February 2021

The Pet People: Meet a few locals who make it their business to see that our pets are well cared for.

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.Kat Photography


Cara Stephenson
Isle of Paws

How does your business cater to pets/what services do you offer?
Isle of Paws caters to dogs’ grooming needs: bathing, brushing, ear cleaning, pedicures, and haircuts.

What pets did you have as a child, and how did they influence your decision to work with animals?
As a child I had quite a few pets: four dogs, two cats, one rabbit, and a few fish. I loved all of my pets, but I really had a special connection with my dogs. I loved spending time with them, telling them my thoughts and how no one understood me but them. Lol. I also enjoyed training them but never got further then sit, shake, and lie down. I knew as a teen that I would really enjoy working with animals, but I didn’t know what direction I would go.

What lesson have you learned from animals that you might not understand otherwise?
Animals have taught me a lot. Sometimes I forget to give them the credit. They have taught me that patience goes a long way in building a trusting relationship and to never give up. It takes time. And it doesn’t matter how old or young the dog is.

How does working with animals enhances your relationships with other humans?
It’s just natural with pets and people to be kind, patient, and show them you care. If you don’t, what’s life all about? And the response of their appreciation, be it dog or human, is all you need to make you feel warm and happy inside. Life is like an echo: what you send out comes back. What you give you receive.

If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would you be and why?
If I were reincarnated as an animal, surprisingly it wouldn’t be a dog. It would be a dolphin. I love the ocean. It shows in all three of my kids’ middle names: Ocean, Reef, and Wave. I would love to explore the world from a different environment. And I just love watching dolphins. It never gets old seeing them jump, play, and trying to be social with us humans.

How many pets do you personally have?
I have two dogs, a Brittany Spaniel and a beagle mix. Technically the beagle is my son’s, but she’s my dog.

What very important thing about owning a pet do you think everyone may not know going into it?
Pets will teach you more than you teach them. They will outsmart you. They need your time, love, and they need exercise just like us. They also need to be brushed!


Matt Tenwolde
Carolina Vet Critical Care

How does your business cater to pets/what services do you offer?
Carolina Veterinary Critical Care is an after-hours and weekend emergency veterinary hospital. We provide
urgent and emergency veterinary care for pets when the local veterinarians are not open to care for them. We are equipped to accommodate any emergency, from a sore paw to emergency abdominal surgery, and we offer 24-hour hospitalization and monitoring.

What pets did you have as a child, and how did they influence your decision to work with animals?
Growing up in a law enforcement family, we had German Shepherds throughout my childhood. We also were big cat lovers. Looking back, they were all black cats, no particular reason why. I have a special place in my heart for black cats for that reason: they remind me of simpler times. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was a very compassionate boy, I remember on many occasions playing doctor on my own pets, trying to bandage their legs and massaging their muscles when I thought they were sick. That became more and more sophisticated as I grew up. There was never a doubt in my mind through school about my final goal. I was determined to become a veterinarian.

What lesson have you learned from animals that you might not understand otherwise?
As cliche as it may sound, they are a great example of unconditional love. Pets don’t live in their past; they live in the present. If you treat them kindly, show them love and let them experience life every day, be it going for walks with them, doggie day care or sitting on the couch with them in the evenings after work, the time and effort you put into that relationship will come back to you tenfold.

How does working with animals enhance your relationships with other humans?
Veterinary medicine, especially emergency veterinary medicine, can be very stressful. When animals are sick and people are stressed, due to their pet’s illness and often finances, you build bonds very quickly with people. People are good; they care. Pets bring out the best in people, and I love to see that. I cherish the bonds I make with clients, even if they are transient as they return to their local veterinarians for follow-up care and preventative medicine.

If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would you be and why?
Interesting question. Tough to not knee jerk to the coolest animal ever, the liger: half lion and half tiger. But honestly, I’d more likely be a horse. I’m gregarious, strong and proud.

How many pets do you personally have?
We have one cat and a bunny currently; both are rescues. Boo Boo kitty (I know, my three-year-old named him) was found on the side of the road with severe wounds. He lost about 40 percent of his skin. Ten surgeries later, he’s a happy cat, terrorizing all the poor little marsh critters with his hunting prowess. The bunny, Marshmallow, was found in the rain on the side of the road by my wife one cold, winter morning. Once my kids laid eyes on him, there was no going back.

