By Sharon Gittleman
CLARKSTON – Nellie Leo, 41, has a confession to make about herself and her partner Marcia Lennox, 55.
“We’re the biggest dog chumps you’d ever want to meet,” said Leo. We’re animal lovers from the word go.”
When Leo, a social worker and Lennox, a health care administrator, decided to go into business for themselves, caring for their four-legged buddies was their first choice. Last Thanksgiving, the Clarkston-area couple opened a doggie resort and daycare in their home – the All Paws Inn, a cage-free home away from home for canines.
The Inn is located inside the couple’s house in the country.
“This is anything but a traditional kennel,” said Leo. “It’s a basement family room, with a gas fireplace, dog beds and a large wool rug.”
While there are three dog suites with individual futons in the 2,000 square-feet Inn, Leo said there’s always a human companion around the house.
“We’re with them all the time,” she said. “We’ll be watching a movie together eating popcorn and they’ll be up on the couch with us or they’ll be lying in front of the fireplace.”
The dogs also have the chance to enjoy each other’s company in the couple’s half-acre fenced-in backyard.
“They play together. It’s a hoot,” she said. “When it snows, you’ll get six dogs, from a Brussels griffon to a German shorthaired pointer running and chasing each other. Snow is flying and they’re having a ball.”
When a game of chase is too exhausting, dogs can always enjoy a good bark at the chickens, turkeys and goats living next door in the secluded pine-shaded rural neighborhood.
Dogs feast on food left by their owners at the Inn, Leo said. Home cooking adds an additional layer of comfort for pets lonely for their owners.
“We always say it’s a stressful situation.” she said. “It takes the dog about an hour to settle in. We stay with them through this process to help in this transition.”
Psychological crises aren’t the only possibilities the couple have covered. If your dog has a physical problem during his or her stay, 24-hour emergency veterinarian care is close at hand, Leo said.
“We encourage people to call and check on their little guy or gal,” she said. “We encourage people to come out and meet us and feel comfortable about where their pet is staying.”
Dogs don’t only visit the Inn for weeklong vacations, Leo said. Some canines stay for a month or more and some pop in for a quick play date.
The couple got the idea for their Inn, when they had more than a few pangs about placing their own dogs in a kennel when they went on vacation, Leo said. Today, they provide the same TLC to their guests as they give to their three cats and two Australian shepherds.
“We care for them and love them just like children,” she said. “It’s from their home to our home.”
Owners and their pets both feel better when a home is the dog’s temporary lodging place, rather than a cold sterile kennel, Leo said.
“We offer them loving care 24/7. We offer them human contact,” she said. “For little companion dogs that’s especially important. Their job is to be with a person.”
Dogs are the best kind of house guests, in Leo’s view.
“They are happy to be loved and give you unconditional love,” she said. “What more could you ask for?”