We had the good fortune of connecting with Denise Fleck and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Denise, what are you inspired by?
My muses are my dogs, especially those older grey muzzled faces! Their unconditional love makes me want to do more to help them live their best lives. I find dogs to be old souls, wise and patient, and we can learn so much from them if we just take time to be in the moment like they are: to really feel the breeze brush gently across our face and ruffle our hair, to notice how gracefully the autumn leaves dance to the ground, the amazing once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece each sunrise and sunset creates, and to take time gazing into those warm brown, green or other colored canine eyes and see that all they want to do is please. So many pieces of my heart are now in heaven having had to say good bye to the most precious and loyal friends and family members…my dogs. Their passing reminds me that every moment is precious, that if we want something, we shouldn’t wait but should do all we can to reach that prize along with finding the balance to play and spend time each day in the company of our “pack.” If though, I had to pick one more influential being or role model, sure I idolize “Oprah Winfrey,” “my mom,” “Michelle Obama” or others however, I would choose a dog I once knew named Pooches. Pooches was a black terrier/lab mix who lived on the ridge above my home in the Hollywood Hills. She owned that ridge and protected it with her entire 20 lbs. frame. Pooches would come and go throughout the day and had many a round to make. She would even bring fellow canine friends to my door several times daily once she learned it was an easy place to score a dog cookie. Pooches was an outdoor dog but was loved by those who cared for her as well as my husband and me. She roamed the hills and probably knew secret paths and hidden spaces, she chased off critters twice her size, delighted in the sun but enjoyed a shady day. She found dry land during the rain and made her way through, avoiding trouble and living to be a very old dog. I’ll never forget a Christmas party down the hill at a neighbor’s home when Pooches followed us down the trail…and right in the door. She proceeded as though she had invitation in paw, and you know what?! The hosts let her stay and she curled up in front of the fireplace and enjoyed the festivities. I learned so much from this small furry package: Embrace what I have, believe I’m good enough to do whatever I want, never stop going on adventures and find a solution to all I encounter. I wish I had been quiet enough and fast enough to follow her through her mystery life, but I was always discovered, and the loving girl she was, Pooches would stop her travels and roll over to allow me the pleasure of giving her a belly rub.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Unofficially, I have been in the pet industry my whole life. In the beginning there was no pay or title but I learned from animals and my reward was experiencing their unconditional love. Raised by a gentle giant, a Great Dane named Ulysses, I understood how special the canine-human bond can be. Uly planted the seed that blossomed 3 decades later after I moved to the West Coast, got married, and was working as a Publicist at a motion picture studio. My husband and I adopted The Sunny-dog (as we affectionately called her), a yellow Labrador retriever, from The Burbank Animal Shelter. She was found stray, and as we approached Kennel #31, her tail wagged faster than an out-of-control windshield wiper. She pressed her face against the bars anxiously wanting to be seen, and my life and career path changed forever! When Sunny was 8, she experienced a back injury and compelled me to want to learn everything possible about helping an animal in need. Longing to be by her side, I left my job and jumped on the bandwagon learning and teaching pet first aid, creating the curriculum as I practiced and learned some more and have now personally taught more than 25K humans animal life-saving skills. Each dog since, who has become my family, sent me on another path, writing, doing a radio show, or volunteering on behalf of older dogs. My 3 areas of focus that I feel attribute to success are curiosity, persistence (aka stick-to-it-ness) and being in the moment, all attributes I’ve learned from my dogs… Curiosity is key to keep on learning and being at the top of your game, and I try to become well-versed in everything animal, not just health and safety. I may not be an expert in every animal niche, but I try to connect with others who are, and by being able to offer a resource to someone in need, it ups my credibility as well. Don’t pass up an opportunity to attend a seminar or tag along with a friend to a class. You never know when having the basics in botany or star gazing might actually be a life-saver! If nothing else, anytime you add to your skill set, it increases your “mental files” allowing you to think on your feet when the need arises. Stick-to-it-ness! You may have heard the advertising term, “The Rule of Seven,” that people need to hear about something 7 times before they’ll remember a product. To me, that means you have to be consistent and persistent, even when you feel you may not be getting anywhere. Thinking that something GRRReat can happen the day after you quit is a wondeRUFFul motivator to keep on going, so even when people initially weren’t sure about the need for learning pet first aid, I kept at it, and before long, people were seeking me out because