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“I learned from speaking with Susan that we, as a society, aren’t doing enough for these kids as they get older. Something told me to get involved to try and make a difference.” So, Natalie simply invited Susan and


her child to come spend an afternoon at Love My Dog. She asked Susan to invite her support group, parents of children with Down syndrome. “It started with three families the first visit. Now we have 50 families and host five events a year for them. It’s just been a great way for these families to kick back and have some fun. And the kids, interacting with the dogs— I just love watching the joy it brings everyone,” said Natalie. What’s on the horizon for this


community leader while she expands and renovates her second location? She’s working on a senior dog rehabilita- tion program.


Love My Dog Resort & Waterpark Two St. Petersburg locations 6427 54th Avenue North - 727.545.0141


Downtown at 928 18th Street North 727.826.0102 - LoveMyDogResort.com Services offered: Daycare, Boarding, Grooming, Training, Waterpark Parties.


Now through the end of July spend $200 at either one of the facilities for any service and you’ll receive one free Water Park Party for up to nine of your dog’s friends. For some additional perks, call and ask about the Love My Dog VIP Membership Program.


Programs and organizations near and dear to Natalie’s heart: SPCA Tampa Bay Humane Society of Pinellas Friends of Stray.


PAWS INN PARADISE SANDY AND RON BITTAKER AND BILL ZALLA, ESTABLISHED IN 2006 Ron Bittaker was a police officer


with the St. Pete Beach Police Department for 24 years. Fifteen of those years were spent as a K9 handler with the K9 unit. In his spare time, he held dog obedience classes for the public on Saturday mornings. Before retiring, Ron had his heart set on a second career in dog daycare and boarding, with some very specific amenities. Thanks to friend and partner, builder Bill Zalla, those dreams became a reality. We mentioned the importance of a


60 THE NEW BARKER


couldn’t pay me. I just thanked him for his service and told him that this is what I was doing to show my gratitude for his service,” said Ron. Over the years, what stands out in


Ron’s mind are the number of close relationships he and Sandy have developed with their Paws Inn Paradise clients and their dogs. He considers them friends. As a former K9 handler with the


Reggie considers Paws Inn Paradise home away from home.


business’s longevity in our introduction. On that note, it says a lot about a business when there is consistent evidence of longevity among its employees. Even more so when many of those employees were children of customers who grew up around dogs before coming to work for Paws Inn Paradise. “I respect my staff and the work


they’re doing,” said Ron. “After years of being micro-managed myself, I realized the importance of giving more responsibility to my staff. I give them the guidance and we have strict procedures in place. Beyond that, it’s about open communication and, again, respect,” said Ron. He seeks out people who not only love animals but are experts in some pet-related field. Having a knowledgeable and experi-


enced staff allows Ron the opportunity to get out in the community and be hands- on with helping others. Close to his heart are the veterans who live near Bay Pines Veterans Hospital in St. Petersburg. Ron has been the VA’s go-to guy when a veteran needs assistance with his or her dog. Ron has helped more than 200 veterans and their dogs over the years. When a veteran must go in the


hospital for surgery, rehab or hospice care, Ron will take the veteran’s dog in for boarding. He has made promises to veterans in hospice that he will make sure their dogs will find safe and loving homes. He recalls speaking recently with a


veteran who had to board his dog before going into the hospital. “He told me he


police department, German Shepherd Dogs hold a special spot in Ron’s heart. Breed specific rescue groups in the Tampa Bay area and beyond know they can count on Ron to step up—either to help with a transport and/or to provide temporary housing at Paws In Paradise— to helping train the dog and find a forever home. “Every time we get a dog in who


needs a home, and we go through the steps to properly rehome him, it’s always a great feeling. I just like knowing that the dog has found a home,” said Ron.


Paws Inn Paradise 10700 66th Street North, Pinellas Park 727.520.PAWS (7297) PawsInnParadise.com Services offered: Daycare, Boarding, Grooming, Training. Organizations near and dear to Ron’s heart: Pet Pal Animal Shelter Racing 4 Rescues Bruno Foundation “And anyone else who needs it,” said Ron Bittaker.


It goes without saying, but to those


of you new to the state, fully air-condi- tioned facilities are a must. Of course, many veterinarians offer boarding services for their existing clients. To this, Dr. Elizabeth Baird, a member of The New Barker Veterinary Advisory Board recom- mends, “Obviously, clean facilities with minimal odor and regular disinfection to reduce the risk of contagious disease between pets. Also, the dogs should have multiple opportunities to go outside in the fresh air each day to eliminate & play, off-leash, preferably on grass rather than concrete.” In summary, always visit the facility,


preferably without an appointment.Pay attention to the staff to dog ratio.


www.TheNewBarker.com


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