It seems like you can’t go more than a few blocks without passing a pet store, groomer, doggie daycare, vet office, or some other kind of pet-related business. But once upon a time, not too long ago, there were a few pioneers leading the way for the pet-friendly lifestyle that has evolved in our cities and towns today. Here’s what a few of them have to say about their drive, devotion, and dreams for the future:

What was the most unexpected thing you’ve learned since opening your own business?
I never thought, after being in this industry for more than a decade, that each day would be even more fulfilling than the next. I truly mean that—I never expected to love it this much.

What is the hardest part of your job?
Looking into the eyes of a broken, misunderstood, or confused dog. I love that Chicago has such an amazing rescue community and I support it as much as I can. In most cases, I know that I can help, but just knowing their story was full of heartache and abuse is really difficult.

What is the number one question consumers should ask when seeking out a dog trainer?
If it’s possible to watch one of their classes and talk to a reference. A trainer who is willing to show you exactly what he or she does isn’t hiding anything and will let his or her work speak for them.

What is the most unexpected thing you have learned about people over the years?
Just how much people will sacrifice for their dogs—and not just from a monetary perspective.

What is one thing no one knows about you?
I recently turned into a “little dog” person. (There, I said it.) I am adopting a nine-year- old Chihuahua this week after having large dogs my whole life.

What book has inspired you the most?
Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of The Leash. This book just clicked things into place for me . It does an amazing job of illustrating your dog’s perspective of the world and how your relationship can evolve if you just understood your dog better.

Is there a favorite quote you use to keep you focused/motivated?
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m Possible!” It is perfect, especially considering the name of my business.

What is your superpower?
Understanding and relating to people very well. Don’t get me wrong, I understand dogs, too. However, while my title may be dog trainer, I don’t really train animals at all. It’s the dog’s human counterpart who is the most important part of the equation. Helping humans and animals communicate is what I do best. I’m not sure if it is a superpower, but it feels pretty ‘super’ when it happens!

What are you happy you didn’t know before you started?
There’s a lot of heartache and tears in this business. Dogs are like family members and sometimes when there is a serious problem, hard decisions have to be made. Fortunately, most of my difficult cases have happy endings, but the ones that don’t keep me up at night and weigh heavy on my heart.