Doggie day care has come to Henry County.
About a mile apart on Virginia Avenue in Collinsville, Spunky’s Spa and Urban Tails offer grooming and boarding for dogs and cats.
About 40 dogs (“fur babies,” in modern parlance) on a regular basis spend their days in the day cares while their owners (“pet parents”) are at work.
Wanda Wood of Woolwine was a nurse who took dog-grooming classes just to take care of her own dog, a shih-tzu named Brody.
A year later, she made the plunge entirely into dog care with Spunky’s Spa at 1645 Virginia Ave. It’s named after a beloved pet dachshund who passed away a few years ago. Spunky “was very special, a big part of my heart,” Wanda Wood said.
She got into dog-grooming because “I couldn’t find a groomer that suited me,” she said. Plus, comparing the cost of having him groomed to her taking grooming classes, she realized, she said, “I could pay for school in his life span.”
She ended up enjoying grooming so much that she and her son, Isaac, started doing it at home, she said. It was Isaac’s suggestion to “go down to Martinsville and open a shop,” she said.
A family business
The entire family leaped in to help. Wanda’s husband, Guy, got the building into shape. They’re still working on further plans, such as creating a living room area where the dogs are boarded, to feel more home-like, she said.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to stop renovating this place,” Isaac Wood said.
Wanda Wood’s daughter, Crystal Willard of Martinsville, and sister-in-law Marie Davis of Woolwine sometimes help out in the reception area.
“We try to keep it family-oriented,” Wanda Wood said. “Everybody has pulled together, worked together to make this possible. My husband did an amazing job” on the building.
Clip and care
They keep a steady clip with grooming services, but they also generally have about 10 to a dozen boarders a day, they said. Indicating the blonde dachshund he was holding, Isaac Wood said, “Mia’s mom works at Coach’s. She drops the dog off and goes to work.”
Sometimes “her grandma picks her up,” his mother said.
The upper level of the building is used for grooming and a room for boarding cats, and the downstairs is divided into individual areas for boarders. It leads to a large, fenced in grassy lot for the dogs. The property is protected by a security system.
Most dogs stay downstairs – including their Brody – but Mia and a few other particular dogs, such as old dogs, do better when they walk around freely upstairs, the Woodses said.
Spunky’s Spa is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Day care costs $6 a day, and the fee for overnight boarding is $12. When pets stay overnight, Wanda Wood stays there in a bedroom just beyond the cat room.
Grooming fees for small dogs are $30, and for large dogs, $40, with other services such, as baths at $15 and $20 and nail-clipping for $5.
“We try to keep it very affordable, especially for the older community around here who are on strict incomes,” Isaac Wood said.
From her time working in geriatrics, “I know it’s hard on older people” to make ends meet, his mother added.
Spunky’s Spa also sells some pet-care items, as well as handmade pet-sized blankets crocheted by Linda Galloway of Woolwine.
Lu Toler of Halifax County has been working with animals since 1989, she said.
“I started from scratch,” boarding and doing other work with dogs at home. She and her husband, Cecil, who has bought and sold a variety of businesses, planned on retiring seven years ago – “but God had other plans” – and here she is running Urban Tails in Collinsville, she said.
He bought a grooming business uptown and wanted her help, “but I do not do grooming,” she said. However, “I saw this place in a dream” – referring to the Urban Tails building – “and knew it’s where I was supposed to be. I opened it not based on any common sense by faith, because that’s how we move.”
They opened at 2845 Virginia Ave. on Nov. 30.
On staff, Anastasia Carter, Chasity Bailey and Rachael Toler are AKC-certified dog handlers, and Hunter Toler, Emilee Drake and Adalese Brown are going through the certification process. The staff also are taking special training in pet nutrition, customer service and problem-solving and communication, Toler said.
Dogs in the day care have individual kennels, with time to romp in a play room. Groups of dogs share time there based on size and temperament.
Most puppies are in there together, because “most puppies can integrate quickly,” Toler said. “There comes a point when we have to break [into groups] according to size.”
“We properly assess dogs” for behaviors such as aggression around toys or water to be sure the dogs together get along. Some dogs get the playroom to themselves, she added.
Urban Tails has 32 full-time members, she said. Some dogs stay for two or three days a week, and some for five to seven days.
Weekly day care costs are $130, or $19 for half a day and $28 for a full day. Extras include snacks for $2 and “Facebook Shout Out” for $5, according to www.deeogee.club
There are three “cat condos” (multilevel cages) for cats, with boarding costs at $15 per day.
Urban Tails has a part-time groomer for specialty cuts, and the rest of the staff members “take care of basics: face, feet and tail,” she said. Grooming fees include bath packages from $22 to $80, depending on the size of the dog, with upgrades available on shampoo, conditioner, teeth, paw balms and facials.
Urban Tails sells a wide range of natural foods, remedies and other products. “We deal with the mom and pop chains. We know we are dealing with pure ingredients,” Toler said.
If a supplier ever has a recall, they don’t use them anymore, she added.
On Thursdays, Urban Tails offers training by an AKC master trainer, Sheril Carr of Woofin Good Time in Eden, N.C.
“She’s an asset to us, a real treasure you can take you from puppyhood on up,” Toler said.
In the spring, Toler said she plans to expand the business further back into the property. “The community is very supportive,” she said.
Urban Tails is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Eventually, she said, she would like it to be open 24 hours a day.
Urban Tails uses TicToc, Instagram and Facebook, including posting videos of the dogs.
A growth industry
The first dog day care is said to have been Yuppie Puppy Pet Care, opened in 1987 by Joseph S. Sporn, according to “A Dog’s Luxe Life” by Edward Lewine in The New York Times. By the time Lewine’s article came out 10 years later – July 20, 1997 – New York City had 101 dog day cares, he wrote, with an average cost of about $5,000 a year.
“People in the city are treating their dogs in ways that were hard to imagine before the 1940s, when the average American dog lived a modest rural existence and the accepted relationship between man and dog was one of emotional distance,” Lewine wrote.
The shift in the way dogs were treated came about after World War II, when more families moved to cities and dogs began spending time inside with them.
The emergence of dog day cares is “a matter of people being more well taught. Once you know better you do better” for animals, Toler said. “This area is much more open to it than probably they were in the past.”
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.