EASY MAGAZINE: The Barbadian dog whisperer
Stefan Phillips admitted that he always had a way with animals from a tender age. He said his great aunt taught him “a thing or two” about raising sheep, goats and turtles and his love for animals blossomed.
The former Deighton Griffith student knew he wanted a career that would allow him to play and take care of animals but he was unsure of what particular area to specialise in. First he went into the field of veterinary medicine but that was not to be his ultimate path.
“I actually wanted to be a vet at first so I used to volunteer at a pet clinic in Graeme Hall, Christ Church, every week and eventually I got to work there on weekends. When I finished school I got the opportunity to work as a veterinarian technician but for some reason I was not satisfied.
“I studied animal psychology overseas and realised I wanted to do more than help a sick animal . . . . I wanted to care for them and be more involved in their lives.”
Stefan is now a dog groomer, personal pet sitter and trainer and owner of Paws R Us dog hotel, but before all that, he and his family rescued dogs.
“I felt like a hero rescuing dogs on the roadside; it was rewarding rescuing animals in bad situations. We saved animals that got stuck in wells and rescued those being abused by their owners. And we got attached to them and moved them in right away,” he said. When EASY magazine visited the six-year-old hotel at Featherbed, St John, Stefan was surrounded by cheerful, crazy-cute and cuddly creatures.
He emphasised that the frisky animals were more than man’s best friend. He said dogs and humans have a mutual and dynamic relationship which has led to the creation of animal rights in certain countries in the world. He said the bond between the two was so strong that dogs are treated like humans and are seen as family members.
The 28-year-old has earned a name for himself in this field of work to the point that he has been deemed the local “dog whisperer”. The dog expert has 22 dogs and has a long list of clients. While tending to one of his clients’ puppies, a fluffy and energetic poodle named Indi, Stefan discussed the nature of his job and traits of his favourite animals.
“Dogs feed off their owners’ personalities,” he said. “So if you are outgoing and have a bright personality they generally fit right into your family and that is the case with me.”
In addition, Stefan said that as an owner, being in command does not equate with being aggressive. He explained that an owner can show their dominance without being brutal. He said it takes patience and devotion to do what he does.
“This job is not for everyone; before a dog is trained it is like a baby and any parent knows it takes tolerance when nurturing a child. Over the years I have found that bigger dogs are some of the most loving and friendly animals, contrary to popular belief. Most people run from danger but I am quite opposite – I run to it.
“When I see a problem which needs to be fixed I have an urge to find a solution. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and try to understand why your dog is acting up. That is why I enjoy helping people understand their dog,” he said.
On January 28 a pack of dogs took the life of an elderly woman.
“Some people believe aggression depends on the breed of the animal and that is not always the case; it doesn’t matter if it is a German shepherd or Jack Russell . . . . Your dog’s personality can change so much so that he would fight other dogs out of competition and for a challenge.”
He stressed the recent mauling of Verona Gibson painted dogs in a negative manner but they needed to be recognised for the good they do in the community and the positive impact they have on human life.
“Dogs are not only good at playing fetch or chewing on slippers,” he said, “They are intelligent creatures who do remarkable things. Detection dogs are trained to use their sense of smell to find drugs and other illegal substances.
“Service dogs assist the visual impaired crossing the street. Search and rescue dogs are used to find missing people or help lifeguards in the water. Guard dogs deal with intruders, therapeutic dogs give support and comfort, acting dogs entertain us and herding dogs help farmers with their cattle.” (SB)