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Pet project

By Staff
New kennel is all in the family for Hartselle group
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
When one door closed for the Roberts family last year, a doggie door opened.
Kirk and Jamie Roberts of Hartselle opened Top Notch Kennel on Highway 36 East in March after the company Kirk worked for 15 years closed last November.
Since their daughter, Addie, 11, set a goal to one day show her dog, Jesse, a 19-month-old Schipperke, at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show–a goal they say she's well on her way to achieving–Kirk and Jamie decided a kennel would be a perfect new beginning for the family.
Now Addie, who Jamie home schools, helps her mom at the kennel during her free time, while her dad attends Calhoun Community College and her older brother, Judson, 13, attends Hartselle Junior High School and plays sports.
"It's great because I can get my school work and homework done early in the day and still have time to spend with Jesse and the other animals at the kennel," Addie said. "I also have time to spend with my family and go to the dog shows."
Natural born animal lover
Kirk and Jamie said Addie has watched televised dog shows intently since she was about three-years-old.
"She would lead our dachshund around the house just like the handlers on TV did," Jamie recalled. "She was really paying so much attention."
In fact, when Addie attended her first American Kennel Club show at nine-years-old, she decided at the last moment to show her aunt's, Teresa Hairrell of Decatur, Schipperke and took second place.
"The judge was so impressed with how Addie handled the dog, he asked her how long she had been doing shows," Kirk recalled with a smile. "Since she had just read about and practiced handling two days before, she told him, 'Three days.'"
Addie has been handling and showing Jesse for about a year and has already earned three first place wins to advance from the Novice Junior to the Open Junior division for handlers under age 14. She earned seven championship points at her last show in Montgomery.
"My sister had lost her Schipperke of 15 years and met breeder Bette Wynn of Toney," Jamie recalled. "Teresa told Bette how interested Addie was in showing dogs and Bette invited us just to observe at that first show. Bette immediately saw Addie's desire and helped her get started showing Jesse."
However, Kirk and Jamie stressed Addie's fascination with learning about and being surrounded by animals doesn't end with show dogs.
"I like cats, and horses and all kinds of animals," Addie said. "I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up."
"She's wanted to be a veterinarian before she could even pronounce it," Kirk said.
Top Notch Kennel
Kirk and Jamie realized Hartselle needed a loving place to board animals when they began taking their family pets all the way to a kennel in Toney, located in northern Madison County, to be boarded.
"We just never anticipated how much of a need," Jamie said. "We have been very blessed in our new venture so far, mostly through word-of-mouth and referrals from local veterinarians."
Kirk and Jamie discovered and remodeled the building on Highway 36, which once served as a kennel many years ago.
The updated facility features a grooming area for baths and nails, toy baskets for furry visitors, a refrigerator and microwave for homemade meals, a secure play yard, a cat boarding room, and extra large dog kennel runs.
The kennels have inside and outside runs heated and cooled with constant ventilation to prevent illness.
Top Notch offers long and short term boarding for dogs and cats, as well as doggie day care. For rates and information, call 773-8686.
"Over 50 percent of our customers had never boarded their family pets before," Jamie said. "Now they're regulars. Since most of the animals who come here are inside pets, they're used to constant attention. We give it to them. I think the dogs' favorite part of the stay is the bedtime cookie I give them."
"We truly have dogs who don't want to leave," Kirk said.
And, who knows, pets might even learn a trick or two during their stay.
"I teach the dogs a few commands sometimes," Addie admitted. "I like to see what they can learn."
"I have customers call and ask to make sure Addie will be here to play with their pets," Jamie said. "They're always amazed by how good she is with them, especially the ones who say their pet has never liked children–until they met Addie."
Making the goal
While Addie has mostly attended dog shows in Alabama, she and her parents plan to start attending shows throughout the southeast in the near future.
"Addie learns so much by showing Jesse," Jamie said. "She has to train and groom her, be prepared to show her, learn organizational skills, study about her care, learn about competition."
"She's also made a lot of friends at the shows," Kirk said. "It's good for her to be with peers who share her interests."
Addie's most recent show was the 11th annual Cotton Cluster Dog Show, an AKC all-breed dog show, Nov. 4-7 in Priceville, sponsored by the Decatur Alabama Kennel Club and Huntsville Kennel Club.
Seven groups took turns parading before judges at the Celebration Arena. More than 1,550 handlers from 40 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were eligible to compete in the four-in-one show event.
"This is a great show to attend for spectators or handlers," Jamie said.
"It's a large show with well-known names attending. And the best part is it's such a reputable show so close to home."

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