Pet-related businesses thrive in the Treasure Valley

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJuly 30, 2013 

Boisean Vince Eufemia is a computer consultant who travels a lot for his job and sometimes works very long hours.

Caring for his yellow Lab, Cassady, was a challenge when he was single in the early 1990s. She traveled with Eufemia on jobs that lasted months. He took his pooch on long hikes on his days off.

“You can’t leave a 2-year-old Lab in an apartment. It’s inhumane,” Eufemia says. “A Lab needs exercise and needs to be socialized.”

He found that some cities had dog-boarding facilities that offered “doggie day care,” a safe environment where his dog could run and play with other dogs while he was at work.

He became enamored of the idea of running his own day care. Eufemia, 53, opened up Emerald Street Kennels at 9764 W. Emerald St., Boise in April 2012.

His pet business is one of several that have opened in the Valley in the past few years. Some launched at the height of the economic downturn.

Data on spending from 2007, when the recession began, to 2011, when the economy was still weak, show that U.S. household spending on pet care remained fairly constant. American households spend about $500 a year on pet care on average. Married couples with empty nests spend nearly $700.

A cultural shift toward treating pets as members of the family has contributed to local demand for pet products and services such as day care.

“The recession almost made my business grow faster,” says Mandie Stuhan, who acquired Downtown Hound, a doggie day care center at 1035 Lusk St., Boise. “People are working long hours, and they feel guilty for leaving [pets] at home for so long.”

WATCHING FIDO ON WEBCAM

The cost of doggie day care and associated perks varies, but day care in the Treasure Valley ranges from $15 to $25 a day. The per-day cost is less with multiday packages. Some day-care businesses offer half-day and per-hour options.

These businesses aren’t just warehousing pets in kennels. They have employees who interact with and monitor the dogs while they’re playing in groups. Groups typically are sorted by size, age and — sometimes — disposition. The businesses offer amenities including treats, swimming, obedience training, extra one-on-one time with the staff and bathing/clipping.

Boise’s Escape the Crate, 8453 W. Elisa St., offers “spa service,” various levels of bathing and grooming ($20-$35 for small dogs, $35-$65 for extra large dogs) that includes add-ons such as an ear cleanse ($7.50) and a cucumber melon facial ($10).

Many businesses offer Web cameras so you can check up on Scruffy while you’re at work.

The cameras at Boise’s Camp Bow Wow, 3430 South T.K. Ave. in East Boise, allow Justin Nyquist, 30, to see his nearly 3-year-old Visla hunting dog, Belle, without leaving his desk.

“Every once in a while, I’ll just look in,” says Nyquist, who takes Belle to day care once or twice a week.

“It's amusing. I know she’s safe. It’s fun to see if there’s any other Vislas with her,” he says. “I just like looking at 30 dogs running around and getting tired. Then I go back to my work.”

Nyquist works at RedSky PR, 404 S. 8th St. in Boise, where employees bring their pets to work.

‘DO YOU DRESS YOUR DOG TOO?’

Boisean Linda Becker says some of her friends give her the eyeroll when she mentions that she takes the family dog, Senna, to day care.

“I had a friend ask me, ‘Do you dress up your dog too?’” Becker says.

But the mother of two boys, 14 and 10, who works part time outside her home, makes no apologies. Her family loves their black Labrador retriever. Becker is willing to spend a little extra to make sure the pup is happy and safe when the family is busy with activities away from home.

“She has an enormous amount of energy, and I don’t think it’s entirely fair to her to be crated,” Becker says. “I think putting her in a crate is horrible, and I don’t want to be the person with the barking dog in the backyard all day.”

The dog has chewed through a rug, part of a table leg and “more shoes than I can count.”

The family buys 10-day passes from Companions Dog Resort, 106 W. 39th St., Garden City, for $175, and they drop her off at day care as needed.

DAY CARE OPTIONS GROW

Eufemia, the Emerald Street Kennels founder, wanted to open the business a few years earlier but had trouble securing loans when the national financial meltdown began in 2007 and 2008.

“I spent $1 million between the land and the building,” Eufemia says.

Emerald Street Kennels wasn’t the only new doggie day care center to open in the Treasure Valley last year. In March, the owners of Camp Bow Wow opened a second location at 2134 E. Franklin Road in Meridian.

These businesses join several others that have opened in the past decade, including Downtown Hound in 2010, Escape the Crate in 2007 and Companions Dog Resort in 2011.

Downtown Hound owner Stuhan says she’s spent about $70,000 to renovate Downtown Hound during the past two years, including adding an above-ground pool. The business offers five swims a day for dogs.

Calico Cattery opened in 2010 at 1321 N. Main St., Meridian, to serve those who want their felines pampered while they’re out of town.

“We call it luxury boarding,” says Michelle Johnson, who co-owns Calico Cattery with her sister, Barb Anderson. Custom-built in a house, the business features 9-foot-tall “suites” with glass doors and a view of a large play area or a window to outside.

Some veterinary clinics, including Intermountain Pet Hospital & Lodge at 800 W. Overland Road in Meridian, offer boarding and/or day care. Intermountain remodeled its boarding facility this summer.

“The biggest thing we did with our boarding remodel is switched traditional kennels over to suites,” says Kim Mulvahill, Intermountain’s hospital administrator. “People prefer larger spaces for pets.”

Intermountain also installed a 10-by-7-foot in-ground pool with jets that create the “endless pool.” That will be used for rehab, and an extra amenity for dogs in day care.

COMPANIONS

Companions Dog Resort in Garden City is one of the newest on the day care/boarding scene, but it grew out of a long-standing training business owned by T.J. Smith. He co-owns the boarding and day care center with his sister, Sandra Forst.

“I built a reputation and a client base,” says Smith, a trainer for 16 years. “People would ask, ‘Would you board my dog? You’re the only one I trust.’”

Companions’ primary mission is training service dogs for people with physical or health problems, including diabetes. Clients come from all over the Northwest to have dogs trained to be diabetic-alert dogs. The boarding and day care center lets him provide service-dog training at a lower price, Smith says.

“We’ve been able to help a lot more people,” Smith says. “It’s a really cool concept.”

CAMP BOW WOW

It’s been almost five years since Beth Peterson, a former fabrication manager at Micron, and her husband, Greg, a retired director of operations for Pizza Hut franchises, opened their first Camp Bow Wow in Boise, which can handle 130 dogs.

The couple tapped their life savings to launch the day camp, part of a franchise that was started in Colorado. They weathered the recession, living on “hot dogs and ramen” the first couple of years. Today the business is going strong.

“The last two summers, every week our camp was full,” Peterson says. “We were turning people away.”

The Petersons decided a second location, more centrally located in the Valley, made sense. Unable to find a suitable building, they found a builder to construct one. The completed building was sold to a couple in Sun Valley, and the Petersons operate their day care business on a long-term lease.

She also operates an in-home pet care business called Home Buddies, which employs two full-time and five part-time pet sitters.

With all the pet-pampering businesses that have opened lately, Peterson suggests the growth will continue.

“There’s plenty of room here in the Valley,” she says. “If everybody who had a dog wanted to socialize their dog, there still wouldn’t be enough of us out there.”

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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