Daycare isn't just for kids anymore
By Judy Keenan
“Be careful where you step.” That was the warning from Noelle, a co-owner at Nauset Kennels as I stepped into the large doggy daycare play area. Wise words. On this day there were twenty five dogs in daycare. It was a veritable who’s who of popular dog breeds including Pugs, Labradors, a Labardoodle, a Brittany Spaniel, a Cavalier, a Chesapeake Spaniel, a Portuguese Waterdog (unless you have been in isolation for the last two months you should know that this is the breed of the Obamas' new puppy, Bo), Poodles, a Swiss Mountain dog, Malamutes, Huskies, Jack Russell Terriers and several Golden Retrievers.
Mutts are now “mixed breeds” to be politically correct and they were there also. The noise level was amazing as they all barked out a welcome every time someone came into view and then the group chorus caught on. And on.
Let’s look at a typical day for two of the dogs, Raffles and Wrigley, Golden Retrievers from the same household and best friends. They are picked up in the early morning at a designated stop by the Woof Waggin or the Bark Bus, specially outfitted 15-passenger vans that make the rounds in Harwich, Chatham, Orleans, Brewster, Wellfleet and Provincetown.
All aboard the Woof Waggin
Both the Woof Waggin and the Bark Bus have been illustrated by local artist, Maura Condrick. Many of the caricature dogs are modeled after the owner’s and staff’s pets. They look delightfully cheery in the windows. At Raffles and Wrigley’s bus stop they bound onto the bus and go straight to their usual cages.
Once they arrive at the daycare they are greeted by other doggy daycare friends and have their collars removed as a safety precaution. Raffles and Wrigley stay together in one large cage while they wait to go outside and play. Other dogs may be solo or in a group depending on their socialization level. Newcomers are kept in a single cage so the staff can evaluate them to determine which group they can go into or even if they can go in a group.
Eastham's own Dog Whisperer
Often owner tell the staff that their dogs are not vey social with other dogs and often the staff finds that to be not true in daycare. They believe that the dogs may act aggressive to other dogs to protect their owners. Dogs that exhibit aggressive cage behavior such as snarling, growling or baring teeth, may be calmed by Kirsten, whose parents started Nauset Kennel in the 1970s. Other staff members call Kirsten “the dog whisperer” because of her uncanny ability to communicate with dogs and allay their fears and aggressions.
"Diggin'" the playyard
In the play yard, dogs run in a pack chasing balls, cavorting and creating “Snoopy” dust--just having a wonderful time. In the warmer weather, the dogs race through a kiddie’s pool or stop to drink the water. Always, always they dig holes. The yard looks like Craters of the Moon National Park in some places. Not to worry. Every few hours the dogs are brought back to their pens and the staff goes outside to de-poop the yard and fill in the holes with dirt. Then the cycle starts up again and is repeated until it is time to go home on the Woof Waggin or the Bark Bus.
Noelle says, “Dogs are like kids on a playground and they go home exhausted.” Owners will call to ask why their dogs come home so tired. The response is,“Welcome to doggy daycare! They had fun all day.” Good night Raffles and Wrigley.
Fish oil and feedin' time
Meanwhile back at the kennel, the boarded dogs await their dinner in the new addition which effectively doubles the size of the kennel. Each dog is given his preferred food in accordance with the owner’s wishes. One dog’s bowl contained dry food soaked for two hours to prevent bloat topped with a vanilla cookie while another had food topped with canned green beans. Others have chicken broth or selected cheese.
There is a cabinet full of the dog’s daily medicines and supplements including fish oil. In case you wondered about the benefit of fish oil for dogs, Dr Andrew Weil’s web page states that “fish oil is good for dogs – and cats! Veterinarians now recommend it for a wide variety of conditions ranging from kidney disease to arthritis and high cholesterol. Adding fish oil to your dog's food provides anti-inflammatory effects and can help relieve itching due to atopic dermatitis, an allergy-related skin condition.” Hmmmm, that sounds astonishingly like the same benefits it is supposed to have for humans!
Doggy daycare is available at many facilities across the Cape and Islands. Take a trip to which ever kennel you are considering for your pet. Seeing, listening and smelling are all the senses you will need to determine whether the kennel is right of your dog. You can also ask your veterinarian or local pet stores for referrals. Some other facilities on the Cape are; So Doggone Good in Sandwich, Cape Cod Pet Resort in North Falmouth, Dog Daycare Institute in West Yarmouth and Cape Cod Doggie Daycare in Bourne.
For dog owners who work or who need to be away for a day or for owners interested in social opportunities for their pets, doggy day care is the perfect solution. The dogs make doggy friends, they have great fun, they come home tired and happy and where else can dogs have the freedom to run crazily in large packs, barking merrily?