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June 2011

PetEdge Interview: Forget Me Not Shelter

ForgetMeNotShelter

At PetEdge, we're proud to manufacture and design pet products that help pet care professionals take great care of our animal friends. We love to hear stories from our customers about the ways that our products help them in their business or volunteer efforts. 

To share some of those success stories with you, we're starting a new "PetEdge Professionals" feature on the blog. We'll talk to people who use PetEdge products every day, learn about their business or organizations, and hear about the challenges and rewards that come from working with pets.

To kick off this new feature, we talked to Kim Gillen, the Volunteer Executive Director of the Forget Me Not Animal Shelter in Republic, Washington.

Kim is such a great spokesperson for the shelter, we're happy to have her kick off this series! Here's Kim to describe the shelter in her own words, followed by a Q and A session with PetEdge.

About The Shelter:

"Forget Me Not Shelter is a 501(c)3  nonprofit organization. We are not a huge shelter; we generally average 5-8 dogs and 10-20 cats at any one time. We take in all our county's stray and abandoned animals, yet receive no governmental funding.

Consequently, we try to do everything we can to keep costs as low as possible.

We have two stand-alone buildings for cats, divided into 4 rooms. The cats begin their stay inside a playpen, then are allowed to roam free in the room after they and the other cats adjust to one another.

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The dogs are housed in a separate large building, each in its own privacy  kennel. While the dogs do get two caretaker visits each day (morning and evening), and often a mid-day walker visit, they spend a lot of time in their kennels, so we like to give them sturdy and fun toys and chew objects to help alleviate kennel stress.

Snugglers get plush toys, and puppies get lots of your great puppy toys. As you can imagine, it doesn't take long for a shelter to go through a toy order!

PetEdge Q & A Session:

1. What are the biggest challenges facing your shelter this year?

The biggest challenge without question is finding enough volunteers. Since we receive no government funding—yet are the only place that stray/abandoned/impounded dogs and cats can go in the county—we need to find enough volunteer manpower to fill 7 two-hour cat caregiver shifts and 14 two-hour dog caregiver shifts at a minimum each week.

Until 2011, we were 100% volunteer-powered. This year, we had enough funding to hire a part-time shelter manager/volunteer coordinator who helps with the physical upkeep around the shelter and also makes sure the caregiver schedules are filled.

This part-time manager currently fills any caregiver shifts that do not have a volunteer, but funding for the position will run out at the end of the year, so we need to get more volunteers on board quickly.

It is a result of "growing pains"—once we got our two cat buildings and big dog/office building up and running late in 2010, we were able to take in more pets!

We also have some additional building-related challenges for this year; we need to put in security fencing, an ADA-approved parking pad, and have a deep desire for a grooming station to help us clean up those stray dogs that have been lying in mud for days before coming in to the shelter.

2. What PetEdge products do you use at the shelter? How do they make caring for animals easier?

We use all sorts of PetEdge products! Some of our favorites are the ProSelect Cat Cages, and cage accessories like perch covers, ramps, hammocks, and dividing platforms.

Though our cats and kittens do not live in cages all the time, there are times when we need to keep a bottle-feeding litter safely contained, and we use the playpens in our open cat rooms to help introduce new cats and kittens to the room safely.

Even when no one in the room needs to be kept in a playpen, we clip the doors open and always find a few of the kittens sleeping in the hammocks!

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We love to give the shelter dogs a rotating assortment of fun PetEdge toys and treats—some of their favorites are the different Zanies rubber chickens, and the Zanies WigWag balls. We get all the dogs' toys—both PetEdge brands and name brands—from PetEdge because the quality and pricing is the best anywhere.

  
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The PetEdge Ranch Rewards Treats are an incredible value, and really help us to begin basic training on the shelter dogs, who—let's face it—don't always have the best manners when they arrive.

We also count on PetEdge for collars, leashes, flea and tick repellents, scratching pads, cat furniture like the Meow Town Kitty Castle (see photo below), bedding, nutritional supplements, cat toys....

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Anything we need for the shelter pets, we look for at PetEdge first. 

3. What are some of the supplies/volunteer services that shelters are always in need of?

"It doesn't matter if it's a primarily volunteer-driven shelter, or if it's a government-funded fully-staffed municipal shelter—some things are always going to be in short supply.

There can never be too many dog toys, or treats, or paper towels. It's impossible to overstock kitty litter, or laundry detergent, or towels and blankets for bedding.

Collars for all sizes of dogs and cat safety collars are always in short supply.

And any shelter can always use volunteers who want to come and walk a dog, or cuddle and socialize some kittens; the adult cats love to be brushed and to have a warm lap to visit, and many of the dogs come in with fur full of burrs and grass seeds, and they benefit so much from volunteers who enjoy light grooming.

If a shelter is volunteer-driven, as Forget Me Not is, then volunteers are needed for everything—scooping litter boxes and filling food bowls may not be as desirable as playing with a room full of kittens, but the pets have to have their basic needs met in addition to the 'fun' stuff.

