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A New Leash on Life: Finding Healing with Woman’s Best Friend

Maria Silva and her dog Padme
Maria Silva and her dog Padme Photo courtesy of

In November, 2008, Maria Silva was laid off from her job. When a friend approached her about starting a dog walking business she recognized an opportunity that was too good to pass up. As the mother of older children, Maria believed she had the time and energy to do something for herself. “I jumped in with both paws!”

A few months later, her business partner decided to pull out of the fledgling business due to family obligations. “At that point I had to make a decision; to move forward on my own venture or end things right there,” Maria recalls. “I have always believed that whenever God closes a door, He opens a window.”

In May 2009, Maria Silva founded RED ROVER Dog Walking. “My window was wide open and ready for the winds of change to experience something I never had before – a business of my own!”

Unsure of how to market her new business, Maria reconnected with her former dog trainer, Joe the Dogman. He offered to mentor her and let her assist him in dog trainings. “The education and experience I gained from him is immeasurable. He taught me how to be more in-tune with the dogs, how to anticipate their needs and deal with various situations and behaviors that may arise.”

Maria also reached out to other dog walkers for business advice. “They were very cooperative and happy to help someone new in the field,” she explains. “With information gathered from a variety of resources, I was ready to put RED ROVER Dog Walking on the map.”

Being an artist at heart, Maria designed her own website. “It was important to me to have my own sense of style portrayed throughout the site and for people to get a feel of who I am as a person.”

After consulting with some of her marketing friends, Maria decided to expand her online business marketing plan by starting a fanpage on Face Book and creating a Twitter account. “I update them almost daily.”

She also began a monthly email newsletter called, The ZEN DEN 4 Dogs! Describing this as a monthly “tickler,” Maria shares brief dog-related stories, fast and easy dog treat recipes and offers a personal closing note. “This is where I let my clients get to know me as a person, not just their dog walker.”

When at a client’s home, Maria doesn’t just walk your dog; she connects to it. “I feel its energy and let it know that I am in charge.” She also fills out a personalized journal entry, so the dog owner knows exactly what their dog did during each visit.

RED ROVER’s tagline is ‘Breakthrough Dog Walking.’ “Just like the game Red Rover, you must break through to the other side,” Maria explains. “We start out on our journey and discover our surroundings together. As strange as it sounds, it’s almost a spiritual experience – a breakthrough.”

“The scenery of some of these locations is beyond words. I am so very thankful I live on beautiful Cape Cod. I often think to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” Outside in the fresh air, with my furry friend on a beach or nice sidewalk, life doesn’t get any better than this.”

Her compassion and love are not only extended to dogs. RED ROVER also offers free dog walking services to cancer patients who live in the villages of Barnstable, West Barnstable, Centerville, Cotuit, Marstons Mills and Osterville. "I am very passionate about making sure all members of the family – including dogs – are taken care of during this difficult time," she says. In 2007, Maria’s husband underwent treatment for Lymphoma. It was an 8-month process during which she found herself overwhelmed and accepting help from all angles.

"One of the most beneficial gifts I received was when a friend offered to exercise my dog,” she recalls. “Strength and energy are not abundant during this time for the patient or caregiver, so everybody suffers – the humans and the animals alike. It was such a relief to have someone help us out in this area".

Maria also donates her services for various auctions and fundraisers. "I just want to give back the blessings that were bestowed upon me and my family when I was on that difficult journey." A firm believer in ‘what goes around, comes around’, Maria considers herself blessed with “a supportive husband, old soul of a son, comedian daughter and the most loving dog ever.

As the founder of Red Rover Dog Walking, Maria is passionate about making sure dogs are healthy and happy. “Our mission is to provide high quality and personalized care so that each dog is treated as if they were one of our own.”

Her scheduled visits can range from a 10-minute midday “relief” visit, to a half hour walk, to an hour-long walk/play/feeding time. You can also arrange to have her stay in your home overnight.

“I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier than doing what I’m doing right now. Yes, Life IS Good!”

Maria Silva can be reached at 774-836-6334 or visit

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Recipes from The ZEN DEN 4 Dogs!

Go Bananas Training Treats

  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 mashed bananas
  1. Blend liquid ingredients, eggs and mashed bananas, making sure to mix well.
  2. Add flour and oatmeal. Mixture will be similar to cake mix.
  3. Spread into a well-greased pizza pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.
  4. Cut into tiny squares or strips using a pizza cutter.
  5. Keep refrigerated; store unused in freezer.

Apple Crunch Mini Pupcakes

  • 1 tbl. Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 tbl honey
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 ¾ cups water
  • ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 c. dried or fresh apple

Optional: Add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds for a healthy boost of Omega 3's

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients thoroughly. Mix dry ingredients separately.
  3. Slowly add wet mixture to dry mixing as you go.
  4. Make sure dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the wet.
  5. Pour mixture into muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 1 ¼ hours or until toothpick comes out dry.

Makes 12-14 pupcakes in regular pans

Most dogs give two paws up!!

Bone Appetit!