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Hey everyone! I’m Erin and I live in Madison in the Kelly Woods subdivision. I am a stay-at-home mom, so rest assured your pups will get all the love and attention they deserve!

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Prepare for Summer Boarding

With Spring Break and summer vacations around the corner it is never too early to start thinking about what to do with your beloved pet during your travel time. Boarding a pet can be a stressful time for not only the pet but the owners as well. Traditional kennels can leave pets stressed and owners feeling guilty for leaving their beloved pets in a small crate for a week. A great alternative to the traditional boarding that kennels offer is a home boarding facility. Home boarding facilities offer a home away from home for your pet. While you are on vacation, your pet will feel at home in a safe and caring environment. A good reputable home care facility will have the specialized care that your pet requires. This care includes the caregivers are certified in pet CPR and first aid and are dog behavior specialists. A good reputable facility will take the time for a meet and greet before drop off. This ensure both your pet and the facility have reviewed the needs of your pet and are prepared to adapt your pet socially with the other pets staying at the facility. This personalized care allows your pet to stay in his normal routine and helps keep your pet stress free and happy. In addition, a good facility will provide daily updates or photos of your pet while you are away.

Some quick tips for finding the perfect boarding facility

  • The facility has a valid insurance plan
  • Their website is up and running with good reviews and plenty of personal references
  • Plan ahead, when you start planning your vacation is the perfect time to plan your pet’s care
  • The facility is active in the community
  • The facility is certified in pet CPR and First Aid
  • The care givers have a strong background in canine body language and behavior and are professional

Boarding your pet doesn’t have to be a stressful time. With some careful planning and the right boarding environment your pet will enjoy your vacation as much as you!

Petz Carlton wins customer service award

MADISON –Mike and Melissa Cox, owners of Petz Carlton pet-sitting community received the “Best Customer Service” award in Huntsville.

Alcova Mortgage sponsored the program. Petz Carlton received the award for its “noteworthy fast response time, reliable daily photo updates and stellar customer service to both human and furry clients that brings comfort and peace of mind to clients,” an Alcova spokesperson said.

Petz Carlton uses safety procedures and screening processes that set them apart from the competition. “We provide a client’s furry family a home away from home so clients can enjoy a guilt free vacation,” Melissa said.

Petz Carlton’s amenities include nail trimming and painting, bathing, nose and pad care.

The Cox family pets are Kya, two-year-old Irish Wolfhound; Lily, three-year-old Shih Tzu; and Izzy, eight-year-old American Eskimo.

To schedule meet-and-greet time, call 256-682-4078, email to or visit

Original Article: 

Petz Carlton wins customer service award

Melissa Cox likes town’s community-mindedness

MADISON – A native of Jackson in south Alabama, Melissa Cox graduated from the University of South Alabama with honors in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

To pursue her career, Melissa moved to Madison and met future husband Michael, a longtime Madison resident. They married in 2009; their son Wyatt is two years old.

“Madison, although more heavily populated, provides Southern hospitality I’ve grown to love from my small hometown. Madison has much more entertainment, restaurants and culture,” Melissa said.

Residents’ community-minded, generous spirit has encouraged the Coxes to get involved. “This community has been so good to us. We’re constantly looking for ways to give back,” Melissa said.

Melissa works as a software engineer for SAIC but in 2013 founded Petz Carlton, “Your Dog’s Home Away From Home”. “We board dogs in our homes. We treat them like part of our family and provide daily photo updates to the pup’s parents,” she said.

In 2015, Michael “decided to abandon his career and become Petz Carlton full time. He has applied his sales and marketing experience to grow our company to seven Tennessee Valley locations,” Melissa said.

The Coxes often hold charitable fundraisers. Mike recently launched the first Petz Panty at an event and collected an entire truckload of food for local shelters. Barks and Boo’s in October will help the American Cancer Society.

“We’re trained in canine body language in behavior … to interpret the emotional state of the client’s pup and create a calm, stress-free environment,” Melissa said. “We train and insure ‘hosts’ that represent our service.” They want to hire five new hosts.

“My husband interviews each host and performs a site evaluation. I analyze their pup’s temperament (for sociability),” she said.

