Gone to the Dogs stores in Salida and Buena Vista have new owners as of Oct. 6.
Laura and Tony Bussing have retired, “passing the leash” to Sasha and Tom Smalley after 12 years in business. Although this is the first business venture for Sasha, she has an extensive background in the dog grooming business, having managed grooming salons, studied pet nutrition and currently having two dogs herself. Obi is a pit bull mix and Satine is a standard poodle.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business, and I’ve admired what Laura and Tony have done with Gone to the Dogs,” Sasha said. “This seemed like the right fit. I fell in love with the industry and everything that entails dogs, and we recently moved back to Salida after being gone for seven years. I became a groomer at Gone to the Dogs and then approached Laura about buying the business.”
The same friendly service continues since no staffing changes are being made. The Smalleys have lived here in the past and Sasha grew up in Saguache. They have friends in the area and said they are excited to put down roots in Chaffee County.
Tom was a talented ski racer, and they want to have a Gone to the Dogs Town Challenge team this winter.
The Bussings started Gone to the Dogs in 2009 in downtown Salida and opened their second location in Buena Vista in 2012. In 2016 they opened the store on U.S. 50, and in a similar trend they moved the Buena Vista location to U.S. 24 in 2019.
What began as a mom-and-pop business has grown into a multi-location business with eight employees.
They plan to continue full-time living in their motor home, traveling to dog agility competitions and seminar teaching assignments. Laura is a well-known seminar presenter and competitor in the dog agility world and in November is competing at nationals at the U.S. Open in Florida. Next she travels to Pennsylvania to compete for a spot on the United States European Open Agility Team with the American Kennel Club.
“I’m excited for this next chapter in our life,” Laura said. “Gone to the Dogs was my vision, and after 12 years it is the perfect time to turn it over to amazing local people who will take it to the next level. I’ve always wanted to try out for a World team. It has taken many years of training and perseverance to get to this point. My 4-year-old border collie, Cam, and I are ready to go for it.”
The Bussings still own property in Chaffee County and love being part of this community. They plan to be back to snowmobile in the winter while Laura teaches, and they both will be back in summer when she will continue to teach agility classes at Gone to the Dogs and host a dog agility competition in July.