others told them how important the information I had to share was. Anyone can do anything for a week, or a month or three months, but to have a successful business (or even to be a healthy individual) you need to stick to your plan for a lifetime. Modify and correct direction along the way, but those who persevere – succeed, and along the way…they enjoy the journey, just like our animal friends! Make others feel important – give them your full attention. We all have a bazillion things going through our heads at any point in time, but when you are engaged in conversation “be in the moment” with that other person like animals always are with us! You won’t win over a prospective client or employer if you make them feel as though they are taking up your time or distracting you from other things. When you have a phone call, meeting or just a brief chat, put others things out of your head and pay attention. You’ll ask smarter, in-tune questions and the other person will feel like you are appreciative of their time as well. Making the difference in the life of an animal is what makes my heart beat, and helping others to do the same is priceless!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One breakfast or lunch must be at The Farmer’s Table in Douglasville! The grilled sandwiches and wraps are to die for, but you MUST take home a dessert, and also shop the fresh produce as well as the gift shop. I got the awesomest hand-painted wall plaque on my first trip there. https://www.farmerstablega.com/ The World of Coca-Cola is another must see! Of course, life has changed since COVID, but they still offer a great museum of fun and lots of drinks to sample as well as their new Scent Lab. Kind of like a dog, our taster and sniffer work together, and when we can’t use both, we don’t know what we’re smelling or tasting! LOL Sweetwater Creek State Park offers a peaceful walk in the wilderness only minutes from downtown Atlanta. With your pooch by your side, you can follow the stream to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a textile mill burned during the Civil War. Beyond that, the trail climbs rocky bluffs to provide amazing views of the rapids below. https://gastateparks.org/SweetwaterCreek Stone Mountain Park is equally breathtaking with native trees and foliage, water and trails to enjoy with Fido by your side. www.stonemountainpark.com Venturing north, a few of our favs to show others include Rock City. The last time we visited in February, there with my best buddy, Haiku, it was PAWSitively magical. A bit of snow on the ground and the mind-boggling stone paths and bridges take you on an enchanted journey. With the snow, we felt like we were in a fairy tale! On a clear day, there is a look-out where you can see 7 states at once! www.seerockcity.com Also, up in Dawsonville, is Amicalola Falls & Lodge. My husband and I just experienced breath-taking autumn views as well as the falls for our 30th Wedding Anniversary. And guess what? We adopted a 10-years-young Akita, Kiko, who needed a home just minutes from there on our way home 🙂 https://www.amicalolafallslodge.com/ In Helen, Georgia, The Hofbrauhaus Restaurant https://www.yelp.com/biz/hofbrauhaus-restaurant-and-gi-germany-pub-helen gave our best buddy Haiku the awesomest pawsomest 15th birthday with a seat beside the Chattahoochee River watching the tubers go by and eating his own plate of bratwurst. They love dogs and their food is excellent. Both Gabe’s Downtown https://www.gabesdowntown.com/ and Gumbeauxs https://gumbeauxs.com/index.html are two fav restaurants as my husband went to college in New Orleans, so we love our red beans and rice, banana foster, and a little Voodoo juice or a Hurricane doesn’t hurt now and then 😉 Where else? Atlanta and OTP (Outside the Perimeter) offer so many delectable restaurants. We only relocated here from Los Angeles a few years ago so haven’t gotten to partake in everyone, but this beautiful city is beyond compare with all the trees and excellent food. The diversity of the city makes it extra special. I always profess to people never to judge a dog by his breed, and the same goes for people, places and everything. Take time to find the treasures inside, and that is what we are doing with the Atlanta area as there are many, many gems to be found!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shout-out is to The Grey Muzzle Organization whose mission is to help older best friends (aka senior dogs) thrive and to make sure no old dog ever dies alone and afraid. I find it hard to say those words out-loud without getting teary-eyed, but we are often a “throw-away” society, tossing out perfectly good objects for something new, and sadly…also putting aside our older people and pets. These seniors have acquired much wisdom and patience, and still have much to teach us, particularly compassion for others, so The Grey Muzzle Organization pulls on my heart-strings as it has provided more than $2.5 million in grants to rescues and shelters across the country specifically to help senior dogs get the help they need. Learn more at www.GreyMuzzle.org
Other: Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Denise-Fleck/e/B00J7MFGU6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1452038445&sr=8-3
Photo with Denise holding up Dog Writers Award medal with two dogs and also the photo in blue jacket holding up a pet first aid kit – Photo by Timothy Fielding. Photo of Denise reading her book, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover” – Photo by Richard Oshen All other photos Courtesy of Sunny-dog Ink