Meet the people in charge of breeding, brushing, bathing, and saving your pets.
Physical Therapist Linda McMahon traded people patients for pets.
❯❯ Physical Therapist
Animal Specialty Center
Yonkers; (914) 457-4000
If a dog could say “Ahhhhhh” under the proficient hands of physical therapist Linda McMahon, it would. McMahon has been an animal rehab specialist almost as long as the profession has been in existence. In 1997, she was a licensed physical therapist (for people) and, while watching a show on the Discovery Channel, had an epiphany: “Why can’t I apply my skills to animals?” She called her veterinarian and quickly discovered that it would be illegal for her to work on any animal other than the two-legged human. So, McMahon went back to school for another BA, receiving her vet tech certification 10 years ago.
She now serves as the resident animal physical therapist in the new, state-of-the-art Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers. McMahon has worked with a squirrel and a rabbit (both with broken legs), and a bird with a fractured wing, but her more common patients are dogs with hip dysplasia, ligament tears, or spinal injuries, including herniated disks. Utilizing balance balls, rocker boards, and underwater treadmills, McMahon does her best to heal the most injured animals. She also runs a “Fit Club” for overweight and out-of-shape dogs, as well as for dogs requiring extra exercise ($320 for eight half-hour sessions).
❯❯ Breeder (Bichon Frise)
Nora Guzewicz with her four Bichons
West Harrison; (914) 949-7483
“I breed to show and show to breed,” declares Nora Guzewicz, who breeds, shows, and grooms Bichon Frisés. According to Guzewicz, showing helps one be a good breeder. “You breed according to the Bichon Frisé Club of America's checklist of attributes that includes eye color, coat color and texture, withers, length of muzzle to skull, and more, which forces you to strive to produce healthy dogs responsibly.”
From Guzewicz’s perspective, Bichons are “smart, responsive, and good with kids,” but costly when it comes to keeping up their powder-puff looks. Grooming costs can run $70 to $120 per session for the recommended once a month. When she sells them, Guzewucz's Bichon Frisé pups command $2,500 apiece.
Gucewicz is also a full-time groomer, who makes “grooming house calls” for local small dog owners ($120 and up, including travel cost).
Pennsylvania-born Guzewicz grew up loving animals of all kinds, but her route to her current career was not direct. With a background in dance and communications, Guzewicz performed modern dance with small groups in New York City, then ran television stations in Binghamton, New York, and Bend, Oregon. When the broadcasting company was sold in 1996, she returned to her first love: dogs. While situated in Westchester and between jobs, she started helping her neighbor—the owner of Shampooch Dog Salon & Spa—first with bathing dogs, then grooming them. She already owned two Bichons—Dandy and Suzy—and loved working with others in the shop.
Guzewicz began showing Suzy in 1997. When, in 2002, her nine-month-old Blue Bell (today with a loving family in New Rochelle) took Best of Breed at the Garden Specialty Show in New Jersey, she was blown away. “It’s a day I’ll never forget. The judge put her up over champions!” However, she confides, raising a show dog can cost well over a $1,000. “I don’t make any money showing, that’s for sure!” she admits.
Christine Johnson with her rescued Greyhounds
Christine Johnson, President/Founder
Greyhound Rescue and Rehabilitation
Cross River; (914) 763-2221
Christine Johnson, 50-ish, always loved dogs, but her husband, LexPro Research founder Chris Procopis, had been afraid of them due to a series of bad bites he’d gotten when he was a paper boy. In 1999, when they moved from New York City to Cross River, her husband relented. “He knew how much I wanted a dog,” Johnson explains, “but demanded that I get one that ‘didn’t bark, shed, drool, or smell.’”
Johnson did her research and discovered...Greyhounds. She brought a 90-pound male home from a rescue facility. “Honey, I said a dog, not a horse!” her husband exclaimed when he walked in the door. Still he was so enamored with the “forty-miles-per-hour couch potato,” the couple adopted their second six weeks later.
Through her research, Johnson learned there are kennels full of these used-up racing dogs. Most Greyhound tracks were declared illegal and closed in New England by the end of 2010, but there are still plenty in the South, with thousands of dogs per year aging out of racing. According to Johnson, if they are not adopted, up to 15,000 Greyhounds will be euthanized this year.
Ten years ago, Johnson founded her rescue organization by “dragging my Grey-hounds everywhere” and speaking about their plight. Today, with a volunteer staff of 30, the Greyhound Rescue and Rehabilitation has placed more than 900 dogs. Neverthless, Greyhounds, Johnson warns, are not for everyone. “If they see a bag blowing in the wind, they will take off in a flash. They sprint to forty miles per hour in three strides.”
Pet Behaviorist/Therapist Steve Diller helps the neediest dogs.
❯❯ Pet Behaviorist/Therapist
Yorktown Heights; (914) 347-3100
Many of Steve Diller’s patients have spent time in rescue centers and suffer, in pet behaviorist-speak, “separation anxiety.” One dog was so frightened of being left alone, it ate through a closet wall, entered the next apartment, and demolished the neighbor’s couch. Another, an Akita, mangled its crate, ate through the solid oak front door, and was found sitting on the front steps. “Unfortunately, a lot of dogs find their coping mechanisms in escape behavior,” Diller says.
