When Josie Shahabeddin was diagnosed with a health condition that affected her ability to pursue a career in law, it was her new puppy which guided her to her real vocation.
As she began training Lola, a Chow Chow Norwegian Elkhound mix, she discovered a new passion, which led her to set up Positively Pawfect 12 months ago.
Alongside this, the 29-year-old set up Peonies and Pooches, which allows pets to attend weddings.
And just a few months after that, she extended her animal family and launched Longridge Alpacas, offering experiences and visits to see the friendly mammals.
Josie, who lives in Longridge, says: “I originally qualified as a barrister and got called to the Bar at Inner Temple in London.
“During my final year of training I became unwell and was eventually diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and fibromyalgia which impacted on my ability to practice.
"It took me a few years doing different jobs and completing various qualifications to figure out what I wanted to do as a career.
“I have always been an animal lover, having lots over the years – but I never had a dog.
“We got a puppy and instantly fell in love with her, naming her Lola.
“We later discovered her start in life wasn’t great and we suspect she wasn’t old enough to have been separated from her mother and litter mates or even to be sold.
“As a result of this, Lola wasn’t able to learn basic life skills such as bite inhibition, how to communicate and how to manage being on her own.
“My first experience of living with a dog was rather stressful and I wanted to be able to help Lola manage her anxieties and learn some manners.
“Through researching, trying and testing many positive reinforcement based methods, I managed to help Lola become calmer, happier and confident.
“The incredible thing is, whilst I was helping her, she was also helping me by improving my health and wellbeing. Pushing myself to take her out for walks in the countryside when I was in pain or fatigued meant that my physical health improved and coming home to a joyous bundle of fluff after a long day at work undoubtedly cheered me up.
“My fascination with dog training and behaviour led me to discover the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behaviour. I always enjoyed watching her show It’s Me or the Dog and was captivated by how much knowledge and understanding she had about the dog’s mind.
“Having experienced first hand a puppy with emotional and behavioural complexities, I understand the impact this can have on the home life. I trained with the academy on an intense hands-on course, learning about canine psychology, physiology, behavioural management and lots more. I graduated from the course as a positive dog trainer with a distinction.
“I hate the use of punitive training, where animals are punished using shock collars, are hit or screamed at. I wanted to show the difference you can make using kinder methods and rewarding them.
“I then set up Positively Pawfect, with classes at Grimsargh Village Hall on Tuesday evenings and at Good Dogs Daycare, at the Capitol Centre, on Wednesday evenings. I am very open with my clients about my health and I am able to run the business when I am well enough.”
Adding to her passion for training animals, she set up Peonies and Pooches, where she guides pets through a couple’s wedding day.
She adds: “Lots of people like their pets to go to weddings but it is not feasible.
“But I can help the owners train their dogs so they can attend and we also help to look after them whilst at the wedding.
“We offer a consultation to check the dog is okay and would not be too stressed. We are very honest if they are not able to do it, as we don’t want to put them under any extra stress.
“If the animals are okay, we can train them to walk down the aisle with the bridesmaids, be a ring bearer or have their photos taken with the couple.
“I can also look after the pet for a few days while the couple go away.
“I think having pets and animals at weddings is on the rise. Owners want to take them everywhere with them as they are a big part of the family.
“They want to have their special pictures with their pets.”
Finally, last May, Josie achieved a long running dream of owning alpacas and she set up a site for them in Brabiner Lane, Whittingham.
She began operating under Longridge Alpacas last month.
She adds: “My love of animals doesn’t stop with dogs and keeping alpacas has been a dream for my husband and I for a long time.
“They are such beautiful and calming animals that have amazingly distinct personalities. I love how endearing and nosey they are. They are amazing animals to be around and are so calm and relaxing. If I am not having a good day with my health, I will go and see them.
“I began my research by reading lots of books and information on the internet, at which point I was hooked and decided it was definitely time to add to our family.
“I couldn’t wait so I reached out to some alpaca owners not so far from me and asked them lots of questions and I learnt so much from their experience and expertise. We then found a reputable breeder, got our four alpaca boys and set up their new home.
“As I am a positive trainer, our alpacas are trained using positive reinforcement and are handled daily to ensure they are happy, relaxed and comfortable around people, noises and strange environments.
“I take them to events, such as agricultural shows, and we do a lot of activities with them. People can come to us and walk them. I want to do therapy with them, but they are not ready yet.
”I am also training them to be ready for weddings, but have some bookings for spring and summer time.
“They are a different type of entertainment and bring something unique to a wedding.
“In fact, I wanted alpacas at mine, but I was unable to get any. As luck would have it, there were Highland cows in the fields at our venue, The Ashes Barns Country House, in Staffordshire. I actually electrocuted myself trying to get a photo of them.”
Josie is now celebrating Positively Pawfect’s first birthday by hosting a fund-raiser party at Grimsargh Village Hall this Sunday, January 27.
The party, from 1pm until 4pm, will include a mini dog show, stalls related to canine health, training and fun, refreshments and a raffle.
All money raised will go towards Dog A.I.D (Assistance In Disability) and there will be a separate collection of pet items and food for Preston and District RSPCA branch, in Ribbleton to prepare for its reopening.
Josie adds: “I wanted to have a celebration for the first year of the business and thought it would be great to meet some of my past clients again and see how their dogs have grown.
“It would also be a great way of getting together with other dog-related businesses and helping promote each other.
“Dog A.I.D is close to my heart, in that it is training dogs to help people with disabilities. With the Preston branch closed, I wanted to do a small collection for when it does reopen.”