Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Gasparac.
Jill, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My dog training career and business, See Spot Stay, was started because of a pig. I bought a house in the desert because I owned a pot-bellied pig and needed a home with enough space for him to live comfortably.
Living in the desert I started to find stray dogs, I’d volunteered in dog rescue since 2000, but once in the desert I became a rescue person by necessity. I had always worked with dogs and trained dogs I owned, found/re-homed, but never considered doing it for a career. While working in the desert for an insurance company, I would see abandoned dogs in fields, at gas stations and I would always try to catch them. I had to trap one dog that I couldn’t get to come to me and when I got her home I found out she was feral. If I find a shy dog, I normally give them as much time as they need, days, weeks, months, but this one was taking 6+ months and she still wouldn’t come to me. So I called in a local trainer named Steve Morrissey to help. When he came out to my place and saw what I had going on with the dogs I had rescued that were looking for a home, he told me I needed to do this full time. He said he would train me, but I didn’t want to do it, I had a full-time job with an insurance company. None the less, reluctantly I went out with him on client calls and learned the ins and outs of working with clients and their pets.
I eventually quit my insurance job and all its perks (company car, phone, computer, steady paycheck, etc) and dove in to training full time. Rather unsettling, but I had a passion for it and had been doing it all along, so I figured why not pursue it as a career. Many of my clients came from the West Hollywood area where I still was living part time, splitting my time between the two locations. I found that my clients had horror stories about dog walkers/pet sitters and felt that once I trained the dogs, the owners still needed help with these services, so my business organically evolved to include pet care services that I saw other companies doing poorly or dangerously. I created my business as the anti-business of what others were doing, adding pet sitting and dog walking to the services I provided, this involved me hiring a full-time walker in the West Hollywood area.
Things took off from there, I ended up creating a nonprofit organization to help dogs in need of a home which grew from my work with training for rescue groups. I trained for Ace of Hearts, The Bill Foundation, many independent rescue people and Forte Animal Rescue. I partnered with Tamra Sullivan (an independent rescue girl who I trained a Belgian Malinois for), and we started Animals, People, and Environment Action (APe Action). We incorporated in January 2007 as a non-profit organization dedicated to encourage kindness and empathy for the interconnection of humans, animals, and the earth and to educate people on the importance of respecting life in homes, communities, and the environment. The main part of the nonprofit became the animal rescue portion, where I worked with the dogs that came in with emotional and behavioral issues.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Life is full of challenges, realizing they are here to help you grow and expand is the best approach I’ve found to help get me through them. Looking back on how things unfolded, almost everything that was a difficulty proved to be a blessing when I came out on the other side. I bought the desert house because I needed a place I could have my pig, I had been boarding him on a farm for 6 years while I finished college and saved money to buy a house. I could have just given him away, that would have been much easier, but I couldn’t do that, I had to stick it out and find a solution to bring him home, because he was mine. I didn’t want to be a dog trainer, even though I have always trained the family dogs and always had a great connection with animals, it had never crossed my mind. I went to school and graduated from Long Beach State with a Marketing degree, but knew I didn’t want to work in the corporate world. Meeting Steve because of a feral dog I had trapped and following him to work every day pushed me into a direction that I didn’t even know existed for me.
Finding stray animals that have been abandoned and rehabbing them and saving dogs from our local shelters where they would otherwise have been killed is a constant struggle emotionally and financially. I expanded my business, had 6 people working for me full-time and part time in West Hollywood as dog walkers while I continued to train dogs, but there was never an end to the supply of dogs that needed to be rescued. The 24/7 life of owning a pet industry business and running an animal rescue consumed my life for many years. I realized my business were running me and needed to make a change. I moved back to LA full time and decided I could be more productive helping animals by focusing on the need for Spay and Neuter programs that will reduce the influx of animals coming into our city and county shelters. I downsized the business to just 2 full time people, myself and my assistant and focused on raising money for spay and neuter mobile trucks to help communities where the need is urgent.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the See Spot Stay and Animals, People and Environment Action story. Tell us more about the business.
