Puunene Reunion 2007 Documentary

Sunday, September 22, 2013

All about Pooch Fit -- An Interview with Owner/Runner Dustin Metzler

I was fascinated with the idea: running dogs as a service! It makes me tired just thinking about it, even if the running is at a jogging pace.

So I had to ask Dustin Metzler, owner of Pooch Fit, about it.

Dustin tells us all about how he started the business, how it has affected him, and his hopes for Pooch Fit's future. (And there's an awesome personal announcement at the end.) 

Thanks Dustin, for being a dream interviewee!

So, without further ado:

Q. Have you always wanted to have your own business?

A.  Yes. I think the entrepreneur bug got to me when I was 7. I can thank my mom for that. She was and still is a floral designer. Growing up she had her own business and worked from home. Even at that young age I knew that someday I wanted to have my "own thing." I would grow tomatoes with Dad, and then sell them. There I was at 7 years old with my card table set up by the street along with a scale and the tomatoes. My price was 50 cents a lb. All I remember was the satisfaction that came when a buyer would come by. I WAS IN BUSINESS!! It was in the middle of the day in the summer in the midwest. I'm pretty sure that mom was inside feeling sorry for me. She probably got on the phone and asked the neighbors to stop by. :)

In middle school I remember going to Sam's Club and buying a large bag of gum balls. I broke it down and went to school with about 20 sandwich size bags full of candy. There I would sell the individual bags to the kids at school. I thought it was awesome that I could more than triple my investment and make a nice profit. This lasted all of one week before I was sent in to see the principal.

Most of the jobs I've had since reaching adulthood haven't been the most fulfilling. I was always drawn and inspired to find something I could call my own.

Dustin with his Pooch Fit friend Stan

Q. How did you get the idea of Pooch Fit?

A. I was training for the 2012 Maui Marathon. I decided on January 1st last year that I would do it. For me, running 26 miles was a personal thing. It was a small way to remember and pay honor to my Dad who passed away 10 years ago... on the same month as the marathon.

Throughout the year I would constantly run by homes and see dogs in their backyard or kennel. I've always had an affinity for dogs and wanted to figure out a way to give them an "out." I'd always think to myself, "I bet he would love to come along for a run with me." I would even make it a habit to kneel down at their fence and spend a minute chatting with a dog.

It was during one of my training runs last August that the "Pooch Fit" inspiration hit me. Out of nowhere the name just came to me... and the moment it did, I knew without a doubt that it would work.

Pooch Fit serves Kihei, Wailea, Kula, Makawao and Pukalani

Q. What happened from there?

A.  Soon after reaching my goal of finishing the marathon, I became very focused on getting Pooch Fit off the ground. I took a dog obedience class to learn some of the basics. I found someone on the mainland who has a successful dog running business and I bought and read her how-to book, which was excellent. And for four months I volunteered my time two days a week with the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation in Kihei. It was a great opportunity to begin jogging with dogs. It was during this time that I saw first hand how much dogs LOVE to get out and run. The greeting they gave me at the gate was amazing. "Doggie Pandemonium" would be the best way to describe it. I was blown away by their energy... total happiness and excitement that I was there to give them an opportunity to exercise and explore.

Q. When did you officially start?

A.  Pooch Fit LLC was registered on January 1st of this year.

Q. Did anyone help you during this time?

A. From day one my wife Stephanie has been completely on board. She has been my #1 supporter. I would like to take a minute and give thanks to Lisa Giesick. Lisa is a certified professional dog trainer here on Maui. I took one of her obedience classes, and I can tell you, she knows what she's doing. Early in January I let her know about my idea. Pooch Fit would not be where it's at today without Lisa. She was the catalyst that helped the business get off the ground. She referred me to countless dog owners, and her advice and suggestions have been invaluable. I can't thank her enough. For anyone in need of advice or training, I highly recommend her. You can find Lisa's website at www.ohanapet.com.

Q. Where is Pooch Fit now?

A. Each month the business continues to progress. Currently I'm jogging with 25 dogs on a weekly basis, the majority of them multiple times a week. My sessions are 30 minutes in duration both upcountry and on the south side. Right now the dogs and I combine for roughly 45 miles a week. One thing I try to do is make each session a "buddy run" session. My clients really like the idea of having their dog exercise with other canine friends. The majority of sessions are run with 2 dogs, sometimes 3 depending on how easy they are.