Kya, their gentle-giant Irish wolfhound and their Shih Tzu, Lily, “are stars of a coloring book, ‘How to Safely Greet Dogs.’ We offer free demonstrations in schools. Kya attends so children can practice illustrated techniques. Her size and gentle nature are well received by kids and teachers,” Melissa said.

Melissa and Mike frequent local breweries and food trucks for entertainment. They enjoy local performers, like Dave Anderson. They fish, kayak and visit with friends and family.

“We look forward to many more years of work and play in this wonderful community,” Melissa said.

Furry Friends Foster Fitness

by Sarah Schmidt

Dozens of scientific studies conducted over the past decade show that pets are more than just furry friends; they actually add years onto the life expectancy of their owners. In addition, pets significantly improve their owners’ quality of life and contribute to their overall health in surprising ways. For example, one study showed that just a few minutes of petting your dog releases endorphins that lower your blood pressure by as much as 10 points.

The science is so convincing that the American Heart Association made headlines recently when it released a statement saying that owning a pet — particularly a dog — could help lower your risk of heart disease“Not surprisingly, dog owners who walk their dogs are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity than dog owners who do not walk their dogs,” the AHA said, citing one study of 5,200 Japanese dog owners who were found to be 54 percent more likely than non-dog owners to get regular, sustained periods of exercise.

LEAN-FurryFriends-image2“Pets also play a role in providing social support to their owners, which is an important factor in helping you stick with a new habit or adopting a new healthy behavior,” the AHA said. Some data even suggested a relationship between pet ownership and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, leading the AHA to note that pet owners who suffered from cardiovascular disease were more likely than non-pet owners to survive heart attacks.

The data proves what Melissa Cox, owner and founder of the Huntsville-based home boarding facility Petz Carlton, sees in practice every day. With Petz Carlton’s five locations across north Alabama, Cox works with dozens of pet owners weekly. She says pets improve both the physical and mental health of their owners.

“They give people, who are able, a reason to be physically active; they provide companionship and unconditional love that’s good for the mind and soul. They can even be conversation icebreakers and help people develop relationships with one another,” Cox said.

Cox should know. Her clients often call her “the dog whisperer” because she has such a remarkable connection with dogs. It comes naturally as the daughter of R.F. Dickey, a three time world champion breeder and handler. Cox has been raising and training dogs all her life.

“I’ve seen people who struggle with OCD or depression handle their symptoms better from owning a pet,” Cox said. When one of her clients was diagnosed with ALS last year, his wife adopted a retired Corgi show dog as a surprise. The relationship has been nothing short of inspiring, Cox said.

“She [the Corgi] knows when he is feeling down and will offer him her favorite toy. She licks his hands because she’s learned that he no longer has full use of them; she alerts his wife when he needs help getting out of his chair or bed,” Cox explained.

LEAN-FurryFriends-grouppic1That kind of unconditional love is exactly what the studies cited by the AHA found so beneficial to pet owners. Connecting with a pet, just like any enjoyable activity, lowers stress levels. Less stress, reduced anxiety and lower blood pressure all contribute to improved heart health. Cox offers these tips on how best to connect with your dog for maximum physical and mental benefits.

– Play like a kid: Run around in the yard; throw a ball; play chase. Dogs remind us to live in the moment and enjoy life to the fullest.

– Walk or jog: Walking of course is great exercise, but your dog needs it too. Get out and explore your neighborhood. Check out a dog park. Go hiking. Sporting dogs appreciate keeping up with you on a trail.

– Swim: Most dogs love water, so a day at the lake can be fun for you and your dog.

– Advance to complex: Agility trials with multiple obstacles might be a good option if you have an active dog. Agility courses require you to jog along beside your dog and give hand cues. It’s a good cardio workout!

Whatever you do, Cox says the bond pet owners make with their pets produces unconditional love like none other. “No matter what we’re wearing or what we look like, no matter how much money we have or the car we drive, our dogs provide a sense of acceptance that is judgement-free,” she said.

