by Ron Clement
Area residents, Anita and Ron DeLelles decided that opening a pet-related business would be their next adventure. Anita is a licensed massage therapist, certified in Utah to work on small animals, horses, and people.
Across the country, more and more pet owners are discovering the benefits of fitness, good nutrition, and holistic pet care. WOOF! Wellness Center was created to help provide those services in conjunction with veterinary guidance. All-positive-reinforcement dog training, mini-grooms, and a retail boutique round out their business offerings. The business has grown and matured over the last four years. So, after deciding to move the business to a property on Santa Clara Drive in the Santa Clara Historic District, WOOF! Wellness Center has completed their building, and now has a lovely outdoor area to add to their list of amenities.
Hydro-therapy treadmills are quickly becoming a popular tool for animal wellness. WOOF! Wellness Center has the only water treadmill available for the public in southern Utah. Its benefits are invaluable for weight loss, recovery from surgery, and rehabilitation for older and arthritic pets. Area veterinarians are excited to refer this new local service to their clients. It has already shown great results for numerous dogs and cats in southern Utah, as well as many clients from Mesquite and surrounding areas.
Wanting to do more for the community, and especially for homeless pets, Ron and Anita decided their new business plan should include an avenue for local organizations to come together for the project. Helping place shelter animals with new owners was a top priority. “It takes a village” — in this case, it takes several local shelters, rescue organizations, volunteers, and businesses. The concept is a simple one, create invaluable service dogs out of abandoned or homeless shelter dogs. And while not particularly original, it’s a challenge that requires time and dedication to produce results.
It all starts with a dog looking for a second chance, a family, and above all, love. Groups of volunteers and shelter staff join forces to find and recommend a suitable dog. This is a dog that with some training and socializing, would have a better chance at finding a home. That’s where WOOF! Wellness Center offers their expertise as a training, conditioning, and rehabilitation provider. Besides giving an exciting break from the shelter, these dogs receive one-on-one attention with an expert trainer. Keith Hightower has worked with area service dogs as part of the Best Friends Canines with Careers Program. She brings years of training experience to WOOF! Wellness Center, and dedicates much of her time to improving the lives of southern Utah dogs. The personalized time spent with Keith helps nurture and develop the necessary confidence required to become a service dog.
An effective service dog must have good manners in public and respond quickly to its handler’s needs. Training to become a service dog takes a great deal of time and patience. For specialized service dogs, this training can take years. The end result can be amazing — from being unwanted and homeless, to having a job and the love of a family in need!
While service dogs work and learn tasks to help their companion person, therapy dogs have different responsibilities. They spend their days (well, a few hours at a time) visiting assisted living communities, hospitals, and hospices. They bring comfort, smiles, and companionship to patients and residents. Sometimes they also listen to children read, providing an attentive audience for young students. A WOOF! Wellness Center basic manners class is a good first step toward becoming a therapy dog.
By bringing together people, resources, and a common goal, a distant dream can become reality. Improving the lives of people and dogs is the goal. And establishing better communication and interaction with shelter animals, pets, and companion animals are equally important. Through greater understanding and compassion from the public, along with support from local rescue groups, businesses, staff, and volunteers, great results can be achieved.
Visit the WOOF! Center’s new location at 3199 Santa Clara Dr., Santa Clara, Utah, or visit their website at www.woofcenter.com.