Paradise for the dogs
The Michigan City News-Dispatch
Posted: Saturday, February 25, 2017 12:00 pm
By KIM NOWATZKE - Staff Writer
Click here to read ONLINE
WESTVILLE — This Westville business has gone to the dogs – and that’s just what the owners wanted. With its 9,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility housing 32 boarding suites, two indoor play arenas, three spacious outdoor areas and a 14-by-20-foot heated in-ground pool, Dawg Paradise lives up to its name.
“We tried to cover everything we would want if we had to leave our dogs somewhere else,” explained Laurie Clark.
She and Annette Bloss, who are the owners of seven dogs, opened up the pet-loving business at 863 West Main Street in Westville in March 2012. Always passionate about animals and affected by the recession in her career as a union carpenter, Clark was looking for something in the pet industry. Recognizing the need for mobile grooming in the area, she educated herself on the business details and completed the necessary online certification. She began that business in 2010 and never looked back.
“As a result of customers asking if there was a good place to board your dog, we came up with this place,” explained Clark.
Bloss, too, was looking for a change from her job as a retails operations manager, so the two decided to take the plunge and open Dawg Paradise.
“The animal industry is one of the few industries that has continued to grow even through the recession,” Clark continued. “We’ve evolved now to the point that people view their pets as their family members and they want the best for them.”
Unlike traditional boarding facilities, dogs (cats are welcome too) at Dawg Paradise spend their time in home-like private suites complete with custom-made elevated beds, flat screen TVs, individual heat/air conditioning vents, ceramic tiled floors and sliding glass doors. There’s 24-hour continuous supervision and plenty of human interaction. Because Bloss and Clark recognize the deep attachment that pet owners have with their “best friends,” they include a popular web-cam service in the price of their boarding services so owners can see for themselves the care their pets are getting.
“It’s the owner’s peace of mind. They want to know their dog is safe,” noted Bloss.
“The 24-hour-care and the web cam are two huge factors with people,” added Clark.
There’s also Play Care for owners in need of a pet get-a-way just for the day. Dogs receive supervised socialization with others of like size and temperament. Even dogs that aren’t fond of their own kind receive socialization time and one-on-one attention with the staff. Dawg Paradise has regular clients who use the service for their dogs two to three times a week and others on a weekly basis.
“The dogs can burn off that energy here during the day,” Clark explained.
Their Aloha Taxi Pick Up/Drop Off Service has been very well received with clients too, said Clark. It’s a perfect convenience for those busy last hours before owners leave for vacation and one less thing to do once they return home.
It’s also less stress for owners who need to bring their dogs in for grooming appointments. Furthermore at Dawg Paradise, rather than owners dropping off their dogs early in the morning for grooming appointments and leaving their pets all day, owners can bring in their pets closer to the time their dogs are actually groomed and can pick them up soon afterward.
The mobile grooming idea that started it all is still available too. Dawg N Suds offers convenient curbside grooming in an hour or two without any required electric or water hook-ups. It currently travels to La Porte and Porter counties as well as the lakefront area and New Buffalo, Michigan.
During Play Care or Overnight Stays, dogs donning lifejackets enjoy recreational swimming in the 14-by-20-foot heated indoor pool. The amenity is four-feet deep and contains a ramp for easy access. For those dogs requiring more help in swimming, “Assisted” Swim Sessions with licensed physical therapist Jill Armstrong and veterinarian assistant Christine Waters in addition to “Therapeutic” Swim Sessions with Canine Rehabilitation Therapist Dr. Chris Keeley DVM are offered. Keeley is only one of two certified canine rehabilitation therapists in the state, Clark pointed out.
Dawg Paradise is offering an ongoing six-week basic obedience class beginning on Tuesday, March 7. One-hour classes start at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. with Trainer Kallie Bontrager.
Dawg Paradise employs a staff of 17 animal lovers.
“What makes it successful is the service that is provides to not only the customer, but to the dogs,” emphasized Clark. “We’re very selective as to who works here. You really have to be a total animal lover to work here.”
“Our biggest thing is to personalize the care the dogs get. Our staff is very good at remembering dogs and know their names – people not so much,” she added with a laugh.
“The dogs drag their owners in,” Bloss added.
Customers come from nearby La Porte, Lake and Porter Counties as well as lower Michigan in addition to as far away as Chicago; Sturgis, Michigan; and near Indianapolis.
Dawg Paradise regularly supports area Giant Paw Prints Rescue, an “all-breed rescue specializing in gentle giants” in Valparaiso as well as the Michiana Humane Society and the LaPorte County Animal Shelter.
Last November, Dawg Paradise was honored to receive the award of “Emerging Business of the Year” at the 25th Annual ISBDC (Indiana Small Business Development Center) E-Day Awards Luncheon.
Bloss and Clark are planning to add an additional 4,000 square feet to Dawg Paradise this spring. This will provide 10 to 12 more suites, more indoor play arenas and an area for physical rehabilitation including land and underwater treadmill therapy.