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Maricela Guerra had a successful corporate career for over ten years but when her dog came into her life, things changed. Today she runs a popular dog store in the southside of San Antonio, Texas and she shares with us her journey. Guerra also gives us tips on how to spot pet anxiety and how to manage it. Tips that will be helpful for those of you going back to work and wondering how you’ll handle leaving your loved pets at home. Find out more about her small business and pet pro tips below!

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

Mari, tell us a little about your background.

I was born and raised in the southside of San Antonio in a single-parent home. Stemming from divorced parents and a mom who attended night school to get her degree and worked multiple jobs to put me through Catholic school, a strong work ethic was one thing instilled in me from the get go. After graduating high school, I left the state to attend Northwestern University in Chicago, where I obtained my Bachelor Degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. I moved back home and took a job in the financial services industry and then transitioned into project management. While doing project management for a healthcare company, I attended night school at the University of Incarnate Word to get my Masters in Business Administration and joined a corporate company in the technology field. However, things changed for me when my dog came into my life.

Tell us more about this experience.

About six years ago, my life and future plans changed when a stray dog ran into my life… my “Wookie.” All good pet parents want a certain lifestyle for their pets.  Whether it’s the food in their dish, the apparel they wear, or the shampoo they’re bathed with, we want the best for them! Since I couldn’t easily attain quality essentials for my Wookie in nearby neighborhoods, I decided to create the kind of place that brings together not just the necessities, but a full canine lifestyle experience with quality at the core of our business model. So I put my sales and business experience to use and opened up SouthPaw Waggery. 

A lot of people are getting ready to go back to work and they are concerned with leaving pets at home. Let’s talk about pet separation anxiety and how to identify it.

Separation anxiety is definitely the most common anxiety seen in pets – many of which come from shelter and rescue organizations. Whether coming from an abusive or neglected home, anxiety can stem from any sort of lifestyle changes and can oftentimes come from attachment to their owner. Something many will face since we have spent so much time in lockdown with our pets.

Some common symptoms include: 

  • urinating & defecating 
  • barking & howling 
  • chewing, digging and destruction of objects
  • panting & pacing 
  • shivering 
  • hiding in another area

As a dog owner and pet store owner we know you have some good tips for us to help ease our dogs. Can you share those?

Assessing your pet’s behavior is most important – while trying to avoid turning to medication right away. There are various methods to try to help soothe your dog and make them feel more comfortable, for example: 

  • seeking professional help by consulting with a certified behaviorist or trainer 
  • crate training to help develop a “safe place” for your pet (not suitable for all dogs, but a good option for some)
  • providing lots of physical and mental stimulation (games, interactive toys & feeders, playing, walks/runs) 
  • CBD – before heading towards prescriptive medication, try calming CBD/Hemp treats and oil

What are things we should not do with pets when you notice separation anxiety?

As a pet parent, it’s important that you become a trusted partner and reliable leader for your dog. Each pet is different – how they develop anxiety, how they cope with anxiety, how they react to various treatments and interactions. Don’t believe everything you read or are told. No one treatment or activity works for every dog. It is up to you to do what’s right. So do your research and closely observe your dog’s behavior and make an educated decision. Don’t give up if your first treatment option fails – stay patient and keep working with your dog!

Where can we follow your adventures on building SouthPaw Waggery?

You can follow us on Instagram and on our website, www.shopwaggery.com.


This interview is part of the Luz Collective’s Alpha Latina: Small Business Saturday series. This series highlights the accomplishments of Alpha Latinas making a difference in their communities through their small businesses. Interested in being featured? Email us.


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