What very important thing about owning a pet do you think everyone may not know going into it?
They are definitely a commitment. Pet ownership is a big responsibility; taking them on is a big responsibility. They will depend on you for their everything. Make sure to go into ownership prepared for making sacrifices, be it financially or in the time they require to be well-adjusted pets. As I’ve said before, the time you put into that relationship will come back to you tenfold; they are worth every second you can spare with them.


Karen Just
The Bark Shack

What services does your business offer, and when did you know you wanted to work in this field?
We offer overnight boarding for dogs, cats, and exotics(birds, turtles, etc.); doggy daycare, with 13 large play yards,20 private patios, and 10 smaller play yards for select play groups; full grooming salon for baths, nail trimmings/Dremel, full-breed groom styles, de-sheds, flea baths, etc.; in-your-home pet services (overnights very limited), also, in-your-home day services for walks, bathroom breaks, cleaning cat boxes, poo scoop yards; basic obedience training, while-boarding training, in-home training, puppy crate training coming in April.

I wanted to be a veterinarian but hated science. Luckily, when I was nine years old, I learned what a kennel was, and my dream grew from there. However, life got in the way. Eight years as a radio personality, almost 20 years in corporate sales, and raising children deterred my dream. In 2007, after volunteering for years in shelters, my kennel dream came to fruition.

What pets did you have as a child, and how did they influence your decision to work with animals?
I had dogs, horses, rabbits, chickens, gerbils, hamsters, mice, hermit crabs, birds, and many aquatic critters. But I wasn’t allowed to have a cat. I always connected to animals better than other kids, so working with animals seemed the right path to take.

What lesson have you learned from animals that you might not understand otherwise?
Well, I realized how much un-neutered dogs just want to hump. Doesn’t matter what they hump, where, or how often. And that is exactly like teenage boys. Had I known this years ago, I would never have been as popular in high school. (I would have been more selective, ha ha).

How does working with animals enhance your relationships with other humans?
I don’t believe loving animals has enhanced my love of people. Though I enjoy animals more, I still do enjoy people. I’m an extroverted homebody! I enjoy dog owners most of all, especially those with a bit of a wicked sense of humor.

If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would you be and why?
As a domesticated animal, I would choose a dog belonging to one of my customers in order to be spoiled rotten. If I were a wild animal, I would choose a hawk—resilient, majestic, fierce.

How many pets do you personally have?
I have six dogs, three cats, three feral cats, one turtle, two birds, and one 8-year-old grandson (not an animal but often a close resemblance).

What very important thing about owning a pet do you think everyone may not know going into it?
The cost and time commitment of care and upkeep, such as grooming, brushing, heartworm preventative, play time with your pet, veterinary care. Many customers want to keep their dog’s hair length long, but without brushing, the pets get matted and skin can be damaged. It is not just bringing your dog in for a groom every three months, but yet coat care/deep brushing every few days with grooming every six weeks (pet and breed depending, of course).


Kaitlin Iulo, DVM, CVA
Healing Touch Animal Acupuncture

How does your business cater to pets/what services do you offer?
Healing Touch Animal Acupuncture is a mobile veterinary service offering traditional Chinese veterinary medicine/holistic medicine to dogs and cats. Services include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medication, food therapy, supplements, and hospice care consultation. Spinal manipulation (chiropractic) will be offered spring 2021! These healing traditions improve quality of life and decrease pain in animals challenged with arthritis, weakness, neck/back pain, cancer, chronic diseases (kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s) and other conditions.

What pets did you have as a child, and how did they influence your decision to work with animals?
Many! Dogs, cats, birds, a hamster, and a ferret at one point. My career path in veterinary medicine has been influenced by a lot of animals, but one specific childhood pet stands out. Our German Shepherd, Sierra, was a big influence on my decision to pursue acupuncture. She had hip dysplasia and mobility issues from a young age. She inspired me to help animals with similar challenges now
as a veterinarian.

