Friends and Partners in Pool Care

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Kellie Butchie 919 Feat

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There are two kinds of people: Those that understand the deep, ancestral bond between dogs and humans, and those that don't. If you're in the first camp, then you'll get this story.

From ancient times, dogs have partnered with men and women, sharing the day's labors and in the evenings, its fruits. That affectionate alliance lives on in today's pool and spa industry, particularly the service sector. That's where Kelly Halley works with her great friend Butchie for Always Sparkling Pool & Spa in Santee, Calif. It's hard to find good workers in service who will stick around, but for 15 years Butchie has been nothing but a reliable, energetic teammate on the route. Kelly was filling up a spa, with Butchie by her side, when I called on a Tuesday afternoon.

"He's getting up there in age," Kelly says, "but as anyone who knows Butchie will tell you, he is the smartest, most loyal, obedient dog in the world. And he's a great work partner. You can tell him what to do, and he'll do it. He understands English."

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Kelly and Butchie are far more than co-workers; they're practically inseparable. They work together, shop for pool and spa replacement parts and chemicals together at Superior and SCP and even hang out together when everything's done.

After 15 years, Butchie knows the route about as well as Kelly. "He starts bouncing with excitement as we start getting close to his stops. He knows the neighborhood, and he knows what to do. We don't use a leash because he doesn't need one. I'll open the door and let him out. If I'm still getting something out of the truck, I can tell him to go on without me, and he will. He knows all our customers' properties, knows where the pool or spa is, and where he needs to go."

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As the senior partner and most experienced employee, Butchie is expected to guide new hires, which he does with relish. "I try to hire people to help with the work, and it's just so hard to find a good person. And when I'm training them, I always tell them, 'If you're not sure where to go, just follow Butchie.' And sure enough, after a couple stops they say, 'Yeah, you're right, he really does know where to go.'"

Does he help with personnel decisions, too?

"Well, so far he's liked everyone that's worked with me, but if he didn't like them, I'd really question them. If you have a dog, you know what I'm talking about."

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Although the benefits of having a canine partner in service are obvious, Kelly warns against just adding your pooch to your staff without some forethought.

"If someone is thinking of working with a dog and bringing a dog on their route, make sure you ask every customer first. Because some customers aren't cool with having your dog in their backyard. Most are, but some aren't. And when we get to those houses, Butchie stays in the truck.

"Oh, and make sure you have poop bags and clean up."

Perhaps the most important contribution a dog can make is in the crucial area of company morale. A joyful, willing partner gets you moving in the morning and keeps you on track all day.

"This work can be hard, and it's really hard to find good help, and I've thought about selling my business and going to work in corporate America somewhere, but every time I think about it, I think, if I did that, I couldn't work with Butchie," Kelly says.

"He's getting older now, and his eyesight is going and his hearing is going. I'm going to be devastated when I lose him. He's more than a loved dog; he's my best friend."

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