In 2005, Karen McCombs left the corporate world. It was a big decision, but she had a simple reason: "I just decided I wanted to play with dogs," she says. Today, two of her sons work at the original All Wags location in Charlotte, and she and another son have headed out to open All Wags Doggie Daycare and Boarding North in Harrisburg. They've painted the 9,000 square feet of indoor play space with colorful canine murals, but there's also plenty of room outdoors for a dog to play ball, leap into kiddie pools, or plant its owner's flag on the peaks of plastic playground equipment.
The staff takes the time to get to know each dog, from their names to what they like and what they're scared of—and Karen says the dogs are excited to come in and play. She makes sure the staff ratio stays at about 10 dogs to 1 staff member during doggy daycare so that pooches get plenty of attention and exercise. Except for a two-hour rest period, the dogs are out and about the entire time, rather than being cooped up alone at home or made to sit in a cage and nibble listlessly on homework. "It's just a fun, exhausting day for [the dogs]," she says. "They go home and they're very tired." Dogs who are staying the night play with daycare dogs during the day, then retire to 4'x8' kennels with heating and cooling. To make sure everyone's safe, all supervisors are certified in pet first aid by the American Red Cross and have been endorsed by multiple doggy-sniff committees.
For Karen, working with her canine customers has been rewarding, and she knows their human owners appreciate the time she and her staff take to get to know their dogs and individuals. "Everybody's just so happy and ready to see you. It's not like that in the corporate world anymore," she says.
Cooper got a rough start in life. At just three months old, the doberman-hound mix was found on the side of the road, a plastic bag over his head. Thankfully, Cooper's owners rescued him soon after, but his experiences left him with separation anxiety, aggression, and resistance to basic commands. Enter Glenn Shue, owner and lead trainer of Dogtastic Dog Training. Glenn's approach begins by first considering each canine's unique personality, which helps him tailor a training program that combines obedience training with proper socialization. Through one-on-one work with Cooper and his family, Glenn saw the pup through many of his behavioral problems, and he continues rehabilitating Cooper with occasional attention at daycare.
A graduate of Highland Canine Training’s school for dog trainers, Glenn and his team apply his teaching principles in each of their training programs. With an indoor training space at All Wags Doggie Daycare & Boarding, they organize group obedience classes and in-kennel training, as well as puppy training that focuses on building healthy social skills. Services further extend to private in-home training, where instructors teach dogs how to sit, stay, and mix martinis. Glenn's team also specializes in behavior modification for pets with aggression problems.
Pampered Pets Inn owners Tony and Judy love spoiling dogs and cats. A passion that was once limited to their homes is now a full-time job at their plush, 6,000-square-foot pet-boarding facility, where cats and dogs enjoy a home away from home replete with familiar comforts. On the 2.5-acre property, dogs enjoy large and small pet suites, and cats stretch out in private and group condos complete with cat trees, scratching posts, and kitty beds. Pups frolic in a shallow, dog-friendly water park, and cats chase complimentary mouse toys.
The staff of attentive caretakers plays with all the pets each day, taking care to make sure each animal is comfortable and receiving enough love and attention. They also groom pets with nail-clipping, bathing, and blow-drying services so animals return home fresh, clean, and rested. While owners are gone, they can keep eyes on their pets with the inn's pet webcams, where they can watch beloved fluffies nap, play, and blow the family savings using bad stock-market advice.
Scampering through open fields of green grass to play with new friends sounds like the ideal life for most dogs. But some canines would rather stay away from the rowdiness, perhaps on a warm lap beneath a sturdy roof. The dog-loving caregivers at The Crate Escape, LLC know that different dogs have different personalities, and that's why they try their best to cater to each pup's desires. During overnight boarding and daily daycare, energetic dogs are given free rein of the facility's outdoor play area all day long, or they may retreat indoors for quiet time away from the midday heat. Dogs with smaller statures or quieter dispositions can stay inside if they'd like, or they can venture into their own designated outdoor area with the knowledge that they can come back indoors whenever they've had enough. All the while, staff members are in attendance to scratch an ear, fill a dinner bowl, and throw a frisbee to make sure their furry guests are relaxed and cared for. For overnighters, the handlers also make sure to grant the dogs a potty break first thing in the morning and before watching their nightly dog talk shows.
Going on vacation can be stressful, but it can be doubly stressful if you have pets. Arranging for friends and neighbors to come by to care for them can be difficult, and leaving them in a kennel can be bothersome for the pets. That's where Paws at the Lake Pet Sitting comes in. Not only will the pet sitters come by to feed the animals and take them out for exercise, they'll also take in owners' mail and newspapers, turn lights on and off, and do other tasks to hide the fact that no one is home. Vacation isn't the only time to call on the company, however. If clients are busy with personal commitments or simply at work, sitters can come by to walk pets or even take them to the vet or the groomer.