The 58-year-old father of two has always been interested in dogs. “At eight years old, I knew the name of every breed,” he says, “and by fifth grade, all I wanted to write about was dogs.” With this kind of fascination—some would say obsession—Diller’s occupation was a foregone conclusion.
His patients are not generally your run-of-the-mill puppies who pee on the rug or jump happily on houseguests. Pet owners call Diller, who makes house calls ($250 to $350 for a 90-minute to two-hour session), as a desperate last resort—say, their room is being torn apart or their dog quivers so violently during thunderstorms he can’t move. Sometimes Diller suggests meds to a veterinarian, who can prescribe the same meds (Prozac, Paxil) that a human psychiatrist would. Most dogs do very well and are off medication within 12 weeks.
As you might expect, Diller’s six dogs and two cats are very well adjusted. “Years ago, my cats—now deceased—were on Eyewitness News because they had inadvertently responded to the ‘click and treat’ method I was using to train my dogs in basic obedience. My cats ended up learning how to sit up, wave, and jump through hoops.”
Tiffany Crivelli grooms all types of canines from long-haired to no-haired dogs.
Rye Harrison Veterinary Hospital (914) 921-2000
Dog groomer Tiffany Crivelli must be doing something right. Her client list has grown to nearly 200 in a few short years. For the 27-year-old Elmsford resident, becoming an animal groomer was “a fluke.” While studying at SUNY Delhi to become a vet tech, she earned a few extra bucks, when off from school, by helping her new husband’s mother, a dog bather, in Rye. “My mother-in-law taught me the trade. She said I had a knack for it.”
With the aid of an assistant bather, Crivelli can groom up to 12 animals a day, though she could “easily do twenty Labs” in the same time period. “Short-hairs are just so much simpler.” Wheaten Terriers apparently are the least amenable to grooming. Their fluffy hair gets tangled and knotted.
“I use the very expensive La Pooch line with degreasers and brighteners that make white dogs look like clouds. And I recommend that pet owners use the less expensive Nature’s Specialties line at home. Your dog will smell great for days.” The most unusual breed Crivelli has groomed is a Chinese Crested hairless dog. “Since it has no fur, its pores get clogged, so it has blackheads all over that need to be removed." She used an alcohol rub to open the pores.
Crivelli’s advice to dog owners is twofold. First, when researching a dog to buy or adopt, “it’s crucial to check out the breed’s grooming needs.” Some, like the “poos” and “doodles” are high-maintenance. “They are advertised as non-shedding, but their hair does shed. It just sticks on their body like Velcro and must be brushed all the time.”
Dog Walker Vicki Rothweiler on her home turf—the dog park.
❯❯ Dog Walker
New Rochelle (914) 633-9462
Given her name, 50-year-old Vicki Rothweiler was perhaps destined to walk dogs. Over the last 11 years, her dog-walking service, inspired by the arrival of her first dog in 1999, a Cockapoo named Joey, has grown to incorporate more than 100 dogs.
“I don’t just take them out for a walk,” says Rothweiler, who has added Pookie, a Pomeranian, and Billy, a Havanese, to her household. “The basis of my business is socialization and exercise.” To that end, Rothweiler matches up to four compatible dogs and brings them to a local dog park, where she usually does not speak to another soul. “It’s not a social activity for me. It’s all about the dogs.” She charges $20 for a service that can take two-and-a-half hours between pickup and drop-off.
Rothweiler considers hers a 24/7 business. “I’m single and own my own house, so I never say no,” she says. “Walking your dog breaks up the day. To me, a tired-out pet is a happy pet.” She has been known to bird-, cat-, fish-, and frog-sit (“though no guinea pigs!”). Rothweiler has been even known to surprise dog owners by showing up in blizzards because “dogs just love fresh snow.”
Dog trainer Bob Maida's goal is to help pets keep their homes.
❯❯ Dog Trainer
Bob Maida, IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals)
(Free help hotline for dog trainers)
Nothing and no one, not even the best dog trainer in the world, can force a dog to eat when he doesn’t want to. Bob Maida, 63, discovered this when his trained “ALPO” dogs refused to eat the product live on the Tonight Show back when Johnny Carson was still the host. “When it happened, both Johnny and Ed McMahon joked that they would have walked away from the food, too,” Maida says.
Since 1969, dog trainer Maida has worked in TV and movies, hosted his own cable TV show, taught other dog trainers, and created an educational film for postal workers. But the highlight of his career, he says, was being chosen to train the First Dog during the Reagan administration. “It was a thrill meeting with President and Mrs. Reagan.”
When he was young, Maida’s mother would not allow him to have a dog. “Out of curiosity,” he'd visit animal shelters, which exposed him, he says, “to the tragedy” of ill-behaved dogs being sent away, often to be euthanized, merely for lack of proper obedience training. His goal became to teach dogs socially acceptable behavior and help them “keep their homes.” He served time at Captain Haggerty’s School for Dogs—effectively learning dog training on the job—before putting out his own shingle in 1979. What motivates Maida to get up every day, doing the same thing he’s done for four decades? “Seeing the pleased look on the pet owners’ faces when their dogs are doing well. I’m helping people and dogs to live in harmony." His consulting fee ($550) includes an in-home behavior consultations.
Frequent Westchester Magazine contributor, Malerie Yolen-Cohen, lives with her husband and two cats in Stamford, CT.