Need to house Fido for the day after Cousin Matilda’s sudden arrival and her allergy? Or are you lucky enough to have a last-minute two-day sailing trip and need to drop Mrs. Funny Face off at a kennel?
Good luck – in most cases day cares and dog kennels in Sonoma County and elsewhere are all full during the summer holidays, especially weekends and holidays. This means there will likely be a waiting list.
“For us right now is a very, very busy time,” said Julie Markham, director of guest services at K9 Activity Club in Santa Rosa. “We had a waiting list for most of the summer. We receive cancellations and we have sporadic openings.
“We’ve been sold and I think others have been too,” Karen Doolittle, owner of It’s A Dog’s Life in Petaluma, said at the start of the July 4 weekend. “We have had a waiting list for four weekends.”
For holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s a three-page waiting list a month in advance, she said.
There has been a major shift in dog daycare availability since the pandemic hit in late 2019-20, when most people stopped travelling. At the height of COVID-19, before vaccines were available, hotels were empty except for business travelers, and without leisure travel there was no need to board your pet. company.
The pandemic has resulted in a rush to shelters on dog adoptions, as well as purchases from breeders.
But, once vaccines became widely available and Sonoma County residents began returning to work, pet owners needed a place to keep their pets during the week.
“Last year we saw a lot of new people,” Doolittle said. “We only allow one or two new dogs a day. We don’t want (other dogs) to be overwhelmed by newness.
She said that in the past, when customers called to apologize for their dog’s behavior, it was because he or she had been a shelter dog. “Now they’re saying, ‘He’s a COVID dog,'” she said. “It really did a number on them.”
Dogs isolated during the pandemic have not been socialized to be with other dogs, pointed out Doolittle and others at pet boarding houses. As a result, some daycares now help Mutt and Sparky get along in various ways.
It’s A Dog’s Life has a pack of “ambassador dogs” – female Gordon setters with a “sweet, easy-going temperament” who help shy, nervous dogs calm down and get used to being around other dogs.
At K9 Activity Club dogs are taken to the gym and introduced to different textures such as gravel as they were mostly kept indoors. Dog owners can choose between a more private indoor-outdoor run with exposure to a small number of dogs or larger spaces with large yards, pools and misters for play.
But getting your dog into these fun, engaged spaces can be tricky. During a holiday weekend, even long-time customers had to take their turn on waiting lists when there were sudden changes in their plans.
Tiffany Myers from Windsor, who regularly takes the family’s Labrador retriever, Penny, to the K9 Activity Club, was placed on the list when she had to bring her dog a few days earlier.
“We are going camping next week,” she said on July 1. “I kept trying and trying and decided to try one more time. Then they had a cancellation and I was able to bring my dog on the 3rd (July).”
Chris Mahurin and his partner, Ben Bruggy, of Santa Rosa, also found themselves on the waiting list for their dog after a change in travel plans. But they and their basenji, Harper Elizabeth, who have been customers of their dog daycare for nearly two years, finally landed a spot.
“They usually try to get you in when they can,” Mahurin said. “Summer and holidays are definitely the trickiest. Just plan ahead.
Not everyone is so tight. Paradise Pet Resorts, with a smaller facility in Santa Rosa and a spacious one in Rohnert Park, was packed for the 4th of July holiday weekend in Santa Rosa. But they still had plenty of room in Rohnert Park.
Owner Mike Campbell recommended his larger Rohnert Park facility for large dogs, especially for longer stays, because “they get exhausted; there is a lot more space to run around.
What alternatives are there if you can’t find a place to board Bingo when you go out of town? Family and friends, most agree.
Myers said their nanny was their go-to person, while Mahurin said he and his partner had “two family friends and acquaintances as backup”.
There are also pet sitters who will come to your home to care for your dog and other pets, often for less money.
Still, leaving a pet home alone is the worst alternative, at least for some dogs, Doolittle said.
“In a boarding kennel, they’re watched day and night, because … things happen,” she said. “They dig to escape; but some dogs are fine just hanging out.
You can reach editor Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.