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Trainer Takes Life One Dog at a Time


When Bonnie Buchanan of North Carolina decided to open a training center for dogs in 1990, she had no idea that people from as far away as Japan would bring their pets to her door.

Likewise, she didn't know she was about to start something that would one day be featured on television stations, in magazines and other media outlets throughout the world.

But the facility that Buchanan dubbed Bon-Clyde, named after herself and her beloved Rottweiler, who died of cancer in 1989, has made her quite a celebrity. But don't think she's in this just for money or fame. Buchanan opened the business, which she calls "The South's Finest Dog Training Center," simply because she loves dogs.

"I've always trained dogs and I've always shown dogs," she said. "I retired from teaching public school the year I opened Bon-Clyde - I'd taught 21 years and I got early retirement. And I had to make a choice - I still teach, but I teach the dogs."

Indeed, dogs are a constant part of Buchanan's life. When reached by phone early in the morning, she had to yell over the barking in the background. "The dogs are excited because it's the first time this morning they've seen me," she explained. She added, "I myself have 11 dogs. They are all house dogs and pets."

She noted that while some of her dogs are purebreds and breed champions, there are a few that she rescued from shelters. "My dogs are family first and pets and show dogs second," she made clear.

Perhaps it's that attitude that has made Bon-Clyde so popular. The facility began as a standard obedience school, with Buchanan teaching dogs basic manners. It's amazing how many people have dogs that they are trying to prevent from jumping on and nipping at people.

But over time, she expanded the facility's offerings. Now, there are competitive obedience contests and agility training, a specialty they branched out into about eight years ago. Buchanan also evaluates therapy dogs that are placed in nursing homes and other settings. And of course, she also has her hand in show business.

"A big thing we do now is canine acting," Buchanan said. "That's our Bon-Clyde Canine Professionals unit. We train dogs for movies and commercials."

For instance, Gracie, a border collie, played "Ralph," a spokesdog for BellSouth Mobility. In one of the ads, Gracie played dead to show what happens when you use minutes from other cell phone companies, but she rolled over repeatedly to demonstrate the value of BellSouth's rollover minutes.

"Gracie has been in about 60 commercials," Buchanan said. "And we have another dog that works for Suntrust Banks." She added that she's currently working on a script from California for what could turn into "a big movie."

Since Buchanan opened the center, she's come a long way. "We now have one other full-time employee and 10 part-timers or independent contractors," she said. "We try to utilize our building every hour."

She said that when she first began, the building was only 2,000 square feet but it's since expanded to encompass 22,000 square feet. "The first couple of years, I didn't turn a profit at all, but now my bookkeeper says it's holding its own," she said.

But the best thing about being the owner of Bon-Clyde is just helping people and their dogs. Thousands of dogs are trained at the center each year. "We have four beginner classes with 12 to 15 dogs per class," she said. "We have two puppy classes, two intermediate classes, acting classes, 10 agility classes." She listed more before eventually trailing off.

"What I enjoy most is helping the people, and watching the relationship with their dogs and watching them leave happy," she said.

For the foreseeable future, Buchanan said she can't imagine doing anything else. "I could probably make more money having a real job working for someone else," she said. "But that just isn't what I want. I enjoy what I'm doing."

For more information about Bon Clyde, visit their Web site at

About the Author
Thomas A. Parmalee is a news writer for Only For Pet Lovers. Check out our site to view the rest of our articles and register at our online community for pet lovers like yourself. To keep up to date on what's going on in the pet world, visit our site and check out the pet news section. You can even find available pet adoptions with our pet finder feature.

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