Precious Pets

An Interview with Paris

Paris, featured in Edgewater Living boast about her stay, spa treatments and pampered visit to the Petz Carlton while her parents are on travel. In the magazine, Paris’s photo is featured. This photo was taken at the Petz Carlton as part of their complimentary “Puttin’ on the Ritz” photo session. Paris really puts life as a Petz Pup in the spotlight and will always be Petz Royalty.

Barks and Boo’s 2018

Barks and Boo’s provides Halloween fun for dogs, humans

HUNTSVILLE — The fourth annual Barks and Boo’s event, hosted by Petz Pack and Rocket 95.1, saw plenty of smiling faces and wagging tails at Big Spring Park Oct. 13.

Hundreds brought their costumed furry friends to the park downtown for an afternoon of games, raffles and costume contests benefiting the American Cancer Society and the Huntsville area’s Relay for Life. Vendors were also present. The event was free to attend, pay to play. Melissa Cox, founder of Petz Pack, said the event raised about $3,200.

“This year’s turnout was astounding,” said Cox. “The only complaint we received was the length of the line to get in. … Everywhere you looked, there was a dog participating in one of the games, and everyone had a great time.”

Games and activities this year included returning favorites such as Bobbin for Hot Dogs, the PupCake Walk and the Treat Stacking competition. The PupCake Walk, sponsored by A Barker’s Dozen, allowed players to win cupcakes for their dogs to enjoy. Cox said this year’s event also saw the addition of several new activities: High Five for Treats, Stay for Treats, the Cup Game, Which Hand, Ball Catch, Down for Treats, Sit for Treats and Expert Tricks.

Raffles were held throughout the event. Cox said her husband, Michael, gathered more than $3,000 worth of prizes from local businesses. Raffle and contest prizes this year included treats, toys, goodies for humans and prize packs such as the “evening with your dog” pack and Tito’s gift bag. Local author Catherine L. Knowles donated signed copies of her book, “The Doughnut Tree.”

The main event of the afternoon was the costume contest, with Michael Cox and Rocket 95.1’s Marsha Seymour serving as emcees. Dogs could enter in three categories: cutest, scariest and best overall. Many dogs strutted their stuff and showed off a wide range of costumes to earn the top prizes.

The winners of the cutest costume were doggy duo Henry VIII and Buddy, who were dressed as Henry VIII and his executioner. The scariest costume went to Kayla Stuart’s dog Ollie, who was dressed as classic villain Freddy Krueger from the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film series.

Best overall costume was awarded to three-legged pirate dog Rain. Rain’s owner, Jennifer Bethig, dressed Rain up in a pirate outfit and turned a wagon into Rain’s pirate ship. The winning feature, however, was Rain’s wooden leg. Bethig said Rain lost a leg to cancer, which made the event’s donations to the American Cancer Society even more meaningful.

“It is our hope that the monies from efforts such as these will bring us that much closer to a cure for humans and canines alike,” Cox said. “Canines are caregivers for cancer patients, too. This was a celebration of our furry family in the fight against cancer.”

Cox said Petz Pack looks forward to continuing Barks and Boo’s for years to come and will keep working to grow and improve each year.

To view more photos and a video of the event, courtesy of Pixel Joe’s Photography and Video, visit the Barks and Boo’s Facebook event page.

To learn more about Petz Pack, visit

Link to article:

What is the Dominance Theory?

We’ve all heard the popular explanations for canine behavior. “He is trying to be alpha” or, “He is showing his dominance”. Or, my favorite: “You must show your dog who’s boss.” Everything from aggression to nuisance behavior is explained away using this alpha dog logic which came from antiquated studies of captive, unrelated wolves. The study suggested a rigid social hierarchy maintained by aggression. However, more recent research has revealed:

  • The natural social grouping of wolves is actually based on co-operative family members with very little aggression
  • Studies of interactions between dogs show no evidence of fixed ‘hierarchical’ relationships
  • There is no research to support that dogs even consider humans as part of their social structure to dominate

In fact, a true leader (dominant) dog is calmer, more confident, socially balanced and less aggressive, not more. Veterinarian behaviorists seem to understand two crucial aspects of our canine counterparts:

  • Aggressive displays largely stem from fear or anxiety
  • Most behaviors are learned responses

