Monday, April 13, 2009

Kennel update (still panicking!)

So here is the update on our kennel visits from last weekend (finally). I have to admit, I tried putting off the visits for a week, but in the end I forced myself to go and have a look last Saturday. It is just so hard thinking about leaving them, even for a few days. I knew seeing the kennels would essentially make my decision final; I felt like if I could just put it off, another option would miraculously materialize before I needed to leave. Then my rational side kicked in and I thought about how hard it will be to leave them, compounded with the fact that if I had not done my homework, the already difficult situation would be made all the more hard. So I got off my butt and took the short drive to see them both.

I have to say that there are quite a few qualifications I look for in ANY place I plan to bring my dogs; whether it be for a seminar, class, boarding, etc. Being in the business, I know what warning signs to look for in the facility AND the staff: I find it pretty easy to spot red-flags, but also pick up on the positives of a place as well. So one of the first things that make an impression on anyone walking in is the staff. Are the friendly and welcoming? Does it seem like it is a hassle or harassment to ask them for something (that is probably part of their job??) Does it seem like they WANT to be there and enjoy their work? That last one is the big one for me. I know what it feels like to work somewhere and be MISERABLE. I'm sure that the clients felt it, but even more worrisome, is I'm sure that the DOGS felt it. That's why I left that job. And I don't want someone who doesn't want to be there to be handling my dog; their short temper or lack of compassion is not something I want my kids to experience. And I'm not saying that we all don't have bad days. Of course we do. I can't tell you how many times Ive been short with my girls after having a stressful day at work. The difference is that we have a RELATIONSHIP. My dogs and I know each others personalities, temperaments and quirks. Having my girls in the care of someone who doesn't really care at all can make an already stressful situation all the more worse. I don't want that. I want caring people, who love their jobs: where they work, what they do, and who they work with. (This is one reason why I love my own job so much; everyone is extremely dedicated to our patients and other members of our team.)

Another, obvious thing that I look at is the facility. Sure, it really is the people who make a business successful (or not), but the place in which these people work is obviously just as important. It needs to be clean, updated and SAFE. I want to make sure that there is no damage or faults with anything structurally where my dogs (or anyone else's) will be staying, i.e.: screws sticking out from places, chipped/splintered wood, cracks in the floor that can harbor bacteria and broken/sharp chain-link. I also want to make sure that the outside is just as good as the inside. It's important that where the dogs are expected to potty and play be just as clean and safe: no holes in any fencing allowing escapes and proper ground cover to be both sanitary and safe to play on.

I know that the dog people out there will be nodding and agreeing with these areas that need to be inspected. Some of my human, non-dog owning/loving friends may think its over kill. But wouldn't you do the same when looking for somewhere for your HUMAN kids? Just because my adopted children still walk on all fours and are covered in fur doesn't make their lives, happiness, comfort and safety any less important.

So, with those things in mind, I went to visit kennel #1. This was the kennel that was the fore-runner in my mind already. I just like everything that they stand for, and the things they do for the good of dog-dom. Again, I had been there before for seminars and events, but had never seen the boarding/daycare area. When I walked in, I was greeted by two very nice, friendly staff members. Already, a plus for this kennel. Both seemed glad to help, and happy to be there (even on a Saturday morning). One woman was checking someone in already, so the other offered to take me for a tour. She called on her walkie-talkie out back to make sure that the kennel was "secure" (i.e. in lock down, no one running around) before bringing me out to see it. As we walked, I told her of my concerns with Shelby and her previous episode of HGE. She told me that that made her concerned too. She said that although they had a wonderful facility, that it was still no doubt a kennel-setting; it can be loud and stressful. I was not allowed in the actual room where the kennel runs were kept because it would get all the dogs riled up (which I completely understood!) but I could see the two "suites" that I had been interested in. These were not runs like the rest made of chain link fencing, but they were their own little rooms with in the big kennel room. They had concrete walls and a solid, wooden dutch door (with a plexi-glass window on the top panel). These had guillotine doors to allow the dogs to go to a small, fenced patio area where they could take care of "business". The floor was concrete. Although I understood this, as it was easily sprayed down and washed, it still bothered me; I am not sure if my girls will be willing to go on it. I'm afraid they will hold it until they get to their play-yard time and will get a UTI, or in Shelby's case, diarrhea.

