It's a dog's life
By Tom Gillispie
Cheryl Bowles got the idea for cooking up a dog business when was visiting a friend in Orlando, Fla. And now she owns one of the dozens of dog businesses that have cropped up around Winston-Salem.
Bowles, who is originally from Colorado, says she started her K-9 Doggie Bakery and Boutique in Statesville. The store was in Winston-Salem’s Hanes Mall for 4½ years, and it’s been at its present location, 111 Reynolda Village, for 5½ years.
“We went to a dog store, and they had a small bakery,” she said. “I’d been selling jewelry before that, and I was tired of selling jewelry. I love dogs and have no kids, and I thought this would be something fun to get into.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of hard work as well.”
Bowles and her part-time employees bake treats right in the store. They sell everything from leashes and collars to clothing, all-natural shampoos, organic flea and tick prevention, toys, carriers and crafts.
Bowles says her business offers a free monthly Canine College in which dog owners learn about various canine subjects, from how to brush a dog’s teeth to what to look for in doggy daycare to what to look for in a pet sitter.
“We give away prizes and make it as fun as we can,” Bowles said. “We’ve done a dog tea party. A company makes tea for dogs, and I make treats.”
She says she makes peanut or cheese treats in shapes ranging from bones to Halloween or Christmas shapes.
Bowles is open six days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. She doesn’t have a web site, but her store has a Facebook page and a page on Reynolda Village’s web site.
She says she has three dogs of her own — a husky mix, a shih tzu and a Yorkie/Maltese mix.
“(The store is) a lot of work, and the older I get the harder it gets,” Bowles said with a laugh. “But it’s fun. I do it out of love; I love it so much.”
Double dip of dog business
If Steve Kline isn’t the area’s hardest-working man in the dog business, he’s close. Kline has TWO dog businesses: He co-owns the Wag Boutique and owns the K-9 Klips mobile dog-grooming unit.
The Wag Boutique (www.facebook.com/wagboutique) is a pet supply store at 301 Brookstown Avenue, near Old Salem.
K-9 Klips is run out of a white Econoline van that’s been altered so Kline can stand up in the back.
Not unexpectedly, Kline says it’s a ton of work.
“When you’re self-employed, you don’t get time off,” he said.
He says he’s run the Wag Boutique since 2009. The boutique started out on Country Club Road, but he moved a year ago and has picked up a lot more foot traffic.
“I’m really pleased how it’s turned out,” he said.
He says the boutique is important because of the many special dog foods they sell.
“The coolest thing for me is to help educate customers about feeding their dogs better food,” Kline said. “If you feed your dog right, you won’t have to make as many vet’s visits.
“There are a lot of ingredients in most dog foods that dogs don’t need. They contain wheat, corn, soy, and they’re just fillers.”
But the Wag Boutique sells more than dog food.
“I’m always amazed at the amount of money people spend on the latest fashions in dog clothes, collars or even dog dresses,” he said.
Kline is originally from Upstate New York but grew up in Florida. He’s been in Winston-Salem for 21 years.
He says he’s groomed dogs for 18 years, and he’s operated his mobile grooming business since 2008. He doesn’t advertise other than word-of-mouth, and he says he’s not taking on new grooming clients because he has all the business he can handle.
Kline says he had a 16-year-old Yorkie/poodle mix “that I had to say goodbye to,” and he still has a seven-year-old standard poodle named Ty.
Speaking of his workload, “I work about 60 hours a week,” Kline said. “But it used to be a lot more.”
Let the Games begin
Karen Fullerton isn’t a business owner, but Fullerton is a huge part of the Winston-Salem dog scene.
First, she started a charitable organization that is named after her late Siberian husky, Sergei, who died in 2009.
“The next day, I had a brainstorm,” said Fullerton, who was originally from Michigan. “I started (the Sergei Foundation) to help people as much as dogs.”
Any local dog owner who is in dire need of financial assistance for his/her dog can fill out an application on the Sergei Foundation’s web site (sergeifoundation.org), even in emergency situations, and the foundation may be able to help. Be warned: The foundation can’t help everyone; just those in direst need.
Fullerton is also the founder of the local dog Olympics, the Triad Dog Games (triaddoggames.com), which benefits the Sergei Foundation.
The first games (2014) were held at Reynolda Village, and the 2015 games were held at Tanglewood Park. The third-annual games are set for May 15-16, 2016 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds at 421 27th Street NW, off University Parkway.
