The dog days of summer are officially underway – a time when many local residents traveling for vacations or out of town get-togethers seek out boarding and daycare facilities for their furry friends. And though the number of customers may be down a bit this year due to impacts unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic several months ago, things are starting to pick up.
According to Suzette Fowler, owner of Camp Bow Wow of Charleston on Clements Ferry Road and another location in Lafayette, Louisiana, her businesses were profoundly affected by the pandemic in its early days, but customers are venturing back. Fowler reports that both boarding and daycare are “dramatically increasing from just a few short weeks ago.”
“We did shut down when the governor’s orders went into effect,” she said. “While we’re considered an essential business, we simply did not have the customer base to support staying open for a short duration. Business, however, has robustly returned and we are thrilled to see so many wagging tails, and furry paws at camp! We are meeting and greeting new and returning pups every day!”
For The Island Pawplex, the newest pet boarding facility to open up on the Cainhoy peninsula, the timing of COVID-19’s arrival was especially hard. The business had just celebrated its grand opening in March and had to close down eight days later, crushing their momentum, said Mark McLean, who owns the site with his wife, Melody.
“The pandemic certainly put a damper on us getting going,” he added. “We projected about half of our business to come from boarding, and we didn’t see any boarding at all until the end of May. Plus with people working from home, there was much less of a need for daycare, too. Some still brought their dogs for a half day a couple times a week to get some exercise and socialization, but that’s about it.”
“It’s still much slower than it would normally be this time of year because people still aren’t traveling,” continued McLean, “but we’ve definitely seen it pick up in the last month or so.”
In The Dog House, another pet boarding and daycare facility on the Cainhoy peninsula, remained open during the COVID-19 lockdown, noted owner Terri Black, as they supported care for pets of many first responders and medical personnel.
“As people remained home and did not travel, our business was negatively impacted through May,” she said. “As Charleston reopened, we are returning to normal and expect a busy second half of the year.”
In The Dog House has a state-of-the-art air filtration system and utilizes a cleaning system incorporated in leading veterinary clinics, making them well prepared to meet COVID-19 safety protocols, added Black.
Bark Avenue, owned by Robin Maggy, has experienced a bit of a slowdown in business related to COVID-19 as well, but her customers also are starting to return, she said. As with many other similar businesses, Bark Avenue is taking extra precautions with safety.
“I do curbside pick-up and drop-offs and maintain a safe distance,” continued Maggy. “I also ask that for now, we don’t allow any blankets or stuffed animals or toys from the home for boarding dogs. I wipe down and disinfect all food storage containers before they are brought in as well and leashes are sprayed down with a disinfectant.”
But getting back to business as usual requires some planning, added Fowler, who recommended that pet owners returning to work get their pets into a routine prior to bringing them back to their daycare facility. Animals who have been at home for several months are used to being there and will need to ease into a new arrangement so the transition won’t be as difficult.
“If a family dog has gone to daycare in the past, start bringing the dog back prior to returning to work,” she said. “If they have a dog walker, or pet sitter, do the same. Establish a routine prior to the return. Take a trial run at leaving the dog and returning. For example, bringing (him or her) to daycare for perhaps a half-day, or if the pup is staying home, allow him to spend time in his crate while the parents run an errand.”
Even though times continue to be a bit uncertain for most businesses in the area, McLean remains hopeful about the future.
“We’ve said all along, if we just keep doing things the right way, the rest will work itself out, and we’re finally starting to see that