Puca’s Pack: Animal Academy

Puca's Pack

I met Xicalli, owner of Puca’s Pack, animal academy and rescue society, in August when I was dog sitting my fur nephew, Osric. He was the adorable boxer you read about in my last blog. I brought him to the dog park at Harbourside Seawall in North Vancouver and Xicalli asked me if I had an extra poop bag because the park’s dispenser had run out. We struck up a conversation and followed each other on Instagram.

And it was that day that I offered to feature Puca’s Pack because I love supporting local small businesses, especially ones that are non-profit and help others. I also wanted to help Xicalli spread the word that there are animals that need your help, your love and a home.

M: When did you open Puca’s Pack?

X: I opened Puca’s Pack almost four years ago when I took in my first rescue dogs in December of 2019 and became an official not-for-profit rescue in January of 2020. 

M: What was your inspiration?

X: I rescued the first two dogs, Stella and Lodden from a property in Prince George. Unfortunately, their owner was going to have them euthanized because they were too much to handle. Both dogs struggled with aggression. I struggled to train them for a year before finding my savior/mentor.

And in the first year of having them, I reached out to countless trainers, but no one was willing to help me. I had dogs with bite histories and were too large (120+ lbs) for most trainers to work with. I eventually found Dean Audet, the owner of The Great Canadian Dog Academy in Kamloops.

Puca’s Pack Behaviour Modification Specialist

I immediately booked myself for a three month intensive training program. I lived in Kamloops getting daily hands-on experience with Dog Psychology Training, Service Dog Training, Hunting Training, Scent Work and Rehabilitation. After I completed the program, I received a Behaviour Modification Specialist certificate and immediately picked up my first seven rescue dogs from Our Last Hope Animal Rescue, and I’ve never looked back. 

“I’ve been an avid animal lover, my entire life.” 

M: Where did the name of your business come from?  Was Puca the name of one of your dogs?

X: When I started my rescue, I wanted to have a fun name, unfortunately, all the clever punny names I came up with were taken. Puca (pronounced poo-ka) is my middle name and it means Shapeshifter which felt quite fitting for a pack of misfits needing rehabilitation.

M: How long have you been working with dogs?

X: I’ve been an avid animal lover, my entire life. Professionally, I’ve only been working with dogs since September of 2019.

Dog Academy PUca's Pack
Osric and one of Puca’s Pack’s dogs playing at Harbourside Seawall

M: What do you like most about your business?

X: It’s challenging, it’s rewarding, it’s everything in between. Every day I learn something new about myself. The moment I found animal rescue, was the moment I found myself. Being able to rehabilitate an animal and find a loving home, or find the path of least resistance within its own home, is one of the most heartwarming experiences in the world.

And my passion has always been to help others, whether they have 2 feet or 4 feet. Working with animals has taught me more about myself than any other life experiences I’ve had. It’s my life’s mission to help animals and people find peace on this earth.

M: What is the most challenging part of your dog academy?

X: Training their owners.

New Dog Parent Do’s and Don’ts from Puca’s Pack

M: What advice would you give to new dog parents? (Some top do’s and don’ts)

X: Structure, structure, structure. Owning a dog is a privilege, especially if you have one that has challenges, as it will teach you about yourself. The biggest problem I see in owners is not giving their dogs rules and boundaries. They need to stay in a balanced state of mind. Be confident in your training abilities, set rules, boundaries, nurture the calm, and be patient.

Foster Parent Program

M: You have a foster parent program for your rescues.  What is involved? How can someone become a foster parent to a pup?

X: It’s very simple, if you see one of our dogs that you are interested in fostering, or would like to foster in the future, all you need to do is reach out. You can contact us via text, email, or by filling out a foster application on our website. We will then schedule a call, or meet in person, to determine which dog is most suited for you.

When we find an appropriate foster dog for you, we will then go through basic dog psychology and training techniques for when the dog first enters your home. We will go over do’s and don’ts, and we will be there every step of the way.

Dog Academy Puca's Pack
My fur nephew playing with Puca’s Pack

M: How can someone adopt a pet?  How long does it take?  How much does it cost?

