Katie Errigo & Booker

Dogs Katie

Katie’s oversized red sweater and long-sleeved T are from Festoon.

Katie has loved animals all her life. “I always wanted a dog,” she reports. Her dream came true on the final day of middle school. Two weeks earlier, she had selected a Sheltie. “My dad picked me up at school, and we went and got Harry and took him home,” she says of the dog she came to adore. “We enrolled in obedience classes and took lessons in conformation handling,” she recalls. “Then, we discovered agility.”

Katie and Harry loved agility. “I’m a very competitive person, so agility is a good outlet for me. It’s also a lot of fun, and you get good exercise through working with your dog,” she notes. Oftentimes, Katie was the youngest on the course. (As Katie explains, former soccer moms are the mainstays of the sport.) Katie and Harry competed in trials that took them all over the Mid-Atlantic region, including the Shetland Sheepdog Nationals, which were held in Virginia Beach the year Katie and Harry participated. “My dad drove me like a million miles,” she reports, referring to both agility trials and horse shows. “I have the most supportive parents who have helped me achieve my dreams,” she says of Chip and Judy Errigo.

No one would have guessed the young girl zipping around the agility course had been born with a congenital heart defect. “I had to have my mitral valve repaired when I was three,” Katie reports. The surgery, performed at Hershey Medical Center, was groundbreaking in its day. “It was the first time valves were being repaired and not replaced in children,” she explains. She continues to see her cardiologist every two years. “I just had an appointment and was told my heart is the best it has ever looked.” She attributes the glowing diagnosis to always being on the move and a steady diet of fruit and vegetables.

After reaching the top level of AKC Excellent, Katie noticed a change in Harry. “Intuition told me something was wrong,” she explains. Katie and her parents took Harry to the vet, who delivered a cancer diagnosis. “That was on a Thursday. He did exploratory surgery on Monday. Harry died on the table,” says Katie, who regrets not being able to say goodbye to her beloved companion. “He was only seven years old.”

Katie sought solace in Hummer, a Sheltie she had acquired to serve as Harry’s companion. She tried to interest Hummer in agility, but the motivation just wasn’t there. “Hummer is happy being a couch potato,” Katie notes. Booker, who is Katie’s first rescue, was a college graduation gift. She hopes to return to the agility circuit with Booker as her partner.

After graduating from Linden Hall, Katie enrolled at Millersville University, where she majored in business management. Throughout high school and college, her love of animals prompted her to work for various kennels and grooming businesses. She also taught classes in agility.

Wanting to utilize her degree, Katie joined the mortgage division of a bank. She maintained contact with Holly Scott, with whom she worked at a kennel, and her mother, Vernetta Julian, who operated a mobile grooming business. Vernetta’s goal was to expand her business. The three came up with the concept of a full-service business that would offer day care, boarding, grooming (on-site and mobile), classes and more. Its name would be The Complete Canine Center.

There was a minor problem. Despite doing their homework and devising a business plan, commercial realtors dismissed them. “Thank goodness for Kristine Lundquist,” Katie says of the residential realtor from Berkshire Hathaway who befriended them. “She was awesome. She went out of her way to show us locations throughout the county,” Katie says.

Kristine unearthed a building in Landisville that once was home to a machine shop. “It was quite rough, but we saw potential in the space,” Katie reports. To save money, the new owners did the demo work themselves, as well as painted and installed astro turf. Contractor Larry Zeiset and Sycamore Builders created the specified spaces in the 5,500-square-foot building that provides them with room to grow. The Complete Canine Center opened in December 2013. “It was a tough winter,” Katie says. “Opening in the industry’s slow season, we had many challenges to overcome.”

Thanks to “amazing clients,” the center is thriving. Clients who utilize day care primarily hail from the Hempfield area, Manheim Township, Lititz, Mount Joy and Manheim. Classes attract students from all over the county. Pet parents tend to utilize the day-care center on a regular basis. “People feel bad about leaving their dogs alone all day,” Katie says. “They can come here and play with their friends and receive some training. We love the dogs that come here. They all have their own personalities.” Canine birthday parties have become popular, and the center also hosts Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s parties for its clients.

While their clients are loved, pampered and yes, spoiled, the center’s owners are cognizant of the fact that so many dogs are homeless. In response, they support rescue groups and other pet-related causes such as The Pet Pantry. During the holidays, clients made contributions to the “Giving Tree” that was displayed in the lobby. “We feel fortunate to have the support we’ve received in the past year,” says Katie. “It’s our way of giving back.”

The Complete Canine Center, 99 Elmwood Ave., Landisville. 898-2565 or Thecompletecaninecenter.com




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