What lesson have you learned from animals that you might not understand otherwise?
Two big ones: unconditional love and living in the present moment. Pets are basically little furry gurus here to teach us something every day if we open ourselves up to their lessons.

How does working with animals enhance your relationships with other humans?
The animals I work with are all attached to humans, and I get to form close relationships with my clients as we work together to enhance the quality of life of their pets. I really value this partnership. I also get to collaborate with other veterinarians looking for additional options for their patients. The teamwork involved is very rewarding. Providing these services on the island is also a full-circle moment for me. I grew up here, and it is a gift to be able to do what I love and serve the community that gave
me roots.

If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would you be and why?
Yeesh … I could answer this question so many ways depending on the day. I think I’d want to be a master of yoga, sleeping, and the universe, so I’d return to this earth plane as a well-kept house cat.

How many pets do you personally have?
Three: a German Shepherd named Fonzie, a one-eyed cat with 20 nicknames, and another cat named Pancakes (my soul cat).

What very important thing about owning a pet do you think everyone may not know going into it?
The quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” comes to mind. Our pets age faster than we do and supporting their bodies through a holistic approach can make a measurable difference as they grow older and face more health concerns. And remember to prepare for the cost of care throughout a pet’s lifetime. There is (generally) more cost toward the end of life, just like people. Consider pet insurance early!


Mary Jarosz

Why do you volunteer at Hilton Head Humane, and how long have you been doing so?
The better question is why not volunteer at HHH? Starting or ending your day being greeted by homeless dogs and cats only seeking your love and attention and knowing you are actually making a difference in their lives is rewarding to say the least. HHH is truly one of our local island treasures, helping 3,000 animals annually; they provide a service our community needs. My values and beliefs align with the mission of Hilton Head Humane and being involved with such a compassionate organization gives me a sense of peace and purpose.

What pets did you have as a child? How did they influence your decision to work with animals?
Being the eldest of six children, we were always bringing home animals … so, what pets didn’t we have?! One of my fondest memories, and earliest lessons in proper pet care was watching my dad build our rabbit Smokey’s enclosure by hand. And, because you asked (and maybe an unpopular answer to some), my favorite childhood pets were our two rats, Freddie and Peanuts. There was and still is such a misconception about these highly intelligent, loving creatures. Having cared for them at a young age and seeing firsthand that they weren’t just disease infested nuisances with worm-like tails showed me that all animals deserve a chance without judgement! These tiny beings had a HUGE influence on me to always help animals no matter how small or scary they may seem on the surface.

What lessons have you learned from animals that you might not have understood otherwise?
My entire adult life I have rescued dogs and adopted them from shelters and off the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. What I have come to know and have developed a deep respect for is the fact that they are all so different with unique personalities and need to be cared for accordingly. Just as humans have their own quirks and characteristics that define them, so do animals. By having as many dogs as I have over the years (all from varying backgrounds), I truly have learned so many different lessons from each one that have influenced my empathy for other shelter pets needing that same understanding and effort.

Specifically, my late and greatest boy Chizzy transformed into a completely different dog over the years. When I first found him, he was completely hairless with terrible skin allergies, an unknown complete medical history, needing multiple surgeries from the get-go, and that was just his physical challenges. He did not like men, people wearing hats, anyone riding a bike, life-size cardboard cut-outs (ha ha), and the list goes on. But you get the picture. It was very challenging at times, but he was worth it. He turned out to be the best dog and greatest companion I have ever had. Differences and personalities aside, the one thing dogs do have in common is the need for love, companionship, and commitment. Unlike humans, animals are quick to forgive, they don’t judge you, and if shown compassion, will effortlessly love you until the very end.

How does working with animals enhance your relationship with humans?
Working with, caring for, and learning daily from animals has taught me a sense of compassion you cannot express with words. How we treat animals is a clear reflection of how we treat other people. Animals can’t tell us how they feel in words, and yet we try our best to care for them regardless of this communication barrier. It has enhanced the way I treat other people. I may not understand them or have walked in their shoes, but I want to show them that same empathy regardless of anything else. Last month, we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—He said, “ Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the wellbeing of a person or an animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the words we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

If you were reincarnated as an animal what animal would you be and why?
That’s easy! A box turtle. “The spiritual meaning of turtle is finding the way to move forward and live through heavy times.” This is something I can personally relate to and in my own life has made me exactly who I am today.

