Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Now Accepting Dog Boarding School Reservations for the Holidays!

With my kennel building adventure coming to a conclusion (at last!), we will soon be ready to accept happy campers for boarding and training services.

We will have seven indoor/outdoor suites, and also a private bedroom suite attached to my office for tiny dogs and those with special care needs. In order to offer the ultimate in personalized attention to your dog, we will only accept a total of eight campers at any given time.

I thought it might be a good idea to offer the opportunity for anyone with holiday, vacation, business trip, or other travel plans to make early reservations, since we are operating on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you know your dates, let me know! I am already booking well into next year, but plenty of spaces are still available.

As for rates, we charge $72.00/ day ($500.00/ week), for full service care, play, cuddles, and customized one-on-one training. We offer a round-trip chauffeuring service, and also offer follow-up in-home training. We charge $60.00/ day ($420.00/ week) for a second dog coming for the same dates. If you send three or more dogs all at the same time, the second dog rate applies to the rest of them, as well. Sorry I cannot give a better break, but it is a lot of work (and I'm charging less than I charge for a one hour private lesson to give your dog 24 hours of my dedicated care and attention).

If you need routine boarding without training, our rate is $48.00/ day/ dog regardless of the number of dogs you send. Your dog will still get lots of love, attention, and playtime, just no individualized training.

You are welcome to come out for a visit anytime. Just give me a call to make sure I'll be available when you plan to come.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Saving Maisy

By now you probably all know, things with the store in Bolingbrook did not work out, so while the final stages of kennel building proceed at our place in the country, we are back at the house in Lemont for training. That means a lot of driving back and forth, but soon this will all be behind us.

Meanwhile, while out in Manteno earlier this month, one of my builders told me he'd seen a stray dog in "pretty bad shape" on his way to my place. Being an animal lover, once he told me about the dog I had to go looking for him/ her. Here are some excerpts from our first day together (click play, then pause and let it load for a while, for best viewing quality):

Monday, April 21, 2014

Countdown to Dog School Moving Day!

Big changes are coming, and preparations are keeping me very busy. Most of you know I am living in Manteno part time, switching off with Dave who stays in Lemont while I am at our farm. Once our new kennels are built, we will hopefully sell our Lemont home and live out here full time. In order to continue to offer my training services in the Chicago suburban area, on May first I am moving my training business into a storefront in Bolingbrook on Boughton Road, subletting space from a dog grooming boutique called Bella's.

Despite the excitement about new opportunities, I'm feeling a little nervous about the whole thing. I am not used to sharing space. It will be weird, and will take some getting used to!

And despite our Lemont house being a "knock down/ handyman special", I am going to miss the familiarity of the old place and especially the ease of walking from bed to work. Luckily life on our little farm is so wonderful I won't spend much time looking back.

As part of all of my planning, I've been designing and ordering signs for the store; but I have not been sure how to decorate inside. I can't get too creative, because I have to stay within the style boundaries of my new host, the owner of Bella's. The place has a sort of upscale boutique feel (yeah, that sounds like me...not even a little!).

I had the thought it would be nice to feature photos of my students' dogs. I'd want all the pictures to match in some manner, and I was thinking about those photos on canvas, that wrap around a base so they don't need a frame. If any of you want to donate an image of your dogs, past or present, to our decor, feel free to create a canvas photo of your dog, any size, which I will proudly display. If you do so, please be sure to use a high-quality image so it maintains its resolution, and I'd prefer portrait style photos. You can get these things made at either Walgreens or Walmart, and there are also some discount companies online. Don't feel obligated, but if you want to do it I'd love to feature some of my star students on the walls!

See you soon at our Grand Opening; stay tuned for more details :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fima Practicing Off-Lead Training

Here is a video of one of my boarding school students, a French bulldog puppy named Fima, practicing his lessons with me after two weeks of boarded training. What a happy, cooperative dog!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Finally, Back to School!

Thanks to all of you, for your patience while we waited out "Outbreak 2014".

I am going to do a deep cleaning of the training room tomorrow, in preparation of reopening on Wednesday. Please do remain alert to possible cold symptoms in your dogs, such as sniffles, runny noses, eye discharge, and of course coughing, and if you notice any of these, please do not bring your dogs back to school yet! Also, it bears repeating: if your dogs ever have any health issues at all, such as loose stool, vomiting, etc., please keep them home for at least 48 hours so we can be sure classmates remains healthy.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I miss everyone...

