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!
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.
As anyone who has run a business knows, adding a new location is like doing a thousand piece jigsaw while piloting an airplane. Well this year we count ourselves blessed, because the last (most important!) piece of our Dewey location puzzle just happened to be in the right place at the right time; a talented, experienced, and sunny dog grooming veteran, a cherished thing in this area! We are excited to introduce Anne King, the newest addition to the Hillside family, who is now co-pilot for our new Boutique Dog Salon at the corner of 169 and 69 in Dewey, Arizona. Join us for the Dewey Dog Party: Hillside Grand Opening on December 1st from 9am-3pm!
Anne has been a lifelong animal lover. Born and raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, caring for and wrangling four legged friends has always been a part of her life. So it was only natural that in school she would actively continue her education in programs like Future Farmers of America and Farmer Union Junior.
After school, Anne’s life expanded, earning her the fond nickname from her father, “Gypsy,” due to her love for new places and wayward demeanor. A former military wife and traveler, she has lived everywhere from Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas to Germany and Idaho.
While living in Dallas in 2008, Anne had the goal to get her foot in the door in the animal industry. Little did she know that life would fling her head first in that direction. After accepting a position as an entry level dog bather at a chain pet store, Anne became grooming salon manager within just 1 year! Anne’s following birthday also offered another affirmation with the chance meeting of her future husband during a karaoke celebration. Also an avid animal lover and former dog trainer, it seemed they were moving in similar directions in life.
Years later, Anne accepted a position within the company in Idaho, but soon became restless in the corporate atmosphere. Not wanting to leave her work with furry friends, she accepted a grooming position in a local animal rescue clinic called Scraps, just over the Washington border. “I loved working with animals in need, comforting them with baths after sometimes harrowing ordeals was very fulfilling. Seeing the change in personality and light in their eyes after a good dematting and shave made it all worth it. It is amazing how life changing a simple groom can be for a dog. Not only did it increase their chances of adoption, but it also afforded them a lot more affection from those around them. ” she shared.
Before and Afters of Anne's Canine Clients at
HillsideCanine Resort and Spa, Dewey!
Just this month, Anne, her two children, husband, and two dogs made one last big move after selling their Idaho home, and settling down in Chino Valley. As fate would have it, her move to the area lined up perfectly with the expansion of our Resort and Spa, just a short trip away in Dewey! Hillside owner Jennifer and Anne have been working together closely since our soft opening this month to perfect the area’s first boutique dog salon at the corner of Hwy 169 and 69. Please join us for our grand opening tomorrow, December 1st from 9am-3pm for games, refreshments, and free nail trims!
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!
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!
Kaila Haas - Passionate animal lover and fan of the Hillside Canine Resort & Spa family!