10 Questions with... Pet-Sitting service owner Gail Pasquale
Billerica woman says she's barking up the right career tree
by: Chris Camire
October 31, 2008
BILLERICA - When it comes to pampering pets, Gail Pasquale is a dog owner's best friend.
Pasquale is the owner of TLC Pet Care in Billerica, a pet-sitting service she started 12 years ago. Most of the nearly 30 dogs she watches are owned by working professionals who don't want to leave their beloved pooch at home all day.
Inside the business a large fenced-in area filled with Bischon Frises, Yorkies, Wheaten Terriers and German Shepherds playing freely with one another.
We sat down and talked with Pasquale, a Billerica resident, to find out what it's like when your career has gone to the dogs.
Many people consider their dog to be a member of the family. Before bringing their dog to your business, do people interview you like they would a baby-sitter?
Yes, they're very serious about it. A lot of people who bring their dogs here don't have children. Some do, but I would say the majority of my clients don't have children. Their dogs are their children. They research places like this like they research their doctors or their vets. I feel humbled that they do come here.
Most working people have to leave their dogs home alone all day. How long can a dog go without going to the bathroom?
A lot of people who do that are asking their dogs to hold it for 10 hours. I know some dogs that can hold it that long. Is it fair? I don't think so. I wouldn't want to make a dog do that. I think a dog can hold it for six to seven hours.
Which breed of dog is the easiest to deal with?
The dogs I own, the Chinese Cresteds, are the easiest because they are mild-mannered, meek dogs. Some of the other nice breeds are the Labs and Golden Retrievers. They can be excitable, though. They have a lot of energy. It doesn't necessarily make them a bad dog.
What is the biggest mistake we make with dogs?
Not bringing them to a qualified positive training facility. I'm talking about trainers who only use positive reinforcement. There are other methods where they use choke collars, pinch or prong collars, and electronic collars. You may get results, but in my eyes you're getting results by scaring the dog or hurting the dog. In positive training, you reward the dog if it does something well.
What can people learn from dogs?
There's a quote I like, "A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes." I think you can trust a dog more than some people you know. I just think a dog gives you that unconditional affection. Being around them is very comforting. It's fun. There is no drama around it. They don't care what you look like. They don't care if you had a bad night. They just want to be around you.
Do you think dogs should wear boots in cold weather to protect their paws?
If you can get a dog to wear the boots, that's great. A dog's paws can freeze just like if you walked around on ice with bare feet. Their pads are tougher, but they can still freeze up. When we walk in the winter time, we don't walk long distances from the house, because if the dog's paws freeze, it's really tough to unfreeze them.
Do you think Billerica should set aside some land for a dog park?
As long as it's a controlled environment. Kind of like Micozzi Beach, residents should have to go to the Town Hall and show that you're a resident, and provide proof of vaccination and proof the the dog is parasite free. They should hire a kid to sit in a fenced area and keep the place lean. When people who don't know what they're doing let their dogs loose, there can be fatal injuries.
Why do people gravitate to particular breeds?
So that's the main factor in someone choosing, say a pit bull over a Chihuahua?
I think the pit bulls get a bad rap. They are tough dogs, but they can be extremely sweet. The Chihuahuas can be a tough little breed. They can be sweet to one person, but they can be vicious to someone else. I have naked dogs. My dogs are kind of funky looking, so I guess I'm kind of a funky person.
Given the choice, which dog would you prefer to walk, Old Yeller or Rin Tin Tin?
Rin Tin Tin. I think Rin Tin Tin had a bit of an edge to him. I like a dog with a bit of an edge.
Canine flu is for the dogs -- literally
by: Christine Phelan, Staff Writer
October 27, 2005
With the onslaught of the holidays come menu and travel plans, armfuls of gifts and- sorry, Fido - the inevitable scurry to reserve kennel space for the family pet.
But this season, some local veterinarians are encouraging dog owners to think twice before dropping pups at boarders. A newly identified strain of canine influenza - reportedly isolated in shelters, kennels and racetracks across 11 states, including Massachusetts - has some, well, doggone worried.
"There's nothing to get excited about until we have problems in a local kennel, but I would probably start listening for coughing dogs and limit your pet's exposure to areas where you don't know the owners and don't know the pets," said Groton vet Susan Horowitz, who said dog walkers and house-sitters are a perennially wise alternative to kennels. "There's no reason not to be cautious."
The strain of canine influenza, which leapt from horses to greyhounds, has caused a number of isolated outbreaks in New York and New Jersey including in 88 boarded dogs in a Best Friends facility in Chestnut Ridge, NY.
