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 30 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!