By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
People walking in the door of the Glenwood Pet Lodge are often greeted by a tan and white Jack Russell terrier named Gracie. Gracie, the unofficial operations manager, sniffs at patron’s hands and wags her tail back and forth.
Gracie’s happiness is an extension of the happiness of her humans – Pet Lodge owner Deb Juarez, her husband Tony and their children, Jessie and Brendan.
That happiness is evident in the dog and cat boarding business located at 946 S. Locust St. in the Glenwood Plaza.
The idea for the pet lodge was born in February when the building, formerly a pet services business, became empty. Deb and Tony, who already owned the building, decided this was a natural fit.
The family immediately began to work on this project. Jessie, a veterinary school student at Iowa State University, helped develop the business plan. She runs the Facebook page and website, and when she is in Glenwood, helps make sure everything is up to code, such as the cleanliness of the building.
They also had state inspectors come in and make sure they were proceeding correctly.
“We had to have a consent form and follow sanitation protocols,” Jessie said. “They gave us a lot of advice, such as making sure every surface is covered and able to be sanitized. Food has to be kept in a lock-tight container. Just a lot of advice. They were very helpful.”
Tony, who also works for the Missile Defense Agency, began working on some of the construction projects. The family has spent approximately $30,000 to renovate the building. This includes purchasing kennels and start-up materials. Tony recently finished constructing a fence, which pleases the family and the customers, as this allows the animals to romp and play without being on a leash.
Family and friends saw the passion the Juarez family had for this project and began to help by donating items such as towels and blankets.
The difference between Glenwood Pet Lodge and other kennels is the familial atmosphere.
“My goal is to treat the dogs as though they are at home,” Deb said.
The personal attention starts the moment the animals come in the door. Deb checks the paperwork to make sure the animals are current on vaccinations. State law requires pets to be vaccinated before animals are groomed or boarded.
Once the paperwork is seen, the animal is weighed, much like it would be at the vet. Animals are fed twice a day at the Pet Lodge. Customers are encouraged to bring their own food so animals eat the same product they would at home. The lodge can also provide the food. Pet owners are also encouraged to bring toys, a recently-used towel or recently-worn sock which would carry the owner’s scent, or any other items that remind the pets of home.
The Juarezes goal is to provide quality care, and a large part of that quality comes from consistency. Mealtimes and walking times are consistent, as are the employees’ schedules. Deb is there every day (with Gracie), and Brendan is there every evening to help walk the dogs.
“A lot of places have help on the weekend,” Jessie said. “They have someone else walking the dogs. They don’t get consistency. By having that consistency of care, you get to know the animal, and how they will react. They adjust more quickly when they know who you are.”
“I’m always in there (the kennel area),” Deb said. “I had two Cocker Spaniels last week that drank about every half an hour, and I just kept filling their bowls.”
The dogs are walked four times every day in the large grassy area surrounding the Pet Lodge. Walking the dogs gives the Juarezes a chance to clean the kennels and gives the dogs a chance to exercise. All kennels are cleaned two to three times a day.
Deb’s commitment to quality of care extends to letting her customers know how the pets are doing. Customers are welcome to call, and she’ll also text or e-mail photos of the animal at the shelter.
Seeing a dog in the hallway is not unusual.
“The first thing is safety,” Jessie said. “We always make sure the animals are safe, but as long as the place is secure, the dogs can roam around. It makes them more comfortable.”
Deb loves to see the place filled with animals. There is space for 15 dogs, including space for three dogs weighing more than 60 pounds.
“The other week we had a 170-pound dog, an Irish wolfhound,” Deb said. “She was the sweetest, calmest dog we ever had.”
Boarding costs $17 per night for any size of dog.
“We want to keep it reasonable,” Jessie said. “This is our community, and it’s important to us that we can keep the money local. A lot of people who bring animals to us have local businesses.”
Customers are encouraged to book a spot at the lodge as soon as they know what dates they need to use the kennel. The kennel was booked for the Fourth of July weekend by May 1. The lodge is currently taking reservations for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We do have to turn some people away, but we want to make sure all the animals are taken care of, so we want to keep it small,” Deb said.
Cats are also welcome at the Pet Lodge for a fee of $10 per night. The Juarezes have installed Formica kennels, which Jessie said cats prefer over metal. The cats are placed in the front of the building, behind the main desk.
“Cats want to see people and light. They want to see activity,” Jessie said.
Cats also like to hide, and Deb has provided space for that as well. Each cat kennel contains a blanket and a grey plastic dishpan, which is kept separate from the burgundy litter pan so the cat has an area in which to lay and hide.
The Juarezes have hired Jenna Stulgies of Council Bluffs to groom animals. Stulgies, who studied animal grooming in Colorado, has been a welcome addition. She has groomed more than 350 animals since starting.
The grooming area is also state-of-the art, with a hydraulic grooming table that allows Stulgies to be at a comfortable level with an animal when clipping or combing. Also making grooming comfortable are two reinforced fiberglass bathtubs on raised platforms.
Grooming starts at $30, and varies depending on the size of dog, products used and amount of work needed.
If a dog just needs a bath, but a pet owner doesn’t want to pay someone to wash the dog or get pet hair in his or her own bathtub, the Pet Lodge provides an option.
“We have a do-it-yourself pet wash,” Jessie said. “That’s been popular. It gets pretty busy on weekends, especially.”
The cost to self-wash a pet is $12, which includes shampoo and use of towels.