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Tuesday, June 19, 2001
 
2001 Small Business profiles

Day care goes to the dogs

By Gina Kim
Seattle Times staff reporter


Dai Sugano / The Seattle Times
Dalmatian Georgie is comforted by Martin Schwartz, whose wife, Meghan, owns Dogvana, a dog day-care center. Dogvana, which opened yesterday, is one of many Puget Sound-area specialty businesses that target dogs.

Dogs. The days of simply filling up their water bowls and walking them around the block are over. Specialty businesses targeting dogs have abounded in recent years. The Dogvana doggie day care opened just yesterday in downtown Seattle, adding to bakeries, artists studios and bed-and-breakfasts that serve a canine clientele in the Puget Sound region.

"I'm at the heart of the trend," said Dogvana owner Meghan Schwartz. "I have a very spoiled dog." Ginger, Schwartz's 8-year-old golden retriever, indulges with a birthday cake from Seattle's Three Dog Bakery every year and has a trunk full of toys.

Dogvana--for dog nirvana--is at Yale Avenue and Stewart Street, the previous home of a Porsche repair shop. With the help of 15 gallons of blue and yellow paint, the 10,800-square-foot building has been transformed into a dog heaven. Squeaky toys and tennis balls litter the cement floor, couches and cushions lie about, and rubber mats protect the joints of running dogs.

"They have free run of the place," said Schwartz.

After a trial day where the day care ensures that a dog socializes well with the others, the cost for the service is anywhere from $20 to $30 a day, depending on whether a dog just drops in for the day or its owner has a longer-term contract with Dogvana.

Schwartz hopes to expand the business by contracting with companies to provide doggie day-care services to their employees.

Central Bark Productions, a doggie day care in the Central Area, charges from $21 to $25 a day, said owner Marie Martin. Central Bark opened last year and cares for 25 dogs daily.

"It's a sign of the times. It's a luxury to have a pet," said Martin. "There was a time when you were lucky to feed your kids and now we're in an economic state that we can indulge ourselves with a pet."

Martin spent $200,000 on decorating and furnishing the day care, hiring theater-set designers to build trees and paint murals throughout the 8,000-square-foot warehouse. Central Bark also has a live Web camera so owners can watch their dogs playing via the Internet.

Images of pets

Kelly Staton of Seattle specializes in oil paintings of dogs and cats.

"I think for certain people, pets are part of their family," said Staton, who charges from $200 to $800 per portrait. For Karyn Carpenter Baker of Bainbridge Island, black-and-white photographs of dogs and cats make up 40 percent of her photography business.

"I'm just overwhelmed with it because it wasn't my intention to do this," she said, noting that the demand propelled her into the service. Baker charges $200 for a sitting and prints are an additional cost.

At Doggie Bed and Biscuit, a doggie bed-and-breakfast just west of Woodinville, a dog can stay in a private room with couches, chairs and a private back yard.

"It's a bone away from home," said owner Ann Marie Shields. Dogs also get pampering sessions in which they are brushed, run or rocked. The cost for the four-star service runs from $28 to $35 a night.

Alberta Weinberg, a downtown-Seattle business owner, splurges on doggie treats for her dog, Una. Weinberg has also forked over money for a black-and-white portrait of the yellow Labrador and sends her to a dog-sitter for $20 a day when she is out of town.

"I'm old-fashioned," said Weinberg. "She's a dog and I'm a person. But she's much more to me than four-legged, furry creature."

Gina Kim can be reached at 206-464-2761 or gkim@seattletimes.com.

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