...but I guess we need to sit tight and ride this out.

Please keep practicing your training, and consider making some videos or updating your blogs so that we can all stay in touch remotely. Hopefully this won't go on for too long, but I am going to err on the side of caution, even if it means short term financial ruin, and say we will remain shut down for at least two weeks. Ugh. Today was really boring; I can't recall the last time we had to cancel a Sunday class. But better safe than sick.

If you are really struggling, or just miss me terribly, we can meet for private lessons at your place or at a local public venue such as the pet superstore--though those can be hotbeds of winter contagion, so I guess in the end good health is up to luck, vaccinations, and your dog's immune system. Hopefully no other dogs get sick, but I am not that optimistic. Please let me know right away if your dog becomes symptomatic.

Regarding "Kennel Cough":

     Managing Canine Respiratory Disease in Your Facility

            BY JOAN NIEMAN

It’s inevitable. Sooner or later – probably sooner – anyone who operates a boarding facility or doggy daycare will face the challenges of an outbreak of canine respiratory illness. Poorly handled canine respiratory disease can severely damage your reputation, hammer your revenues, and undermine your business for years to come. That’s why it’s essential to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Kennel operators have coped with occasional outbreaks of canine cough for decades, quietly dealing with the seasonal occurrence of a handful of coughing dogs. In the past few years, outbreaks of serious illness are becoming more widespread and frequent.
Why? Part of the reason is that dogs are socializing more than ever… and not just in our well-managed doggy daycare programs. Dog parks have popped up in many communities, and dog-friendly events are at an all-time high. With more socialization comes more opportunities for transmission of disease – and we know that many of those dog park pets don’t have the vaccinations we require of our guests.
Add to that the emergence of canine influenza. When this dangerous new respiratory illness appeared in 2005, no dogs had immunity, and it spread through local populations like wildfire. Yes, we now have a vaccine that can reduce the impact of the disease, but many pet parents don’t bother with a vaccination that isn’t required.
As if these two factors aren’t difficult enough, they are overlaid with the power of social media. Today, a client angry about a coughing dog can rant to the world via Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and any other site that she chooses that “you made my dog sick” with “poor sanitation practices.”
So what’s a good manager to do? Based on our experience dealing with outbreaks in many different locations across the U.S., you need a two-pronged strategy. First, create a detailed plan for identifying and handling an outbreak in your facility – and make sure everyone on your staff understands it; and second, make a commitment to communicate honestly with your customers about this disease.
If there is an outbreak of canine respiratory illness in your community, it’s almost impossible to prevent it from reaching into your facility, but the following protocols can help mitigate the spread.
  1. Monitor for signs of trouble. Be alert for signs of an outbreak at all times, but especially during busy season. If you receive reports of cough in five dogs within a one-week period, you are likely in the early stages of an epidemic.
  2. Start a log. Keep track of all the dogs that have developed symptoms – both those that have gone home and those in-house – with the dates they started coughing. This will help you assess the scope of the outbreak and determine when it is winding down.
  3. Isolate and separate. If you have the space, put incoming pets into a separate building or a separate area. It’s not enough just to isolate dogs that are coughing. Because the incubation period can be as long as a week, any dog that was in-house while the coughing dogs were boarding has already been exposed.
  4. Assign separate staff. To avoid cross-contamination, it’s essential that you assign different staff members to care for the healthy pets and the exposed pets. Hand-washing isn’t enough; the infection can be carried into the “clean area” on shoes and clothing.
  5. Partner with a local vet. If in-house dogs start coughing, it’s important to have them seen by a veterinarian. As soon as you suspect a problem, make arrangements with a local animal hospital or veterinarian who can see the coughing pets right away, take throat swabs to test for canine influenza, and prescribe the needed medications.
  6. Turn away coughers and carriers. For the welfare of all the pets in your care, it is wise to screen pets at check-in for cough or other symptoms of illness. We also make it a practice to turn away dogs that have been at another boarding facility during the prior two weeks. In the long run, it’s better to upset one client than to expose many dogs to illness.
  7. Intensify cleaning procedures. Cleaning and disinfecting should be enhanced, but avoid using high-powered sprayers because blasting water can spread the virus into the air. (We use a Wysiwash and a fogger.) In addition, open all the doors and windows to exchange the air in the facility as much as possible. If you have the ability and weather permits, keep pets outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine as much as possible.
