PHOTOS BY LAURIE GORDON
Jan Hopper, the owner of Pawsitively, dog trainer, Carla Torppey, and Gucci, the store's mascot.
By laurie gordon
LAFAYETTE — There's a place on Route 15 in Lafayette that's “Pawsitively” great. Featuring a huge selection of highly nutritious food and treats for dogs, cats and smaller animals, the store has a dog run in the back, so it's not only popular for its quality of products and selection, but a stop for travelers to give their dogs a break and a snack. The bran child of Jan Hopper, of Branchville, Pawsitively is a one-of-a-kind pet store and destination. The 4,500 square-foot pet retail store officially opened on Nov. 10, 2012. Now celebrating nearly seven years in business, Living Pawsitively offers pet food made from all-natural ingredients, providing better health benefits for animals than most commercially made pet food. Hopper owned a trucking business in Kearny from 1995 to 2011. She sold Challenge Transport in 2011 and was able to purchase the building that houses the store. Hopper had always loved animals, but it became a passion when she adopted her dog, Bailey, in 2003 and devoted herself to feeding him top quality/healthy food. In 2010, Hopper adopted Andy and fed both dogs raw/frozen and freeze-dried foods. At 11 years old, Bailey acted like her 3-year-old, Andy, until Bailey lost a gallant battle with cancer. “Sometimes you just don't know a dog's genetics,” Hopper said. “It was so very difficult, sad and horrible to see Bailey succumb to the disease.” If she hadn't already been dedicated to doing all she could for her dogs, Bailey's passing only made her more passionate about learning as much as she could about her dogs' genetics and researching the best possible nutrition for her own animals and those of her customers. Hopper adopted Hutch four years ago and cares meticulously for both Hutch and Andy. In keeping with the emphasis in animal's health and nutrition, Living Pawsitively has a scale that weight's four-legged creatures up to 700 pounds. “The scale is free for people to use, and we welcome all animals (as long as they are on a leash) into the store,” Hopper said. “Once the pet is weighed, if they are overweight we are glad to talk to the owner about nutrition and how to gear for a lower calorie diet for the animal.” Hopper said that when it comes to pets, longevity depends on genetics, nutrition and exercise, just like humans. “If you get an animal from one of our area's great shelters, it's a wonderful thing to take them in and adopt them, but you probably won't know the animal's genetics,” she said. To this end, there are places such as the one Hopper uses called EmbarkVet.com, that can give a dog's full DNA and genetic health history. “Certain breeds are more prone to certain illnesses and disease,” Hopper said. “This gives as much information as possible to do all you can to prevent disease and illness.” In addition to all kinds of highly nutritious foods, Living Pawsitively features a menagerie of pet toys, accessories and gifts. Their toys that keep dogs focused are very popular and they sell all equipment needed for puppies. As for gifts for a pet lover, Pawsitively features everything from t-shirts to mugs and much more. The store’s “Barkery” offers an assortment of high quality, good tasting dog treats that are also prepared from all-natural ingredients. “We get a number of people traveling to a lake house they have here in the county stopping here to let their pets take a run and get a snack,” Hopper said. Her customers come from far and wide as well as hundreds in Sussex County. A very special addition to Living Pawsitively is trainer Carla Torppey, of Wantage. Torppey is highly versed in all the techniques of dog training as exhibited by the store's mascot, Gucci. Torppey owns Gucci's mother and saw him being born. Since then, she's cared for and trained Gucci. A simple command, and he'll sit or go to his dog bed. Torppey is available to train all sizes and breeds of dogs. “The pet food that we sell and the treats that we offer are all-natural, meaning there is no soy, by-products or fillers,” Hopper said. “We also work with local animal shelters to help those who are interested in adopting a pet, which is a better alternative to buying one from a pet store.” One of Hopper's passions is helping local animal rescue non-profits. A Valentine's Day event is coming up with Safe n' Sound Rescue, and they are looking to have pet photos with cupid. For Easter, there will be pet photos with the Easter Bunny. On June 23, Living Pawsitively will hold its annual Wellness Day which sees 30-plus vendors setting up on the property and lots of fun for pets and owners. Living Pawsitively is a place where every pet owner knows that the food and treats they are buying are always natural and healthy. “We provide a fun and playful environment where you can bring your pets into the shop and experience our knowledgeable and friendly staff,” Hopper said. “If you need a fitting for a harness or collar we are more than happy to fit your pet with their proper sizing. We have experienced staff ready to help you and your pet.” Hopper's love, and loss, of Bailey and continued love for Andy and Hutch has been her catalyst to ensure dogs, cats and other creatures receive the best nutrition possible by Living Pawsitively. Living Pawsitively is located at 39 Route 15 in Lafayette Township. For information, call: (973) 862-6030, visit www.livingpawsitively.com or find them on Facebook.