Joann Schwartz always wanted to help, never mind the danger.
That's why she first went into law enforcement. That's how she ended up in pet care.
Schwartz , 48, operates Kirkwood Feed & Seed, with a large selection of pet supplies and on-site groomers. Next door is her Bark & Lounge, a dog daycare and boarding facility that, like a police station, operates 24/7. Whatever your pet needs – or if you need a pet – Schwartz is there to serve and protect.
She's traded occupational hazards for a lot more satisfaction and safety, though she remains on alert.
"Getting bit – you knows it's going to happen," the lifelong animal lover said with a laugh. "But my facility [maximum 50 dogs, split into two areas] is a lot smaller than a lot, and smaller is much safer for employees and the dogs."
Over 8 years, Schwartz's cozy animal business has helped smoothed edges of a personality callused by police work. Her closest call came when a traffic stop turned up an AWOL Marine who shot at her, but missed.
"You do get hardened, because you have to shut some things out," she said.
The discipline, patience and people skills of law enforcement helped her succeed in business and find personal satisfaction in Kirkwood.
Customer Leah Manley of Oakhurst was surprised to hear that her dog's "Aunt Joann" had been a cop. "It makes sense because she's so structured and so organized with her business and staff," said Manley.
Her Boston terrier Brutus used to get real aggressive around bigger dogs until Schwartz put her in touch with Frogs to Dogs, a pet training and sitting service also based nearby.
Community connections have always driven Schwartz, whose father was mayor in Freehold, N.J. She still works once a month as a reserve deputy for Rockdale County.
"I have soft spots for the kids and elderly," she said. On police patrol, "I would always make a point in my zone to go by where they lived, because they get abused very easily and they can't fight back."
She channels her compassion into Kirkwood. Her business, which employs 11 people, also donates to rescue groups, offers low-cost clinics and supports community events.
"She's still tough as far as being a businesswoman, but she's also a softie, willing to give and help anyone," said longtime friend Robin Pruitt.
At home, Schwartz takes care of cats Gabby, Gleason and Millie; parrots Alex and Sasha; and Boris and Ivan, two Boston terriers – her favorite breed.
"They are very smart, very playful and funny to be around," said Pruitt, who also owns two Bostons named Sorella and Fratello. "Joann is playful, spontaneous and a go-getter, too. They'll give you a run for your money and so will she."