September 30, 2020

Outstanding Student: Paws-itively professional

1.9 min read| Published On: September 30th, 2020|

By James Combs

Outstanding Student: Paws-itively professional

1.9 min read| Published On: September 30th, 2020|

Teen owns doggone trustworthy pet-sitting company.

Photos: Nicole Hamel

It’s the little things Sofia Prieto-Rodriguez does for her clients that count. 

A gentle rub on the head. A tickle on the belly. A treat for good behavior. 

Sofia is a 15-year-old who turned her love of dogs into a thriving business. Her pet sitting company, Sofia’s Pet Emporium, operates out of Harbor Hills in Lady Lake. More than 30 clients in the retirement community have given Sofia their garage codes and house keys so she can come into their homes and care for their furry friends when they’re gone.

“They like the fact that their pets can stay in their houses, have their own food and stay on the same schedule,” Sofia says. 

She started her company in March 2019. Like any successful entrepreneur, she began spreading brand awareness by making business cards and passing them out to neighbors. Word of mouth has also been helpful. Clients such as Paul McHugh readily offer up glowing praise for Sofia, who watches his two dogs, Lana and Archer, every Thursday when he’s golfing. 

“I pay her a month in advance because I trust her so much,” Paul says. “And earning trust with me isn’t easy because I was a cop in California for 27 years. She’s very professional, very polite and always arrives 10 minutes early.” 

Sofia performs different duties for each client. Some only require her to feed their dogs and take them outside for a bathroom break. Others have her administer medications such as arthritis pills, topical skin drops, and eye drops. There’s also the occasional overnight stay. 

“I had one client who had me stay at her home for two straight nights so her dogs wouldn’t feel alone while she was gone,” Sofia says. 

It’s a demanding, seven-days-a-week job. Some mornings she’s up at 5 a.m. But Sofia doesn’t mind if it cuts into her time being a teenager. She’s just happy to give pet owners peace of mind while they’re away from home. 

“When pet owners are gone for more than a day, I text them a photo of their dog so they know everything is OK,” she says. 

That’s why Harbor Hills resident Bill Smith doesn’t have to worry about his poodle, Bentley, when he’s on vacation or going on a cruise. 

“My dog loves Sofia,” Bill says. “As a pet owner, it is very important to me that they have such a strong bond.”

Sofia feels her pet sitting experience will ultimately springboard her to a gainful career. She plans on operating a pet hotel inside a veterinary office. 

About the Author: James Combs

James Combs was a pillar of Akers Media Group since its inception in 2008. Over the years, he had the honor of interviewing Lake & Sumter County's most fascinating personalities, from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans, bringing their incredible stories to life. Throughout his career, James earned over 50 awards for writing excellence, a testament to his talent and dedication. In 2021, he was inducted into the Akers Media Group Hall of Fame. Sadly, James passed away in 2023 after a courageous battle with cancer. His legacy of storytelling and excellence continues to inspire us all.

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