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updated: 6/21/2011 12:22 PM

Fondness for pets leads to new career

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  • Mike Eckblade of Geneva has opened A New Dog, a dog day care and boarding facility in Geneva. It also features pet grooming by Jennifer Napolitano of Dirty Dog Gone Grooming.

      Mike Eckblade of Geneva has opened A New Dog, a dog day care and boarding facility in Geneva. It also features pet grooming by Jennifer Napolitano of Dirty Dog Gone Grooming.
    Courtesy of Mike Eckblade

 
 

It's never too late to reinvent yourself. With layoffs, downsizing and terminations at an all-time high, and jobs at a record low, many are struggling to keep food on the table and a roof overhead.

Maybe it's time to rewind, take a good look at yourself and come up with a new script and a new image.

It's never too late. Just ask Mike Eckblade.

Many locals are familiar with the Batavia native because of the coins and collectibles business he owned downtown for seven years. We all sympathized when he was bound and held hostage in his business for several hours, while he watched a burglar steal everything in front of him.

"After I sold that business, I worked as a 911 dispatcher for the county sheriff's office," Eckblade said. "Then I became a pharmacy technician and worked for a big box store because I had a family and wanted to spend more time with them.

"My last job was working with insurance and investments and then the economy took a dive. The finance industry was an area that took one of the hardest hits."

For a short amount of time, Eckblade did carpentry and lived a more nomadic lifestyle, taking odd jobs.

"For a while, I was part of the Unemployed of America," he said. "And then a bird cage that I had for sale led to a new career."

Eckblade sold the bird cage to Jennifer Napolitano, a dog groomer who just happened to be looking for rental space for her dog grooming business.

"I hadn't owned a dog in years, because my kids were allergic to them," Eckblade added. "But I had always loved dogs and dogs always seemed to sense that and were at ease around me."

And so, a match made in doggy heaven came to be. Eckblade became the head power scooper and Jennifer Napolitano became the "shear maestro" for A New Dog, a luxury boarding, day care and grooming service in Geneva.

"I even employ my nephew, James Eckblade, as my vice president in charge of pile management," Eckblade added.

The large 7,500-foot facility has an indoor play area as well as an area outdoors for the dogs. Each dog is also exercised on a leash according to the owner's schedule.

"Schedules are important for dogs," Eckblade said. "I only sleep about two to three hours a night, so if we have a dog that needs medication during the night we'll do that, We provide 24 hour-a-day care."

There are 35 rooms with themes ranging from Bart Simpson to the Chicago Bears.

What? Where are the Lassie, Marmaduke or "Lady and the Tramp" rooms?

"We do have a Diva room and the first occupant ended up being a small male Yorkie because the owner's daughter loved the space," Eckblade said. "The Military room and the Comic Book room have also been very popular."

According to Eckblade, the space is really designed to attract the owners, but there are items incorporated into the space to make it more comfortable for the dogs.

"Dog owners can bring in their own beds but we have ergonomically designed beds that are very comfortable for the dogs," he said. "Each space is its own room. There aren't any chain link fences separating spaces, and all the rooms are climate controlled."

For those dogs who are able to socialize with other dogs there is play time in the indoor play area, he said.

In Napolitano's business, "Dirty Dog Gone Grooming," the clientele expands beyond cats and dogs with ferrets and rabbits in the mix. The groomer has also bathed a 40-pound brown skunk (de-scented) for a gentleman from Tennessee. There are spa facilities if you have a dog that is in need of a pedicure.

Napolitano has the distinction of being named one of the top three groomers in Chicagoland by Fox News Chicago.

Mike Eckblade feels that by working with dogs he has found his niche.

"I love it," he said. "That's why I work so many hours. I'm my own boss. I'm really happy."

For details, call (630) 878-3939.

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