Larsen loves her 4-legged friends
Happy Tails celebrates 25 years in business
Some people tolerate what they do for a living and others like what they do for a job.
Then, there is Laura Larsen. Larsen is passionate about animals, so much so she began a business 25 years ago to board dogs and cats when their people needed to be gone.
Happy Tails Pet Boarding is located west of Blue Earth on the farm where Laura, and her husband Jason, live.
“My mother says I have been sneaking animals into the house since I was too young to remember,” Larsen says, smiling. “My husband will say no to me getting any more animals, but he is just as bad as I am.”
Larsen was originally from Fulda, where she was raised on a farm and got used to being around animals.
“My parents raised beef cattle,” she comments. “Jason also grew up around animals, mostly horses, and he shares my love of animals.”
Larsen left Fulda after graduating from high school to attend Mankato State University, where she majored in psychology and sociology.
“I had been working for Taylor Corp and got laid off,” she explains. “I was out driving around and saw this for sale sign which had fallen down in the road ditch, but the gate on the end of the driveway was locked so I was not able to look at the farm.”
Her interest had been piqued however, so she returned another day.
“This time the gate was open and I drove up the long driveway and came around the curve and looked at the farm and decided I had to have it,” Larsen says.
The farm was purchased but it needed a lot of work.
“I do not think anybody had lived in the house for eight years. There were broken windows and it was a mess,” she shares. “I had lived in poverty most of my life so I could handle it.”
The couple actually put more of their resources into fixing up the barn to make it into a kennel and they began boarding animals in 1996.
“People said we should just live in the kennel,” Larsen laughs. “It was nicer than the house.”
The couple managed their finances and in 2005 they built a new house on the farm site.
“It was worth it to live in poverty for those 10 years so we could have this house,” Larsen says. “It took some time and hard work for us to clean up the place because it was overgrown with weeds and had three old sheds full of junk.”
She says she and Jason were married in 1994 after being introduced by mutual friends.
“The story we like to tell is we met in a stripper bar,” Larsen says. “It was called Snookie’s and was located in LeHillier, which is an unincorporated village on the west side of Mankato.”
There is more to the story though.
“While it may have been a stripper bar some nights, it was also a place to go country dancing and that is why my friend invited me to go with her,” Larsen says. “Her boyfriend had brought Jason with him and that is how we met.”
Larsen says she and Jason still love to dance.
“We do most of our dancing at wedding receptions now,” she notes.
They also used to compete against each other in open horse competitions.
“He would do better than me most of the time,” Larsen says. “Except in the egg and spoon competition.”
Jason stays busy hauling over-sized agricultural equipment for AGCO, in Jackson.
Larsen shares she also had held jobs in human resources for Weigh-Tronix, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center and has also worked at Hanson Auto.
Since opening her boarding business she has not only taken in cats and dogs, but has also housed snakes, a parrot, hamsters and gerbils.
“I wanted the parrot to like me so much. I wanted it to sit on my shoulder,” Larsen says. “But he was mean. He did not like me and wanted to bite my finger.”
Thankfully, there have not been many problem animals in all of her years of business.
“I have only had four bad experiences in 25 years,” Larsen declares. “Those had to do with mean dogs. It still makes my stomach feel funny.”
Larsen has her own cats, dogs, goats and horses to care for.
“I have 10 horses but my goal is to have four,” she notes. “I used to train horses to be ridden which helped raise money to spend on our plans.”
Animals and pets are not Larsen’s only passion. She feels very strongly about her customers and looks for ways she can help out in the community.
“For instance, if I have a regular customer who needs to board their animal because they need to travel to Rochester for medical reasons, I do not charge them,” Larsen says. “I feel they have enough on their mind. It is a way for me to give back.”
She recently found another way to occupy her time.
“I have played piano since before my feet could touch the floor while sitting on the piano bench,” Larsen comments. “I have begun giving piano lessons at the Ten Talents Arts Center in Blue Earth. I started with one student and now I have 18, from kids to adults. I do that Monday through Thursday in the afternoons.”
One thing she is not aiming to do is travel, although she would like to.
“Oh, I would love to see the Redwoods and the Sequoias,” Larsen shares. “And I think it would be neat to swim with the manatees or the dolphins.”
She says she is most happy being on her farm located along Badger Creek in Jo Daviess Township.
“Everything I love is here,” Larson says. “I get to ride my horse every day it is fit. We have all of our animals. I am living my dream.”