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Steve Katlin - Loxahatchee,  FL

Story Published in June 2016  | Interviews conducted in July 2015

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Steve Katlin is Belgian American. His father was part of United States Air Force. He met Steve's mother when he was stationed in Brussels. Steve spent his childhood between the East Coast and Belgium. After a long and successful career in the Travel Industry, Steve became a licensed Pet Care professional. He opened up his own pet boarding and training in Loxahatchee in 2010. Steve just loves animals and has a special talent with dogs. His friends call him “the DogFather”. He welcomed me at his house in Loxahatchee on a very hot day in July 2015.

 

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Growing up

Steve Katlin was born in Brussels. His father is American while his mother is Belgian. Growing up, Steve spent a lot of time visiting the US. Every year, he visited his relatives in New Jersey and New York. He really loved those times spent with his family. Steve went to school in Marches-en-Famenne and in Brussels. In 1988, while he was in his twenties, he decided to move to the United States. He stayed in Miami for a few years. Then he moved back to Brussels and helped his parents run the familial business: Belgair.

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Steve in New York when he was a kid. Photo courtesy of Steve Katlin.

Working in the travel industry

Belgair was one of the most successful travel agencies in Brussels. It was founded by Steve’s father with two other American pilots in 1962. Their offices were located on Avenue Louise. Belgair was the first representative of Delta Airlines and Alamo in Belgium. They ended up representing a very impressive portfolio of airlines and hotel companies. Steve’s father acted as CEO and Steve was the General Manager. Thanks to his work, Steve traveled extensively all around the world, and especially within the USA.

Relocating to Florida

In 1999, the family sold Belgair (it closed down permanently in 2013). Steve’s father wanted to retire in Florida so his parents moved to Boca Raton, FL. Steve decided to live in the United States as well and moved to West Palm Beach. He worked in the travel industry for another 10 years until 2009 when the economy collapsed. Steve was laid off.

Becoming a Pet Care Professional

After losing his job, Steve started to offer dog walking services on Craigslist. It helped him stay afloat financially but it also reminded him of his love for animals and his many years of volunteer work with pets. Soon he had one dog to walk, then two and then three. A few months later, a friend dropped off his dogs at Steve’s for a few days. Steve really loved the experience of “dog sitting”. It gave him the idea to go from pet walking to pet boarding. He would host pets in his house - totally cage free - and Steve would care after his animal guests as if they were his own pets. In 2010, Steve sought out proper certification as Pet Care Professional and opened up his own business: “Pet Care by Steve”.

Becoming The Dog Father

Steve’s home business quickly picked up but it lead to conflicts with his neighborhood association as only two dogs were allowed per house. Therefore, in 2013, with his business needs in mind, Steve found the perfect house in Loxahatchee. “I needed a big fenced yard, no carpet, tiles everywhere for easy cleaning and no restrictions on pets.” Moving was a great decision: 2015 was his best year in business. “I was a little scared to move away from my clientele but they followed me. I have clients who drive more than an hour to drop off their dog at my place. I feel very fortunate” Steve explains while he is showing me the binder referencing all the pets he has worked with.

 

Steve loves tattoos and had his nickname “the DogFather” tattooed on his left forearm. “The more time I spend with animals, especially dogs, the more I feel their genuine love and kindness” tells Steve. All his pet guests obey to him in the blink of an eye. “It is all about your attitude and the tone in your voice. You need to talk calmly but firmly and act with confidence” Steve explains. He is a real pet whisperer.

Volunteering at Lion Country Safari

In his free time, Steve volunteers at Lion Country Safari. It is one of the first “cage-free” zoos founded in the United States. The principle is simple: the animals are free of going where they want (except the lions) and you drive through the park. “Florida has the same climate as many places in Africa and South East Asia. That is why the animals of the park can stay outside year round” Steve explains. Steve’s mission at the zoo is to observe the Chimpanzees. He parks his car in front of the lake and takes note of their behaviors. Who cuddles with whom? Who eats alone? Steve reports his observations to the Park.

Still Feeling Belgian at Heart

Although Steve was born American and has spent a big part of his life in the United States, he still feels 100% Belgian. “I love the big open nature here and the wide opportunities. I feel super comfortable here, adjusting wasn’t hard at all. But I spent most of life in Belgium and I feel Belgian in my heart. I listen to Belgian French speaking stations in my car everyday.” What Steve misses the most from Belgium is the way Belgian people bond and the deeper friendships that result. Fortunately, Bandit, Steve’s four legged friend is always by his side. And they share a bond that they share with nobody else.

 

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Steve's four legged best friend: Bandit

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