by Sheila Julson
Kyla Patterson was destined for a career helping animals. As a youth, her family always kept pets, and her parents had owned several pet stores throughout the Oklahoma City area. Now as a store manager of a new EarthWise Pet Supply shop scheduled to open this month in Oklahoma City, Patterson has the opportunity to combine her passion for holistic health with her love of her furry friends.
Patterson was born and raised in Moore, and she spent time at her parents’ pet stores. “They had exotic birds, monkeys—all kinds of stuff, so I always had animals around,” she says. She volunteered at a private zoo, where she performed overall animal care and prepared diets. She went on to work at that zoo and was employed there for seven years, working in the educational program that took animals to schools, teaching students the value of every animal species—from cute to crawly.
Along the way, Patterson also developed an interest in helping humans and became a certified specialist in nutrition. Yet her passion for animals dominated. “Helping people through nutrition was rewarding, but working with animals was rewarding and also really fun,” she reflects. She has also built her own little zoo at home; her two Great Danes are both retired therapy and service dogs. Two Munchkin cats (a breed characterized by very short legs), four parrots and a hedgehog round out Patterson’s pet family. She notes all the animals except the hedgehog are rescues.
When Patterson saw a job advertisement that an EarthWise Pet Supply store would be opening in Oklahoma City, she jumped at the chance. “I had worked in management in the human realm of natural foods, so I went and applied. It turned out that I knew owner Steve Goss from interacting with him when he had questions about natural supplements,” she says.
EarthWise is a franchise coalition of locally owned and operated natural pet stores that began on the West Coast. Patterson says the location she will manage is the first one to open in Oklahoma City. “Goss has a Boston terrier named Toby, and Goss was getting to the point where he realized he was taking a more natural approach in his own health. He became interested in doing the same for Toby,” Patterson explains. She says Goss is an animal lover and fosters four-legged pals for Oklahoma City shelters.
Patterson says there are several factors that set EarthWise apart from other pet stores in the area. “We focus on the whole health and wellness of the pet,” she says. “We’ll offer holistic grooming, great food products and also safe toys. We do careful vetting of the products because there are so many recalls these days, so we want to be involved locally with good manufacturers that have safe practices.”
During her experience working with nutrition and pets, she’s learned that there are very minimal federal standards for both human and pet food products, so the EarthWise team will focus on products by companies that demonstrate compassion and are invested in the health of animals.
In addition to quality foods for dogs, cats, small animals and birds, EarthWise will carry natural flea and tick products, essential oils, fish oil—good for animals’ skin and coat—and natural alternatives to standard pet products. Although EarthWise has a focus on holistic pet care, Patterson notes it will also carry a range of more traditional pet items. “As we grow, we’ll see what the customers’ needs are and try to fill it,” she says.
EarthWise will also partner with holistic vet Dr. Kimberly Weiss for pop-up vaccination clinics and seminars. “I’ve known her since I was 13 years old,” Patterson says of Weiss. “She was the vet at the private zoo where I worked.”
Patterson observes how there is a strong community of pet lovers and dedicated animal care professionals in Oklahoma City. Motivated daily by her own pets, she strives to also help other pet parents with their needs. “It’s fun for me to research different pet issues and to be able to help out, and I like staying involved in the animal-loving community,” she says.
EarthWise Pet Supply is located at 1710-G Belle Isle Blvd., in Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-607-8965 or visit EarthWisePet.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.