Wholistic Pet Services: Holistic Boarding School for Dogs
Oct 02, 2014 03:37AM
● By Nicole Miale
Like many of the stray, rescue and shelter animals she has rehabilitated over the years, Loukia Tsapari has learned to surf life’s ups and downs. “When one manages to successfully deal with life’s constant changes and tribulations, one develops a solid inner core of quiet strength and assertiveness,” she says. “The dogs in my care pick it up right away which makes it easier to establish a strong connection.”
Loukia’s animal rescue work began in earnest in the 2000s, when she and her children were living in Athens, Greece, which hosts a large and miserable stray dog population. “The kids and I were always stumbling on abandoned puppies and injured dogs,” she says. “I would take them in, nurse them back to health with the help of my vet and then get them adopted.” This was the precursor to what has become her life work here in Fairfield County: the rehabilitation, holistic caretaking and training of dogs in her home.
Her early dog rehabilitation and boarding business with a former partner centered on shelter and rescue animals with aggression, anxiety and health issues. It became evident that serious rehab could not be combined successfully with “normal” dog boarding, which requires a much larger farm type environment and secure separations. Loukia transformed the original business model into Wholistic Pet Services, a Norwalk-based dog-care spa focusing on more gentle caretaking. “This is now more a boarding school for dogs than a reform school,” she says. “I insist on impeccable manners from all my dogs. They respond totally – as at the same time, I watch over them like mother hen, feed them yummy food, tend to any discomfort present and respect their emotional needs. Once we establish a bond of trust and mutual respect, obedience follows naturally.”
Wholistic Pet Services’ approach combines elements of conventional dog training with common sense psychology, nutritional evaluation, and close, constant observation of each individual dog in a variety of daily activities and trigger situations. The goal is to create a synchronized, close-knit bond between Loukia and her guest dogs. “Hiking for at least 3 or 4 hours a day in the forests and large parks is of paramount importance in our bonding,” she explains. “Walking in pack formation in nature is the most appropriate way to stimulate a dogs’ brain and exercise their body.”
Loukia says her long history with spiritual and meditative work has enhanced her ability to truly see and hear the energy of each animal. This is key to her success with blending diverse animals into a synchronized pack in a short period of time. “I focus intensely on each individual dog’s energy – and they do convey messages,” she says. “Pain, intestinal discomfort, anxiety, fear ….there is always a sign if one observes quietly and respectfully.”
While in her care, visiting dogs have the run of the house and sleep together with Loukia in a proverbial “puppy pile,” further cementing the bond of the synchronized pack. “There is a lot of cuddling and tenderness going on but safety and discipline are also of paramount importance. All doggie guests have to abide by the rules: no barking, no jumping, no counter surfing, waiting patiently to be served their food and so on,” says Loukia. “We have the quietest house in the neighborhood even though we might have 10 or 12 dogs present at any one time.”
Loukia also tends to the physical health of the animals in her care, with particular attention to nutrition. Her personal experience with severe and untreatable food allergies led her to study herbal medicine, natural healing, massage, myofascial release and other natural healing modalities over the years. Her canine charges benefit: “I now apply to the dogs everything I’ve observed and experienced on myself over 30 years when it comes to healthy living,” she says. Her emphasis is on what she calls “pure, clean, healthy food.” Loukia even offers instruction to her human clients about how to cook for their animals. She cooks daily for her own three large dogs, two Cane Corsos and a recently rescued Neopolitan Mastiff who was so weak she could barely stand when Loukia rescued her from Brooklyn Animal Control.
Wholistic Pet Services is a family-run boutique business. Loukia emphasizes building relationships with not only the canines, but also their human families. Prospective visitors must do a meet-and-greet involving both dog and owner, as not every dog is a good fit for this type of pack environment. “We pick up and deliver our guests with the ‘doggie school bus’ both for the daily hikes and boarding as most of our clients come from Greenwich and Stamford,” she says.
Nicole Miale is the managing editor/publisher of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County. She can be reached at [email protected] or 203-885-4674 and loves to hear from readers.