Fetch! pet care ventures north with first Alaska franchise


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Susan Baker left an IT job in Fairbanks to follow her love of animals into opening the first Fetch! franchise in Alaska.

Michael Dinneen/AJOC

Susan Baker was an animal lover with a background in biology working in IT in Fairbanks last December. In May, she became an animal lover with a pet care business, Fetch!, in Anchorage.

“I’ve told people my entire life that my favorite souls are children and pets,” Baker said. “They’re honest and they give you that true friendship and they don’t have a voice for themselves.”

She takes her shelter-rescued Belgian Malinios, similar to a German Sheppard, Brodie, nearly everywhere, she said.

“I hate leaving (Brodie) if I don’t have someone I completely trust, usually family,” Baker said.

She said most pet owners she knows feel the same way.

Baker was surfing the Internet when she stumbled across Fetch!, a national pet care chain with approximately 1,500 locations and none in Alaska — until now. Her interest in Fetch! was originally to have an enjoyable part-time job caring for pets. With Fetch! having no Alaska locale, that wasn’t going to work, so Baker decided to move to Anchorage and start her own business.

“Never in my life did I think I’d be owning my own business,” she said.

Baker opened May 15. Currently Fetch! covers Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer through Baker’s pet sitting team. While dog sitting is the most popular service requested, Baker said her team will make “pet visits” to walk dogs for people who are home but can’t otherwise provide their animals with exercise they need, such as the elderly or someone extremely busy with work for a spell.

She said starting a business through a franchise allows her to focus on the operations of the business — the pet care — while people with a business background and interest handle the business details.

“Business is one thing. Why you’re in the business is the important thing,” Baker added. “And I love pets.”

Fetch! CEO Paul Mann said the corporate side of the company makes starting a branch a “turnkey operation” and takes care of marketing, training, requisite insurance and an overall business plan.

“(The franchise) allows the business owner to consistently provide the highest quality of pet care possible,” Mann said.

Mann started the first Fetch! in Berkeley, Calif., in 2002 after searching unsuccessfully for someone to care for his dog and two cats. All the pet care services he found at the time were booked up or didn’t cover the area in which he lived.

The business expanded to San Diego in 2004 and grew from there, Mann said.

While Baker was in California for training in preparation for opening her Fetch! in Anchorage, she met with Mann. He said he’s excited to expand the business to Alaska and to have her leading the way.

“(Baker) understands the needs of the Alaska market,” he said.

One of Baker’s former employers was a recreational musher in Fairbanks, and she was able to care for the dog team several times while her boss was away. Baker said she jumped at the opportunity and sees dog team care as a way Fetch! can offer a service unique to Alaska — or at least the northern states. Eventually, Baker said she hopes to sponsor an Iditarod musher, she said.

“I don’t know of a musher that can take a vacation without knowing another musher who can take care of their team at that time,” she said.

 

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

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