My Story as told to Michael Meidenbauer
Journal Sentinel Reporter
July 15, 2013
Kennel owner takes gamble on dog business
Dog Tired cage-free setting offers owner new beginning
An eager Mia waits to catch a ball at Dog Tired
Glendale – Downsized and downtrodden, Susan Taylor was in life’s doghouse.
Decades ago, she had been in the prosperous business of supplying ingredients to Milwaukee’s brewers.
As that business began to taper off in the 80’s and 90’s, Taylor was one of many shown the door when her employer was snapped up by a larger company.
Suddenly outside an industry for which she had cultivated a particular skill set, Taylor went on a 15-year “journey to find out what to do with my life” – a long and difficult journey that cost her a marriage. As time wore on, she bounced between trades, at times working as a micro-lender, recruiter and eventually a fast food worker and a maid.
“I ended up going down the food chain as the years went along,” Taylor said. “I did whatever it took to pay the bills.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Taylor was down to her last nickel, she said, on her knees and praying to God, when an opportunity presented itself. The owner of Glendale-based Dog Tired, a cage-free daycare and kennel, was looking to sell.
Taylor took a chance, gambling the balance of her retirement account on the venture after she was denied bank financing.
“It was the only way I could fund it.” Taylor said
But why risk her last shred of financial security on dogs? Simply put, she loves them.
“They’re funny”, Taylor said. “They’re not judgmental. They care about you. They’re everything you want a person to be.”
Area demand didn’t hurt either. Dog Tired’s clientele, Taylor said, is largely composed of successful business people who commute to downtown Milwaukee every day and frequently travel. Though it costs more to run a cage-free daycare and kennel, Taylor says her customers are willing to pay for the added companionship and freedom their dogs receive. And, when you compare it, Dog Tired is a much better value than other daycares and kennels. We are always with the dogs and never cage them. All other daycare and boarding centers do, for up to 4 hours a day and 12 hours overnight. So, you “get what you pay for”, Taylor said.
“(The former owner) saw there was a need in the marketplace for cage-free care.” Taylor said. “These are people’s pets that they hold dear. To stuff them in a cage and turn the lights out and leave them there doesn’t settle well.”
During the day, dogs are split up into “rooms” – areas of the building’s open floor space separated by chest-high walls – based on both their physical size and the force of their personality. We have high, physical walls to separate the dogs as a safety measure, according to Taylor. “Some dogs like to fence fight and you will see this at other dog daycares and kennels that only use chain link fences. Our fencing prevents this,” she adds.
The “littles” room is populated with smaller breeds like Spaniels, Poodles and Corgis, along with some docile Labradors. In the “mediums” room a pack of pooches trails behind a playful, black and brown dappled Catahoula named Bear, while Bertie the English Bulldog looks on from a park bench against the wall, tongue lolling. A deep, booming bark from the “bigs” room announces Oliver, a friendly mix of St. Bernard and Bull Mastiff who, on his hind legs, towers head and shoulders above the dividing walls to greet passerby.
A separate space in the corner of the building, reminiscent of a living room with a couch, arm chair, television and microwave, is where one handler hunkers down every evening to keep the overnight dogs company until the morning.
Leading the pack
Taylor’s gamble paid off.
During the day Dog Tired holds about 50 dogs, 20 overnight. Both daycare and overnight stays are almost always booked solid, Taylor said. Business is so good she said she’s considering an expansion by franchising or licensing.
And driving the business are the handlers, Taylor said. Assuming the role of pack leader, they dole out discipline and rewards to manage the many personalities present among dogs. “It’s a fun job, but it’s not what people think, said Zoe Arnold, a manager with training in canine behavior. It’s a lot of hard work, and you need to be the boss.”
All Dog Tired employees are Pet First Aid/CPR Certified, said Taylor. “This is especially important in keeping our high standard of care.”
For more information, please contact:
Dog Tired All Cage-Free Daycare & Boarding
727 W. Glendale Avenue
Glendale, WI 53209
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