Help for Anxious Dogs
MaryMac's Doggie Retreat a favorite among stressed pup owners
Gabbana suffers from severe separation anxiety. In fact, he’s chipped every one of his front teeth by chewing his way out of a cage. Gabbana is a Shih Tzu. Social worker Courtney McWilliams, Gabbana’s owner, often traveled for work but she dreaded leaving her dog because she couldn’t find a pet sitter who truly understood the high level of her dog’s disorder.
She knew she couldn’t be the only one in town who owned a super anxious dog. So, in 2015, when she decided she wanted to do something different with her life, she combined her social work skills with her love of dogs and started MaryMac's Doggie Retreat. It’s a daycare and boarding facility that specializes in reducing anxiety and depression in dogs of all shapes and sizes.
“My goal is to make traveling fun again by offering an alternative to boarding for dogs with anxiety,” says McWilliams. “We want to make sure that our clients are able to take the vacations of their dreams without having to worry about if their dog is being cared for properly or penned up in a cage.”
Currently, the retreat is offered in McWilliams' home and she has two pet nannies, who will come to the dog’s home. Either option maintains the pet’s normal routine of exercise, feeding and medication. She uses specialized enrichment activities that include offering the dog structured play time and individualized attention. She also tailors activities that are designed to stimulate the dog’s mind such as mind-teaser games, obstacle courses, and hide and seek. And, of course, there’s plenty of petting and cuddle time.
She also offers a wedding package. She once cared for Beasley, a very high-maintenance Frenchie, during the client’s destination wedding in NOLA. She kept the bride updated with photos and made sure everything went perfect on the wedding day. She even escorted Beasley and kept him calm during the couple’s celebratory second line.
“I understand how hard it can be to find a sitter who will care for your dog as if it’s their own, that’s why I focus on giving each and every dog one-on-one attention.”
Her business is thriving. During this past Mardi Gras she was completely booked. But it is her all-natural calming treats that are truly successful. She sells at least 70 packages a week and people still clamor for more. She offers them online, at a variety of festivals and she visits one farmers' market a week. She’s hoping to offer her treats in retail stores in the very near future.
“Our most popular flavor is Pee Bee & Chill, a peanut butter cookie made with 100 percent organic foods.”
They are baked to order and contain a special ingredient, cannabidiol or CBD oil, which is made from strains of industrial hemp.
She once eavesdropped on a customer’s phone call who said, “I found something that’s gonna chill your wild ass dog out. Your dog won’t be high, just super chilled. I’m buying you a couple packages right now.”