Even when you follow all of these steps carefully, sometimes an outbreak is so widespread, there is little you can do to make a difference. Last summer, there was a pandemic in the mid-Atlantic region. It began in April with a few cases, and then seemed to go away only to return during peak summer boarding season. Some operators closed their doors for a week or two in an effort to stop the spread only to face another round of coughing dogs when they reopened.
For many, the most difficult part of the crisis was not managing the sick dogs; it was managing customer expectations and perceptions. Clients – even reasonable clients with whom you have a long relationship – will assume that you must have done something wrong if their dogs become ill during or right after a boarding stay. Those angry and frightened pet owners will be quick to vent their frustration and fears via social media.
It’s important to be forthcoming about the situation without creating a panic.
  1. Be honest. If you try to cover up the fact that you have cases of canine respiratory illness, you only increase the likelihood of a backlash of customer outrage and will find your facility being bashed on review sites. It’s better to be transparent about what is going on.
  2. Notify incoming customers. Call anyone scheduled to board a pet in the upcoming week and advise them that a few boarding pets have developed canine cough recently. If your customers feel that you have been transparent and allowed them to make the choice, you have honesty in your favor should their pets become ill later.
  3. Follow up with other recent boarders. It will help you assess the magnitude of the problem if you contact every customer who has picked up a boarding dog within the last few days. Treat it as a routine follow-up call, but if you learn that a dog is coughing, urge the owner to seek veterinary care.
  4. Coach employees on what to say. Your staff can help avoid panic with the language they use. Have them assure customers that you are doing everything possible to safeguard the pets in your care and tell them about the protocols you have in place to reduce the spread of the illness. Teach them to equate canine respiratory illness to colds and flu in people and to talk about “doggy cough and cold season.”
Yes, some customers will still be angry, but honesty will strengthen your relationship with the majority of pet parents and will improve the likelihood that they will return to your business once their pet has recovered.
As an industry, one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves is to educate the public about canine respiratory disease so they understand what it is and how it is transmitted. People don’t think twice about their child coming home from school or daycare coughing and sneezing, yet they will panic if their dog develops the same symptoms. We need to teach our customers that what is happening to their pets is like kids’ catching a cold at school.
We also need to work harder to eliminate the term “kennel cough.” No wonder pet owners blame us for their pets’ illness! They don’t understand that their dogs can “catch a cold” anywhere there are other dogs – not just at a boarding kennel but at the dog park, a community event, or even on a walk around the neighborhood.
Finally, as an industry, it may be time for us to require vaccination against canine influenza just as we do for bordetella. While it won’t eliminate every case, it will reduce the severity of illness for the dogs that get sick, as well as the likelihood of an epidemic within our walls.
Joan Nieman, Vice President of Operations for Best Friends Pet Care, has more than 30 years of experience in the pet care industry. Prior to joining Best Friends in 1994, she owned and operated The Pet Resort in Oklahoma for a decade. Over the years, Nieman has been active in pet care industry associations, with a special interest in helping to define and establish industry-wide standards.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Summer 2013 Flashback

Hi, Everyone,

       Belated Happy New Year! Sorry for not posting more frequently, but as many of you know, 2013 included the busiest summer I've just about EVER experienced! I'll try to catch up, with a sort of "how I spent my summer vacation (??!)" blog post. Here goes:

        In late May, we imported pregnant Xara (see my previous post), a beautiful four-year old German Shepherd Dog, from the Czech Republic.

    Shortly after she joined our family, on June 6, 2013, Xara whelped her six beautiful puppies! (Sadly one, a tiny female, did not survive.) The rest of the gang have been a blast, growing and playing, and eating and pooping, a LOT! We are keeping three of them (very ambitious/ crazy?) to raise and train as future foundation breeding stock for our up-and-coming service dog program. Here are a few pictures of the proud mother and her puppies:

       Two days later, adding to the craziness, I graduated summa cum laude as a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholar with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthrozoology from North Central College. Considering how long it took me to get around to exploring a traditional education, it seemed only fitting I have a massive graduation party! My friends, family, and I had a great time celebrating the freezing over of hell...I mean the unlikely occurrence:

Heading to graduation!
Jake and Gisela photo-bomb my self portrait...
At the party with my mother, Jane, and stepdaughter, Kelsey.
With Gisela.
My supportive students.

