Cincy Chic: You were nominated for our Woman of the Year Awards for your work with Circle Tail. Tell readers a little about Circle Tail.
Circle Tail Owner Marlys Staley: Circle Tail is a nonprofit organization that I started back in 1997, and we train service and hearing dogs for people with disabilities. We also operate a dog shelter where we take in dogs and puppies and have them available for adoption. Then we also provide general training classes for the public to help them keep their dogs in the home and a few other services like day care and boarding and grooming.
Cincy Chic: Why did you decide to start this organization?
Staley: Typically I tell people it was my midlife crisis. [Laughs.] I am a physical therapist and worked in the burn and wound care field for about 17 or 18 years and just felt like I wanted to do something different and something with dogs.
When I was investigating things, I found working with people with disabilities that require service dogs would be a nice marriage of the two professions, the physical therapy where I’d already been dealing with people that had some type of physical limitation, and then I went and became a master dog trainer, so now I teach dogs how to help people with disabilities.
Cincy Chic: Through Circle Tail, you also started an Inmate/Canine program. How does this program work exactly?
Staley: At the beginning of the organization, we obviously had limited foster families, and I needed a way to get more dogs into the program as not many of the dogs make it through to be service dogs. So we got a hold of some of the prisons in Ohio, and it’s a community service project for them.
I train the inmates to train the dogs, and the dogs actually live in the prisons with the inmates. They socialize them, they train them, they groom them, they exercise them. And then they come back to Circle Tail for adoption or into a foster family for more in-public training if they’re going to be a service dog.
Cincy Chic: Outside of Circle Tail, what do you like to do for fun?
Staley: Circle Tail’s kind of my life. I actually used to be an active runner, but now I probably just jog with my dogs, walk and jog with my dogs. And I read books, have dinner with friends, watch movies. I don’t really have many hobbies other than dogs these days. They’re my life.
Cincy Chic: What do you love most about Cincinnati?
Staley: Circle Tail is out where I would call the country, and lots of people comment like, "Wow, you’re really out there!" but it’s beautiful. So we have this beautiful country setting on 17 acres with ponds and woods to walk in and trails to walk on. But it’s very convenient to drive into different parts of Montgomery, Deer Park, Madeira, all these different other places you can go to for other activities.
And I do want to add that the Nature Center is one of my favorite hiking places, so that’s another little known thing in Cincinnati (or maybe a well-known), but we take a lot of the dogs down to the Nature Center and hike all the trails. So it’s great having the city and country so close together.