by Mary Hope Roseneau Photography by Lindsay Gifford
Lace Cruze is a petite, well-toned woman of 48, with a cute blonde ponytail, who likes to wear skorts and flip-flops. She has a beautiful tan because she spends time outdoors each day with her favorite creatures, dogs, and usually black German Shepherds. She lives on Coosaw Island, at the very end of Lady’s Island, on a small peninsula surrounded by marsh and river on, appropriately named, Dog Creek Road.
This past year she bred her black German Shepherd named Dreamer, who had 12 puppies, a huge first litter. Unfortunately, Dreamer became ill after delivery, and was too weak to nurse or care for the puppies. Lace tirelessly worked around-the-clock for almost four weeks, bottle-feeding the blind, deaf little creatures, while also nursing Dreamer back to life. It was a herculean effort that paid off. Dreamer recovered and was able to gradually nurse some of the puppies, which have thrived. Lace kept two, one for herself, and one to train as a service dog.
The other ten puppies were only placed in homes that passed Lace’s stringent interview process. The prospective owners had to be the right sort of people, with a temperament to match their puppy’s, before Lace would agree to sell one to them. This incredible birthing and nursing experience has delighted many viewers on Facebook, after her very supportive husband, Josh, bought a GoPro camera to film every single moment. One of the best moments was Lace streaming live at 2 a.m. doing 12 bottle feedings, when she admitted to being more than a little giddy from lack of rest.
This experience was truly magical for Lace, “Breeding puppies makes my heart sing,” she confessed, but it’s not her first love—training dogs and their people is.
When asked exactly what her dream was, and is, she gulped and said, “I need a minute. It’s hard to put in words.” After a minute, she was ready. “My heart’s desire is to help as many people and their dogs to be happy together in whatever situation they’re in.” She explained this starts with training the owners to be the dog’s leader, because dogs need and want them to lead in order to feel safe and secure. They must show respect to their owner, and earn their people’s love, privileges and even food. So many people have that all backwards these days, she said, and try to earn the dog’s love, when it has to be the other way around.
From a very small girl, Lace loved all animals and wanted to be a veterinarian. Life happened, and about 20 years ago she was a single mom in Florida, struggling to take care of herself and her little boy, when her grandfather, Papa George, observed her amazing relationship with dogs. Her dogs were well behaved, attentive and watched Lace for every cue. “Don’t you even have a leash?” he asked her incredulously. “Don’t need one,” she replied. Then he said the words that would change her life: “People would pay good money to learn how to do that.” Those words stayed with her, and just a few years ago, Lace began living that dream.
She started working at the Doggy Llama, a popular doggy day care, and boarding facility on Lady’s Island, planning to spend one year, but ending up there for four years. She knew she needed to work with another dog trainer who had the same philosophy, and would teach her about the training and boarding business, particularly the vocabulary to teach the human clients. Nine times out of ten, owners miscommunicate with their dog, through words, body language, facial expressions, and so on, and the dog behaves poorly.
Sometimes it even develops into an abusive relationship, she learned, when the dog takes the role of leader of the human, and demands his own way, even biting or growling at his owner in order to be dominant. This has to be taken care of immediately, not with punishments and cruelty, but with small, easily achieveable steps to the correct behavior, using praise, treat bags and a leash, extensively. Frequently, she observed it was the human she needed to work with the most.
Lace finally took the plunge and began working for herself. It doesn’t pay the mortgage, she admits, but it’s what she’s always wanted to do. Her husband Josh, a structural concrete contractor, as well as her grown son, Dallas, encouraged her to go for it. These guys are now used to their house being full of her dogs, other people’s dogs, and recently, the 12 puppies.
Lace only works with a small number of dogs at a time, but takes them for a four-week, all-day boot camp. They learn how to “load up” in a car, sit restrained and well behaved in a vehicle and walk calmly on a leash. They learn how to sit and lie down on their bed in a corner of the room and stay there. They are given toys, a blanket and a big old knucklebone to entertain them.
For their graduation exam, Lace takes the dogs on field trips to Lowe’s, Grayco, the Waterfront Park, and other public places in Beaufort, and the pups know they had better behave. “You don’t want a dog you can only enjoy in your living room or backyard,” Lace stated.
What’s her future dream? She would love to work with her niece, Joanna, who wants to be a veterinarian and open a pet wellness center. Lace would like to concoct made-from-scratch healthy foods and treats for dogs, and offer a full range of services and advice for pet owners. She has a definite timeline for January 2018, with a list of needed improvements on her property, and diversification of her services. You can’t stop this lady: She has a plan and she’s on her way!
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL, has also lived in Indiana, California and Arkansas. When she first visited Beaufort, though, it felt like home, and she knew it was where she’d put down roots.
Other career stints: She was a construction superintendent with a large commercial company, specializing in building churches.
Most important training tools: A leash and a treat bag attached to your side to reward good behavior.
Where to find her numerous free instructional videos: Search for “PUPPY Problems” on Facebook. My favorite: Holt or Halt “how to,” featuring my stubborn puppy, Rose.