by The Editors
She was excited about retirement—until she'd actually retired. It took an Australian shepherd puppy named Kelly to point her toward a new path.
Nearing her retirement from teaching, Amy Trice began to wonder if she was making the right decision. How would she fill the hours of free time? A friend suggested she get a dog, and though Amy was at first hesitant, she responded to an ad in the newspaper for an Australian shepherd puppy. Amy immediately fell in love with the pup and named her Kelly.
But Australian shepherds are very active dogs and Amy began to wonder if perhaps Kelly was more than she could handle. In desperation Amy called her cousin for advice. "She needs socialization with other dogs," her cousin said.
Amy turned to other dog owners to see if they might be interested in arranging play dates, and that made all the difference. Kelly got lots of exercise and after each play date, she was much better behaved. Soon, Amy and her friends were taking turns pet sitting for each other, and one day, a woman Amy had never met called her and asked if she would be willing to pet sit her dog for the weekend. For pay.
Soon, Amy was pet sitting with frequency, often with more than one dog. She came across a newspaper story about a Florida woman who had started a doggie day care, and figuring she had already made a head start on such an enterprise, Amy decided to pursue it further.
Amy called the woman in Florida, who recommended she contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers for more info and training. Amy decided to take part in Peaceable Paws, a weeklong program in Maryland that gives people the skills to be dog trainers. After that week, Amy wrote, "I came home certain I knew what God wanted me to do—open a doggie day care."
After more research, Amy found a home that had ample space to give her canine clients room to run and play., one that was big enough to accommodate both large and small dogs. A friend coined a fun name for Amy's business: Hot Diggity Doggie Camp.
Amy's business opened in 2007 in Northport, Alabama. At first, Amy had to educate some potential customers about what exactly doggie day care was, but soon business was booming, so much so that Amy moved into the home that housed her business, so that she offer overnight boarding and accommodate those customers who worked at night.
Amy's experience teaching school was the ideal preparation for caring for dogs. She runs her day care like a classroom: play, nap and play again.
Amy came to realize that one key way in which dogs are like children is that they both need to be nurtured, so she stays with her dogs throughout the day. Her regulars, she says, are like her children, and if she encounters a "problem child," she strives to get to know them better, just as she did in the classroom, even pairing them with other dogs she thinks they might get along with. Dogs, like people, Amy says, just want to be understood.
As a young woman, Amy dreamed of a house full of kids, but as the years passed she realized that was not to be. However, as her business flourished, she came to understand that God has answered her prayers: Her dogs had become like family to her.
That "family" came to mean even more to Amy when times got tough. Her mother, her father and younger brother all passed away over a relatively brief period of time, and she had to say goodbye to her beloved Australian shepherd when Kelly was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Amy's doggie family helped her deal with those losses. Every day, they greeted her joyfully and were eager to play. She couldn't let her grief get the best of her because her family needed her. She needed them, too.
Eleven years later, Amy's business is still going strong. Doggie day care and puppy kindergartens, a service she also offers now, are not as unusual as they once were; she even has a few competitors in the area. But she welcomes them; as she sees it, the more happy dogs, the better.
Some have asked Amy why she passed up on retirement, why she didn't just kick back and relax after her teaching career. She explains that God had another plan for her. He led her to Kelly, who showed her the path to a fulfilling second career. Amy counts her blessings in dog years now.
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