Pet spa in Germany provides day care for critters only
Chewy is one of the day-care regulars. He’s "unsure with men" and "shy with strangers," a list of instructions reminds his caretakers.
Then there’s 7-month-old Haley, with bewitching eyes, one blue, one brown, and a mischievous streak. "If you can’t find her, look under the bed," read her care directions. "Give treats if she potties outside."
This, obviously, is no ordinary day care. The charges here are collared and very hairy, prone to barking, howling, whining and meowing.
The Eifel Pet Spa is the only Department of Defense kennel in U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Nestled in the woods in a former military motor pool building near in Oberweis, Germany, the kennel serves pets of U.S. military members and civilians living in southwestern Germany.
Doggy Day Care gives dog owners who work the option of not leaving Fido alone all day.
"It’s really something our customers need," said Katie Hasty, Pet Spa facility manager. "It’s one service not provided on the economy." Keeping a pet at home isn’t an option for many working families since German law prohibits leaving a dog alone for more than five hours.
That’s one reason Senior Airman Cortney Mullen, 23, drops Chewy off at the Pet Spa every morning before reporting to her medical technician job at Spangdahlem Air Base’s pediatrics clinic. It’s a routine she began when her Lhaso apso was a pup. She was afraid he might bark and bother her German landlords, living below. Besides, Doggy Day Care gives him a chance to socialize with other dogs.
"He loves it," Mullen said. "He’s getting fed, he’s getting walked, and he loves the girls, everybody who works here."
Brady, a yellow Lab who turned 1 year old in October, has been a Doggy Day Care customer since he was 8 weeks old. Brady’s owner, Ashley Beard, 25, works full time and her husband recently returned from a months-long deployment.
"He loves coming," Beard said of Brady. "He actually knows the word ‘pet spa’ and he gets very excited."
So does Shelby, a wee English bulldog with an underbite. "I think she prefers being here than at home," says owner Michelle Viramontes.
Doggy Day Care has the added benefit of introducing dogs to kenneling, say Hasty and Angela Haug, the pet spa’s assistant manager. A dog familiar with the kennel will likely adjust better to longer boarding when owners go on vacation, or during the inevitable permanent-change-of-station move, they said.
For $10 a day (food not included) or $45 a week, dogs get two, 10-minute walks per day, and interaction with Pet Spa’s staff members. Cuddles and hugs are free.
What sets the Eifel Pet Spa apart from a traditional boarding kennel is some of its services. For a small fee, a bath, nail trim or brush can be included, as can extra walks or playtime. On Fridays, the kennel offers in-house grooming. It also currently offers obedience classes for dogs and a Puppy Kindergarten for canines younger than 6 months.
Non-traditional pets are also welcome. The pet spa has boarded snakes, spiders, birds and rabbits, Hasty said.
As a nonappropriated fund organization, the pet spa must generate its own revenue. It brings in enough income to cover expenses, but the staff thinks a move to Spangdahlem would give business a boost and be more convenient for servicemembers working on the base, about a 30-minute drive on winding roads from the kennel. Such a move depends on space and funding, Hasty said.
But the remote location hasn’t detracted from another popular draw at the Eifel Pet Spa. Yappy Hour is a weekly playgroup for dogs from all walks of life. Led by Air Force spouse Anna Taylor, the program is another opportunity for dogs to socialize and learn how to behave in the presence of other four-legged friends. Dog-friendly canines make life easier for their owners, Taylor said.
"In Germany, dogs can go everywhere as long as they get along with others," she said.
At a recent Yappy Hour, a few of the Doggy Day Care regulars, such as Chewy and Brady, were in attendance. The smallest in the group, Chewy hid most of the hour under Mullen’s chair, peeking out from behind her ankles on occasion to bark at the bigger dogs.
Given free rein to romp in a closed-off room at the kennel, most of the dogs at Yappy Hour ran circles around one another. They panted, jumped around in a quest for dominance, sniffed in discreet parts, and occasionally barked or bared teeth. "Unless they start to fight, we just let them go," Taylor said.
Taylor, who has experience in dog obedience training, is moving this spring. The pet spa is looking for a trainer to continue Yappy Hour, staff members said.
Doggy mental health is riding on it.
"We’ve been here since 2007, and we’ve come every week since then," Army spouse Beth Stratton, 37, said of herself and Zaro, a feisty, 3-year-old golden retriever. "If for some reason we miss a week, he gets very down and depressed. He loves meeting all his friends."