Mercedes Felix has been dubbed as the female Cesar Milan, in her hometown of San Diego. The owner of Coastal Paws San Diego was born and grew up in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, where she was forever bringing strays home to care for.
So fascinated was she by dogs, that she read everything she could lay her hands-on, learning about the different breeds. Her rescues did sometimes drive her mom crazy, but Mercedes was always responsible in her care, ensuring that they were well-fed, clean, and offered the love and security they deserved.
Even though Mercedes studied Business and Finance, she dreamed of working with dogs someday. Her deep understanding of dog behavior and their personalities allowed her to bond with them, and even as a teenager she found that it was the most rewarding way to pass her time.
Today, Coastal Paws San Diego offers an array of pet services and they specialize in dog behavior, care, training, animal welfare and have become a one-stop-shop for all pet care needs.
With a client base of over 400 dogs, Mercedes started working for a dog walking service as a side hustle. Opportunity knocked at her door when she realized that even as she was bonding with her clients, she and her boss were on completely different levels. At the urging of some of her clients, she decided to leap into creating her own business, and Coastal Paws San Diego was born.
Mercedes, thank you for taking some time from what I can see is a very busy day to have this chat with us. What would you say are the biggest challenges to running a successful business, especially the pet business?
Every business has its challenges, but for me, it has been smooth sailing. When I started the business on my own, I did so at the urging of some clients who felt that I had something special to offer them and their pets. In almost five years, our client base has continued to grow through word of mouth and referrals. Many people tell me that luck played a role in my success, but I know that it takes hard work and doing what you love. I most certainly enjoy seeing to the needs of my 30-40 active pet-clients daily.
What part of pet-care do you love the most?
Funny enough, when I was younger, I wasn’t sure whether I should focus on rescue, training, or rehabilitation, and here we are a few years later, and I get to do it all!
I love a challenge, and even though my daily work includes some of my favorite tasks, like walking, daycare, and boarding, I love the training and behavioral modification the most.
Is that why you have been dubbed the female Cesar Milan?
(Laughs) I always feel honored when I hear that because I admire Cesar Milan. Behavior modification is a very rewarding field to work in and I learned from an early age, back home in Puerto Rico, how to help both timid and aggressive dogs to build self-confidence. Aggressive dogs are most often not born that way and it is often other external factors that lead to their behavior. It takes an understanding of their behavior to bond with them.
We often get dogs here who have been rejected elsewhere because of their behavior, but they soon start to trust me and their behavior is soon modified with patience and tender loving care. I can tell you that we have a lot of happy doggy-parents who initially thought they would never find daycare.
What distinguishes the services you offer at Coastal Paws San Diego from other pet services?
Dog owners know that all their pet needs are taken care of in one place. Our program focuses on balance, and each of the mutts (my pet name for them), gets a balanced daily program of exercise, socialization, and structure.
When they are here, they are in a home away from home. We take them on field trips in our Drool Bud (our mutt mobile) and these include walks on the beach, to stores, through the neighborhoods and trails. While we are out and about, all they must worry about is have a good time, because they know they can trust me as their leader.
Mercedes, in parting, what would you say is the motivation that gets you out of bed each morning, ready to face another day with your gorgeous mutts here?
For me, it is seeing that the pets and their pet parents are content. I take pride in my work, and it’s never about the money or the popularity of Coastal Paws San Diego. My daily motto is: Every day a good dog day!
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