Dog lover Pam Bombyk works hard for her money, but she doesn't view her efforts as a merely a job, but more of a passion.
She is the proprietor of Life With Pets, a specialty shop in Tyler's historic brick street district area that offers natural products and gifts for proud pet parents and their furry friends.
"I've been an independent business person all my life," she said. "I've done a lot of things ... insurance, publishing, advertising sales. Eventually, I found myself wanting something different."
Mrs. Bombyk said she always longed for a career that felt meaningful and spoke to her animal loving soul.
"I knew I wanted to be around dogs, and I wanted to be around dog lovers," the shopkeeper said, as one of her three rescue pooches snoozed nearby. "I just didn't know how to do it. This is perfect for me."
Her shop features products for both canines and kitties, although it's slightly obvious where her pet preferences seem to fall.
Her professional foray from high heels to hounds came almost by accident, it seems.
The light bulb came on a few years ago after she and her husband, Mark, relocated from Michigan to Texas to be closer to family.
The Tyler newcomer was shocked to find the East Texas region struggling with high numbers of homeless animals, soaring euthanasia rates and limited pet shelters.
She started working with concerned animal lovers to boost adoption rates in hopes of reversing the trend.
Somewhere along the way, she realized a growing thirst among some pet owners for natural, high quality animal care and nutrition products.
She decided to take a risk and enter the world of retail entrepreneurship, combining her love of animals with her degree in natural health.
Life with Pets opened a few years ago on Old Bullard Road as an option for providing holistic care to pets.
The business moved in August to its current locale, 300 W. Rusk St., in the Brick Street Village area where it shares space with a specialty gift shop, Daily Grace Effect, owned by DeeAnn W. Seawright.
The 600 square-foot shop features paw-printed walls and rooms brimming with creature comfort products, ranging from collars and bedding to medications and foods.
In all products, there seems to be an emphasis on staying away from harmful chemicals and additives while adhering to good design and quality materials.
"The things I have generally have to be explained," she said with a grin. "For example, we have some plain collars and leashes, but we also carry retractable leashes with harnesses."
Other specialty items are less obvious: shampoos made with essential oils, grin-free treats and natural chews.
The shop also offers healthful alternatives for dental care, hip and joint pain, heartworm prevention, digestive issues, memory boosters and skin issues.
By choice, she keeps a limited selection of dog and cat food, however.
"The dog food was frustrating me," she said. "So many people were coming in describing their dogs' digestive issues."
Many food products rely heavily on grains, fillers and other ingredients that many dogs are unable to properly digest.
Mrs. Bombyk offers a specialized food that features chicken as a main ingredient.
More varieties may be added at a later date, but only after a thorough vetting by the resident health guru.
A snapshot of other brands and products can be found on her store website, www.alifewithpets.com.
"Having your own shop requires a lot of work and a lot of expense," Mrs. Bombyk said. "It's worth it … it feels right for me."
TWITTER @ TMT _ JACQUE