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About Prairie Dog Pet Mercantile

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Meet Our Team

Amy Barker, CPDT-KA, and Daniel Pringle

In November 2013 we were given an amazing opportunity to buy Prairie Dog from Don and Cyndi Cutler, founders and owners since 2009. Thanks to them, Prairie Dog has become a community place in which people and dogs mingle (and get treats). We are proud to carry on their values and their dream in this adventure.
 
This is our first endeavor as business owners, but Prairie Dog embodies many things that we deeply care about. Before Amy began working at Prairie Dog in 2010 she had a career in the photography industry but had really discovered a passion for dog training while learning to live with her troublesome but lovable pound-rescued Husky-Malamute, Loki. While she’d grown up with family dogs, Loki gave her a challenge that inspired her curiosity. She found a natural talent for working with dogs, interpreting dog behavior, and sharing her knowledge to create happy dogs and relieved owners. That experience motivated her to begin teaching at Diamonds in the Ruff, a positive reinforcement school focusing on the pet-owner relationship, and eventually became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Dan also grew up with pets and has a unique respect and care for animals. He’s a librarian at Spokane Public Library, where he helps people find information and connect to resources to enhance their lives. This means you may not see him around the store much, but he’ll be involved with our web presence here and on Facebook. In our free time, we can often be spotted outdoors hiking or snowshoeing with our Samoyed, Piper, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Declan.

Dakota Eckenroth

Dakota loves the question of why

While volunteering with undersocialized rescue dogs in Los Angeles, Dakota discovered a deep interest in positive reinforcement training. The doggie daycare where she worked also sold high-quality pet food, and it became increasingly clear to Dakota that nutrition and behavior went hand-in-hand. Not surprisingly, when she moved to Spokane in 2016, she found her niche at Prairie Dog almost immediately! 

Her lifelong passion for education makes Dakota a valuable resource for Spokane’s pet parents. Prairie Dog customers rely on her to help them dig deeper — when they’ve been thinking about making a change in their pet’s food or training regimen but want some clarification or real-life examples. 

Because Dakota has a soft spot for shy dogs, she teaches owners how to understand, respect, and advocate for their animals. She practices what she preaches with her two rescue dogs: Fenris, a senior Australian Kelpie, and Jake, an Australian Cattle Dog. 

Since 2017, Dakota has also been honing her training skills at Diamonds in the Ruff, where she is now an assistant co-instructor

“When it comes to information about our animals, everything is changing and evolving. The more we know, the better we can do for pets and their people.”

Kim Imel, CPDT-KA

If knowledge is power, then Kim is a pet care powerhouse. 

Kim’s industry experience spans three decades. She began a 26-year career in veterinary medicine in 1988, working first as an assistant and then as a vet tech. Ten years later, she joined the team at Diamonds in the Ruff as a trainer/instructor. She’s been their lead trainer since 2000, and has been with Prairie Dog since our founding in 2009. 

Kim has spent her life surrounded by animals. Her household currently includes two dogs (an older Pug/Beagle/French Bulldog named Wrigley and a German Shepherd mix named Gibson) and two cats (senior shorthair Ella and young, silly medium-hair Henry), as well as three chickens: Fannie, Maxine, and Lucille. 

Thanks to her vet tech background, Kim excels in helping pet parents understand exactly how specific health conditions can affect their pet’s nutritional needs. She focuses on asking the right questions to understand an animal’s internal life and external circumstances. 

“We usually notice when there’s something physical going on with a pet. That’s their body talking, but what about their mental state? Their anxiety level? What is their life like? With animals, as with people, there’s always a larger picture.” 

Kim is a proud member of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians, Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and the Pet Professional Guild.

Lisa Nielsen

You could say Lisa’s life is a dog-and-pony show — literally! 

Lisa has been with Prairie Dog since 2016. When she’s not in the store, Lisa can be found administering hydrotherapy to canine and equine patients at Springwater Veterinary Services

In her free time, Lisa shows her handsome pair of English Setters, a father-son duo named Tux and Tres. It’s not just a casual hobby: Lisa has brought home two major awards (and counting!) from the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. 

As part of her showmanship, Lisa has to make sure her dogs look their best. That means she has a wealth of information on grooming that she’s not only constantly developing, but always happy to share with customers! 

Thanks to her background with horses, Lisa is Prairie Dog’s resident harness guru. Plenty of pups enjoy safer, comfier walks thanks to her expert fittings! She’s also a great resource for owners who are considering introducing novel proteins into their pet’s diet. It’s a topic close to her heart, and she particularly enjoys helping owners who are facing the challenges of dialing in an elimination diet to improve their pet’s quality of life. 

