Over 10 years ago, I needed a dog walker for our yellow lab. I was working away from our home, and knew she needed someone special to get her out, and excercised. Ann Brown was the perfect fit. She lived nearby, and was very knowledgeable about dogs.
She was aware that I loved dogs, and suggested we could take in some local dogs to board on weekends. It would provide us with some extra income and company for our dog. She would refer any great dogs and their families our way if we were interested.
At this point in time; dog walkers and in home boarding were not in abundance, so it was a great time to jump on board. It allowed me to be at home for our young daughters and to build my own business. Ann was wonderful along the way.
We often cross paths both living in the same area and share information, which is usually dog related. I told her I had started my dog blog earlier in the year and she has climbed on board, too. She has a wealth of information and I was very interested in hearing about the dog food that she supplies to families.
I am delighted to share with you questions that she has answered about her life and the dogs that she loves.
Q: Have you been around dogs all your life?
A: I had always wanted my own dog, but every attempt to have one in the city when I was growing up was to no avail and the poor dog would have to be rehomed! It never crossed anyone’s mind to walk and hike with them like we do now! It wasn’t until I was 18 that my family got a ‘forever’ dog.
Q: What has drawn you to the Border Collie Breed?
My Dad saw Border Collies’ as ‘farm’ dogs. He had always had a dog growing up and that was his dog of choice. I had had one Border Collie puppy, Patches, and then we had had a Border Collie (farm dog) named Jari… but it was Prince, a young Border Collie rescue from the Humane Society, that truly converted me to only want a Border Collie. He lived into his 17th year, partly due to his diet and partly since he was a Prince; he always wanted to do his job – care for our family!
Q: Where did you get Wigan and Ash from?
A: Wigan- was a ‘farm’ Border Collie. I had been on a mission to get my own pup and called breeder after breeder and every local newspaper. I had no care for their family lines and just wanted a farm litter. One day I saw a listing in the Toronto Star and knew I had found my pup. I could hardly wait until my work day was over and I drove to Mt. Albert, cash in hand. I knew I was not turning back!
I had the opposite experience with Ash. I had participated in dog sports with Wigan- fly ball, agility and eventually sheep herding. I was hooked, yet by that time Wig was getting older and I thought twice about whether she liked all the work! Finding Ash was a three year search which encompassed both my body and soul. I walked away from many litters of pups. In our training I met a shepherd from Yorkshire that was in Canada both judging and giving clinics. From just listening to his stories of his dog Bonnie, I knew I wanted one of her pups. There was a long process, but Ash arrived via the cargo North Yorkshire to Toronto, at 20 weeks old.
Q: When did you decide to become a Dog-Walker and why?
A: It seems that all my ‘life’ decisions have come from one or another of my dogs. Wigan led me into dog walking. I am/was a sign language interpreter, when I got her in 1993. Working close by at the CNIB with deaf-blind clients I was able to come home at lunch. A few neighbours heard I did this and asked if I would let their dogs out while I was home. Wigan and I had our own little lunchtime route around the block each day. These walks were recognized by people who were stuck at the office or had other conflicts and who soon asked whether their dog could join Wigan and I at the park. This part of my day suddenly became the best part. My night job turned into part time and in 1999 I left my full time position with CNIB to walk dogs.
Q: When did you start the food supplying to clients and what got you started?
A: There was an opportunity to resell Mountain Dog Food from Alberta to the Toronto market six years ago. I thought it would complement my dog walking business, but more importantly I knew that it would be a means to have quality frozen dog food available at quarter of price of what the Ontario producers sold/sell their food line for. Less cost meant that more dogs could eat the food, which to me is the ultimate way for a dog to be fed.
Q: Tell us about your Company.
A: My Company is called Your Dog’s Dinner. It began six years ago with Mountain Dog Food. MDF is produced in Alberta from human grade chicken and turkey, plus fruit and vegetables. They sell over four million pounds yearly and therefore can offer quality without the cost. In the past year YDD (Your Dog’s Dinner) has expanded its lines to include some of the new Ontario companies that are offering lamb, beef and tripe (among many others. A variety of proteins are key in our dog’s diets. As I have said many times, “in attempting to feed my dog a well-rounded and economical diet – I am hopefully figuring it out for my customers as well.”
Q: How do you work with the Company?
A: I purchase food weekly and have it onsite for my client base. It is a little like the “Avon lady.” Customers call in advance and let me know when they would like to come by and what they’d like to pick up; we arrange a suitable time for both parties. I try to have stock available, as I get to know the regular pattern of each dog’s ‘restocking’ time. To date over 50 people purchase food for their dogs through me.
Q: Tell us how to contact you if interested in your Company.
A: I have recently created a website, http://www.yourdogsdinner.ca.
Q: Tell us about your blog.
A: My blog is http://www.wiganspack.com. It details my ‘day’ job and is now a link to the food, the customers and a large part of my community. “From Ash’s View,” is a part where I write through my dog’s perspective. I found it a fun way to tell about the dogs I spend the day with and some of their thoughts and adventures. I am inspired by people whose dogs I have cared for. I also realize that many people love reading about their own pet and the other’s that are out and about with them.
Afterthought from Ann:
Thanks to an old country vet that told my mother to pull out her spaghetti pot and make up food for my dog Prince who had been so sick on canned dog food, as we all feel that is why he lived so long. I began feeding Wigan that way. That was sixteen years ago. At that time my vet clinic was teaching classes on Saturday’s on how to cook for your dog. I have watched the progression of people seeing the value of feeding their dog as they would have eaten themselves if left to their own devices. Since those days, the demand has been that retail stores have put in freezers, and new food producers are springing up monthly trying to make a frozen food product that will surpass their competitors. But more importantly the consumer is also purchasing and feeding human grade quality frozen raw food to their dogs. Dogs used to live to be in their mid-teens when fed table scraps and fending for themselves. The lifespan and health of our dogs has decreased since commercial dry foods were seen as the only way to provide a meal.
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