Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Cheryl Eighmey of Hannalore Kennels in Unadilla.
How long have you lived in the area?
I have lived in this area since 1976.
Tell me about your business:
There are lots of things to say when describing what my business offers; as a kennel, I board not only dogs and cats, but all of a family's pets. When someone travels, they may have several different pets that all need care. We lovingly house birds, pet pigs, hamsters, guinea pigs, reptiles, goats and ponies; we have the space and know-how to care for any pet.
In addition to the kennels for short- or long-term boarding, we have a busy professional grooming facility, private and group obedience classes, pet behavior and psychology consultations, dog grooming classes and doggie day care. One of the business specialties is handling aggressive dogs. Another unique feature of Hannalore is our Australian shepherds _ we breed and sell a great lineage.
Describe a typical day in your business:
We have a great schedule here that is busy but makes our animal clients the top priority. We live on the premises so there is never a time when no one is here. The start of my day is letting all of the boarder dogs out to into the outdoor dog run that has a covered shelter area along with plenty of grassy play grounds. While the dogs are outdoors, the indoor kennel suites are cleaned, water dishes are refilled fresh, food dishes are set out (some owners bring their dog's food or we supply the food) and dog beds or sleeping pads are shaken out. Other pets being boarded are all cared for at this time also with fresh bedding, food, water and any other needs they might have.
During this time, the professional dog groomers are showing up to greet their first clients, and doggie day care participants arrive to drop off their pets. When this first part of the day is winding down, the kennel guests come back inside to eat and drink before falling into sound sleep. Many of these animals are getting more exercise and outdoor play than they get in their home life, so they are really tired. We close the front office at this time unless someone has made a special appointment _ it is a quiet time and the animals do not have the interruptions and excitement of lots of activity. Throughout, the day-care dogs as well as boarders are let out for supervised play. The day ends with a final treat for all the pets that will be spending a good night at the kennel.
How did you get started in this line of work?
As long as I can remember, I was the girl who people brought pets that were injured or lost and I would groom them, so that might be considered my beginning. I attended college for equine (horse) management and the previous owner of Hannalore heard about my animal care and grooming abilities. He asked if I would like a job at his kennel. That was 13 years ago. Five years ago, I arranged to purchase the business as his health failed.
Where do you see this business in five years?
I see the business continuing to grow. I am working on establishing a legally sound trust fund for people who would like to ensure that their pet receives great care after the owner passes away. We have one animal here whose owner set up an agreement with us to care for her animal because there were no relatives or friends able to take care of her pet. Off to college, military service or relocations make long-term boarding a growing part of our business. We are planning on building several upcale dog boarding condos that will include a higher level of care and accommodations, Our grooming school, behavior modification classes and animal care seminars will continue to grow, and we hope to offer more in the future.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
Every time a dog comes in that no other groomer or kennel could handle _ we have a special talent for aggressive and fearful animals. The animals that everywhere else has refused and we are able to care for are memorable moments for me.
What have you learned from your work?
Everything! I think some of the most important lessons that did not come naturally, as animal care has come, is learning how to deal with people and meet their needs.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
The aggressive dogs are a challenge because you need to know how dogs think, not how people think. These animals can be very dangerous because they are fearful or suffer from abuse that might have happened long ago.
The most enjoyable?
I love when all the dogs come back indoors to a clean kennel, food and fresh water before falling to sleep. Their needs have been met and they are happy. I get to do something I love to do every day!
How do you define success for your business?
Happy pets that are well taken care of and the happy clients who return again and again with them.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
The economy is a disadvantage for everyone but the list of advantages is long. We have great, loyal clients who continue to take good care of their pets. This is a great community where we have been able to help those who have been displaced because of the flooding, we have made special arrangements to help them by providing a temporary home for their pets.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
I cant really answer that because I see all of the groomers and kennels working together, there is plenty of business here for all of us. There a some who specialize in certain things, we all keep similar prices and we see each other every year at dog grooming conferences where we learn new techniques, policies and get to see the industries latest equipment.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
My advice for someone interested in this field of work is to get a job at a kennel and grooming facility. Hands on learning is the most valuable teacher and you will find out if this is a career for you.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.