Daniella Magar was willing to go above and beyond to make her dog’s first birthday special.
She purchased party hats, invited other dogs and their owners into her home and had a pet-friendly cake delivered overnight from North Carolina for Champ, her blonde Labrador retriever mix. Guests sang “Happy Birthday to You” to Champ and watched him shove his head into gift bags to retrieve toys.
He was later caught by Magar’s mother, Lisa Redfern, while trying to steal hot dogs from the table.
Champ’s name comes from him being the first and largest of the litter.
Magar said she developed a close bond with Champ from the moment she bottle fed him after he was born in an Odessa clinic where she was a veterinary technician. The owner of Champ’s mother had requested clinic staff abort the unborn puppies, but Magar and her coworkers volunteered to find each one of them homes if they were delivered instead.
Redfern said her daughter came home with Champ in a carrier that same day.
“She said ‘oh mom it’s just temporary,’ but she kept him, and I think she knew she was keeping him,” Magar’s mother said. “That was her baby.”
After adopting Champ, Magar discovered a missing piece in her community during her pursuit to spoil her pet with a birthday celebration, and from that point on she began taking steps toward redirecting her passion for animals to chase her long-held aspiration of opening a pet store with specialty items for animals to indulge in.
She said those options for pet owners were more limited a decade ago in Midland-Odessa before she set up shop.
Magar is the owner of Champs Pet Boutique and Bakery and said the 70-pound Labrador retriever helped guide her to live out her dream. The pet store opened two weeks after her 14-month-old daughter was born in 2018.
“She always had that dream, but it all started with a birthday cake,” Redfern said.
The business began long before Magar had her current space located on Faudree Road. She started researching ingredients and dabbling with various recipes with her mother by her side to create pet treat products they could sell at farmers markets, local craft fairs and trade shows throughout West Texas about four years ago.
She enhanced her baking skills by creating custom cakes for Champ and his siblings on their birthdays. Fundraisers like bake sales were also necessary to cover costs for Champ’s orthopedic surgeries in Dallas.
“When he was a puppy, we noticed he wasn’t playing hard like any of the other dogs or he would start limping,” Magar said. “The first three years of his life, every year, he was having some sort of bone surgery. We were always raising money.”
On road trips Magar and her husband were constantly on the hunt for a new treat for Champ. She said ensuring her dog had quality of life was important because her pets were family members.
“He was just a lot of the inspiration behind me wanting to put my knowledge out there to help other people and their pets and I think that is where it has gone with the store too,” Magar said. “Not only am I giving unique services with us making our own pet treats and pet cakes, I’ll have people call me and ask for advice. I don’t think I would have done the store if I didn’t have Champ.”
Magar said her beloved pet suddenly fell ill within the last month and he was diagnosed with kidney failure. Champ’s health continued to decline, and she said this time she was unable to save him.
“It was really tough because we were to the point where if he was able to make it to a specialty hospital we were going to take him to Dallas or San Antonio to see if they could do dialysis,” she said. “He wasn’t Champ anymore the last two days and I think that was the hardest part. He was looking at you like I’m ready this time, I’m ready to go.”
Champ’s collar and ashes are kept at the pet store.
“Even though he’s no longer here, we’re going to do our best to keep the store up and moving,” Magar said.
The boutique will be a testament of the value Champ added to his family’s life and a way for his owner to honor his memory. Magar said in the future she wants to establish a foundation in his name to financially assist pet owners with veterinary care expenses and medical procedures.
“We will always miss Champ,” Redfern said, but “his spirit is there in the store.”