X: Cost of adoption vary based upon age. Our costs can all be found on our website at the bottom of our adoptable‘s page. We pay for their collars, leashes, food, vaccinations, spays/neuters, and any other medical care that comes with the dog. Some dogs have extreme transportation costs before getting into our care, and our adoption fee helps us stay in business by covering a portion of those costs.

Adopting a Dog is Simple

If you see a dog on our page that you feel is an appropriate match for you, you can text, call, email us or fill out an application on our website. Adopting a dog is actually quite simple. We will schedule a phone call to go over your application, and figure out whether you and the dog will be a good match.

After we’ve approved your application, we will proceed with a meet and greet, some training, and you can take your new family member home. Puca’s Pack will be there to support you through the transition period of bringing a dog into your home. If you don’t see your dream pup, don’t fret!  You can always fill out an application even if there is no current dog right for you. We can leave your application open and contact you when the right dog comes along.

Fundraisers and Donations Only Sources of Funding

M: Puca’s Pack is a non-profit organization.  Are you able to get any government grants or funding?  Is there anything the community can do to help?

X: Currently, fundraisers and donations are our only sources of funding. I started this rescue four years ago, and we paid the majority of our costs out of pocket. We have looked into government grants but have struggled to get any funding as they cater to charities, not not-for-profit.

Puca’s Pack provides countless services including pet sitting, boarding, dog walking, and training, all the revenue from these services go directly to our rescue. None of our staff or volunteers are paid. We provide all services out of the goodness of our hearts to help this rescue stay afloat.

If you would like to find out more information please follow them on their Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or their website. And if you would like to adopt a dog, foster one, or make a donation you can reach out to them call/text Xicalli (pronounced Sh-kay-lee) at (778) 918-5991.

Queen’s Academy of The Arts – Small Business Feature

Queen Alexis founder of Queen's Academy

Queen’s Academy of the Arts is a local small business that offers musical theatre programs for children between the ages of 4 to 12 online and in person in Burnaby and Coquitlam. There are after school classes, summer camps and music lessons (voice, guitar and piano) all available on a sliding scale.

I first met Queen at a Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) event at Capilano University. She is a Musical Theatre Diploma graduate, currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the university and the founder and instructor of Queen’s Academy of The Arts.

M: When did you open your business?

Q: I began offering free musical theatre classes in 2013 and registered as a business; Queen’s Academy of The Arts in 2020.

M: Did you always want to own your own business?

Q: I started teaching classes to kids as a passion project and I discovered that teaching and running a business could be a future career. It combines what I love; teaching and working with kids, and the performing arts.

Queen's Academy Fall 2019 Musical Theatre Class
Queen’s Academy Fall 2019 Musical Theatre Class

Queen’s Academy was born

M: What was your inspiration for your business?

Q: Since I was little, I’ve loved to perform. My mom put me in classes, but I knew they were too expensive for us, so I withdrew. Only, that didn’t stop me, instead it gave me the inspiration and drive to run my own business.

M: When did you start teaching children?

Q: At age 12, I began offering free musical theatre classes to feed my passion for the arts. And eight years later launched my business. I believe all kids deserve the opportunity to enrich their lives through the arts. But I know some families face difficulties or financial barriers. This is why I have made my program more affordable than competitors and I have also created an inclusive sponsorship program to make classes more accessible. 

Queen's Academy Spring 2019 Musical Theatre Show
Queen’s Academy Spring 2019 Musical Theatre Show

Accessible Musical Theatre Programs

M: Did you grow up in Vancouver?

Q: I have lived in the Lower Mainland and Burnaby since I was a kid! It is my passion to bring families together through Queen’s Academy and make performing arts accessible to create connection and community.

M: Would you advise others to pursue a degree before opening their own business?

Q: I began running my business teaching my children’s programs while pursuing a Musical Theatre Diploma and Bachelors of Arts Degree at Capilano University. Pursuing an education in the field that my company specializes in has helped me obtain the skills to feel confident in the field. I would advise you to do what will lead you to the most success.

M: What would your advice to future owners with dreams of owning their own business be?

Q: As long as you are passionate and determined anything is possible!

If you would like to know more about Queen’s Academy of the Arts and their musical theatre programs, voice and music lessons, please visit their website and follow their Instagram.