Not many can say that they have stepped out of their day to day job, took a leap of faith and made it work for them. That is exactly what Brackenhurst sisters did and today they get up and do what they love.
We get to know more about Caryn van Herwaarde and Lindsay Seller when we visit their Alberton home to chat about the huge step these two dog lovers took to get out of what they called the mundane routine of their day jobs.
They did so to pursue something totally different, following their hearts and their passion.
Lyndsay held an office job for many years and got to a stage where she could not take it anymore. ‘I was just sick and tired of what I did and decided to move back to my parents. One thing lead to another and I started Duke’s Academy for Dogs at Rietvlei 16 years ago.”
The academy was named after Lindsay’s first Border Collie rescue.
‘Duke simply changed my life,’ Lindsay said. ‘I got him when I was 13 years old. He set my path and I will always call him my soul dog. When Duke would enter while training other dogs, there was some respect. I called him the Dog Father,’ she said smiling.
Duke died at age 16 and will be remembered as a SA champion dog.
‘Agility was our thing,’ said Lindsay.
Lindsay studied dog behaviour and is signed up with COPE SA. ‘One can never know enough. I am not a dog behaviourist. I am a dog trainer.
‘My sister is like Dr Doo Little,’ Caryn steps in. ‘We foster dogs, we adopt rescue dogs – we are simply a dog family and always had dogs and today our house is home to six dogs.’
Caryn’s story reads about the same. She held a job with a courier service for 17 years while living in Nelspruit. ‘I could not do it anymore. I never got to see my family, my son did not see his family and we moved back to Alberton where I continued with the courier service for another year.
‘Lindsay and I were talking one day and decided it is time to expand and offer a service that can be an added benefit to the academy.’
And so, amid lockdown, they bought the Alberton franchise for Ultimate Pet Care (UPC), a mobile pet grooming service and they have not regretted the day they made the decision.
‘We are blessed with the staff we have for UPC. They are simply amazing. When a client tells you to be careful, my dog does not like to be groomed, that same dog melts in the hands of our groomers. We know we are doing it right and that our staff, Princess and Zweli, are gifts to us.’
A day in their lives
Caryn and Lindsay have their fair share of running up and down – Lindsay probably in a more literal way since her days are filled with training dogs and Caryn getting things organised to get her team to different appointments on time.
Lindsay’s weeks are filled with keeping dogs busy so to speak. The academy at Rietvlei, which by the way is the biggest in the South ground-wise, apart from the training also offers play days for puppies, Park Day Thursdays, and even daycare for dogs.
‘Yes, you heard correctly, we offer daycare for dogs where the owners can’t leave them at home when they go to work. However, all dogs are assessed before we accept them into our daycare. They have to fit it,’ Lindsay said.
For Caryn, her day starts by organising and planning to get to all their appointments on time and make sure the dogs they visit to be groomed get the love and attention they need.
As far as the grooming side goes Caryn suggests that people start grooming their dogs from a young age. ‘It is important for dogs to get used to it and not try to sort of force a new thing upon them when they are older and bewildered.
‘We believe that grooming should be a fun and loving experience for dogs in a safe and stress-free environment. Being mobile also makes it easier because the dogs are groomed in an area that is known to them.
‘Instead of hurry along and get it over and done with, I am steadfast in rather grooming fewer dogs a day but ensure that it is a good experience for the dogs we do groom on a day.’
With the two businesses combined, Caryn now also offers the services of UPC at the academy. ‘This makes things easier because we can groom pets while they are at the training grounds.’
One also needs to add that Cause 4 Paws, a non-profit animal welfare organisation with the focus on sterilisation and animal vaccination programmes in Alberton and Johannesburg South, originated as a brainchild of these two.
When things got too busy for them, Cause 4 Paws was handed over to René Parker who is carrying on with the good work they started.
Sisters in business
People do believe that you do not mix family and friends with business, however, these two simply make things work. When asked why they looked at each other, smiled and almost as one said, ‘It is not as if we do not have different opinions at times but we are very like-minded people.
‘We are also very direct people and get things off our minds when needed to. We don’t take things personally and that makes us good business partners,’ said Caryn.
‘Yes, indeed. We openly say how we feel and then move on,’ Lindsay added.
A little me-time
With their days being filled with not only taking care of their own families but also the furry additions to other families, one needs to ask what they do when they need a little me-time.
‘Oh, for me it is easy,’ Lindsay answers. ‘I take my dogs to dog shows. That is how I relax. And Caryn on the other hand finds her downtime zoning out in front of the TV.”
‘We are also a tight-knit family that likes to go for hikes and walks. Our two boys are like brothers, so it is easy to get all together and do what we like – being out in nature,’ Caryn added.
A last word
‘We want to put it out there that people should realise a pet is not just another dog. It is an extension to your family and we need to care for them and love them.’
Text: CARINA VAN DER WALT. Photo: ELZAAN PIENAAR