Jan 20, 2020

Boss B*tch: Hotline founder Caterina Rizzi & her dog Charlie

By Pawzy Team
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Boss B*tch is a series featuring female entrepreneurs and their dogs. We're celebrating their accomplishments, and the dogs that keep them company along the way.

As the co-founder of Breather, Caterina Rizzi is the most funded female entrepreneur in Canada. Her new venture, Hotline, is an invite-only community for women in the start-up industry. She got the idea for Hotline after realizing that she kept having the same conversation with other female founders. It was clear that people needed a place to get real information that's curated and vetted. Hotline will be launching early 2020 and by her side is Charlie, a mixed-breed rescue dog (DNA results show that she's mostly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Australian Shepherd). We caught up with Caterina to find out rules for dog-friendly offices, the process of registering a therapy dog and why she drove to New Hampshire to get Charlie.


Hi Caterina! How do you balance being a pet parent with an entrepreneur's busy schedule?

I got my dog Charlie six months after we got our funding for Breather. It was a busy time, but I didn't get a dog to leave her at home all day. I got her because I wanted a companion, so she came to work with me. She was employee #6 at Breather!

Any tips for a successful dog-friendly office?

At our Montreal office, we had to enforce some rules so that it didn't become total mayhem. There was a three dog max rule, for example. We agreed on no squeaky toys, the dogs can't be barking every five minutes and they have to get along with people and other dogs.

How did you train Charlie to be a good office dog?

I think Charlie's a good office dog because she's always known this life. She started coming to work when she was just a puppy. For other dogs, they're more used to staying at home. Then, all of a sudden, they're in this new place with all these people touching them. So it's partly that you should start acclimatizing them when they're young. The other part is natural temperament. Charlie's just so mellow. I actually certified her as a therapy dog so that she can visit patients at the hospital.

How did you get her qualified to be a therapy dog?

The Montreal General Hospital put a call out in the newspaper and my mother saw it. Charlie and I met with the pet therapy program director and a pet specialist. They do a couple of tests to make sure the dog won't bite fingers if you yank treats away, things like that. They make you walk through the hallways, go up and down in elevators, drop loud objects to see if the dog will react. If you make the cut, you get scheduled times to bring your dog around to patients. We also visit with the staff — the nurses go wild over Charlie and take a million photos with her.

What was the adoption process like for Charlie?

I adopted Charlie from the Canine Commitment of New England in New Hampshire. I drove down to New Hampshire to get her — my family thought I was insane. But I had gone through a long process to find the right dog. I live in a condo, so I knew I didn't want a big dog. I used to have a German Shepherd, but now I wanted a dog I could pick up in my arms and take on the metro. Every time I saw a dog I liked on the Montreal rescue site, it would be adopted already. I saw Charlie online and within two days they said I could come get her.

After my German Shepherd passed away, I was devastated. I thought, 'I'm never going to do this again. I can't go through this with another dog.' It took about five years, but eventually I realized that I couldn't live without a dog. I'm so glad I have Charlie now. Life's just better with a dog, you know?


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