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Home-from-home care for dogs business success for Glyndŵr University graduate

An eight-year-old dog is proudly staking a claim for inspiring an entrepreneur who gave up a successful career as a contracts manager to open up her home as an alternative to boarding kennels.

Natalie McManus hadn’t even considered a career working with animals until meeting her rescue dog, affectionately known as ‘Mr Dexter’, for the first time.

But celebrating her first year in Business with D4 Pet Services she says it was his personality and intelligence which sparked her interest in animal behaviour and welfare and persuaded her to leave behind her post as a contracts manager.

Natalie returned to study on Glyndŵr University’s animal studies degree in order to boost her knowledge of animals before launching the business venture in October 2012.

She is licensed for up to three boarding dogs at her home in Llay, with up to six more in the day, as well as taking in other animals.

She said the ultimate aim is to provide dogs with a home-from-home environment while their owners are away.

Natalie said: “Dexter was the reason I gave my job up and went back to university – his intelligence blew me away and I just had to study animal behaviour .

“I had a business mind and had always wanted to run my own pet care business so I combined the two. I feel confident that I have achieved credentials for my business in obtaining my degree from Glyndŵr University.

“Returning to full time study was very scary at 29 but Glyndŵr University are focused on helping people like me who have already had careers get back into study and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

“I am considering studying for master’s degree in the near future and hope to return to Glyndŵr to do this.”

Natalie’s home from home idea was borne out of the thought of leaving Dexter, and her other dog Meggie, in kennels again – something which she couldn’t bear to happen as both are rescue dogs.

So she set about investigating how she could provide an alternative for dog owners to leave their animals with her in a normal, home environment.

“Some dogs suffer from high levels of stress when their owners leave them. They are so attached to humans that change from the home environment is something that a lot of dogs don’t deal with very well,” she added.

“I didn’t want my rescue dogs going back to kennels as I’d feel like I was abandoning them.

“I try to make it home from home for all of the dogs who come here. If they’re allowed on the sofa at home I let them on the sofa here. It’s a nice environment for them.

“D4 is open 24/7, 7 days a week and I very rarely have time off – but it’s all worth it,” said Natalie.

“A typical working day starts at 7am with the first walk for our D4 residents and then I also dog walk for clients.

“Lunch time gets very busy with home visits and pack walks, and then come the afternoon I have to do it all over again. Having dogs staying with us means I never actually stop working.

“All of the dogs who come to me have to have a meet and greet session first. One of the best parts of the job is getting dogs to mix together but I wouldn’t take a dog that was constantly showing aggression. I have had to turn a few people down so far - I’m not simply in it for the money, I’m in it for the care and attention of the animals."

In between the main task of caring for dogs, Natalie also watches over an array of pets while their owners are away or at work.

Dogs, Cats, Horses, Chickens, fish, rabbits, gerbils, and an Albino African giant snail are among the animals Natalie has provided care for since starting.

Natalie is now hoping to grow the business to take on more dogs and bring employment to the Wrexham area.

“The job is totally rewarding. I set myself a goal and I’ve achieved it. There are times when it’s been hard but I’m already taking bookings for 2014 so it’s going really well.

“My dad passed away in February and I think if I worked in an office job I would have struggled but I pick up dogs every day and their happy faces and waggy tails have helped to pull me through.

“I have my partner to thank for so much too – he has supported me from the very start and continues to help my business grow daily.

“I have massive plans for D4 Pet Services but it’s about taking small steps at a time.

“I’m glad I did the degree as it’s my USP and it sets me apart from other people doing the same thing.

“Being knowledgeable about the animal behaviour side of things has helped no end.

“I’ve been able to bring that into practice when carrying out the meet and greets and when I’m out with six dogs,” she added.

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