Ad­ven­tures in Pup­py­dom

GA Voice - - Pets -

Court­ney DeDi’s par­ents weren’t keen on her hav­ing a pet when she was younger, go­ing so far as to tell her that she suf­fered from al­ler­gies. But that didn’t stop DeDi’s love of an­i­mals from shin­ing through.

“I was al­ways the first kid to vol­un­teer to take home the guinea pig, or ham­ster, or what­ever kind of class pet we had,” DeDi says. “And then my mom would pick me up at school and I would be stand­ing there with big cage and a smile on my face.

“She now says she wishes she would have let me have a dog when I was younger, be­cause then maybe I wouldn’t have so many now,” DeDi says.

In 2010, DeDi’s love for an­i­mals in­spired her to launch DiOGi Pet Ser­vices, a com­pany that of­fers pet sit­ting, walk­ing and train­ing. DiOGi spe­cial­izes in dogs with spe­cial needs or be­hav­ioral is­sues, but serves all an­i­mals, in­clud­ing goats, chick­ens and ducks.

“Ur­ban farm­ing is be­com­ing such a pop­u­lar thing in the city and I just felt like it was some­thing that was neat,” DeDi says. “It’s some­thing fun and new, and we’ve got some ur­ban farm­ers on our team of dog walk­ers and pet sit­ters, so they’ve got the knowl­edge to help peo­ple set up their farms, and how to in­te­grate new chick­ens into their coop, and all of that kind of stuff.”

Pet train­ing is es­sen­tial

DeDi has a pas­sion for mak­ing sure pet own­ers are in­formed and ed­u­cated, and ad­mits that some of her knowl­edge has been ac­quired by trial-and-er­ror.

“Mini pigs don’t ex­ist – there’s no such thing,” she jokes. “I thought I was get­ting a mini pig. They said, ‘Oh, maybe 60 pounds.’ Now he’s 200, and he’s still grow­ing.”

Even with more tra­di­tional pets, DeDi and her busi­ness part­ner, head dog trainer Emily Parker, see how of­ten peo­ple find

July 8, 2016

“So what we do is we go into lower-in­come ar­eas of At­lanta, pass out food, talk with peo­ple, cre­ate that kind of com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ship so that they feel com­fort­able with us.”

—Court­ney DeDi

them­selves over­whelmed by the prospect of rear­ing an an­i­mal.

“I think a lot of peo­ple get a dog ex­pect­ing one par­tic­u­lar per­son­al­ity, and then they get them home and three weeks later they’re a to­tally dif­fer­ent an­i­mal,” DeDi says.

“It’s mostly shel­ter dogs, be­cause when they’re in that en­vi­ron­ment they kind of shut down, and their real per­son­al­ity doesn’t come out for two to three weeks un­til they’re ad­justed to their new en­vi­ron­ment.”

An­other com­mon mis­step by new pet own­ers is “want­ing their puppy to en­joy pup­py­hood,” and de­lay­ing im­por­tant train­ing un­til the dog is a year or year-and-a-half years old, DeDi says.

“They don’t uti­lize the time when their dog is like putty,” she says. “They’ll keep their puppy in­side, they won’t take them for new ex­pe­ri­ences. I think peo­ple for­get that um­brel­las are scary, that skate­boards are scary, so they kind of set their dog up if they’re not do­ing that so­cial­iza­tion in that win­dow of time when they’re open to un­der­stand­ing and learn­ing. Peo­ple of­ten over­look that, and then they end up with a dog that needs fur­ther train­ing be­cause the dog is ter­ri­fied of skate­boards, and some­times that leads to the dog be­ing so anx­ious that they lunge and bite a skate­boarder,” she adds.

Com­mu­nity build­ing through non­profit

In ad­di­tion to its pet sit­ting and walk­ing ser­vices, DiOGi also hosts a Puppy Ad­ven­ture Club every Sun­day for dogs that are be­tween eight weeks and 3 years old.

“They come to­gether and play, but it’s not just about so­cial­iza­tion with other pup­pies,” DeDi says. “It’s also be­ing in­tro­duced to scary things such as a pool, a skate­board, tak­ing a bath – we make all of these ex­peri- Court­ney DeDi, DDS, of DiOGi Pet Ser­vices (Cour­tesy photo) ences a pos­i­tive so we re­ally get the pup­pies started on the right foot in life.”

DiOGi has also de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship with At­lanta’s film in­dus­try, per­fect­ing an on-de­mand ser­vice that DeDi hopes they can ex­pand to their gen­eral of­fer­ings.

“They’re the kind of peo­ple who need on­call, right-now ser­vices,” DeDi says. “Their sched­ules are so crazy that they don’t have time to plan. Let’s say film­ing hap­pens, then they change the sched­ule up, and we have to be on set at mid­night to walk their dog.”

Ear­lier this year, DeDi launched a non­profit arm known as DiOGi Cares, which is in­tended to help lower-in­come At­lantans keep their dogs if fi­nan­cial or be­hav­ioral is­sues arise.

“The main fo­cus of our group is to keep pets in their homes,” DeDi says. “So what we do is we go into lower-in­come ar­eas of At­lanta, pass out food, talk with peo­ple, cre­ate that kind of com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ship so that they feel com­fort­able with us. Then we also of­fer free train­ing classes for peo­ple in lower-in­come ar­eas, to come and par­tic­i­pate with their dogs.

“What’s been re­ally great about it is that we’ve seen wild, wild dogs the first day,” she adds. “Peo­ple are just like, ‘I want to get rid of my dog. I’ve thought about it many times,’ and then by the end of that ses­sion they’ll be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know my dog was that smart and could do all those things.’ It hap­pens a lot. Our clients will be like I can’t keep their dog, and we help them.”

By RYAN LEE

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