They have agility, disc competitions, dock jumping and doggy “daches” for dachshunds and similar small dogs. The dog games are a qualifier for national events, but Fullerton adds that ordinary people can bring ordinary dogs to compete and have fun, too.
They weren’t able to charge for the first two games because of the openness of the venues. At the fairgrounds, they’ll be able to ask for donations as spectators enter.
“We wanted to help people and give them an option with their dogs,” Fullerton said.
“There isn’t any other organization locally that can do what we do at the level we do.”
She estimates that 3,000 people showed up for the first Triad Dog Games, with more than 4,000 at the second.
“Next year, we hope for at least 5,000” spectators, she said.
She says that they have asked spectators where they came from and got Statesville, Hickory, Charlotte, Raleigh and Davie County among the responses. The competitors, about 200 for each event, have come from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and other nearby states.
Most of the spectators are from this area, and they’re invited to bring their own dogs.
Fullerton says that Reynolda Village is “quaint and spread out” while Tanglewood Park is “a huge, open space, and it was a hot weekend this year, with no shade. The fairgrounds have wonderful variety, inside and outside.
“We wanted the Triad Dog Games to be a fundraiser,” she added, “but we also wanted to involve the community.”
Fullerton, whose current dog is an Australian cattle dog mix named Sydney, says she was in marketing before she and her husband moved to North Carolina.
Now, the Sergei Foundation and the Triad Dog Games take up all her time.
“It’s full-time, plus,” she said.
The Forsyth Humane Society (www.forsythhumane.org) has broken ground for a new adoption facility at 4881 Country Club Road. According to publicist Rex Welton, the new facility in the old Yacht House Seafood Restaurant building will replace the old facility at 61 Miller Street.
Welton says the humane society has been at its current facility for nearly 30 years.
“And about 20 years ago we technically outgrew our facility,” said Welton, who has worked for the society about 16 of those years.
He says the society already leases space in the Tower Shopping Center for administrative offices.
“We just don't have space in our Miller Street facility,” Welton said. “Parking is extremely limited, and we’re only licensed by the state for 50 animals. We’d like to have more animals in the building so more animals can get adopted.”
He says the current facility has three parking spaces, plus one handicapped spot. The new facility will have more than 50 parking spaces for people who want to adopt, donors, employees and volunteers.
The Country Club facility will be around 10,000 square feet, Welton says, including about 7,000 feet in the Yacht House Seafood Restaurant building, plus another 3,000 square feet added on.
He says the new building will allow the society to keep about 125 animals, two and a half times the current number.
Working with dogs and people
Like Cheryl Bowles and Steve Kline, mentioned above, Geralyn Kelly is not from around here. Kelly, originally from New Jersey, first moved to Thomasville and later Winston-Salem.
She’s the owner/operator of Elite Canine and trains dogs and their owners.
“People say, ‘My dog won’t listen to me,’” she says, “but it comes at both ends of a leash, to be honest. If you don’t practice at home, they won’t learn. It’s a life-long thing. A dog owner has to train his dog at home; it’s not just what we do in class.”
She says she’s worked with dogs for 15 years and trained them for 12.
At the Furball in November, it was announced that the Forsyth Humane Society was honoring Kelly’s therapy dog team, called Fostering Friendship. These are specially-trained dogs that belong to Kelly and other owners. They visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals and other places, and people get to pet the super-calm dogs.
One of her own dogs, a Samoyed named Nanook, is one of her therapy dogs.
“I’d take him wherever I go, if I could,” she said. “He’s excited in the car, but once he’s inside he’s all business. He’s trained to sit beside a wheelchair and let them pet him or stand beside a bed to be petted.
“He loves it. He was born to do what he does.”
Kelly usually teaches in groups. A five-week beginner’s class would cost $125, but she says dog owners can donate to Give a Kid a Coat and get a discount, or bring something for the food bank and get a discount.
Kelly, who works out of Oldtown Shopping Center at 3800 Reynolda Road, has a current special that she likes. If the Carolina Panthers manage to improve to 10-0, Kelly will offer a special discount.
“People can call me at 336-293-4548, and I’m quick to answer emails,” Kelly said. “My web site is www.elitecanine.net.”
There’s a template on the web site so you can email her.
About her work, “I guess one big difference for me is I love my job,” she said. “I love doing what I do.
“If I can help turn a dog into a nice, happy, healthy member of a family, it’s enough of a reward in any job.”
Blog entries by Tom Gillispie
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Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)