By Meredeth Barzen
Former graphic designer Lauren Witheridge started Edina-based Heel Dog Walking last December with one goal in mind: to turn her “passion for pets into a business that contributes to the community.” This fall, she’ll be expanding that goal with the new Heel P.H.A.T. Camp program, which targets overweight dogs with a 3-pronged approach of nutrition, exercise and health.
“The problem,” Witheridge explains, “is that an extra 10 pounds for us might make us uncomfortable in a bathing suit, but for an average-sized dog it could put it 25-percent over its ideal weight (classified as obesity). An overweight dog can suffer from diabetes, heart or respiratory disease, joint problems and arthritis.”
The P.H.A.T. (Physical, Healthy, Active and Toned) program aims to get Fido back into shape with “more than just a walk,” as Witheridge says.
“It’s a 12-week program that involves three class meetings, having your P.H.A.T. Camp counselor come by three times a week to exercise your dog, and a nutrition journal. They [the counselors] use a progressive program that readjusts to keep challenging your dog as it gets more and more fit,” Witheridge says.
Witheridge was inspired to improve pets’ qualities of life by her own canine companions: Bailey, a 4-year-old Wheaton Terrier/Poodle mix, and Brandi, a 2-year-old Rottweiler.
“All of this boils down to a much happier dog and owner and hopefully some new interest in getting out with their pets for some exercise, to go for a swim or to go to the dog park,” Witheridge says. “When our clients are happy and grateful, I am too. It’s very fulfilling that I can do work that means something to someone every day.”