The chain, which operates a branch in Tyngsboro and owns 41 kennels in 18 states now prohibits visibly ill dogs from its facilities and requires that its kennel clients to not have been boarded, present at dog shows, or have romped in dog parks within the past 10 days to two weeks, according to company spokesman, Debra Bennetts.
Part of the frustration with dog influenza is that the virus's clinical signs are strikingly similar to kennel cough, a common affliction easily treated with antibiotics. But because no vaccine is available for the new virus, researchers at the University of Florida and Cornell who first identified the strain maintain that all dogs are susceptible, and that as many as one in 10 dogs that contract the disease will die from it, particularly the young, old and ill.
The New Hampshire State Board of Veterinary Medicine and the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association have distributed information locally to advise vets of the virus' symptoms. And local vets, in turn, are urging everything from caution to calm.
Wignall Hospital veterinarian David McGrath said he'd received a few concerned calls from pet owners but didn't anticipate that the Lowell-based boarding business would experience declines this holiday. In fact, Wignall's kennel reservations are 20 percent ahead of where they were last year, the practice reported.
We've gotten a number of questions because everybody's on the internet, but there are no real worries in this area at all," he said. If it becomes an issue, however, the preventative measure is isolation, keeping sick animals separate from well animals."
Veterinarian Brian Holub, an instructor at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine and owner of Chelmsford's Countryside Vet Hospital, said pet sitters are always preferable to kenneling, given limited exposure to disease. But while Holub believes canine influenza is a serious issue to be professionally monitored, he urged pet owners not to panic.
"There's no reason to suspect we're going to have an epidemic," Holub said. "But we shouldn't just shrug our shoulders when our pets cough now, and maybe it's a little more important to get a professional evaluation. We do have to warn clients that it's possible, and we may see a caseload here in New England. But people have to go about their lives. You have to keep it in perspective."
The new strain of flue, however, may mean a boost for local dog walkers.
"People are calling because they don't want to board their animals, either because of issues like kennel cough, which is typical," said Dawna Akashian, owner of Happy Paws Pet Care Service of Lowell, who expects to be busier this holiday season than last.
Gail Pasquale, owner of the Billerica-based TLC Pet Care, which offers dog walking and playgroups, scrubs her dogs crates with a bleach solution at the end of each day. She, too, anticipates being even busier come Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.
I've already seen an increase in the amount of dog clients, of people asking for walkers," she said. "But it's important for people in this industry to be diligent about their cleaning practices. I don't think anybody can be too careful."
"PROGRESS; PET CARE"
Massage, Therapy is going to the dogs
by: Margaret Smith, Staff Writer
March 24, 2005
As a divorced Mom, Gail Pasquale, a homemaker, found herself in need of a way to earn an income.
In her years caring full-time for her kids, Pasquale, a former Marlborough resident now living in Billerica, had often walked dogs for friends and neighbors who worked full-time.
That practice helped her become an entrepreneur.
As owner of TLC Pet Care, a licensed, bonded and insured business, she provides pet-sitting, dog walking, shuttle and other services for clients in six communities - Billerica, Bedford, Burlington, Chelmsford, Tewksbury and Wilmington.
Her work means irregular hours and maintaining compliance with town requirements.
Pasquale wouldn't have it any other way. She's her own boss and makes a living doing something she loves. Her daughter, Cori, recently joined the business, making it a true family affair.
On her web site, www.tlcpetcare.com , is this bit of wisdom from early 20th century humorist Will Rogers: "If there is no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Then, as now, pets are an extension of the American family. As pets have increased in popularity, so has the market for products and services for their needs.
METRO WEST DAILY NEWS
"Happy Hounds: Marlborough caretaker uses TLC with pets"
by: Naomi R. Kooker, News Staff Writer
August 13, 1999
Please note: TLC Pet Care, LLC originated in Marlborough Massachusetts and moved the business to Billerica Massachusetts in July of 2000.
Marlborough: Most people take what they can get from their 15 minutes of fame. But Gail Pasquale savors it every day, several times a day. Her fans are rambunctious, faithful, playful and complete adoring. And they bark – as do the men on occasion.
“I take it as a compliment,” says Pasquale, who’s often seen walking more than one dog around the neighborhood. And she has a sense of humor.
As the owner and sole employee of TLC Pet Care in Marlborough, clients equate Pasquale with what she stands for: a tender loving caring pet caretaker who would challenge the ways of Florence Nightengale on a wellness program.
