Residents of Thurston County, like most Americans, love their pets. Nearly every day, our social media feeds are full of cat videos and our parks are full of people walking their four-legged buddies. For many, pets are both our stress relief and our friends – supporting us through tough days and joining us in an exploration of the beauty of the region on the good ones. In Thurston County one of the voices for pet empowerment, education and recreation is Sarah Bous Leslie. Sarah has lived in the region for over a decade, helping to set up and run the well-received and locally loved Pet Connection Magazine. What started as a move to the region over a decade ago has blossomed into a loving relationship with the South Sound.

Sarah Bous Leslie moved to Thurston County in 2006 when her husband was transferred to the Tacoma office of his company. After he accepted the job, they traveled around the region, looking for the most ideal place to call home.

“We fell in love with Olympia and decided to make our home here,” Sarah recalled. “I remember driving on I-5 through the Nisqually Valley for the first time; our son had his face pressed against the window to see better. The closer we got to Oly, the more we knew we were home.”

The beauty of nearby nature was one of many reasons they loved the area. Sarah was thrilled to live in a town with so much diversity. Close to nature and near towns with local shops and a bustling city life, she was in awe of the greatness that Thurston County offered on a daily basis.

Sarah Bous Leslie dog Halloween
Tracy Campion and Sarah Bous Leslie dressed up at a doggie Halloween event, getting to know the dog-loving community of the PNW. Photo courtesy: Sarah Bous Leslie

“With a short car ride you can go from a walk on the waterfront in Olympia, to shopping in downtown, to lunch on Offut Lake, to a lovely hike through the forest and prairies,” Sarah beamed. “I work downtown, and love the atmosphere of acceptance, the air of creativity and the community and its art. I live outside of Tenino where I can enjoy both the small-town life and the country feel. I know I’m biased, but I love Thurston County!”

After relocating to Thurston County, Sarah soon learned that the region and Olympia is one of the most dog-friendly places around the Pacific Northwest. With many businesses allowing dogs at their outdoor seating, pet owners running businesses and a general positive attitude toward pets in general, she jumped at an opportunity to get involved with a new publication at the time called Pet Connection. Today, this magazine is distributed to both the North and South Sound residents, sharing fresh, local, original content with animal lovers across the Pacific Northwest.

Pet Connection Magazine debuted as a humble, four-page periodical, and today they have grown into two, popular 24+ page magazines, with North Sound and South Sound editions. Sarah has been there since the start where she was the graphic designer for the original owner, creating the very first edition. Two years later, the original owner decided to move on to other pursuits, so Sarah and a partner decided to take over the operations. Today, Sarah works at her day job and then comes home to work on the magazine, which used to be much more stressful.

Sarah Bous Leslie Pet Connection Magazine
Sarah doing a photo shoot for Pet Connection Magazine, one of the many skills she shows off in her publication. Photo courtesy: Sarah Bous Leslie

“I remember rushing to finish an issue for print before I went into labor with my daughter,” remarked Sarah. “Thankfully we have grown enough now that we have help with much of the design and photography! I have a new partner who joined the company two years ago, Tracy Campion. She manages much of the work in the North Sound, and I overlook things in the South Sound.”

It should come as no surprise that Sarah loves all animals. At home on the family plot of land out near Tenino, she has what she calls her pack. It consists of 2 horses, 1 mini horse, 2 goats, 11 chickens, a ball python and her 2 pit bulls; there is never a dull moment. While many communities around the county are against pit bulls, Olympia seems to have embraced them.

Sarah Bous Leslie Pit Bulls
Sarah and her daughter Sophia taking their two pit bulls, Sadie and Sherman, on a walk around the lake. Photo courtesy: Sarah Bous Leslie

“I love how our community has come together to support pit bull-type dogs and works on ending the discrimination against the breed,” Sarah said with pride. “I very strongly feel that dogs should be judged by their deeds not their breeds! I have two very sweet ‘pitties’ and was so very moved to walk around Capitol Lake with so many others to show people that these dogs are just dogs! The Bully Walk happens every October followed by the ‘Love a Pitbull Day’ put on by Covenant Creatures. This is an event where I don’t just work at it, I attend it, proudly!”

For Sarah, seeing people enjoy time with their dogs and other pets brings her happiness. It is one of the reasons why she and her husband like raising their family out in the countryside, so they can roam with their aforementioned pack. While they enjoy riding their horses out on their land, when they do come to Olympia, they find themselves pleased with dog-friendly opportunities for dining and shopping. When pressed for the best places to explore Olympia with your dog, Sarah didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Our favorite spots to visit are Vic’s Pizza, Fishtale Brewery, and Three Magnets with a stop at the Pet Works in downtown Olympia,” Sarah told us. “We do also have a first-rate, off-leash area (dog park) out at the Hawks Prairie Waste site. If your dog is very social and confident, that can be a fun time as well. I also highly recommend stopping by Emmit’s Magic Thrift Store; those folks are dog-friendly and raise money to help animals, too!”

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