Article by Matt Benedetti, Video By Allyson Morin
“I just love dogs-how could you not?” said Ultan Connolly during a late Summer afternoon stroll with one of his clients.
Bonnie, a black Labrador, vigorously wags her tail in agreement and proceeds to lead the way through a sun-streaked path in a woods just south of Boston. Ultan leans in, whispers a command and Bonnie immediately sits appearing to revel in the attention of the 48-year old Dedham resident whose speech reflects more than a hint of his native Galway.
Although Bonnie is not Ultan’s dog, he treats the 7- year old pooch as if she were part of his own family.
The affection, clearly genuine, is unabashedly reciprocated by his canine companion in the form of licks, jumps and more wagging.
“Not a bad day at the office,” he says with a smile against the bucolic backdrop.
Amid the sound of chirping birds, Ultan gently pats Bonnie and is undoubtedly comfortable in his chosen environment.
“We care and love your pet as much as you do,” said Connolly when asked to explain the success of Doggie Au Pair, the enhanced pet service owned by his wife Lorraine.
Launched in 2006, Doggie Au Pair has grown exponentially over the last decade and continues to expand boasting a full staff or “pack” of dog walkers. Doggie Au Pair offers comprehensive dog walking, cat sitting and pet taxi services but is also nimble enough to offer specialized care tailored to satisfy every customer.
Ultan and Lorraine have three dogs, Juno, Benji and Pully and understand the apprehension often associated with leaving a furry loved one in the care of another. This empathy allows them to be mindful of potential customer anxieties and ensures that services rendered are commensurate with the specific needs of both parties–dog and owner.
“We understand that pets are part of the family and take this caretaker role seriously,” he said.
A winding road led Ultan to this point.
Like so many before him, Ultan left Ireland and a daunting unemployment rate in 1992 to seek opportunity in the United States. As a manager for the House of Blues in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., he traveled throughout the continental United States opening and managing satellite locations. Returning to Boston, he pursued his real estate license and ultimately achieved success in the fiercely competitive field of Greater Boston real estate. He is a popular agent with at Vogt Realty in West Roxbury, Ma.
Though busy with real estate clients and property showings, Ultan always finds time for his four-legged pals.
Lorraine, a native of Birmingham, England, worked in the hospitality industry for several years. She would often spend her free time walking Juno, her yellow Labrador, and pondered channeling her love of dogs into an entrepreneurial venture. After much reflection and consultation with Ultan, she decided to follow her dream and make dog walking and pet sitting her own career.
“It’s a decision that I will never regret. I am now doing a job that I love and have the most wonderful customers as well as a fantastic team,” she said.
Attracting the best employees invariably contributes to success.
“Of course, we are very selective and hire only the most dedicated, reliable and conscientious people to work with us,” said Ultan.
One of the Doggie Au Pair “pack” is Rebecca Felhazy, a Vermont native who loves her profession.
“The people I work with are phenomenal. I felt an instant connection when I met Lorraine and Ultan. They are such good people and are out there every day doing the same thing as the dog walkers, “she said. “I find them both to be an inspiration and hope to do something similar in my future. I am proud to be part of this team,” said Rebecca.
However, Rebecca finds interacting with her canine clients the most rewarding. There have been a few “ruff” days but not many.
“I love being in the woods with the dogs and detaching from the world and being at one with nature,” she said betraying her Green Mountain roots.
“You really have to love dogs, and I do,” she said without hesitation. “There is no such thing as a bad dog. They are always bright-eyed and happy to see you. Unlike people, they don’t get in bad moods are loyal and trustworthy even when they get into mischief,” she observed.
At Doggie Au Pair safety is always the primary responsibility.
“You need to really know your dogs well and be able to predict how they might react in a situation. Weather, other dogs or street noise can all be distracting but if you know your dog, you can make the proper adjustments,” she said
Interacting with customers is almost as fun.
“We have a fantastic client base. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. The dogs are all so well cared for and trained,” said Rebecca. “We enjoy excellent relationships with our customers.”
Doggie Au Pair is considered the premier service in the area, a designation affirmed by customer testimonials.
“The personalized service and quality care received from Doggie Au Pair is like having a loving family take care of your dog,” said Ronny M. of Dedham, Ma.
“At Doggie Au Pair, our dogs are treated like family with unlimited warmth, love and kindness,” said Kristen D. of Westwood, Ma.
“Lorraine and her crew are definitely the best. Regardless of snowstorms or last-minute emergencies, the crew is there and I know that I can always count on them,” said Annette J, West Roxbury, Ma.
The Doggie Au Pair team welcomes your pet into their family with open arms.
“There’s nothing that makes me happier than a wagging tail and a dog’s smile. My team and I look forward to welcoming you and your pet to the Doggie Au Pair family,” said Lorraine.
Doggie Au Pair serves the communities of Dedham, Roslindale, West Roxbury, Westwood, Norwood, Needham and Hyde Park.