“When my younger dog developed allergies, he had constant ear infections. His neck was always red and raw. Eventually, we figured out that a novel protein food worked really well for him. In a matter of months, you couldn’t tell he’d had anything wrong. He’s like a new dog.”

Vicki Barker

From bookkeeping to training and everything in between, Vicki is Prairie Dog’s gal Friday. 

At the tender age of 10, Vicki happened across a television program that explained the process of guide dog training. She glanced from the screen toward the family Border Collie, Peppy — and the rest, as they say, is history. Nowadays, she’s Diamonds in the Ruff’s agility instructor and one of their co-evaluators for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program. 

She also teaches at Prairie Dog, but she’s not just a trainer. Officially, she’s the bookkeeper. In reality, she’s a little bit of everything. 35 years in customer service kick in on the sales floor, and she also stocks and shuttles products between our South Hill and Kendall Yards locations. It’s a labor of love: PDPM owner Amy is Vicki’s daughter. 

Vicki’s family also includes three Border Collies: Older mid-coat Sally, flop-eared Oliver, and Henry, a puppy with heterochromia. Sally was the dog who led Vicki to take up agility training. Rescued from a dumpster at just a few weeks old, her behavioral challenges inspired Vicki to become an even better trainer. 

Vicki is an ambassador for Prairie Dog. She keeps snacks from PDPM on her at all times, so she can introduce Spokane’s canines (and their owners) to our products. And if you’ve ever snagged a chocolate from one of the humans-only bowls at our checkout counters, you have Vicki to thank — one more way she makes the Prairie Dog experience a little sweeter.

“What sets Prairie Dog apart is knowledge and personal service. It’s not just about jumping in with suggestions. It’s about listening first. It’s about really hearing what people need, and it’s about making them feel good about coming into the store.”

Eva Ellert

With Prairie Dog clients and her yoga students alike, Eva is all about balance. 

When a subject captures Eva’s interest, she doesn’t stop at a Google search. She dives deep and resurfaces with a nuanced understanding that’s ready to pass on to others. That’s exactly what happened when she adopted a special needs dog. Undersocialized and ill-treated by her previous owner, Darcy the Staffordshire mix faced issues that inspired Eva to immerse herself in the world of nutrition, behavior, and training. 

Caring for Darcy also prompted Eva to become a customer at Prairie Dog. Having noticed her compassion and dogged pursuit of knowledge, owner Amy Barker encouraged her to apply for a position at PDPM. Eva came onboard in 2018. 

Three dogs call Eva’s house home. Murphy, an energetic French Bulldog, joined the family when Eva’s husband adopted him from California. Babs, a Siberian Husky, followed their roommate home and never left. Lucy, a young Rottweiler, joined the family after Darcy passed and has been with Eva since puppyhood. 

Eva’s background as a yoga instructor enables her to help customers connect with their pets on a deeper level. Drawing on personal experience as well as extensive research, she takes particular pride in giving hope to clients who feel they are at a loss in trying to improve their pet’s quality of life. 

“It’s easy to think all cats are the same, or all dogs, but they are absolutely individual beings. Each one has unique needs, and they feel much more emotion than we sometimes think they do.”

April Gascon-Stricker

Store Manager

April has a head for business, but when it comes to cats, she’s all heart.

Growing up in Guam, April never lacked for pets. It wasn’t until she moved from Seattle to San Francisco and took a job managing a holistic pet store, however, that she discovered how much she loved working with animals and their people. 

When she came to Spokane in 2019, Prairie Dog was looking for someone like April. The extensive pet nutrition training she’d received in California gave her valuable insight, and the wide variety of managerial skills she’d developed through a long career in customer service enabled her to share the load with PDPM owner Amy Barker. 

April is Prairie Dog’s go-to for all things feline! Her experience with a challenging Bengal who developed severe health issues turned April into a compassionate advocate for treating every animal as an individual. She knows just which questions to ask cat owners in pursuit of the perfect balance of food, supplements, and mental enrichment for optimum health. Currently, she shares her home with Jasper, a tabby, and Mateo, a tuxedo cat. She’s passionate about play, and loves teaching people how to keep indoor cats happy, healthy, and mentally stimulated through exercise. 

“Prairie Dog offers something totally different. Our reviews show it. Our customers know it. The holistic approach, the one-on-one conversations — we make people feel good when they come in.”

What Spokane Customers Are Saying

We love our customers from Spokane areas around Geiger Heights, Glenrose, East Spokane, Spokane, West Spokane, Yardley, Orchard Park, Parkwater, Hillyard, Town and Country

Come visit our pet supply store in Spokane, WA specializing in quality raw food, treats, and supplies for cats and dogs.