Sometimes where you’re going and where you wind up are very far apart. Such is the case for Susie DeFord, who earned a degree in creative writing before starting a successful dog-walking and pet care business in Brooklyn. She’s since found her way to the Hudson Valley, where she recently opened Dogerties on Main Street in Saugerties.
Dogerties General Store is primarily dog-oriented, though there’s a wide range of goods and goodies for other animals, including humans.
“It’s not just a pet store,” said DeFord. “There’s something for everybody here.”
The shop is DeFord’s first foray into operating a storefront business, though she still offers some of the same services that made Susie’s Pet Care so successful in Brooklyn.
“Every pet that I work with, it’s like my own pet and so I was very trusted and loved in Brooklyn for the service I provided,” said DeFord on Dogerties’ opening day last week. DeFord sold her Brooklyn-based business in August and moved to Catskill with her husband in November. “All my clients understood. They were upset, but they understood.”
The move from the city was partly due to being burned out on Brooklyn, DeFord said, but also because her husband, Dennis Riley, got a job with the New York State Archives in Albany as an archivist. They’d also spent time in the area on weekends, and DeFord said Saugerties made sense beyond the obvious pun in the name of the new business. The town itself was a draw, but so was its location.
“I love animals, more than people,” DeFord said. “But I love people too. One of my favorite things was coming up here on the weekend and just hanging out. I thought it would be fun to start a shop. I love Saugerties, and there are great places to take your dogs on little hikes around here. There’s Falling Waters, there’s the lighthouse. Saugerties is so close to Woodstock, Hudson, Catskill, Kingston. There’s a lot going on in all of these towns and a lot of good hiking. Everybody’s pretty pet-friendly. I would love people to come up and hang out, eat great food in Saugerties at the Dutch, get great chocolate at Lucky’s, and hang out and discover Saugerties because it’s a very cool town.”
DeFord’s services include dog training, dog boarding and pet sitting, though she stressed that she doesn’t run a kennel and she doesn’t do extensive grooming. Boarding and pet-sitting are done at DeFord’s home rather than at Dogerties, and the animals will have to contend with Phoebe.
“I have one little punk-ass terrier,” DeFord said. “She was a client’s dog, and she was a growly little thing when I met her, and I was like, ‘Great, another little dog who wants to bite me.’ I wound up training her and seeing how smart she was and how she was just scared … She’s not quite as dramatic these days now that she has more confidence, and we did agility and built up her confidence so she has more skills.”
When other dogs come to visit, Phoebe is initially dubious.
“She sulks about it initially, and she tells everybody, ‘This is my space. Don’t touch that. I don’t like you being here,’” DeFord said. “And then she gets over it, and sometimes she even plays with dogs.”
DeFord’s dog training includes positive reinforcement, clicker training and animal behaviorist research, and is usually done in private sessions, though she may participate in group training classes with Camp Belly Rub, a canine daycare opening in Kingston. DeFord stressed that training sessions are done with both the pet and its owner.
“[Clients] have to be involved, because they live with their dog,” she said. “I’m not moving in. I show them what they need to do with their dog, we come up with a training plan, and I coach them and they get in touch with me as we’re working on issues. But the owner has to be involved. There is no remote dog training. I can train a dog and it’ll be fine with me, but if the owner isn’t following up on what we’re doing, the dog is not necessarily going to do what they’re supposed to do.”
DeFord is settling in to Dogerties, and while she’s fairly comfortable listing her opening hours at 196 Main St. as noon until 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, she added that the times aren’t necessarily firm.
“I may be open a little later, I may be open a little earlier, but I would say approximately those hours,” she said.
Dogerties can be found on Facebook, and more information about DeFord’s pet care services can be found at www.susiespetcare.com, and information about her writing and music — including her book, Dogs of Brooklyn, can be found at www.susiedeford.net.