Aggressive displays are often used as a tool to create distance. Since, at the root of all canine communicationthere is one goal: To avoid conflict. Many under- socialized dogs feel extreme anxiety with the proximity of other canines. Each time an anxious dog uses an aggressive display and successfully creates the distance he needs, his use of it is reinforced. The aggressive display becomes a learned behavior because what gets rewarded gets repeated. Fortunately, ANY learned behavior can be unlearned once we stop attributing dominance as the ‘catch all’ explanation. Incorrectly ascertaining that a behavior comes from a dog’s desire to dominate usually leads to force based training methods which can largely exacerbate the behavior or worse – damage the dog’s relationship with his handler. Instead, methods that use positive reinforcement are gaining popularity- as well they should! We’ve all had that horrible boss that only harped on the bad and never acknowledged the good. Just as you attract more bees with honey; your dog learns faster and is more motivated to please when you consistently reward the behaviors that you want to see. That’s true leadership!

What is on Leash Agression?

A reader submits: My dog meets and plays so well with other dogs at the dog park. But when he meets another dog on leash, he acts completely different. He has even attempted to bite a dog. What is wrong with him?
On leash aggression is a common behavior. A lot of dogs who are fine with other dogs when left to their own devices, can suddenly become aggressive when meeting on leash. In fact, the behavior is so common; I simply never
allow my dogs to meet other dogs this way.
Now, some readers may be thinking: If the owner knows their dog has on leash aggression, then THEY should prevent THEIR dog from meeting on leash. My dog’s an angel and this doesn’t apply to me. Unfortunately, that’s
where they’d be mistaken. Dogs communicate with one another through body language; primarily the use of ‘calming signals’. This language has at the root of it one beautiful purpose: To communicate peaceful intentions in order to avoid conflict.
When a dog is on leash however, his natural body language can be unintentionally inhibited by his handler. This is where we can start running into a communication breakdown. The improper application of tension on the leash or the use of harnesses that encourage pulling behavior can cause
your dog to posture against their restraint. This often looks to the other dog like an aggressive, forward advance and sadly, initiates the most altercations.
Now you can see how even the most happy go lucky dog, pulling enthusiastically in the direction of his potential new playmate is communicating ineffectively. The other, also restrained dog feels anxiety from being approached in this manner, but is unable to create the needed distance and will be much more likely to react. So, it isn’t that either dog is aggressive. Instead, one has been ‘backed into a corner’ and is merely protecting himself from a perceived threat. It is, on the head of the
handler who has unknowingly creating a situation between the two leashed dogs that would have never existed without human interference.

The Importance of Early Experiences

Reader: “I have a giant breed dog. The breeder advised me to socialize him early and often. What ways do you suggest and what should I avoid?”
Dear reader, I too have a giant breed, an Irish Wolfhound named Kya; they should meet! A dog’s sensitive socialization period is between the ages of 3 weeks to 3 months. It is during this time that they learn what is safe and what is scary. This is one of the reasons why we do not have wild animals running to greet us from the woods! Therefore, it is crucial for canines to be gradually habituated and exposed to a variety of objects, sounds, environments, new dogs and new people. Puppies that do not receive adequate environmental enrichment and socialization can grow up to be fearful or even aggressive once they reach developmental maturity (24 months).
To keep your pup properly socialized, I would find a reputable daycare program in your area. If you can find a program tailored to puppies, even better! When selecting a daycare, ensure the care provider is well versed in canine body language and behavior. Initial experiences should be carefully monitored so they learn that other dogs are safe, not scary. It’s for this reason I gently recommend avoiding dog parks; leave these early experiences to the professionals. Since giant breeds have open growth plates, I would pay attention to the structures in the play area. Equipment that fosters excessing jumping is not appropriate for these breeds.
Also, create regular opportunities for your pup to meet new people. Tall and short, male and female – your pup is generalizing their knowledge that all humans are friendly and safe!
Environmental exposure is just as fundamental to a dog’s development and overall balance. Play a fireworks recording at increasing levels of volume while administering treats to lessen the likelihood of a sound phobia later in life. Take them to new places, show them different objects and encourage healthy investigation with rewards and praise. Dogs learn by trial and error, so guard their experiences, create happy associations and have fun with your new puppy!