Lisa Brooks, owner/founder of Happy Tails, began her education in all things dog in the early 1970s – apprenticing with Ilsa Kopetz, renowned breeder, exhibitor and importer of top German Shepherds, including several Schutzhund Level III master titled dogs. Lisa’s gentle confidence with the strong, working class German Shepherds quickly earned the breeder’s trust, and Lisa began caring for her dogs during Ilsa’s extensive travels.
Building expertise while enjoying her passion for winter outdoor activities, Lisa became the care-giver/trainer in Lionel Innison’s Siberian Husky kennel on Tasso Lake, near Algonquin Park. She became an avid sled dog enthusiast and ran dog sled teams for fun, competition and in the fledgling 1970s-era sled dog tourism business.
In 1980, Lisa moved to Alberta to apprentice under Elaine Mitchell, a top professional All Breed Dog Show handler with over 30 years’ international experience. Lisa mastered professional grooming and dog show handling skills, then went on to breed and show her own Siberian Huskies. Lisa showed under kennel name ‘Isbok’; credited with over 75 individual Canadian, American and European champion titles, including two International World Champions and numerous specialty winners.
Excelling as a professional all-breed dog groomer for 25 years, in 1991, Lisa accomplished ground-breaking work by creating curriculum to found the first government-licensed vocational school teaching dog grooming in Canada – the Alberta Academy of Dog Grooming. After returning to Ontario for a family Christmas in 1995, Lisa felt the pull of home turf and realized it was time to move back to live out her childhood dream.
In 1996, Lisa returned to her hometown of Huntsville and opened Happy Tails’ Pet Resort & Camp. Happy Tails is the pioneer in cage-free pet care and continues to be Muskoka’s retreat for the furry elite. Lisa’s grandmother, Mary Brooks, also an entrepreneur woman, built and operated Brooklin Lodge on Peninsula Lake in Muskoka for over 60 years. Like her grandmother, Lisa passionately dedicates her life to providing the true classic cottage dog lifestyle that pets crave.
Utilizing her extensive experience and skills as a professional dog trainer and class instructor, Lisa helps problem dogs learn the social skills to make good decisions and re-establish balance through exercise and positive redirection of their aggression triggers. Her work with problem German Shepherds and Jack Russell Terriers – two breeds that can be very challenging – is proof positive of her innate ability to help dogs rediscover positive communication skills and move ahead to live happy, rewarding lives.
Next on tap in 1996, Lisa developed Muskoka Woodlands Bush Splash. This outdoor skin care product was manufactured for 18 years and sold through veterinarian services. It was made entirely of edible ingredients.
In 2010 Lisa launched Cottage Dog Magazine, and added publisher to her long list of accomplishments. Now on hiatus, CD published 12 issues chock full of informative articles, witty, thought-provoking columns and stunning photos of the active cottage-dog experience. Check out all the archived issues at www.issuu.com/cottagedogmagazine/docs
From Dream to Destiny
In a Globe and Mail ‘Focus on Small Business’ story, Lisa shared, “I had a fantasy when I was a child of being surrounded by dozens of dogs. It was my going-to-sleep dream. The dogs would be swimming and running and playing free, and we would all live together in a big brick house. Now I’ve achieved that dream. This is a place for people who don’t want their fur kids to be put in cages, filed away, or taken out on leashes, or to play in small yards. This is truly a resort for dogs, where they can run, play and swim all day if they want to.
Dogs that have been here before are excited when they arrive; they can’t wait to be with the other dogs and enjoy what cottage dogs have enjoyed for generations. At the end of their stay, they are happy to see their owners, of course, but people always tell me that as soon as their pet has said “hello” and settled in to the car, they fall fast asleep. It’s like a switch goes off, and they sleep most of the way home, just like a child coming home from camp.”