By Holly Hammersmith | Photo by Gery Petrof
Today it’s no joke. Running a dog daycare is her business, her life, and her passion.
Brown is the owner of Double Dog Day Care in Stow. Double Dog Day Care offers 1,300 square feet of space for dogs to play and roam. There are no kennels or crates here, Brown says. Dogs do not stay overnight at the Stow facility, but at-home care is available to clients.
“We are smaller and purposely so,” Brown says. “It gives us a chance to really know the dogs, to really know the owners. We know what dogs are buddies and who their best playmates are. We know their quirks. We really know them and know a lot about them. And we do so much more personal interaction with them. I know in larger facilities they don’t have the opportunity to do that.”
Most of Brown’s clients draw from the Stow and Kent area, with a handful from Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, and Green. Customers of Double Dog Day Care usually do not have young children at home.
They are empty nesters, single people without children or working people that want their pet to receive one-on-one attention during the day. This type of care is a want, more than a need, Brown says, and the pet-care industry is one that oddly has proven to be nearly recession-proof, Brown says.
“Nobody needs to take their dog to day care,” Brown says. “They are willing to spend their disposable income to make sure their dog has a better day than being home alone all day. They don’t see it as a splurge.”
Brown’s canine customers are usually younger dogs, full of energy and more of a challenge at home. Spending their day playing with Brown, her team, and other dogs helps them grow socially and physically, according to Brown.
Some clients drop their pet off at lunchtime and pick them up after work. Their pet has received hours of socialization and active play, allowing them to rest and relax at home in the evening with their owner, Brown says.
Networking plays a large role in Brown’s business.
“It comes down to the people and the personal relationships you build. It’s the people I’ve met through business networking who have made all the difference,” Brown says. “I’ve built Double Dog almost exclusively on word of mouth.”
While the dog day care business was new to Brown when she opened in 2011, she isn’t new to running her own business. Prior to this she owned and ran a public relations firm.
“I enjoyed the flexibility of being on my own and focusing solely on the work,” Brown says. “In January 2008, though, I was hitting a wall. A counselor asked me to name the first thing that came to mind when she asked what my passion is and I said, “dogs.”
After brainstorming ways she could work with dogs, Brown came back to her original 1980s idea – dog day care. As someone that has always had a heart for animals, starting with the Border Collie mix, Yankee, that she had as a child, working with dogs seemed like a natural fit for Brown.
Today Brown is certified through the Animal Behavior College, in Valencia, California. Victoria Stilwell is her training idol and Brown models her work with dogs after Stilwell’s gentle approach.
“I don’t like to be yelling at them (dogs),” Brown says. “I don’t think anyone wants to live that way.”
Brown’s customers do not only have dogs that require care. And sometimes the at-home care service she offers leads her to interesting situations. “I have one client that paid me to watch an Ohio State football game with their bird,” she says.
Most of the time, however, her work is physically demanding. Because of the demands, Brown says she would like to transition away from the hands-on operations of the business within the next five to seven years.
“It keeps me in shape, but at 53, I know I can’t do it forever,” Brown says.
Brown admits this transition will not be the easiest part of being a business owner.
“It’s so hard to put your business in somebody else’s hands,” she says. “Nobody is going to treat it the way I treat it and I don’t expect them to; they are not the owners.”
As for her other most difficult challenges with this job, Brown says having to tell an owner their dog is no longer welcome at her facility is heartbreaking.
“The hardest thing is when I have to not allow a dog to come back,” she says. “Typically it’s when the dog is biting other dogs. Once they’ve done it, they intentionally hurt another dog and they can’t come back. I hate that part of it. Luckily it doesn’t happen very often.”
Longterm, Brown is also looking at the possibility of converting her business into a nonprofit organization and offering employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. Double Dog Day Care offers grooming and this is another area where Brown says she may expand business and may add a second groomer in the near future.
For more info: doubledogdaycare.com
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