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Oh but she was smart, and brave. On her first day at the beach I watched in awe as she walked to the surf, turned to find me, and when she couldn’t see me (I was behind someone nearby) she turned and went back to our blanket and sat down. I was already smitten but that was one smart puppy.

I did my best to get help for us at home, cobbling together a motley crew of friends and strangers that could get Stevie out during my 10-hour workdays. I looked but could not find a program or person who could give her the daylong care she needed. Two weeks went by and I realized she needed more stimulation, socialization, and play.

Yet waiting long days for me to come home wasn’t the best way for her to get it. I had to face that and after two days of crying and one last attempt to find someplace, someone that could help, I made one of the most painful decisions of my life. I sent her back to the breeder.

About Hillary

It took years to stop beating myself up for sending her back. Yet life has a way of bringing us round to the things that need healing. My full circle came in 2008 when, at 55 I was looking for something new to do with my life. What that would be I had no idea.

All I could think of were dogs.

Having spent so many years in school and worked so hard to become a Marriage and Family Therapist I wondered, was I being silly or worse, unrealistic? Could I start a business working with dogs in my mid-fifties? Would my body hold up? There was only one way to find out. I stopped thinking and jumped.

Hillary’s Hound House opened in 2014. Equal parts exhausting and exhilarating it took a season of miracles to make it happen. When word went out I was dreaming of a training center several clients stepped up to remind me I wasn’t alone. Their extraordinary support helped make the dream a reality.

Hillary Alexander

Ten years later the Jumpstart Puppy Program continues to nurture and train 100 puppies a year along with their families – and their children. It is the culmination of everything I’ve learned in life, from riding and training horses for 35 years to working as a Marriage and Family Therapist and fundraising for nonprofits and program development. Each of these roads has brought me to my central passion in life; helping animals and their humans to understand each other in ways that empower them both.

I am deeply grateful for my friends and long-time clients who encouraged, believed, and helped make this crazy dream come true. For our Jumpstart families, their children and their puppies, you have taught me so much, and filled me with more joy and fulfillment than I thought possible.

Hillary Alexander

Hillary Alexander

Hillary Alexander has trained puppies and dogs for nearly 20 years in basic obedience and agility. She is also an accomplished equestrienne and rode both hunt seat and dressage for 35 years. She received her MA in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University and practiced as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

“Within a couple of weeks of starting the Jumpstart program, our pup was fully potty trained and had mastered recall. The value of the recall training was very clearly demonstrated to us after a backyard escape bid – after a moment of panicked looking up and down the street to see if I could spot our daring escapee, I tried calling him and he came sprinting right back to me.”

Abigail Hunt and Archie