|From "Memoirs of a Pet Therapist" Warren's Autobiography
Well, I had just gotten out of the service and taken a bride;
now I needed a job. My new mother-in-law was pressuring me to
take the civil service test, so she could use her influence to get me
hired at the post office in Long Beach, New York, where Fay's late
father had been the assistant postmaster.
"I can get you into the
post office; you can become a mailman with a good income, great
benefits, and a civil service career for your entire life!"
I had just gotten out of uniform and was very dubious about
getting back into one, so I resisted. Besides, there was no longer any
doubt: I wanted to work with animals. I knew veterinary medicine
was not for me, and neither was grooming. I didn't have the pa-
tience to stand in one place all the time, so I looked at the options
available. I liked the notion of helping people communicate with
their pets, analyzing the behavior of not just the animal but its
owner, then solving problems right in the home. Roughly, that was
the job description for what I dubbed myself as: a pet psychologist.
I had no idea, however where one could find a job as a pet psy-
chologist; obviously, there were no ads for one in the New York
Times. After telling our families about my career choice, both my
parents and Fay's mother wanted to get me into therapy, fast!
With my twelve-week unemployment from the service running out, and turning down an offer to sell paint at the local hardware store for three bucks an hour, I took a job behind the counter
at a dry-cleaning store. Yes, that was my beginning, a dry-cleaning
store. When you work at a dry cleaners, you have customers who
come in every other day, every three days, and they bring in cloth-
ing that is covered with dog hair, cat hair, or God knows what kind
of hair. Anyway, I'd start up a conversation. We would talk about
the hair on their clothes and, ultimately, how the pet hair got on
their clothes. They started telling me the problems they were having with their pets, and I realized there really was a need for what I
wanted to do. Yet I still had no idea how to get that need out to the
public. People all had questions: "My cat is peeing on the floor,"
"My dog is jumping on my mother-in-law," "What do I do? What
do I do?"
I turned to my wife at this point and said, "Fay, I really need to
grab the attention of these people." So we brainstormed and, investing our last eight dollars, took out an ad in the PennySaver that
circulated in the five towns of Long Island - a very affluent area
with a high ]ewish population. The ad began:
"WE'LL TEACH YOUR DOG YIDDISH FOR $15."
Well, the phones started ringing, and people explained their
pet situations. Whether it was housebreaking, jumping, chewing, whatever, I would go into their homes and solve their pets'
Once I started doing that, recommendations followed. It was
"networking" before networking had a name. One person would
tell another person who would tell another person, and so on. It
was the American dream - move to the suburbs, get a pet, have
problems, call Warren - it all followed in quite an interesting
path. Then they would recommend me to their veterinarians.
"Hey, you're not going to believe this! This guy came to my house,
and, you know, my dog has been growling for five years. All of a
sudden, my dog behaves like Lassie." So things were starting to gel.
What I didn't know was: How does one start a business? You
needed a couple hundred dollars to incorporate, and I still had
no money. I thought I would work at pet stores around town -
basically they would pay in leashes and collars so I could go out
and train dogs. During this process I met a really nice lady. I didn't
realize she had any problems, and she asked if I would teach her
how to train dogs. I said, "Sure, no problem." So I taught her how to
train dogs, and she became my partner. Unbeknownst to me, my
new partner was a major drug user. I should have trained my drug
dogs to sniff her out! I would end up working 112 hours a week and
she would end up working 6. At the end of the week we would
split the seventy-five bucks profit we made. This lasted for a year
or so, until I finally realized it just wasn't working out. I bought her
half of the business for like a hundred dollars. And then I started
on my own.
Ar this point, things started to click. Fay and I founded the
company, calling it Master Dog Training. I'll never forget that.
People said, "What a great name, Master Dog Trainingl" Remember now, Folks, this was the seventies. It could be interpreted as,
you could be the master of your dog, or I was a master training
Business started to snowball and the phones started ringing
off the wall. I knew I wasn't going to be able to handle this all by
myself; I was going to have to hire people. My reputation was on
the line at this point, and I began saying to myself: "Hiring people
is not the answer. Let me find the right people and I'll train them
myself." This way, at least, when they went out to work with
clients, they would be training the same way I did. Ultimately it
got to the point where we were doing so much work that we were
training more and more people. At the highlight of the Master
Dog Training days, we had fourteen trainers on the road full time.
We were seeing somewhere between three and five hundred dogs a
week. All this, mind you, while I worked at the YMCA training a
couple hundred dogs a week myself. So it was a busy time in my
life. One hundred twelve hours a week went to the dogs!
--© Warren Eckstein - from From "Memoirs of a Pet Therapist" Warren's Autobiography