By Kris Gilbertson
Choosing a dogsitter can be a real challenge when you travel or when long hours at work keep your pup at home, alone and bored. Whole Dogz may be the answer. It’s a doggie daycare and boarding kennel you’ll find tucked into a cluster of industrial buildings on Eisenhower Avenue.
A warehouse may not seem ideal for pet care, but owners Mary Kenkel and John Weisner and full-time, on-site manager Patrick Kenkel (Mary’s son) found the open space well suited to meet multi-dog needs. “We wanted to be in Alexandria,” says Patrick, “and due to zoning, most doggie daycares are in industrial areas.” And this building has plenty of room for lots of dogs, inside and out, and can accommodate the staff of 14.
What is Whole Dogz like?
Stepping through the front door, you’re likely met by Halle Berry, miniature poodle and official greeter. The air is filled with sounds of happy dogs at play. (Noise carries in the cavernous space.) A flat screen behind the desk runs streaming video of three huge enclosures (“playpens”) and an outdoor area where doggie day campers and boarders spend hours frolicking together. The playpens are rated for small, medium, and large dogs. The yard encompasses lawn, a rubberized patio, and a composite deck. Each playpen group goes outdoors for half an hour four times daily.
Upstairs 64 individual suites of varying sizes accommodate various sized dogs, and sometimes more than one dog so that family members can sleep together. Some suites even have windows. “(The suites) were designed from an interest in having the dogs in a place we would want our dogs to be in,” says Mary Kenkel. “We didn’t want crates, didn’t want cages; we wanted something much more homelike.”
Charts listing information including food, toys, bedding, idiosyncrasies and instructions are printed daily for every boarder and posted on suite doors. Whole Dogz will provide bedding or owners may bring it. Bedding from home with familiar scents often makes a dog more comfortable.
Staff members heat or refrigerate individual menus as needed in two kitchens. The ventilation system is equipped with ionic filters and only organic and natural cleaning products are used because traditional cleaners (like bleach) can be harmful to some dogs.
A Day (and Night) at Whole Dogz
Unlike child care, Whole Dogz has no set hours for drop off and pick up. The full daycare package runs from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, but there are 3-hour and 6-hour time slots for daycare as well.
Each dog must have current vaccination records, be taking anti-flea/tick medication, and pass a sociability test to ensure that this pup gets along with others. Dogs are evaluated by size and temperament. A large but shy dog, for example, or one who just doesn’t like to be with big dogs, might spend the day with the medium or small dogs.
Boarders check in by 3:00 pm so they have time to get tired before bed, says Patrick. They eat dinner in their suite at 7:00 pm, go outside once more around 8:00 pm, and then to bed. “Dogs that just absolutely cannot be alone in a suite may end up sleeping with the manager,” says Mary Kenkel. Four, five, even six dogs sometimes bunk with Patrick.
Although Whole Dogz stresses organic foods, if owners bring food, it is used. “But we may recommend a change,” says Mary. Owners should be aware that, if fleas are detected, their dog will get a natural flea bath at their expense for the protection of all the dogs.
On the rare occasion of a dog bite or sudden illness, Whole Dogz staff will notify the owners and get any veterinary or medical attention needed. When a dog bites a person or another dog, animal control must be notified to confirm that the animal(s) involved have current vaccinations. Whole Dogz uses VCA Animal Hospital on Duke Street if necessary.
What else does Whole Dogz offer?
Whole Dogz’ retail shop displays products ranging from probiotics, supplements, natural flea repellents, and aromatherapy to natural treats, greeting cards, and books for adults and children, including the Mirabelle series (“Every day’s an adventure with Mirabelle!”). Whole Dogz is an abundant source for dog-centric gifts, and it might be the second home your dog would love.