“I get my 15 minutes of fame when I walk into someone’s house,” says the 39-year old animal lover. “Dogs are so excited. I think they associate me with play – and cookies.”
On a recent Monday afternoon, we jump in her black Tahoe truck, “her office” on the road. In the back are her two miniature dogs, crated (with a quilt). Kobey, a miniature Pinscher, guards against any stranger with his yapping bark. Joey, the hairless Chinese Crested, barks out of fear. “They’ll stop after a while, hopefully,” she reassures. Eventually, they do.
The truck’s ceiling is spiked with business cards. Tucked along the driver’s window frame are color pictures of her four children – Cori, 13, J.D., 11, Kyle, 9, and Jaime, 7. Leashes hang from the rear view mirror.
In the back seat sits a box filled with files. Near the end of the visit, which runs 20 or 30 minutes, she completes a form. “It lets (the owner) know what transpired while I was here.”
On the console are a box of plastic sandwich bags and brown lunch bags: “My pooper-scooper on the run.”
Later, when we’re out walking Spindle, a German Shepard mix from Marlborough with piercing blue-brown eyes, those baggies come in handy.
“There’s no trick to this,” she says, disposing of Spindle’s gift to the grass. “The real trick is not to get it on your hands.”
When Pasquale walks you can hear the jingle-jingle of the fistful of keys around her neck, each one labeled with a dog’s name, such as Maggie, the one we’re going to see. The 2-year-old black Lab with a friendly, almost cuddly disposition lives in Boxboro, about a 20-minute drive up 495.
Maggie’s thick black body wags like a giant tail when she sees Pasquale, who was up at 5:30 to make a 7 a.m. drive to feed her, play with her and let her out. She runs through the routine again and will return tonight.
“Where’sztheball? Where’sztheball?” Pasquale asks Maggie in a baby-happy tone once outside in the sun.
I love days like this,” she says. The bright blue sky, puffy white clouds and brilliant sunshine. “As much as people have complained it’s so dry, it’s nice not to be rained on.”
Not all jobs start this early or require three visits a day. She has clients whom she sees once a week or once a day, with the owners often at work or on vacation.
While Pasquale focuses on the dog and the duty at hand, she’ll extend her services to bring in the mail, water the plants.
“People have left me notes, ‘Gail, can you put the chicken back in the refrigerator?’ It’s kind of funny.”
Her checklist includes looking out for their well-being, making sure they’re happy, giving them playtime, a treat, fresh water during the day, and washing out their bowl. Of course, she keeps track of their voids, too.
“A lot of these dogs are their children,” Pasquale explains. “Some of these owners don’t have children and these are their babies.”
In the afternoon we pick up Spindle, walk 10 minutes with Joey and Kobey to Coyote’s and let ‘em rip. On the way there’s a communal sniffing of a silver and orange fire hydrant, neighborhood dogs bark as we pass by. No men on this trip.
Kate Clifford, Coyote’s mom who happens to be home, says she’s noticed a change in their own German Shepherd mix since Pasquale’s been caring for him. “He’s actually much better behaved. He’s more receptive to our commands,” says Clifford.
Pasquale likes to “socialize” the dogs, bringing compatible personalities together so they can play.
“I believe that if a dog doesn’t have enough exercise or play when they’re young, they will find ways to play – and it may be destructive to a home,” Pasquale says.
When we leave, Pasquale reminds Clifford to change the water and give Coyote a cookie, a ritual she would perform were mom not home.
Pasquale got idea for TLC about three years ago when she herself was going on vacation and didn’t want to kennel her dogs.”
“I actually saw a market for it,” she says. “I knew I wanted to have my own business and taking care of animals is very fulfilling.”
Her initial consultation is free, often meeting with the owner (and their pet) at the home. She’s only turned away one prospective client – a German Shepherd attack dog.
She provides care year-round to “dogs, cats, ferrets, iguanas. Some I enjoy more than other.”
But there’s no doubt caring for pets in the summer has its benefits. When she’s not shuttling dogs around, Pasquale rides her Sportster 1200 Custom Harley-Davidson to her jobs.
Summertime also carries its own precautions.
On really hot days, Pasquale will add ice cubes to the water or just leave a cube on the floor – if it’s not wood – for the dog to nurse. She will curb the walks and keep the animal closer to home.
"I'd take this any day," says Pasquale, squeezing Maggie's pink squeaky ball. "Even when it's 10 degrees and snowing."