spending her entire summers enjoying the cooler climate. During one of these visits, she spotted an ad for a kennel technician position at Hillside. "I though it was a perfect opportunity for me as a pre-vet student to begin hands-on in the animal care industry, so I took a chance, knowing I would need to return to school in the Fall, and was thrilled when they agreed to take me on!"
Marisa's time at our resort and spa facility that summer left a lasting mark on her previous notions of employment life. "The mental and emotional therapy that working one-on-one with dogs of all breeds and temperaments is my favorite thing about working at Hillside. It is a fun and rewarding job being able to provide the utmost care and creating exciting experiences for our furry guests!"
Even the challenging portions of this line of work did not deter Marisa from returning during her school breaks. "When dogs come in for daycare or boarding for the very first time, they are often skittish in their new environment. It is very fulfilling to help them become comfortable through treats, petting, and playing. It is such an awesome feeling to watch a dog wag its tail at the end of the day and show equal excitement when they come back through our door for another visit."
In the last 3 years Marisa's experience at Hillside has encouraged her to continue working with dogs during the school year. Her time at two corporate-run doggie daycare centers in Tucson afforded her a healthy sense of perspective on what it means to offer quality care and great experiences for her four-legged clients. "Hillside is run so differently than other places. Their organized systems and personal "family" experience really adds an important element to canine hospitality. I was surprised at my other jobs to experience a certain "obligated" attitude from my coworkers. They punched in and punched out everyday but didn't seem to gather the same passion and enthusiasm for their daily work like the Hillside family of employees do."
At home Marisa enjoys the company of two cats, Winter and Geneva, and her dog, Molly. "Winter is the newest addition to the family, she is only 3 months old and is a wild furry of fun. Geneva was very similar when I brought her in three years ago from a free adoption event at the Coconino Humane Society. She has really mellowed out in the last few years and her very self-assured nature has earned her the nickname 'Queen' and 'Queen Geneva' from my friends and family. I happily share custody of our dog Molly with my sister in Sedona. She is a very spunky Doberman mix who has grown to be rather protective of us. She is very loose, loving, and silly when we're alone but gets down to business quickly when it's time to pay attention to the presence of strangers. It reminds me of the protection canines-in-training at Hillside K9 Academy."
In January of this year, Marisa's relocation to Camp Verde and consistent work ethic in her seasonal work at Hillside culminated to her transition from a seasonal employee to full-time member of the Hillside work family. In just the last 5 months she has provided a wonderful sense of stability and dedication to our daily operation, often filling in behind the scenes and going above and beyond to keep our canine care programs running smoothly. She has proved herself to be a forward thinker who is not satisfied with her work just being a "job" but rather a fulfilling career with constant room for improvement.
It is our pleasure and excitement to announce that, this spring, Marisa has begun training to fill a special management position at our Camp Verde Resort and Spa facility! Beginning mid-June she will work closely with our managing-owner, Jennifer, to oversee the daily operations of our customer care, daycare, boarding, grooming, and scheduling services. Throughout the summer, Jennifer will gradually make a lateral move to a more behind-the-scenes role, handling daily administration and will still be heavily involved in all goings-on at both our Dewey and Camp Verde locations. This exciting reorganization of roles will greatly increase the opportunity to bring more consistent and personal customer service to all of our clients.
We want thank Marisa for her unwavering dedication and compassionate care to the Verde Valley's beloved canine community, and hope that you will join us in congratulating her for the upcoming promotion during your next visit!
We are so thankful for the family of dog-loving professionals that help Hillside’s day-to-day operations run smoothly. We strongly believe that a balanced staff of youthful and enthusiastic animal lovers complimented by mature service industry and dog veterans creates a bright and well rounded atmosphere for any business in the canine care industry. Therefor we go through great lengths to train fresh personalities in order to give ground-up opportunities to those dedicated to our cause. One of the youngest additions to our team shows a perfect example of someone who has seized this opportunity, and we would like to honor her commitment to her work in this month’s employee spotlight!
These days Lena enjoys getting to know the unique personalities of our clients' four-legged companions and fully appreciates their huge hearts and warm personalities. She fondly likens them to the many horse friends she has had throughout her life. “I believe both horses and dogs have similarly amazing qualities, especially their by-your-side nature. They both can sense your energy and how you feel at any given moment, and their unconditional love is always there to help you through things in life.”
