Off the leash
Dogs are man’s best friend. The phrase could not be more true for me. Ever since I was a child, dogs have been my greatest companion. With my golden retriever, Sesto, by my side, I feel like I can take on the world.
But when I looked around my supposed “dog-friendly” community and others, I saw room for improvement. So, after 27 years in the advertising industry, I took a leap of faith and went back to school to get my graduate degree in communication.
I was drawn to the social good component in the University of Dayton curriculum and how that closely mirrored my desire to make something life changing. When I started my classes, I felt even more confident that’s why I was put on this Earth.
"When I started my classes, I felt even more confident that's why I was put on this Earth."
Professor Steve Neiheisel’s nonprofit management class changed my trajectory. I had an idea for a nonprofit organization that would gather enough expertise and value to spawn a for-profit business to fully fund my 501(c)(3) work. Neiheisel’s class was where I first pitched the idea for my non-profit, Wagtown, a consulting service to help make communities more dog-friendly. He told me, somewhat skeptically, that it was certainly a different approach, but he believed in me.
My goal in starting Wagtown was to show how dogs make our communities better — and it was time to return the favor. Through my research, I found that dogs were a key factor in impacting the health, safety and economic strength of the lives of their owners, and I wanted to build on that.
After graduating from UD, my dream went full throttle. Wagtown’s pursuit of dog-friendliness in communities across the U.S. included the Wagtown Dog Trail and Barking Spots, a dog walking trail right here in downtown Dayton.
In 2020, I started my for-profit business SMART Dog Park, an online platform with resources for smarter ways to build and maintain better dog parks. I have also helped create a Wagtown K-4 curriculum with PBS teaching kids dog safety and written a children’s book, Tucker Finds His Forever Home.
I’ve been proud of my work, and each day is another step toward my goal. Wagtown is trying to do good work that can be used in communities around the world. When I first started this journey at UD, I wanted to gain the credibility and the tools to just go in the direction of nonprofit work. But little did I know, Dayton was just my launch pad, and the sky’s the limit. - As told to Tori Miller '23
Illustration by Zachary Ghaderi