Each day, as we approach Thanksgiving, we will spotlight an animal rescuer who works tirelessly to improve the lives of animals in need. Please join us in giving thanks to these generous, kind, and oh so pawesome folks.
A few months ago a dear friend of mine came back from a long weekend of beach camping bursting with stories about a newly made friend of hers who spends her days working with dogs. My friend spoke so highly of this person and the work that she does that the thought washed over me, “I’m really grateful for people who us their time to work with animals.” So I passed along the idea to the incredible Pawesome crew and before I knew it I was interviewing Nickey Henry, owner of Sid & Tapka’s Dog Walking & Getaway Service for our Thanks For Giving nods this month.
I believe that there are a lot of reasons to be thankful for the people we know who choose to give of themselves to make the lives of the animals we see and love, better. Through my conversation with Nickey, I realized that what I appreciated most about her was that I could tell even without her having to say it in words, just how much joy she brings to the dogs in her life (and vice versa) and how she was able to focus in on that happiness and recognize that it was that joy that was worth taking a chance for. I was thankful for that inspiration.
Nickey has never been a stranger to keeping animals close to her side and reaching out to help them when she could. She had pets while growing up and during her college years at Pratt, she rescued a stray cat off the streets named him Albie and raised him in her dorm until she was busted and had to take Albie home to mom until she was finished school. Years later after Albie had passed, on her way to work one day she noticed a box of kittens in the road, took them to work and made sure every single one of them found a home, taking two home herself. She then went on to adopt two dogs, a Mini Pinscher named Ollie and an Italian Greyhound named Tapka. Not to mention her current cat, Sid.
Her animal-central life became even fuller when one night on her way home from meeting with a new dog-walking client Nickey noticed a man on the street talking to himself, questioning why people would “get an animal if all they wanted to do was abuse it.” As she was the only person walking on the street much less the only person in the vicinity walking a dog Nickey was confused about what the man was talking about and who he was talking to. Then, she spotted a very small animal doing circles in the road. Originally thinking it may have been a rat as she got closer she realized it was a dog. It was a tiny Chihuahua that had just crawled out of a garbage can and emaciated beyond anything she had ever seen. She scooped him up, he leaned against her chest and that is how Bones, her third dog was brought in to her current family of three dogs and one cat.
But loving animals and making them your career in order to share that love with others are two different things. After years working tirelessly in corporate America here in New York no less, Nickey knew that she no longer wanted to spend her days in that environment and behind a desk. Her dog walker at the time encouraged her to think about taking up dog walking herself because she could see how happy having dogs around made Nickey and how much the animals seemed to naturally adore her.
Not really sure what she wanted to do, Nickey finally became fed up with her work situation and left her job. Giving it some thought she knew she wanted to work outdoors and with her hands so she took a stint working in carpentry and then Nickey’s former dog walker announced to her that she was leaving to go back to school and wanted to give all of her clients to Nickey. Her dog walker felt that Nickey was exactly what these dogs needed and knew in her heart it would be an exchange of joy for all parties involved.
Unsure if it was the right thing to do, Nickey agreed to one dog and soon realized that it was the perfect fit that she had been searching for. One pup soon became many more and then she opened up the backyard of her Brooklyn home to them for boarding and daycare and the rest is, well, where she finds herself now. She opened up her home and her backyard to create a dog boarding, dog day care and dog walking extravaganza!
Nickey’s main focus is on her connection with her animals and making sure she is giving back to her community. I have heard her referred to as a “dog whisperer” for her ability to calm animals and instinctively know how to communicate with them. While she doesn’t officially train animals or teach their owners how to train them, if there is a dog who could use some extra-special attention for any issues it may be having she is very giving to recommend other walkers in the area that could help the animal out. Her want is for the animal to be living its best life and if she can’t offer that particular service to them, she wants to be able to help their owner find someone who can. Nickey is a giver in the community of dog-care. “I mean, there are more than enough dogs to go around! There is no reason to be competitive,” she says.
In addition to making sure each of her dogs who are boarding with her or there for daycare get two walks in the middle of each day she also does home visits for dogs who are not boarding with her. While she does have a couple of amazing staff members who are able to assist her with the home-visits Nickey is very hands on and refuses to spend more than one day a week behind a desk. She wants to be walking and caring for the dogs herself and making sure that she is bonding with them.
Her mission statement for her community truly is an inspiring portion of Nickey’s want for a bigger, better dog-centric colony of Brooklyn. She has high hopes to be able to open two other locations in areas of Brooklyn that could use the help. “I am an avid runner and when I’m out running I will see an empty lot or space and think, ‘That would make a great dog park or dog run,’ and I am trying to figure out how to make that happen.” She then adds, “I just saw a big beautiful house with a large backyard for sale in Fort Greene that I would love to be able to purchase it and turn it in to literally, a dog house. I would live in the home but the house would be dedicated to boarding dogs and the daycare of them. Then, I would open up the top floor to college students who could live for free in exchange for their help and also be able to teach them how to build their own dog-walking and dog care businesses and how to properly work with and care for the animals.”
Additionally, Nickey talked about being able to start through her facility a program centered around the kids in her community where she teaches them how to walk dogs and how to interact with them in a positive way. Her thoughts aren’t about making money and becoming a large corporation – they are about giving back to her neighborhood and helping others experience the joy that she feels daily through her work.
“These dogs are always putting things in to perspective for me.” says Nickey. “They live in the moment. If something upsets them, they deal with it right then and there and then they just move on – they are over it. As people, we tend to avoid people or what is agitating us when we fight. Dogs don’t do that. They fight and then they are done and life goes on for them. They let it slide right off of their back and then they are back to living life. They are a constant reminder not to get so annoyed about nothing, it’s just not worth it.”
If boarding, day-caring and walking weren’t enough, Nickey also assists walking foster dogs for free for some of her many friends who are currently fostering dogs. She acknowledges that it takes a lot of heart, hard work and money to foster an animal and is happy to help out.
Through my conversation with Nickey I truly realized that I’m thankful for everyone who gives their heart to making the lives of animals better. While she parlayed her love in to a business I appreciate that her goals are in line with her heart and the future of her business is about finding places and spaces for dogs to run, be loved and be happy and to teach her community how they can have the same. It’s that kind of genuine giving back, pure of heart, which makes me thankful for all of those featured (and not featured) in our Thanks For Giving Series this month.
Images: Nickey Henry
There are more to thank!