Jake, rocking out with the band.

Dave and Kelsey.
My brother, Mike.

My daughter, Monica, and niece, Bridget, make a lovely heart frame
around Maria and my other daughter, Stephanie.
The cool party tent, full of some friends and family.

My brother Mike, his wife, Kathy and some of their gang;
Dave fails at photo-bombing in the background.

With my stepdaughter, Jessica.

With Uncle Neal.

With Aunt Ag, Aunt Judy, and some of my cousins.

Cousins Sean and Andrew with my nephew, Brian.

       It took a little time for the reality to sink in that I'd not have to write any more papers or plow through homework pulling all-nighters; but there wasn't much time to bask in the relief. The puppies were growing and as if that wasn't enough, some new excitement was brewing. Once again we were waiting expectantly for another big event:
The delivery of our new house! 
       Yes, we have a new house, a beautiful Cape Cod situated on five acres in the country, with breathtaking land and lots of room for our horses, dogs, gardens, and my work. We will be transitioning to our new place when Jake finishes high school in a few years, and then I will be offering more training camp/ boarding school options as well as breeding, raising, training and placing service dogs. I'll still offer classes, too, both locally and out at my place, for those willing to make the trek to lovely Manteno, Illinois. No worries; there will be a small guest house, and immersion training for pets and their people will be lots of fun. 
       The house arrived as two halves and four dormers on huge semis. The house is a customized modular home, meaning its basic components were build indoors at a factory, and then finished on site. It is exactly the same as a stick built home, but was made indoors with more quality control. 
       I acted as general contractor during my last term of school (exhausting, but also pretty exhilarating!) and on through the summer, with the house finally arriving on July 2, 2013. As of this writing we are in the home stretch! Here are some photos featuring early highlights of the birth and growth of of our new home: 

       As the summer progressed, so did Xara's puppies! Katie, Arya, Rinty, Florian and Augustine/ A.K.A. Theo just kept growing and getting cuter:

       With lots of hard work from many skilled, helpful people, the house also progressed:

Xara and Belle checking out the new porch:
There is a big front porch...
Which wraps around to a side pergola! 
My furniture:
Katie hanging out:
Ugh. So much left to do!
Framing installed upstairs:
Katie visiting the new house:
Drilling a new well:

Building a deck off the dining room:
Pretty Xara:
More well digging:
       So, as this post grows too long to ever load, and besides, I doubt anyone is still with me at this point, I'm now stopping writing. Here are some more random pictures from the summer of 2013:

Jake and Xara:

Gisela and Steve, hanging out:
Sitting on the new porch, watching the well get dug:

Future owl and coyote safe, night-time potty area for my tiny dogs:
Mike, the builder; Gisela thinks he's cute! (Tee hee!)
Upstairs, after insulation:

Some new landscaping:

Pretty mama Xara on a special date with me:

Farm, sweet farm:
House, sweet house:
Handsome boys, Jake and Florian:
Field trip to Petco:
Future kennel and horse barn:
Baby mice, found on the ground in the barn. Yes, despite the risk of hanta virus and the fact mice are a pain in the butt, I tried to raise them. 

Pretty new distressed hickory hardwood floors!

Monica helps with the baby mice:
Sadly, despite initially thriving, they all died, one by one (these three were still alive in this photo). I was really sad :(
My new house cheers me a lot, though! :)

Farm, sweet farm, again:
House, sweet house, again:
Semi trailer converted into future hay storage:
The puppies grew and started learning new things:

Our group field trip to the Morton Arboretum's dog event:
Advanced students Gisela and Steve:
Xara and Katie practicing service dog stuff:

Totally cute family of pets and people:

I have cool dogs and a great job!

     Sorry, if you stuck it out to the end, that this was such a ridiculously long post! More happened, but I have to move on so...
that's all for now!

(I'll update with pictures of grown puppies and the finished house in another post.)