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Community Highlights: Meet Laraine Wilkinson of Two Chicks and a Pack

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laraine Wilkinson.

Hi Laraine, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Thank you for having me. I am the Founder and Owner of Two Chicks and a Pack and I am thrilled to share my background with your readers. The story of Two Chicks and a Pack began in early 2017, during what was admittedly an incredibly challenging time in my life. I was traveling a lot for a corporate job that was in the midst of a terrible merger. I’d recently separated from my husband and moved to an apartment complex in Inman Park with my two 90lb. sibling white Shepherd/Labrador mixes, Chico & Lucy – my first time ever living alone. I found myself throwing the dogs in my truck daily to find peace in the woods and surround myself with nature. These hikes became longer and longer as I realized the joy of watching them play and using their brain searching for critters and sticks. I wondered; how could I experience this sense of freedom every day?

In the evenings, I’d meet up with friends in the dog park and hear from many who were struggling with canine behavioral issues. These owners’ schedules couldn’t accommodate lengthy exercise sessions for their pets, and dog walkers or doggy daycare simply weren’t enough. Dogs are like people, and each requires a different approach to physical, social, and mental activity. While some dogs are content with a daycare environment or a quick jaunt around the neighborhood, others do better outside being active in a structured environment with other people and dogs. I saw an opportunity to combine my love for the outdoors and animals with the need to help other dogs and owners escape the pressures and challenges of their day-to-days, too.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
By far, the biggest challenge since opening has been dealing with the uncertainty and operation of the business through the Coronavirus pandemic. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I struggled with how to stay open but quickly came to the realization that I had to pause all our adventures. It wasn’t clear at the time if dogs were affected, but since we also provide concierge pick-up and drop-off services, going into homes for transport was simply too risky for our team and clients. From February to July 2020, I decided to shut down.

As fate would have it, my female pup had to have surgery right when the pandemic hit. The recovery process was tough, especially for an active dog like Lucy, so the rehabilitation period of 16+ weeks just so happened to fall in line with my business closing. It provided me with the time I needed to give her the love and attention required to heal. During the downtime, I also powered through administrative items for the business like building a website, and dove into studying dog behavior, various training theories, trail safety, and became re-certified in Dog CPR and Wilderness First Aid through PetTech.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Two Chicks and a Pack is a premier, mobile dog-hiking adventure company for Atlanta’s city-dwelling dogs. We pick up and drop off from homes and daycares in and around the Atlanta area for half-day hikes Monday through Friday each week. We service all areas within the perimeter of Atlanta and have over thirty National, State, and local community parks that we travel to. We are licensed, bonded, and insured, and our handlers are PetTech-certified in Dog CPR and First Aid.

Our business is about quality, not quantity. I keep our packs small with a maximum of three dogs per handler. Each adventure is customized based on the dogs that are hiking with us each week. Dog composition, behavior, size, and breed all play a role in who is coming out with us each day. Our philosophy? Let dogs BE dogs out on the trail. It’s their time and we are merely there to make it fun, safe, and enjoyable for each of them.

Before joining, I personally conduct a meet and greet with every new client. I pick up and drop off the first few times to ensure the dogs are comfortable with me, warm up to our other handlers, and become familiar with our transport process. We use multiple vehicles to limit the amount of time our dogs are on the road, which means more time out on the trails to explore and be a dog with their friends.

Integration of all new dogs happens naturally out on the trails, which allows them to socialize on their own, at their own pace. Under the supervision of a handler, we often start introductions with one of our more experienced pack members. I have “ambassador” dogs, such as our long-time hiker Kai, a Sheepadoodle, that we swear explains our business to the newbies better than we do. This has been a tried-and-true method and we have never had a dog fight. We don’t allow our dogs to socialize with other dogs outside of our pack on the trails, reducing any risk of incident. Out of respect and safety for fellow hikers, we also take our dogs off trail to allow them to pass by our pack naturally.

Oh, and did I mention that our clients are REALLY good-looking? So it’s pretty easy to get lots of pictures for their parents. We send pictures and videos to new pack parents and post our adventures on our social media accounts so families and friends can follow along. Some of our clients are also celebrities on social media, so we try and amp up their social status as best we can.

All in all, we work hard to create a great experience from home to hike and back home again—and it shows. Our clients know when it’s a hike day, and they are always eagerly waiting at the window or door for us. Some of our dogs even know when we turn into a street that we’re picking up their buddy. It’s amazing how dogs can communicate their happiness, smiling ear to ear when it’s their day to hit the trails. And that makes us smile, too.

What matters most to you?
Two Chicks and a Pack is committed to letting dogs be just that—dogs. Dogs live a fraction of the time that we do, yet they provide us with unconditional love, protection, humor, loyalty, and companionship. They’re integrated into our lives like our children and often treated the same. Yet, they are still canines. They yearn to be outdoors, smelling the earth and each other, learning new experiences, and satisfying their canine instincts. Our hikes cater to their canine desires, helping to achieve balance between the human and canine worlds, so they can be the best dog they can be.

From a human standpoint, safety is our number one goal. From the time we pick up to the time we drop off, I treat every dog as if it is my own while in our care, as do my handlers. Because of our small dog-to-handler ratio, we’re not walking dogs at a fast pace and in a tight pack. We focus on allowing our dogs to wander on-lead to smell different parts of the trail or play with other dogs during our break times. If some of our dogs are off leash approved, they can go swimming in certain parks or run to get their zoomies out. While our pack hikes are structure-based, we cater each adventure to the clients attending that day and still allow ample rowdy time for our more playful pups. The end goal is always the same—provide as much mental, physical, and social stimulation for each dog so they go home relaxed, tired, and content. This makes for a happy pup and even happier pup parents.

Pricing:

  • $65/dog for 1-3 hikes per week
  • $55/dog for 4-5 hikes per week
  • $75/dog for non-weekly hikers
  • $95/dog for custom private hikes
  • Sibling discounts offered rates available

Contact Info:

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