Wendy Yax

Wendy Yax’ life is all about dogs. As a volunteer for several animal welfare organizations and as a co-owner of Paws Plus You, a fear-free dog training program, most of her time is devoted to helping dogs find and stay in loving homes.

Growing up, dogs were always part of her family. That’s even more true now, with “foster fail” Gracie, a 5-year-old dog rescued from Lapeer County Animal Control, and Spencer, a puppy adopted from Making Miracles Animal Rescue where Yax has volunteered for more than 20 years.

When Yax first saw Spencer, he was just 3 months old. “My veterinarian said, ‘Oh, Wendy, he needs you!’ How could I say no?”

In addition to the dogs, the Yax family includes husband Brian and son Ethan, who will graduate from high school in June. Both have helped with fostering, fundraising and transporting, and Ethan even worked with his mom as her dog safety child tester when he was younger.

“I first met Wendy when she was advocating for change at Lapeer County Animal Control,” said MPA board member Courtney Protz-Sanders. “I was so impressed with her and the amount of research she had done into the live release rate and issues at the county shelter. She and her fellow advocates had already laid the groundwork to persuade the county to do better and to show them how.”

Yax started volunteering at Lapeer County Animal Control in 2011. At that time, the shelter wasn’t letting the public volunteer, so dogs were not getting walked and social media wasn’t used to facilitate adoptions. The shelter’s live release rate was only 41.2%.

Yax approached the Lapeer shelter director about taking pictures of the adoptable animals and he agreed. On Wednesday afternoons, when the shelter closed early, she took photos of the adoptable animals to post on social media. She founded the Lapeer Adoptable Animals Facebook page, which became a 501c3 organization and gained 94,000 followers. In the first nine months, shelter adoptions were up 75%, and the kill rate was down 85%.

By the time Wendy left the shelter for other volunteer opportunities, Lapeer County’s live release rate was at its highest ever, 96%.

During her stint at Lapeer, Yax attended Animal Behavior College and, in 2020, she was certified as a Fear Free veterinary professional and animal trainer. She just recently received her CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assisted) designation.

Yax has volunteered for several other animal rescue organizations over the years, most recently with foster-based Canine Companions Rescue Center in Clarkston. Yax also works three or four days a week as one of the staff receptionists at Hollow Corners Veterinary Services in Dryden.

Along with two trainer partners, Yax founded Paws Plus You, a fear-free positive reinforcement program dedicated to training dogs and educating pet parents on solutions to behavior problems, teaching basic manners and learning life skills, according to its website, pawsplusyou.com. From Puppy Preschool to Confident Canines, Paws Plus You offers group classes and private lessons at The Lodge for Pampered Pets in Metamora.

“We hope our efforts will result in fewer canines relinquished to animal shelters and rescue groups due to behavior issues,” Yax said. “We strive to bring out the best in the dogs we train.”

Yax will be one of the volunteers working at the 2023 One Voice: Michigan Pet Alliance Conference & Expo in Grand Rapids, Thursday and Friday, September 21 and 22, 2023. If you are interested in volunteering, contact conference chair Michelle Spranger at michelle@michiganpet.org.

“I’ve known Wendy and her work for years,” said MPA Board Chair Deborah Schutt. “She is a tireless animal welfare worker who has transitioned to address needs before the curve, with diplomacy and passion. She is a real asset to our industry.”

Michigan Pet Alliance is grateful that Wendy’s life is “all about dogs.”