We couldn’t be happier to have Lena on the Hillside team. Her compassion and pure kindness is a lovely addition to our family of dog-lovers, and we looke forward to watching her grow into her newly deepened love for dogs! Do you have a dog enthusiast in your life who would love the chance to turn that passion into a career? We're hiring! Send them here to apply today. We welcome people of all ages and from all walks of life, as long as they share our teams compassion for our guests both two and four-legged alike.
Every month, we like to shine the spotlight on a Hillside family member, whether they are an employee or client who has touched our hearts and made daily life at our beautiful facility a bit brighter. This month, we are taking a look behind the scenes and introduce to you someone you not have seen in your visits, our Kennel Technician in the “Barn”, David McMurtrey!
3 years ago, we were fortunate enough to have been discovered online by a local animal enthusiast, David, who was looking for supplemental work with dogs. Since the day that Shawn, Hillside K9 Academy’s head trainer reached out in response to his inquiry for a position, he has played an integral role in the overall quality of life for our dogs in residence. Whether it is taking our canines-in-training out for exercise, making sure their kennels are clean, and keeping a very close eye on any concerning behaviors or health matters, David has always gone above and beyond in his daily work, with compassion and attention for detail.
“I have had dogs of all kinds since childhood. Not being around them or loving my own is an unimaginable thought.”
A Tucson native, David grew up surrounded by beloved working cattle and ranch dogs on his family’s property. Also the son of a veterinarian, he was exposed to the animal medical world through his mother’s work at a local private clinic. This sometimes-sobering daily experience combined with the closeness to his furry childhood companions led to many years of passionate animal work into his adulthood. “I have had dogs of all kinds since childhood. Not being around them or loving my own is an unimaginable thought.”
In 2011, David migrated to the Verde Valley to be closer to the majority of his family who have settled in this area over the last decade. He immediately began work at the Verde Valley Humane Society as a Kennel Technician and spent the next several years fulfilling his animal interests through care for local dogs and cats in need. “At the humane society I developed a strong set of organizational skills and really learned how important cleanliness is to the over-all well being of rescue animals. I work to apply this daily in my time spent at Hillside.”
Work ethic wasn’t the only thing that David picked up in his time at the shelter. He also gained an important companion, in the form of Athena. “Athena was 1 of 3 Belgian Malinois pups that were unfortunately shoved into a crate together and abandoned outside the shelter one day. Sadly, we saw this situation often, and frequently found loose dogs roaming the property with a food dish and belongings sitting by the front door.” Something about the lively spirit of Athena, however, spoke to David, and he brought her home to meet his Shepherd-Malinois mix, Ruger. Despite their very different personalities, through time, Athena and Ruger became inseparable. “Ruger is very much a clingy and needy dog. He loves to cuddle and is a big teddy bear. Athena is a bit ornerier and can be jealous for attention. In their dynamic, she has established herself as the alpha dog, which he seems to accept.”
[This] was not part of my plan, but sometimes animals just choose you... I think we are both resigned to the fact that we are stuck with each other for life.
Just last year this unique pair produced their first litter of puppies. David did not plan on keeping their offspring, as the two of them keep his hands full daily, and easily found good homes with friends and family for 7 of the 8 beautiful pups. “Keeping ‘Puppy’, as I fondly call him, was not part of my plan, but sometimes animals just choose you. The last remaining of the litter was so well behaved, and we already have developed a strong bond. I think we are both resigned to the fact that we are stuck with each other for life. Now he is almost 50 lbs. and has become an affectionate cuddler like his dad,” David shared warmly.
When not working with the dogs at Hillside, David spends most of his time with his four-legged family, often hiking, swimming, and exploring the area’s beautiful landscape. “Both at home and in my career, I truely believe that my passion for dogs will never end. I plan on doing this for the rest of my life.”
And we at Hillside are so thankful for that resolution! David is a stable and inspiring player in our daily operations, both at the Resort and the Academy. We look forward to many more years of growing alongside him in our service to the local dog community.
Kaila Haas - Passionate animal lover and fan of the Hillside Canine Resort & Spa family!