Why did you open up an Independent Pet Store? Is it something you always wanted to do?
Absolutely not! I always dreamed of being a psychotherapist, unless I became a published poet. I graduated from college with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology! So how did I end up owning a healthy pet store? I’ve always loved animals, especially dogs. I nursed fledgling robins back to health, and raised litters of baby bunnies that our family dog would flush out of the nest. My parents got me a miniature schnauzer when my baby brother was born. I was 17 months old and they didn’t want me to be jealous. I volunteered for the local animal shelter while in college, and smuggled dogs in to apartments with no pet policies. For as long as I can remember, dogs have been a part of my life. In 1993, I started volunteering for a service dog organization and soon after was hired as their Public Relations Director, but I wanted to work with the dogs. A position opened up and I was given the position as head trainer! What? I had no experience, but the CEO and Founder said she’d mentor me. That’s how it all started for me. I began training these amazing animals for people with mobility impairments, as well as, being kennel manager and working as a liaison with the veterinarian. Unfortunately, many of the dogs would have health issues that would prevent them from graduating, and of course, I would adopt many of them. This is what began my interest in pursuing healthy, natural alternatives to prescription medicines and diets – trying to help the ill dogs that I brought into my own home.
What do you feel is unique about your store?
I would like to think that there are lots of things unique about Doggy Dao & Cat’s Meow, but if I had to pick one thing it would be the individualized attention that we give to every pet’s needs. I’ve often had new customers ask me “What is the BEST food that you sell?” My answer is always the same…there isn’t one. I ask a lot of questions about the animal, including their age, medical history, skin condition, digestion and current diet. I try to set my customers up to succeed in their food choices. And let’s not forget cost. There are always healthier choices at affordable prices. I have a store loyalty program and honor all manufacturer coupons and frequent buyer programs. I believe that everyone should be able to afford to feed their beloved pets a healthy diet without breaking the bank.
What seems to be the main concerns of the pet parents that walk into your store?
The main concerns would have to be skin issues and digestive upsets…and cost. As more companies are selling out and more recalls are being announced, people are scared, frustrated and confused. Many of the first time customers that come into my store feel that they’ve been duped. They have believed the commercials and advertising, only to realize that the food they thought was “healthy” is actually a chemical wasteland that is potentially harmful to their pets. Many turn to the internet, only to feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting information. They want to talk to someone they can trust. Someone who they feel has their pet’s best interests in mind.
Do you have a success story to share about how the GPH Pet Wellness Life Stress Scan and/ or products have helped a dog or cat get back into balance?
This is a testimonial written by a long time customer who just recently started using GPH products. “Julie Van Vliet, owner of Doggy Dao & Cat’s Meow in Hellertown, PA, is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to caring for your pet. Our 11-year-old dog, Abbie was recently diagnosed with arthritis. She was doing well on Carprofen, but we worried about what it would do to her liver. Julie introduced us to alternative products which spared Abbie’s liver and worked just as well. We started Abbie on the Glacier Peak Holistics Inflapotion twice a day and the HerbAprin powder (as needed). After one week, Abbie was able to resume her normal activity--2-3 mile walks daily, playing ball, swimming--without any issues. We are grateful that Julie informed us of these alternatives and that Abbie has taken to them so well. And we won’t need to do expensive blood tests every 6 months.
We thank Glacier Peak Holistics for providing such great products. Most importantly we’re grateful to Julie for her knowledge and concern. In a time when so much conflicting and overwhelming information is online, we need an advocate. It’s nice to know that small and knowledgeable businesses still exist. Online stores can’t compare!! Julie is a great resource, she offers affordable products without pressure and is willing to work with you to determine what’s best for your pet.”
Do you have a Holistic Vet that you refer people to if needed?
Yes. I have several. My local vet is Chris Draper, VMD, who practices conventional and holistic medicine. He is a licensed veterinary acupuncturist and also utilizes Chinese herbs. I will also recommend telephone consults with Deva Khalsa, VMD. Donna Gigliotti, D.C. is a local animal chiropractor who has shared her gift of healing with my own dogs, as well as, dozens of my customers
Do you work with any local animal charities?
Yes. I have worked with several local animal shelters and rescues over the years. I currently focus my efforts on The Animal Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley a 501c3 tax exempt organization that distributes food to those experiencing economic distress. The organization helps to keep pets out of the shelters and in their loving homes – one bag of food at a time.
What are your plans for the future?
I wish I could say that I have some huge plans for the future, but I don’t. I don’t need to be the biggest, fanciest store out there. My goal is to continue to offer the healthiest food, treats and supplements for all budgets. People should be able to feel good about what food they feed their pets. It’s definitely a great feeling to have someone come back a second time and tell you that their cat has stopped throwing up or the dog finally has formed poop!! I try to treat my customers like family – 2 legged and 4 legged. There is no higher praise than a customer saying, “I know I can buy anything in your store because you wouldn’t sell it if it wasn’t healthy!” I plan to continue to do what I’m already doing.