The woman explained that they usually give them 3 times throughout the day to use the "play-yards" which are 8 fenced in areas that have sand on the ground. It kind of reminded me of a cattle ranch; different chutes and areas where dogs could go to make sure that they did not come into any contact with any other dog, besides the ones from their families. She told me that this free yard time could be used for cuddling or playing. Whatever suited the dogs individual needs. (I immediately though that this would be the place where "Chuck-It" came out!) The woman emphasized that they are really about the DOG'S needs here; they will tailor the dogs stay to whatever they need or want. They have someone on site 24 hours, and will try to contact our vet first, and then the 24 hour clinic up the road from them if our vet is unavailable. (I explained that our vet is also 24 hours, and that I work there). She suggested that maybe we do a "trial overnight" where the girls can stay one night at a discounted rate to make sure they can handle the situation OK, and to reinforce that I will be coming back to get them.

I thanked the woman for all of her time and help, grabbed some printed info on their boarding program and left. Off to option #2. This kennel is actually only a short 15 min drive from the first one. This one I had a little more experience with, as it is where I usually groom the dogs, but this extra experience wasn't necessarily a good thing. I had encountered a few rude employees before; on two instances it was one of the owners. But, I figured that I should at least go and have a peek. I wanted to give them a chance.

When I pulled in the parking lot, I saw that they were doing a show 'n' go for agility. Luckily it wasn't too crowded. I walked up to the window and explained that I had emailed about some boarding info and was told I could come by and see the facility. The man (who is one of the other owners) said that he could do it. So he took me out through the main hall (where the agility was taking place) and brought me to the kennel area. These were all chain link indoor/outdoor runs. Some were slightly bigger than the others, and those housed multiple dogs. He didn't give me too much information, other than the standard "this is where they stay, they never come into contact with other dogs, etc." I never saw the outdoor portion of the runs. It was very full (again, a Saturday) but the dogs seemed overall content. It was loud, but not excessively so. When I was back in the main lobby grabbing some info, the man asked where I was from. When I told him Methuen, he said that he had driven trucks around that area for years. He went on to say how terrible of a place the area was, with an outrageous crime and violence rate. I told him I lived in a quiet section in the rural part of town and he proceeded to tell me that ALL parts were bad. Yeah. This is the type of rudeness that I had come to expect from his wife also. Although the facility was nice, and I will go back for classes, seminars etc., the staff leave something to be desired.

So, after seeing them both, I felt a little uneasy. I'm not sure if it is the hugeness of my decision to leave my precious girls in someone else's hands in a strange place, or because I had now seen the facilities and realized that yes, they WERE KENNELS. I really did/do like the first place, is still a kennel. I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't prepared for the reality of it. I have seriously started considering getting a pet sitter for the girls. I think they'll be more comfortable at home in their own beds and rooms and having some one drop by 3-4 times a day would be plenty for them to potty, eat and get some exercise. I mean, of course I am by no means made of money (as I still have a $677 bill from the hospital sitting on my table waiting to be paid!) but I will pay/do whatever it takes to make sure my girls are happy, comfortable and safe.

But the pet sitter option is an issue in itself. I have been on the various certification website (pet sitters international, etc.) and cannot really find anyone in my area. It seems like a lot of people cover New Hampshire, or north or west of Methuen, but no one says that they cover the Merrimack Valley area. And here too I am very picky; I want someone who is Pet First-Aid certified and accredited by some organization. I sent out a plea to the message board for the Sheltie Club in my area, but have only received one response. I'm still looking into it all, but I think that I have a really tough decision ahead of me.

Well, that's all for now. As things develop, the Shelties and I will of course keep everyone posted. For right now, we're just going to enjoy the time we have before the dreaded 4 days in October come. I'll keep hunting, and if the stars, moon and sun align, we might just find someone who will make the whole process just a little more bearable for us all...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that all sounds very stressful to me.

    Maybe you could try contacting some of the closest certified petsitters in your area. They may be willing to drive the extra distance for an added fee.

    My petsitter is a member of petsitter's international, and she is wonderful. She actually alerted me to symptoms I had failed to notice (my dog's poop had been smaller than usual), that led to my dog being diagnosed with cancer!

    Good luck with your search. Your girls are so lucky to have you!