Q&A: Dog Sherpa Hollie Crower

The self-described “dog sherpa” from Menlo Park talks about her big career change, the time a pooch came to her rescue and how she wrangles the pack.

What inspired the switch from teaching to dog walking?
I developed a neurological condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia, which caused my vocal cords to spasm. Over the course of 10 years, I slowly lost the use of my voice and can only whisper now. I started out by doing group walks and now offer off-leash group outings for my business, Whole New Pooch.

How do you communicate with the pack?
I use hand signals, body language and a whistle. Dogs prefer visual signals to auditory cues anyway.

What’s the car situation like with all those puppy passengers?
I have mats, pads and towels everywhere!

What’s guaranteed to make you laugh?
A carefree, goofball dog who is running free and living his best life. Silliness! Physical comedy!

Do you have any phobias?
Not doing something because I’m afraid.

What’s a wild story from the job?
Early on, I got lost on a pack walk in the redwoods. After about an hour of tramping around the mountain, I turned to a Labrador and whispered, “Henry, take us home!” Within 10 minutes we were back at the car.

How many pets do you currently have?
I have zero pets. My husband is allergic to dogs!

What’s a gift you received that you’ll never forget?
My mother bought me an SLR camera when I was a young teen. Recently, I launched my own phoDOGraphy business and set up a studio in my garage.

How do you handle dogs showing aggression?
I am a big advocate of positive reinforcement. The whole alpha dog training movement was based on wolf observations, which dogs are not. I want dogs to come to me for support, not because they fear me.

Growing up, what was your favorite children’s book?
The Velveteen Rabbit.

What’s an interesting fact about you that surprises people?
Having vocal issues is an advantage, not a hindrance. The dogs (and my kids) are much more responsive to a calm demeanor. I am less able to self-escalate now.

What dog breed most resembles your personality?
Maybe a flat-coated retriever. I like to be busy and have a job, but I’m pretty easygoing.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done at work?
When I was still doing group leash walks, I continued to take out the dogs after I broke my foot and needed a knee scooter. I’d have them all on leash in front of me like Santa with his sleigh.

What work task do you look forward to the most?
Releasing the hounds!!