Q. Do you offer any other services beside the running sessions?

A. Yes. For upcountry dog owners I offer a 15 minute pop-in service in the afternoons after I'm done running. It's a short walk along with making sure all the other pets are taken care of. This is ideal for puppies and older dogs. Also for those dogs who may already get enough exercise but get lonely during the day.

Some of the Pooch Fit Club members

Q. What do you enjoy most about Pooch Fit?

A.  Spending time with my dogs. My four-legged guys really have become friends. Any dog owner can relate to the great feeling of coming home and being greeted by their dog. How great it is for me to be greeted by 5-10 dogs each day! I've been asked several times, "Don't you get tired?" Yes I do. Only physically though. Here's my attitude... I'd much rather be tired from doing something I love and am passionate about, than be tired from doing things I could never put my heart into. I realized a long time ago that I cannot do things well halfheartedly. If I can't be "all in" and fully invested, then I quickly lose interest.

I'm fully committed to this endeavor. There's no one who believes in Pooch Fit more than I do. Here's why... Everyday I'm reminded by my friends how important this time is to them. I feel that through Pooch Fit I'm able to connect with my dogs at a canine level. It has truly been a joy to see their genuine happiness and contentment, before, during, and after a run. This is an excellent outlet for a dog's pent up energy. Dogs have lost weight and have become healthier, and several who once were shy and nervous around other canines have become more social and comfortable. Running at its core is a very simple and primal activity. Having the ability to enjoy it with so many friends has been an awesome experience.

Q. How has Pooch Fit changed you? 

A. I'm grateful each day I wake up. I've learned you have to experience the unpleasant to truly enjoy and appreciate all that's good. People who are close to me know that life hasn't always been so fun. Without going into too much detail, I was not in a good place 7-8 years ago. I went to therapy and was diagnosed with depression. Shortly after, my first marriage failed. I worked at several jobs, none of which gave me what I was looking for. I was always restless and not quite sure what to do with my life. I had no goals or aspirations. "Being in a rut" was an understatement. I was 40 lbs. heavier and running wasn't in the conversation. Over the past few years I've dealt with a few other very personal challenges. I can't tell you how important Stephanie is to me. Having a life partner like her has meant so much.

I'm grateful that I chose to believe in and hold true to making this work. It has been deeply satisfying to go from nothing but an idea and turn it into the vision I had 12 months ago. Thanks, Mom, for showing me at an early age that creating the life you want outside of a 9 -5 job was possible.

I'm blessed to have a beautiful, loving and supportive wife and a delightful 9 year old son named DJ (Dustin Jr.). He's been watching Dad over the past year, and he himself has caught the entrepreneurial bug. "DJ Inc." -- an at-your-home car wash. :)

We're in a good place. I've found "my thing" and I couldn't be more enthusiastic or dedicated to my canine friends and to where I want to take this business.

Q. Where do you see Pooch Fit a few years from now? 

A. It all depends on finding the right people. Going solo has its limits of course. If I could run all day I would. I only have room now for 5 more upcountry dogs and about 8 more on the south side. Once my schedule is maxed out I will begin looking for help. It may take time though, and it's not something I'm in a rush to do. In a business sense, Pooch Fit is my baby. Anyone who comes on board as a runner must be completely trustworthy, hard working, and a self starter. If it works out, ideally I'd like to be island wide within the next two years. From there we'll consider taking it to other areas in Hawaii. If I can find the right people then there's really no limit with this business.

Q. Is there any other reason you're smiling right now?

A. Hahaha...well why not use this interview to let others know? My wife and I are expecting. We're both thrilled about it! DJ is also very happy and anticipating being a big brother in February.

Add that to the list of reasons why I wake up with a smile each day.

Q. How can others contact you who are interested in Pooch Fit?

A. Via my cell or email. (808) 359-1626, dustin@poochfit.com. Facebook is also a great way to connect with people. www.facebook.com/poochfit. I always encourage people to visit my website www.poochfit.com to see all the information and to see all the happy Pooch Fit Dogs!

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Pooch Fit's Facebook is a heart-warming place for dog lovers such as myself to be!

(You can click on the post below to go directly to the Facebook page to "like" Pooch Fit.)

Thanks for the inspiration, Dustin!

Warm congratulations on your growing business and best wishes to you and your growing family.

@Celebrate Maui
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