Dog Dance Parties, K9 Civil Disobedience, and Dog Island: An interview with the Peaceful Pack
The Peaceful Pack is an animal boarding service located in Johnston that advertises itself as more of a home than a kennel. It is owned and operated by Ashly and Sheila Rose, and they recently invited me into their pack to talk about owning a business, working with your spouse and bringing pups to protests.
Erica Laros: How did the Peaceful Pack start?
Peaceful Pack: We met in 2012. We met and fell in love and we never left each other’s side since the first time we really hung out. That was 2012 and we got married in 2014. Bought the house and started the business in 2015 and six years later … with Max [their Australian Shepard]. We started off with Coco and Max. We had two dogs. We didn’t want to leave them behind and we didn’t want to miss anything. We didn’t want to miss the little footsteps of Max when he was a baby and Coco as an older dog mixing in with him and seeing their connection together. We didn’t want to miss any of that. She [Shay] was working corporate and I [Ash] was home here and we just kind of fell into it almost.
We saw that there was a need and saw there was so much value and appreciation. You know when you do something and it’s different when you have an abstract thought about an idea and then you see the reality of it. Then you see when people have tears in their eyes. You can see that we’re really doing something. That makes a difference for one person and it multiplies.
Even today we saw some dogs and we watched from afar and of course we were interested. We watched for a couple minutes. We saw the owner and hopped out of the car and said hi. We introduced ourselves really quickly and she was like, “This [meeting you] is heaven sent. You just don’t understand.” For us that is big. It makes our whole purpose worth it really.
EL: So were you both dog lovers when you met?
PP: I [Ash] always have been in love with all animals. I’ve been working with horses since I was younger and I was always into animals. And I know Shay had dogs when she was younger as well…
We are both pretty compassionate and sensitive souls. So those topics already– I [Shay] literally cry all the time. I am always involved in something creative or something that touches your soul a little bit deeper. So that is already natural to me to be able to care on that level.
So it’s right in alignment with how we really are essentially and how we like to love. And what we learn from the dogs.
And how we like to live, too.
Because it’s a lifestyle.
We are definitely dog aunties and dog moms all the way.
EL: Tell me a little about how you got the nuts and bolts of the business together. Did you consult a lawyer or friend for help or do it all yourself?
PP: We did everything from the ground up.
Literally learning as you go. Every single day. Even when you feel you have it down you are literally still learning something new.
Everything from talking to other dog boarders to getting a little deeper into that community and learning from them. Exchanging stories and contacts and really piecing things together that work for the way we want to run the business. We want it to feel more homey than a kennel. We don’t want 25 dogs just running in and out. We’re not in it for the money. We’re in it for the connection with the dogs and really serving them and making sure they get the mental exercise and the physical exercise and all the adoration and love they deserve. Because we don’t have long with them. So we have to get it in while we can. [laughs] We want to love them to the fullest. For us that’s an absolute privilege.
Even the fact that we also get to have our own dog [Max] with us makes it that much more fulfilling for us.
EL: Max has so many friends.
PP: Yes! He loves it! And he knows them all by name. Literally you would be so shocked. Every single one, we will name specifically the dog and he [Max] will grab the dog and come back. He has such great talent.
EL: And you’ve taken the dogs to political protests. So they are getting their political action in there.
PP: [Laughs] Yes we have. Protests to Pride events to personal Pride events at clients’ homes where they’ve invited us to parties, and we’ve done some weddings. They’re pretty much with us wherever we are. And we are pretty much nowhere without them. [laughs].
EL: So some dogs got to attend to their first protest.
PP: [Laughs] Yes and they loved it. They learn to relax in the car and manage their state while there is a bunch of hectic things going on outside.
That’s a big deal.
And for them all to be calm and watch everything around them. They’re in on it, and it’s kind of cool to see. We’ve taken them to events and parades and the dogs love it…
They are usually on their best behavior… like sprinkling [magic] dust on them [laughs].
EL: But you do some meditation with the dogs? And sprinkling the magic dust on them? Tell me is there some secret method you use when you have multiple dogs in the house and you want to ‘zen’ them? What’s your secret?
PP: It’s your own inner zen. They feel you as the pack leader — they feel your energy. So if you’re irritated or frustrated and you think it’s in your head and that you can keep it in, they feel all of that. So it’s important to get yourself to a state where you’re like let me relax first, sit down with them, usually it’s being with them present but your inner zen is there. As soon as you are calm, they can feel and it totally resonates with them.
We do have special little tricks though [laughs].
EL: I knew it.
PP: We do a lot of rotating. So meaning that our schedule varies their activities and we keep them busy all day long so when we take a break and sit down they understand the fact that it’s time to relax…We change the atmosphere.
The music changes a little bit. It comes down to music like this [classical] where everyone is learning to relax and be quiet. The lights will come down. We actually did a little experiment the other day to prove our point where we played this type of music [classical] and everything was quiet-quiet-quiet. We had about seven of them that day. They were nice and quiet. Then we flipped it to some of our hip-hop music where we love to jam out and dance and have a fun time and the dogs love it, too. They party.
…We love music therapy with the dogs. We do a little crystal healing. We do mini reiki sessions with the dogs. And we do meditations where we sit together as a pack. That could be anything [like] howling with the dogs– which our neighbors must love [laughs]. So we’ll howl with the dogs and they love it and they’re all riled up and then we’ll rotate into resting and sitting with them and loving on them for a little while. Then they’ll run around outside for a little while and we’ll take them on a little road trip. The varying activities are keeping their minds going, their little souls going…They love the varied activities. They love socializing and seeing other dogs. Six feet away obviously.
EL: Of course. Because dogs totally understand social distancing.
PP: Yes they get it! [laughs].
EL: That’s amazing. What do you find as the biggest challenge of being a business owner?
PP: Trying to meet everyone’s expectations and trying to be available. We’re still just two people even though we want to serve the entire community. You’ll still come across time conflicts. Twelve o’clock is a big, big time everybody wants.
EL: You also live and work in the same place. Do you have to create boundaries for personal space?
PP: We do create some time boundaries where we are open for appointment only.
That’s the best way.
EL: Who does the photography?
PP: We both do pretty much everything. We both work with and handle the dogs throughout the day. She does most of the driving. I’ll do invoices while she drives. We both do everything pretty much together. Any time we try to do anything separate we just come back to the point that we’re a pack and it’s easier for us and it flows better when we’re all together. Even with the dogs. Everything is with them and for them really. So if we’re not all together it doesn’t feel as in sync. So I think we share all of the responsibilities really equally.
EL: What would be your ideal space if money, land and number of dogs were no object?
PP: … [a] place called Rose Island…near Newport…the first idea that popped into my head is a big island with a whole bunch of dogs and us with G wagons. I just see so many dogs in a big field. I don’t know how that’s going to work. [laughs] [We] would need a boat to pick up and drop off the dogs.
EL: Maybe they could make it Dog Island?
PP: Definitely think a farm would be good for us…Little furnished human quality cabins that we would stay in on a big piece of property with big fields to run in and agility courses.
EL: Any parting advice to pet owners?
PP: Listen to your dogs. Learn to understand what they want and what they need. When you make that deep connection with the dogs, you’re able to provide a better life for them. And that’s really what we’re here for as pet owners and pet moms and aunties. As caregivers we’re just here to provide for the dogs. A safe place to play. A place to be happy. [It’s important] to really listen to the dog and connect with the dog’s soul. Not just have a dog. It’s wonderful to have an animal, but it’s incredible to connect with that animal on a deeper level where it’s soul to soul.