The Pet Project
By Meda Kessler
For this animal lover, a passion segues into a career.
Lauren McCall has always had a connection to animals.
While attending high school at Southlake Carroll, she took on pet-sitting jobs — gigs she extended into college while enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Even then, she spent her weekends volunteering with the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) in Fort Worth. “You name it, I did it,” she says with a laugh. “I walked dogs, cleaned kennels and loved it all.”
volunteering with the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) in Fort Worth. “You name it, I did it,” she says with a laugh. “I walked dogs, cleaned kennels and loved it all.”
After graduation, she saw her future as an administrator in corporate human resources. “I never thought I’d make a career out of working with animals, although it was something I dreamed about,” says McCall, 26. Eventually, she did just that, leaving the corporate world in 2018 and opting to become a pet concierge. After working part time for two weeks, she had enough clients on the calendar to devote all her time to the business she named Elle McCall.
The “Elle” — which means “she” in French — comes from her desire to make her new business very female oriented (her boyfriend, Heath Gagne, also is a partner in the business).
“I’m a dog mom and wanted my business to support other women, too.”
McCall’s volunteer time at HSNT also resulted in friendships, lasting connections and the adoption of Max the sheepdog. Nelda Carman is the shelter’s director of adoptions. McCall let Carman know she was interested in getting a sheepdog. “I have a client who has one, and I fell in love with the breed.”
Tammy Roberts, onetime director of operations at HSNT, was working for Abilene’s city shelter but remained connected to former colleagues. Roberts was dealing with the seizure of a number of large-breed dogs and reached out to Carman to take in a few for adoption.
One was a young sheepdog who was part of HSNT’s Doggy in the Window holiday adoption event at the Fort Worth Neiman Marcus. McCall met Max there and adopted him on the spot. “My sister adopted a doodle mix that we think might be related to Max. I also have Hanalei, a bichon frisé mix and another HSNT rescue, and two cats.”
When Roberts, who had worked in animal welfare for the past 20 years, was looking for career options, she found a help-wanted ad from Elle McCall.
“I wanted a career where I could still utilize knowledge that I have gained over the years,” says Roberts. “I checked out the Instagram page and website of Elle McCall and immediately fell in love. And after meeting with Lauren regarding the position (that quickly grew into an amazing partnership), I knew that I was ready to be a part of a world where I got to see animals that were cherished and spoiled by amazing pet parents after years and years of witnessing neglected animals being abused by sometimes pretty awful animal owners.”
Roberts says her favorite part of the job is bonding with other people’s pets and seeing senior animals so well cared for by their owners.
“She had applied to be a dog walker, but when I saw her resume, I knew Tammy could help me with so much more, and [she] is now in charge of the Southlake-Colleyville-Trophy Club-Westlake area. And she remembered Max,” says McCall. “I live in Dallas now, where we service a select number of neighborhoods, but Southlake is headquarters. It still feels like home to me, and I have a lot of support here.”
Earning trust when it comes to people’s pets is paramount to McCall and her staff.
“We do everything from daytime visits to overnight stays for dogs, cats, small critters, birds and even reptiles. We’re also expanding into equine and ranch services. So many people feel more comfortable with having someone come to their home to take care of their pets. Tammy or I meet every client. We make sure anyone who works for us goes through training and has passion and confidence,” says McCall.” We use our own GPS tracking system to provide live updates and photos of our sitter visits.”
And while the pandemic has affected McCall’s business, she still makes sure a portion of her proceeds goes to local animal shelters, including HSNT. “I always want to give back.”