Perry and his team in their wood lot

uMary-Lou Halliday, Aloha K9 Training & Pet Resort, Regina

By: Cassi Smith

When Mary-Lou was just seven years old, she unknowingly spoke her dream into existence. “I actually said out loud, ‘When I grow up, I am going to be a dog trainer!’” 23 years later, she did just that.

For as long as she can remember, Mary-Lou Halliday has been an animal lover. “I don’t kill bugs,” says Mary-Lou, “I will feed wasps sugar water, I spend too much time trying to catch a fly to let it outside. I believe we are all a part of this earth; we all belong here.” Today, Mary-Lou is the owner of Aloha K9 Training and Pet Resort. She specializes in aggressive dogs, working dogs, and behavior problem-solving, something she says she was born to do. “I am very in tune with dogs and can read them very easily,” explains Mary-Lou. “I’ve had clients who have worked with trainers before me and never got results, but then I come in and in one session they can see a change. I have always been able to find success with tough dogs.”

Mary-Lou started pursuing her dream of animal training after she graduated from Canada West Canine Centre (CWCC) in 2002. “It was always a dream to open my own facility since the day I drove back to Saskatchewan, and I just never gave up on it.” Despite having the drive and the knowledge, Mary-Lou struggled to turn her vision into reality. “A friend opened a yoga studio, and I went to congratulate her. She told me about CCDF and it has been a blessing ever since,” says Mary-Lou. In December of 2022, with the help of CCDF, Aloha K9 opened in Regina, Saskatchewan. “I would not have my facility without them!”

As a Métis woman, adopted into a non-Métis family, Mary-Lou says her relationship with CCDF has done more than help her business. “The support CCDF offers Métis entrepreneurs is beyond what I could have imagined and makes me proud to be Métis. I didn’t even know my nationality until I was 24,” explains Mary-Lou, who reconnected with her biological family and discovered her Métis heritage. “I have always felt connected to the earth, the animals, holistic natural healing, and that was not because of my upbringing – it was something I felt deep within. So, to now know who I am, to recognize it, celebrate it, and own that part of me, I am very proud. Connecting to my Métis heritage has given me my sense of belonging. It is the core of what makes me me. I am really proud to be Metis.”

Mary-Lou, who is also a graphic designer, a certified Life Coach, and a licensed practitioner of Body Talk and Reiki, says that her work as a dog trainer is the most fulfilling role she’s had. “When you have a tough dog, it can be a very emotional experience. I really focus on educating my clients, helping them understand where the dog is coming from and finding a balance. Seeing the emotional change humans and dogs go through and how grateful they are, I get the biggest natural high,” says Mary-Lou. “Knowing a dog isn’t going to be medicated or euthanized and has a chance at a good life, that’s what really grounds me and solidifies that I am doing the right thing with my life.”

As Aloha K9 celebrates its first anniversary, Mary-Lou sees nothing but growth in her future and hopes to bring more passionate trainers to the industry. “I was so lucky to have an amazing mentor! We need more good dog trainers. And I would love to get a bigger space where you can exercise and have fun with your dog in any weather. Essentially create a doggy Disneyland!”

For those looking to bring their version of a “doggy Disneyland” to life, Mary-Lou says the key is never giving up. “I have been manifesting this goal for 20 years. I took a few wrong turns, but the Universe went to work for me since I declared my dream out loud. I have been intentionally manifesting my life ever since!” Her next piece of advice? “Be patient. Timing is everything. And use amazing gifts like CCDF to help set you up on the path to success. I appreciate CCDF for believing in me. Knowing you have others in your corner rooting for you gives you the confidence to push through the hurdles. I will say it a million times over, I would not be where I am today without Clarence Campeau Development Fund and their amazing team!”