I work full time as a dog trainer helping pets that need basic obedience or help with certain behavioral issues. I created a Bow Wow Boot Camp where a dog comes into my home and lives with myself and my dogs for 7 nights and learns all their basic obedience commands such as Sit, Heel/Loose Leash Walking, Halt/Stop Auto Sit, Down, Stay (around distance and distraction) and Come/Recall all with both verbal and hand signal commands. They also learn in home manners and certain behavioral issues can be addressed and corrected or modified during this time. I find that getting the training done as fast as possible works best for me, the dog and the owner. I don’t break their spirit or use any harsh training methods. I work one on one with each dog 24/7 in a very private and personal program that is created for each pet that comes in. I work on building a relationship of trust and understanding to help the dog learn the commands that will help him or her succeed in their home once they are returned to their owner.
My assistant, Zeke helps me when I’m working with a dog that has leash aggression or needs socialization, he also is a full-time dog walker for our clients that need daily walks M-F. We also provide pet sitting for our existing dog walking clients or any of my dog training clients. By doing so, I have been able to create a family type relationship with my clients that I wouldn’t trade for a larger volume of customers. Quality over quantity brings all of us a very happy existence.
I specialize in working with dogs that have experienced some type of trauma, emotional or physical. Feral dogs, shy dogs, dogs that are shut down and need to learn to trust again. Dogs that have come from a shelter or the streets that have never had any leadership and need to know what is expected of them in a home. I feel that the work I do is life changing and makes me extremely proud to be able to say I’m a dog trainer/animal rescuer. Pets are such an incredible joy to have, being able to help a pet find a forever home and see how that animal’s life is changed as well as how the owner’s lives are changed is an incredible gift to be able to facilitate. Helping a home with training that is about to give up on their pet by showing them that with dedication and work a solution can be found is extremely rewarding.
I think that what sets me apart from others in my field is that I’ve been doing this work hands on my whole life. From my first dogs as a child I trained them to be off leash, do tricks etc. I have the daily training experience of working with a new dog and figuring out how to help them with every rescue dog I save and re-home. I’ve continued my education with workshops and seminars, but I think the daily ins and outs of running my own rescue has brought me the most extreme experiences and education than I could have ever asked for and I’m able to pass this knowledge on to my clients and their pets.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
It sometimes feels like bad luck when I see another stray dog on the street or in the shelter about to be killed and I save it and it takes large amounts of my money and time to find it a forever home, but I think that the fact that I’m able to help an animal in need makes me a really lucky person. I get to see the joy of a family getting a new member to share their lives with when I find the perfect home for a dog I’ve helped.
I recently needed a change of pace, I was supposed to go to Thailand for 3 weeks, but we had to cancel out trip, but as luck would have it, I ended up shopping around and buying a house here in the mountains, instead. So, I’m again splitting my time between West Hollywood and this home, and I’m able to hold my Bow Wow Boot Camps in a relaxed setting and can still come into LA to give private lessons or do BWBC’s at the client’s house if needed.
I’ve been lucky to partner up with a handful of woman in which we promoting each other’s talents, and they donate a portion of their time to my rescue dogs that are in need of their services. If a client’s dog is having certain health issues, I can refer them to Hands and Hearts for Dogs for a healing massage or to Raw Life Health Coach for some detox and herbal healing. If their pet is heading towards the end of their life, I recommend getting some professional photos with Jody Frank who does head shots and pet photography.
Having these photos are an amazing gift once the pet has passed. It’s a great idea to have photos taken at any stage in your pet’s life, but I find in the end of the pet’s life if someone has never had photos taken, it’s a great gift to have as a memory of the joy that your pet gave you while it was here.
- Website: see-spot-stay.com | apeaction.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SeeSpotStayLA