Millbury - Sutton Chronicle
Denise Ronayne works out of her quiet Sutton home on a street tucked away from the bustle of the town.
Lately, however, her business has been making so much noise that the entire country will soon see and hear about it.
Ronayne breeds Yorkshire terriers, and her dogs will grab the national spotlight this weekend on National Geographic's Animal Planet Channel in a show called "Dogs 101." The show will air at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15 and at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16.
"[Animal Planet] called me out of the clear blue," she said. "I am not sure in what capacity they are going to use the footage, but I am excited to see."
What Ronayne does know, is that the television program was filmed at several locations in the country, including in her home. Shortly after, Animal Planet called again, requesting a second round of filming. One segment of the show will feature her dogs, which carry a unique trait.
"My Yorkshires have a short, square muzzle, as opposed to a longer nose," she said. "This allows my dogs to look like puppies even when they are older, instead of getting a sort of rodent-like muzzle."
Ronayne has received inquiries from potential clients up and down the East Coast, and as far away as Paris. Her client list includes New England Patriots tight end Ben Watson, Boston restaurateur Nick Varano, CEOs, doctors, and more.
Lisa Briggs, a licensed social worker with intuitivebody.com, has acquired about five "Yorkies" from the Sutton breeder as a way for her clients to feel more at home during their counseling sessions with Briggs.
"Many of my clients are teenage girls who come over and the dogs love to see them," she said. "The girls get a lot of free love and it makes them feel like rock stars. My clients are looking for a little love and the dogs make them feel warm."
Ronayne's passion for puppies was born out of a longtime problem she has had with certain dogs.
"I was allergic all my life," she said. "As a five-year-old girl, I took a field trip and remember not being allowed off the bus, because there were puppies where we went."
As she got older, she found out her allergic reactions were minimal with certain dogs. She started with cocker spaniels, but eventually fell in love with the Yorkshire terrier. After spending much of her life apart from man's best friend, she has now turned this affection for dogs into raising and coaching her Yorkies to become perfect matches for her clients.
"A dog is a product of their own environment and I believe there are too many people that send away for a pet and do not know what they are getting," she said. "I will spend hours with people talking to them and fitting the right type of dog to their lifestyle.
"I raise dogs the old-fashioned way — at home and by hand," she added.
This old school method includes cooking, cleaning and caring for her dogs all day. Every canine has his/her own bed, set of toys and crate, and is monitored regularly by her or volunteers that stop in to lend a hand.
The dogs stay at home and are never put in shows. Ronayne believes her Yorkies' lack of limelight is being trumped by word of mouth, which has spread fast in places
such as Boston and New York City. "She is a wonderful lady who takes such excellent care of her dogs," said Sam Zeltserman, an attorney in Brookline, who bought her Yorkie "Nantucket Lady Daisy May" from Ronayne. "I have Parkinson's and Daisy has decided to be my caretaker," said Sam's wife, Ellen. "I raised her as a service dog and she has the most even personality." Ronayne receives
annual, unannounced state and town inspections, which include checks that she keeps only the number of dogs allowed by law.
"The dogs absolutely have the run of my house," she said. "I like to be at home with my dogs and I think they enjoy it, too. They are definitely treated like royalty."
Gift of a lifetime
"Uninhibited joy" is one of the many reasons Ronayne gives for owning one of her Yorkshire terriers. Her best example was the pairing of one of her dogs with a little girl from Uxbridge.
An 8-year-old Uxbridge girl with an inoperable tumor, undergoing chemotherapy, said one of her last wishes was to get one of Ronayne's Yorkies. The girl and her family met with Ronayne, and began to talk about matching the family with a dog.
That is when a young Yorkshire terrier jumped into the little girl's lap.
"She just melted," said Ronayne. "I decided then and there that this girl is going home today with a puppy. The joy I got from giving her that dog was the best thing ever."
Ronayne gave her the puppy for free. According to letters, cards, and other messages Ronayne received, the girl's demeanor brightened until the day she died. When Ronayne attended the funeral, she was struck by seeing all the photos of the little girl had been taken with her beloved Yorkie.
Even the casket was filled with Yorkshire terrier toys.
"Afterwards, it was great to think that the family still has this dog," Ronayne said. "It is like a small piece of her is still with them."