What drove Amber Anglin to leave a thriving career in cosmetology in New York City to start a retail pet supply store and a dog grooming and boarding service on Shelter Island?
Part of it was the childhood experience of working since she was 9 years old at Hampshire Farms with large horses. But if the seeds of her career were planted there, it would be years before they became firmly planted and blossomed on the Island.
While in high school on Shelter Island, Amber enrolled in a BOCES cosmetology course that provided the rudiments of what she thought would be her life’s work.
After graduation in 2002, she obtained her cosmetology license and headed for Manhattan where she was hired to do hair and makeup for models on photo shoots that appeared in glossy magazines such as Cosmopolitan.
It didn’t take long to discover she couldn’t be creative, given an average of only about 10 minutes to work with each model. So she struck out on her own and developed a healthy list of clients.
But it wasn’t working, since she found herself impatient with her clients’ rudeness and Everest-like egos. The glamour of Manhattan was showing its age and more and more she missed Shelter Island.
Amber returned home and started to study massage therapy, but discovered that wasn’t her passion either.
Her mother, Camille Anglin, knowing her love of animals, stepped in and suggested a dog grooming and boarding business. Running a small business wasn’t a foreign concept to Amber. Throughout her life, her parents — Mike and Camille — have operated Jack’s Marine on Bridge Street.
Following her mom’s advice, she chose the Paragon School of Pet Grooming near Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she took a four-month course. Then, 13 years ago this month, she started All Dogged Up, a pet supply store on West Neck Road.
She bought some kennels for the store, but was quick to decide that wouldn’t serve her purpose in creating a home-like atmosphere for the pets she wanted to board, so she moved the grooming and boarding business to her South Menantic Road home.
A fenced-in area where the dogs could exercise was built and Amber revamped the interior to create spaces to accommodate the differing needs of her boarders.
She refined her abilities to socialize dogs coming into her compound and created a business that has drawn repeat customers — Islanders who want to go on vacation and people from New Jersey, Connecticut, New York City and throughout Long Island. She also gets referrals from hotels and Island B&Bs that can’t accommodate the pets of their guests.
Amber also provides a taxi service to bring pets from the five boroughs or from the ferries.
When a new dog comes in to board, she starts it alone with her in a sunroom where she can provide the one-on-one attention the dog needs to acclimate. Gradually, she introduces the new dog to another boarder and if that socialization goes well, she will add other dogs one-by-one until the new pet is ready to run with the pack.
She said she’s most herself when she’s one-on-one with nature and gardening is a passion. Her favorite time of year is spring, but this year like many Islanders she’s wondering if there will be a spring or if “we’ll just go from winter to summer.”
Another reason to be outdoors is a project involving bees that she hopes to launch soon. There’s also “geocaching” — a sort of treasure hunt and hike using GPS devices to find hidden objects, or caches, and allows her to discover little known or hiked wooded areas.
Amber admits she’s had as many as 12 dogs in bed with her and said she learns a lot about how owners treat their pets with the way dogs cuddle up with her.
Eventually, she wants to return to school to study veterinary medicine, not to go into practice, but to administer vaccines that protect dogs against canine infectious tracheobronchitis, or “kennel cough,” which is common when large numbers of dogs are together in close quarters. Now owners have to arrange for the vaccine with their own veterinarians in advance of their stay.
It will also help her in marketing, she said, allowing her to advertise that a vet is on the premises.
In the more immediate future, she’s thinking of taking a course in dog training in order to add that to the services she can offer.
Amber has been gathering signatures from Islanders and visitors who would like to see the town develop a public dog park. It’s an idea that’s been discussed in the past, but never gained traction. She has petitions at both the store and her house for people to sign and expects to bring them to the Town Board later this spring to appeal for consideration of the idea.
Any changes she would make to her Island home? She sometimes wishes there was a footbridge, but at the same time knows the Island’s separation from the North and South forks is something she and everyone else values.
One thing will never change for her. “We are a community that loves and cares for each other,” Amber said.