4. What's the best part about working with rescued animals?

I think every volunteer has a different "best part." For me, it's a trio comprised of:    

  • Feeling that gratitude and unconditional love and acceptance from the lost or abandoned pet who actually thinks living in the shelter is a big step up...
  • Then getting photos and stories from adopters about their Forget Me Not family members so we can see the pets living their happy endings...
  • And finally, knowing that I, and every one of the other volunteers, really make a difference to each pet that passes through the shelter, and in that way, we help to improve our community one pet at a time.

5. If you could design your dream shelter, what elements would it include?

That's a great question, considering we just finished designing and building as close to our "dream shelter" as we could get with the funds on hand! A true dream shelter would have:

  • Separate buildings to house dogs and cats, preferably with magically endless supply of comfortable privacy dog kennels and fun cat rooms, so whenever things started to feel crowded, another room or kennel would appear
  • Quarantine rooms for dogs and cats who are just arriving, or who become ill at the shelter
  • An entire building devoted to pets whose only offense is the dreaded ringworm fungal infection, so they could be treated efficiently without cross-contaminating the other pets at the shelter
  • A huge laundry room with multiple washers and dryers
  • A refrigerator and dishwasher
  • Bathing stations and grooming tables for both dogs and cats
  • A few large, comfortable rooms for the pets to play in, and where they can interact with potential adopters
  • A huge fenced yard with an agility course, a kiddy swimming pool, and shade trees, so the dogs can kick up their heels outside
  • Big screened porches with climbing structures and platforms for the cats to enjoy the outdoors safely

Our shelter includes many of those elements, though on a smaller scale than a true "dream" shelter. As we grow in terms of volunteer power and donations, we anticipate expanding!

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Thanks to Kim for being a great interviewee! We're lucky to have customers like her.

To find out more about the Forget Me Not Shelter, click here.

Are you a pet care professional who uses PetEdge products in your workday? We'd love to learn more! Send us an email at blog@petedge.com.


The Ins and Outs of Opening a Grooming Shop

Opening a small business these days is no small effort. It requires a lot of planning, time and gumption. The grooming industry is no different.

Dogs in the Rrruff is a small grooming shop in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Owned and operated by Kathleen Burke and Maura (Mo) Doyle, this shop offers a unique grooming business model that's not typically seen in the pet industry.

Their business model offers a great example for how to get your business going.

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 Location

Know your location and build your business around it. If, like Dogs in the Rrruff, you decide to open shop in a downtown setting you should probably focus on maintaining a boutique-type feel. Your shop should echo the same feeling as the other shops around it.

DOGiPOT

Dogs in the Rrruff chose to brand their business using a similar color palette as a popular tourist location in the town. This way their business “fits in” while still standing out.

They also were aware of the foot-traffic on the busy street where they're opening up shop, and installed a DOG-i-Pot waste bag dispenser and a bowl with water for those walking by with their furry friends.

Build relationships

Take a look at the other shops in the community you plan on opening in. Are there other pet-related businesses? If so, rather than competing directly with them, work with them and develop a list of products and services that complement theirs. This way you will be building a relationship rather than an enemy.

Dogs in the Rrruff is located in an area that has more than one successful pet retail shops. As such, this clever grooming shop offers training services (including a certification class in Canine CPR) instead of a retail section. This way they’re working within their community and can complement rather than compete with their business neighbors.

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Offer unique services

Think outside the box when creating a list of what services you’ll offer.

Obviously you’ll want the basics, but if there is a sp something you are particularly good at, include it even if it may not seem like an obvious choice.

Kathleen Burke from Dogs in the Rrruff is a talented artist. To help her shop stand out from the rest, she has included an “Arts in the Rrruff” section to display her pet portraits to customers as they drop off and pick up their pets.

She plans to hold art gallery evenings with other local artists.

  ArtintheRuff

Focus on education

Remember that there’s a reason that your customers bring their pets to you. You are the expert and they rely on your experience and education.

This relationship puts you in an excellent position to educate your customers on what’s best for their pets. You’ll find that the better you’re able to inform your customers, the better business will be.

Dogs in the Rrruff informs each customer of best grooming practices and offers helpful suggestions and tips for pet owners. They also offer a wide selection of training classes from basic puppy training up to more advanced classes like Canine CPR. They also hold seminars for those in the industry to keep up to date on best practices such as anal gland expressing and pet dental training.

Know your limitations

Don’t try to do everything. Find out what you and your staff are best at and stick to that. Trying to offer too many services just dilutes the quality of the service.

Dogs in the Rrruff’s owners are able to maintain an ideal balance. Each groomer focuses on what she is best at and helps the other. They only offer services that they have a strong background in and have a veterinary technician come in once a week to offer special services.

Harness the power of social media/websites

If your business doesn’t have a website or Facebook account, ask yourself why? These days, it is easier than ever to connect with a large customer base with just a bit of effort and time. If you’re not overly Internet savvy, have an employee or a friend give you a hand. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

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Dogs in the Rrruff’s website features information on the shop, will display pictures of finished grooming, and even has a blog where the owners can connect with their customers in a friendly, casual manner.

Most of all … good luck!

Opening a new shop anywhere is never an easy feat and we salute entrepreneurs like you who strive to follow their dreams and make a difference in their communities. PetEdge works hard to support the little guy with our wide selection of low-cost grooming supplies. Whatever your needs, we have the products that will help you get the job done.

Shop our 17,000 new products at PetEdge.com