Bark All About It!
A little background. Ok, a lot of background.
As we enter into our 5th year of business at The Local Bark, now seems as fitting a time as any to share a little about our history. You know—fill you on our roots, so to speak.
I've told many people about the point in my life when I decided to become a dog trainer. I had just completed my BS degree at UCLA in biochemistry, of all things. My goal was to pursue a career in genetic counseling. Aside from my passion for animals, I had an interest in science and a love of people—so it seemed like the perfect fit. That is, until I interned with a genetic counselor. You see, genetic counselors have a really tough job. The majority of their work is spent counseling couples and families who have just been dealt a tough blow--their child (often unborn) has been diagnosed with a genetic disease. As you can imagine, it's pretty difficult to walk away from your workday feeling happy and rejuvinated. Now I'm not saying this can't be a rewarding career--I'm sure it can be--but I started to realize it just wasn't for me. I'm an outdoor kinda gal, and I could tell that office-life was going to feel very suffocating. As was the challenge of being the constant bearer of bad news.
It was about this time that I joined my family for dinner to celebrate the retirement of one of my father's close friends. I asked this gentleman if, looking back on his career, there was anything he would have done differently. He didn't hesitate. He said, "Kristin, I would have made a career out of my passion." His basic message was that life was too short to spend your days doing something you don't feel real passion for, if only to make money. Wow. That went straight to my heart. This moment was my turning point. I was still young (23 at the time) and had my whole life ahead of me. What a waste not to pursue something I truly loved.
Thanks to the support of my then boyfriend, Mark, and my parents (who had just paid my way through school, mind you!), within the next 6 months, I was actively heading in the direction of becoming a dog trainer. Now THAT was a career I could fall in love with. I'd grown up in the country in Minnesota, always surrounded by pets--dogs, cats and horses were my faves. So to build a career based on this love only made sense.
And so began the building blocks of The Local Bark. After a 3-year apprenticeship with a reputable trainer, I began training dogs at my home (our boarding school is still modeled after this original program I offered). I transformed my garage into a crate-lined room, where the dogs would eat and sleep, and had large, outdoor fenced areas for the dogs to relax and play in. It wasn't long before I had a very dedicated group of core clients who came back frequently to board their dogs with me while they were out of town. Although it was not initially my intention to offer boarding at my home, it soon became obvious that there was a real need for this service. I had clients (and their dogs) who I'd grown to love, and I couldn't bear the thought of suggesting that they leave their dog at a kennel (eww...the 'K' word!) Think cement dog runs separated by chain-link. Loud. Smelly. And just plain scary. It wasn't something I could ever do to my dogs, so it wasn't something I could suggest to others.
And so the idea of The Local Bark was born. Continuing to grow the business at my home just wasn't feasible. I had a growing family and a growing clientele. And time off was next to impossible. It was even challenging just to go to dinner, let alone to get a night away. My husband Mark was totally committed to joining with me in this endeavor, which made it all the more attractive. I would be working alongside the man that I love. With dogs that I love. For people that I love.
And so here we are, five years later, with a business that we are really proud of. We've survived some very difficult economic times--not without some real nail-biting—but it's all been worth it. I get such a feeling of satisfaction when I see someone dropping off their tail-wagging happy dog, who practically pulls their owner over to get in the back to play. And I'm even more proud when I walk back to the play areas in the facility and see truly relaxed, happy dogs. Finally, I can say with confidence that I know a great place to board dogs!