How many pets do you personally have?
Just about a year ago, I lost my best boy Chizzy. The truth is he rescued me 12 years ago, and I am so fortunate for the time we had together. My family adopted Ozzie from HHH over three years ago, and for now, I get my pet fix when I babysit him or spend time with my grandpups, Moose and Ralphie. When my heart is ready, the right furry four-legged companion will come along. Lucky for me, I know the perfect place to adopt!

What very important thing about owning a pet do you think everyone may not know going into it?
First and foremost, everyone needs to understand that owning a pet is a very large responsibility and it won’t always be an easy one. It’s a commitment of time, energy, love, and dedication for as long as your pet lives. Unfortunately, so many rescues are filled with animals that once were cute puppies or kittens that weren’t given that commitment! Anyone looking to add a furry companion to their family, please remember when adopting that these animals get sick, they need regular veterinary care and checkups, fresh food and water, reliable pet sitter options if you work long hours or plan to go out of town, daily exercise, and LOTS of love and attention. They are going to have accidents; they will bark or meow; they will cost money; and they cannot speak for themselves with only their people to look after them.


Abby Bird
Alphadog Training Academy and Little Paws Playcare

How does your business cater to pets/what services do you offer?
Alphadog Training Academy: Positive dog training, private in your home obedience/behavior lessons for puppies and all ages including adopted dogs. Also offering individual and group classes at my facility in Bluffton. And limited invitation-only doggie daycare. (843) 304-4327
Little Paws Playcare: Indoor small breed only supervised doggie daycare at Moss Creek Village (843) 715-7297.

How many pets do you personally have?
I am owned by three adopted dogs: two Newfoundlands and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

What inspired you to go into this business?
I have been working with dogs my entire adult life and became a professional trainer about 20+ years ago. I had been working with ADD and ADHD children when I realized the similarities between them and dogs. But dogs don’t talk back! It was then that I turned professional. I love working with owners and their dogs, always different and challenging. Problem solving and guiding owners to help keep dogs in an appropriate home is my main goal and assisting with rehoming if the situation is not right. I also foster for five area rescue groups. To date I have been blessed to work with over 9,000 dogs and their humans and many second and third generation dogs entrusted to my methods. Happy dogs and happy owners!

What very important thing about owning a pet do you think everyone may not know going into it?
It should be a LIFETIME commitment. Whether you have kids or move or your pet gets sick and old, you should be there for them. They have entrusted their lives to you and the commitment on our part should not be viewed as temporary or one of convenience only. If you can’t afford Vet bills and can’t give them time and attention and training, then think again before getting a four-legged family member. They are forever.

In your opinion, is pet ownership for anyone who loves animals? Why or why not.
Not everyone who loves an animal is prepared for the financial outlay, training and time commitment. Owning a pet must fit with your lifestyle every single day. If you love animals but determine it is not appropriate to own one, there are options. You can volunteer with any of the rescue or shelter groups by visiting or walking pets. You can also volunteer at adoption events. How about fostering, which is a short-term commitment? Assisting with fundraising? There is always a need for animal lovers!

What is the first thing you teach a new puppy and what is the hardest thing to teach a puppy?
First thing is actually to work with owners and not the pup. Potty training and nipping and biting behaviors. Without those two first, many owners give up on their pup before obedience training even begins. Then teaching name recognition and positive recall (come) techniques. Recall is the number one most important safety cue and should be addressed early on.

The hardest thing to teach most puppies is correct social behavior and manners—having a dog that is friendly but under owner control. We want to be proud of our dogs’ manners by teaching them not to jump but to enjoy human contact in an appropriate way. Sometimes this about retraining the owners!

With many adopted dogs, social behavior can be just the opposite. They are shy or untrusting of people. Patience on the part of the owners and using positive techniques can turn a dog around. Teaching a dog to trust is one of the most challenging and rewarding skills I work with.

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