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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, July 19, 2024


There's a dedicated young woman on Crown Mountain who plans to change the lives of dogs on this island, but she has just one problem: money.
Debbie Dunham, owner of Debbie's Dedicated Dogs, has had a dream for seven years of what could be done on St. Thomas to train, trot, show, groom and even provide gourmet goodies to the island's canine population. She would have veterinary service on call.
"We have no facilities to show dogs, or to properly train them, to say nothing of the need for a crematorium," Dunham said. She said last year her pet of 13 years, who weighed about 130 pounds, died. She doesn't own property, so she had no place to bury him. She was forced to transport him to Florida to be cremated, and then return with his ashes, a painful and expensive venture.
Dunham has permits for all her plans, and is American Kennel Association-certified to show dogs. Her plans are extensive. She wants to get the lease on the old Wintberg Gardens property, which was a riding ring for years under the late Andy Bornn. It would be ideal for Dunham's purposes which include a show ring and an obstacle course. But she must make it through a financial obstacle course to get there.
Dunham, who has lived on St. Thomas for 15 years, is well known in the pet world here. She has provided free dog training classes at the St. Thomas Humane Society, the Red Cross Dog Show, and, most recently, at the Critter Crawl. She works closely with the shelter. "They are pushing me to get started," she said, "because they need the facility, too."
She has to somehow raise $40,000 by December to get the lease on the Wintberg property. How?
"I'm not a nonprofit, so I can't get tax breaks," she said. "What I'm doing is offering receipts in exchange for future services to anyone who wants to donate." Those services would include boarding, training, cremating and grooming. In the meantime, she is trying to come up with some creative fund-raising ideas, and looking into the possibility of grants.
"The government needs the facility for training their K9 Corps, but, of course, they have no money now, either," she said. Dunham said she is putting out the word to other islands, as well. She has regular clients from Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. John and Vieques.
Dunham got her start and training her with LEM Kennels on St. Thomas. She then worked for several years with Phyllis Pruden at Pride and Groom on Crown Mountain, where she is now located. After Pruden's death, Dunham took over the business. Her little room there is packed with several animals, a grooming table, lots of carriers and a washing area. It's too small.
If all Dunham's notions were money, she'd be in business now.
She wants to open "The Barkery," a gourmet shop for puppy treats and a retail shop for dog accessories. In addition, she plans to hold puppy fairs in conjunction with the animal shelter, and have a puppy-sitting service for those new puppy owners who have to work during the day.
In an effort to make the island's children aware of how to care for animals, Dunham gives seminars on animal care at the public and private schools. The classes are free if the school cannot afford it.
Dunham needs donations. She has formed a corporation, but right now she is offering service receipts as opposed to stocks. She can be reached at (340) 774-1981. Her mailing address is Debbie's Dedicated Dogs, P.O. 305135, St. Thomas, V.I. 00803.

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