BY AJ TRAGER
PLYMOUTH – While owners go on vacations or set out on their daily routine, a small facility dedicated to the temporary care of pets offers a safe and fun environment for dogs who are in need of a “home away from home.”
A team of 15 individuals runs a completely cage-free “doggy day care” in Plymouth that is a daytime and overnight home for hundreds of furry friends.
Happy Hounds, established in 2004, was formed out of love and devotion for dogs of all sizes and breeds, providing dogs with supervised care so their owners don’t have to leave them alone at home. Dogs who spend their days at Happy Hounds will experience an open environment where they can play, mingle, sleep and relax with other dogs while being supervised at all times by day care personnel.
“I really love that there is a story behind every dog,” Christine Perez, manager of Happy Hounds, said during a recent visit by BTL.
Perez got her feet wet at Happy Hounds back when it first started but became a full-time staff member in 2011. Before she spent her days covered in puppy hair and drool, Perez served as a firefighter for Plymouth Township and was a paramedic for 16 dedicated years before that. All staff at Happy Hounds is trained in pet emergency aid and CPR.
The play areas at the doggy day care are separated by dog size and temperament. Smaller dogs run and play without distraction or intimidation from larger breeds; everyone has the chance to inhabit all indoor and outdoor play areas.
Since all the dogs spend the day commingled, dogs who have not had prior experience with other dogs will be slowly integrated into the larger group at a pace that makes sense to them.
“The younger dogs respect the older dogs, and the older dogs will babysit and call out the younger ones if they are being too rambunctious or are inappropriately jumping on others in the room,” Perez said. “Dogs are instinctively pack animals; they really enjoy being around other dogs.”
Dogs 4 months and older can come to the day care but must be vaccinated and spayed or neutered by 7 months of age; they must be non-aggressive, not toy or food protective and be a member of the family’s household for a minimum of 30 days. Throughout the day, dogs are offered nap time, snacks, games, access to puppy toys and plenty of attention.
Perez’s favorite part of the job is spending every day with the distinct personalities of the dogs.
“Sometimes the dogs look like the owners, and they take on the same personalities. If they are stressed, the dog is going to be stressed,” she said.
The cage-free atmosphere isn’t extremely common in the state and grants the dogs freedom to move about, decreasing any anxiety and stress that may build up as a result of being separated from their owner. While in the care of Happy Hounds, owners can watch their pet on three different streaming video cameras and take part in monthly birthday parties and holiday parties hosted for the dogs and their families, too.
Working with so many dogs is a very dirty but rewarding job, according to Perez, who enjoys being able to provide the care and services so that no pet spends the day caged and alone at home.
The leash-free environment isn’t for every dog, but those that do make it show improved mood and are as tired at the end of the day as their working family.