NORTH TONAWANDA – Just as Kim Aulick had figured out how to make good money at her hobby of selling beads online, computer change swept in, and her latest, lucrative career started to disappear. Doctors and staff were typing directly into laptops, and her long-distance employer, a medical center in North Carolina, didn’t need her as much anymore. But beaders seemed to.

“I’m doing actually quite well,” said Aulick, 51. “I’m doing well enough where I’m able to keep up with the utilities and the groceries.”

As her medical assignments started to slow down, friendships and sales of her packets of beads in bright crackled glass, silver plate and even glow-in-the-dark skulls, took off.

This week, online friends have rallied to host a yard-sale-like auction with jewelry and knickknacks – Tuesday at – to try to pay for an operation for her St. Bernard, Harley.

“They’re hoping it’s going to be a success,” she said, thinking of the surgery that will fix the paralyzed larynx that makes it difficult for her dog to breathe and exercise. If it’s not fixed, she fears she will have to euthanize him.

“He’s been my baby ever since,” said Aulick. “My son, he’s just crushed at the thought of losing him.”

While she can’t afford the $2,500 operation without help, the amount of success and fun she’s had at this fledgling new career has surprised her. The configuration of the Tophatter website suits her chatty style and lets her have text conversations with buyers and sellers.

When she posted that she had to take a break to let the dog out, someone asked about her St. Bernard.

Eventually, she was describing his health predicament and a friend made a plan to set up a fundraising auction. “I’ve got a couple now that I talk with all the time now on the phone,” Aulick said. “One wants to come visit now and I think that’s great.”

What do you love about beading?

Beads have been around from the very beginning. They have been used as a means of trade, money, decorations. There’s such huge variety in the style, the textures, the colors. There’s literally thousands. No matter what your taste is, you’re gong to find something that you’re going to love.

Get creative with it and make a piece that says, “This is me.” It doesn’t cost a lot. It’s an expense you can control. Most people can afford it. It’s something that you can start with younger children. They can make alphabet necklaces and so forth. Everything is out there, depending what your taste is. The very first thing I made was a bracelet for my aunt.

How exactly do you make money selling beads online?

I source manufacturers, wholesalers. I look for things that are newer, more unique. I go ahead and purchase them in a larger quantity. I break them down into smaller packs and then sell them.

I’ve got one style of bead: oval shaped crackle glass beads. They’re very deep colors. Deep dark red, dark burnt orange. They’ve been very popular. I’ve had to reorder what I have now twice. I just figured a few people would like them. I had no idea they would sell like that.

So the career as transcriptionist that sustained you for almost seven years just seems to be disappearing?

This summer it started slowing down. I subcontract to a major medical center. They’re transitioning over to electronic medical records. They use little computer notebooks. The center’s on a WiFi system. They can pull up a patient’s chart, enter the vital signs. They no longer need to take their paper chart with them. They’re doing it while the patient is there. From a patient’s point of view, it’s a fabulous system.

The transcription job helped you transition back home after seven years in North Carolina working as a secretary then executive assistant to a doctor and professor at Duke University?

You can live anywhere so long as you have high speed internet access. So that was great. It allowed me to work and move back home.

Why did you leave North Tonawanda?

I was the administrative assistant for an environmental engineering firm. I was transferred there to help set that up. I was tired of the snow so I left.

Why did you come back?

After you’ve been through several hurricanes, you decide the snow is actually preferable. I was homesick. My daughter was pregnant …

You can’t get a decent hot dog down there. I missed my Mighty Taco, Pizza Junction, Duff’s chicken wings. What they call chicken wings down there was gross. Niagara Falls. I love the falls.

What do you love about St. Bernards and Harley?

I’ve just always been fascinated with the breed. Their size, their gentleness, their intelligence. He’s got the classic St. Bernard personality. He’s very loyal, very protective.

I was taking him for a walk and this guy approached me, asking me for a cigarette. I did hand him the cigarette and then he wanted a light. He took a step toward me and Harley came in between us and just growled and would not let him come near me. He said, “That’s OK. I don’t want to mess with your dog. I’ll find one somewhere else” and he took off.

A couple weeks later, I saw his picture in the paper, he’d been arrested for, I think, sexual assault. I remember thinking, “Wow, that could have been me.” Harley just knew. I’ll trust a dog’s instincts before I’ll trust a person’s instincts.

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