Going to the dogs

A great big pillow to lie on. "Animal Planet" on the tube. Some soft nature music in the background.


A great big pillow to lie on. "Animal Planet" on the tube. Some soft nature music in the background. And a whole lotta friends you can sniff.

Man, life doesn't get any better than that.

At least, if you're a dog.

Welcome to Rover's Playhouse, the newest of Fargo's "doggie day cares."

The business, which opens Monday, gives pets a place to be pampered and socialize while giving owners a break from worrying about what their chow chow is chewing or if the puppy is piddling.


"It's become more popular because people's lives are so busy," said owner Kimberly Reynolds.

The facility, next to Nodak on Main Avenue by Interstate 29, has "a homey atmosphere" able to handle about 50 dogs a day, manager Becky Black said.

A huge pastoral mural covers the walls of the 3,000-square-foot play area. (The overall facility is 6,000 square feet.) Agility equipment, doggie beds and couches add to playtime and downtime.

On the east side of the building, a 50-foot by 30-foot dog run gives pets fresh air.

At the front of Rover's Playhouse, a "cat condo" room features two 6-foot-square picture windows and an aquarium to be filled with fish to keep felines focused.

And, for owners who just can't bear to leave their lap dogs, there are four Web cams that tune into the pooch play during the day.

"They keep their animals like their own children, and so do we," Reynolds said.

A recent phenomenon


Doggie day cares started popping up around the country a decade ago, according to HealthyPet magazine.

Nationally, most of them charge between $15 and $25 a day, with some going as high as $45 a day, HealthyPet said.

Of course, at the fancier digs, the phrase "It's a dog's life" takes on a whole new twist, with wading pools, hay rides and birthday parties with made-for-dogs cakes.

For example, HealthyPet reports "canine children" may lounge on four-poster beds or get chauffer-driven Mercedes Benz rides at the Paradise Ranch Country Club for Dogs in Sun Valley, Calif.

Dogs at New York Dog Spa & Hotel take a weekly field trip to a canine hydrotherapy center where they get swimming lessons.

And Dog Day Afternoon in Orlando, Fla., holds an annual "Beer and Bones" happy hour for dogs in their care and the pets' owners.

A pause for Paws

The Paws Place, just south of Fargo's 32nd Avenue South Hornbacher's, is a decidedly different environment.


The successful business has been open two years. It's more industrial in appearance, but that's softened by a window covered with photos of doggie clients.

With Joe Cocker singing the blues in the background, a boxer, Wiemaraner, beagle, two Pomeranians, a Labrador, a couple of golden retrievers and a few "your-guess-is-as- good-as-mine" mixes take turns carousing, playing tug-of-war with ropes, or just lounging in the play area.

The leader of the pack is owner Kris Altenbernd, also a professional dog trainer and veteran of the show ring.

Good doggie day care helps prevent and correct destructive or unruly behavior, she said.

"Dogs isolated at home don't learn dog behavior," she said. So, they don't socialize well with other animals or people.

They've been "isolated with the human pack. We allow them to be dogs to a certain point. We discipline bad behavior and give them positive reinforcement," she said. "They're active, physically and mentally."

The dog play area is about 1,500 square feet, with agility training equipment, kennels and doggie crates. A dog run is attached to the building.

Altenbernd has two part-time employees and one volunteer watching the 18 dogs that move in and out of the facility daily.


"We expect people to know dogs and know dogs well," she said. "You have to know what happens before it happens."

Training time

Robert and Janet Jordheim walk into The Paws Place with 7-month-old Star, a beautiful cream-colored golden retriever.

For the Fargo retirees, it's a break from the baby play of their pup, and a chance for Star to learn good habits.

"We forgot how much work you had to put in on a puppy," Robert Jordheim said. "She behaves so well around Kris and she's like a kid around the house."

The Jordheims say it's the training the rambunctious Star gets, and the mellow atmosphere, that feel right to them.

"This is not territorial. None of them are fighting," Janet Jordheim points out.

"So many dogs are poorly trained," her husband said before leaving. "It takes a lot of skill and time to do it. Lord knows we've got the time, but not the skill."


Both doggie day cares evaluate the temperaments of the dogs before admitting them. They also require shots be kept up to date.

In addition to dogs and cats, Rover's Playhouse also takes in exotic pets, such as ferrets, Guinea pigs, rabbits, iguanas and chinchillas, Black said.

There is an underlying worry for Reynolds and Black. Current plans for Main Avenue renovation call for their building to be removed.

The shock is compounded by the fact it took them since May to convert the former Play It Again Sports building into Rover's Playhouse.

Reynolds said she hopes Fargo officials will let the business remain.

"We have a serious passion for all animals," Reynolds said. "We wanted to offer an environment that would be a really comfortable place for owners to leave their treasured pets and have peace of mind" while they were on trips or at work.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

For more information:


The Paws Place

3301 15th St. S., Fargo

Owner: Kris Altenbernd

Phone: (701) 232-7722

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

Day care: $16 full day/$10 half day. Discounts are available for frequent visitors, families and multiple dogs.

Up-to-date vaccinations are required. Dogs are evaluated before being accepted.

One-on-one consultations with dogs and their families are available.

Dog grooming is available from a business that shares space in the same building.

Rover's Playhouse

3405 Main Ave., Fargo

Owner: Kimberly Reynolds

Manager: Becky Black

Phone: (701) 232-7529

Opens: Monday

Hours: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

Day care: $16 full day/$12 half day (four hours or less)

Dog boarding: $20 per night with access to the day care; $14 per night regular boarding

Cat Condo boarding: $10 per day

Exotics (ferrets, guinea pigs, iguanas, etc.): $8 per day

Provisions are also made for pets with special needs, such as animals needing medications or with physical disabilities.

Dogs are screened before joining the day care. All pets must have up-to-date vaccinations.

Rover's Playhouse provides pet boarding, doggie day care and pet supplies. Grooming will be available at a future date. A self-service pet washing area is available.

Training seminars are planned this fall on house training, grooming, health awareness and behavior modification.

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