Even before Chris Stout founded Vineyard Kennels, she had already dedicated most of her adult life to helping. She started out her career lobbying Congress on behalf of food bank gleaning programs, earning the Presidential Volunteer Action Award award from Ronald Reagan. Then, about 15 years ago, she decided to help out a little closer to home. When her daughter wanted to start a grooming business, Chris worked toward her American Boarding Kennel Association certification, and opened up Vineyard Kennels. Today, she continues to run the kennel—and even lives onsite—with her dog Bitsy.
Her trained staff pools 40 years of experience as they watch after canine guests in the 10,000 square feet facility. The temperature-controlled building features sturdy cinderblock walls that shelter toddler and Kuranda beds. Outside, a fenced-in play area gives tail-waggers a place to frolic in the sun. After an invigorating romp, pups lap up well water that has been softened, disinfected, and purified with reverse osmosis. This water, along with a shampoo and blow-dry, also leaves dogs lustrous during bathtime. For owners who need to get to work early, the self-service corral allows for early drop-off and late pick-up.
Loose Pooch Dog Club, a dog-daycare facility, accommodates dogs of all sizes and play styles. Along with resting or playing in the air-conditioned playroom, pups also head outdoors for hourly potty breaks and playtime. Owner Nathan Woods has helped more than 3,000 pet owners work with and optimize their experiences with their dogs. At training classes, dogs learn obedience through customized plans and at-home exercises, plus step-by-step lesson plans that help set up owners for success.
At Ostrich Land, visitors quickly learn that ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand—they'd much rather bury them in a bowl of food that you hold out in front of you. They're also not fond of waiting their turn, and at any given moment, you might have four beaks dipping into your supply. The experience is a far cry from throwing bread at ducks or pigeons. These birds are the world's largest: they can reach up to 9 feet in height and weigh 350 pounds. At top speed, they hit 45 miles per hour on their massive, two-toed feet.
Having been raised around people and trained to eat from outstretched bowls, the park's 50 ostriches and emus welcome spectators from their savannah-like enclosure. They're also celebrities in their own right, with bit roles in the film Sideways as well appearances in a Santa Maria Times video feature and a tongue-in-cheek homage in an episode of The Simpsons. Dispensing the animals' supper is only one way in which guests can get close—a stop inside the gift shop reveals shelves of ready-to-cook ostrich and emu eggs, ostrich feather dusters, and savory ostrich meat shipped in from a separate farm not affiliated with Ostrich Land. Also in stock are vials of emu oil, a substance with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can soothe the skin.
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