Asheville is going to the dogs … and that’s not a bad thing. Dogs hereabouts have access to a range of services and perks that would make most canines choke on their dog biscuits.
Sure, other towns have pet shops and even pet warehouse outlets. But how many boast an entire store devoted to canine hiking needs? Trail Hound Gear Shop (63 Brook St. in Biltmore Village), owned and operated by dog-lover/outdoors enthusiast Jay Schoon, is a gear store for the outdoorsy dog. Schoon’s establishment, he says, is “set up to sell everything dogs need for traveling — from a walk around the block to a transcontinental trek.” Along with an array of doggie backpacks, Schoon offers collars, collapsible food-and-water bowls, booties (to protect tender paws during rough hikes), jackets and a variety of snacks (including such exotic items as elk and filet-mignon jerky).
Schoon also offers a pet-identification service that can help owners track down lost dogs. “I take digital pictures of dogs,” he explains. Owners of tagged canines, notes Schoon, can call a toll-free number that’s stamped on the photo ID tag — giving them access to the eyes and ears of the estimated 1,000 other Dogpack members. “If you lose your dog, call 866-DOGPACK, and we’ll try to locate your dog,” Schoon explains. People who’d lost dogs hiking the Appalachian Trail — and from places as far west as Breckenridge, Colo. — have called in and found their furry friends again via the Dogpack connection, he reports.
Schoon started out four years ago selling gear for both humans and dogs. “By Christmastime in 2000, I’d sold all my people gear at half-price; since then, I’ve been a dog outfitter,” he says. Besides running the store, Schoon is also active in fund-raisers and community outreach efforts that benefit stray animals and local animal shelters. “The reason I get up in the morning and enjoy this so much is getting to meet people and help dogs,” says Schoon.
If you’d like to take your dog hiking but can’t, Damaris Sullivan will do it for you. Sullivan, who runs Happy Dog Hiking, says she began offering this service because she didn’t want to hike alone. At first, she just took out an ad in a local paper, offering her services for free. But she “got so many calls from my ad, I decided there should be some kind of exchange and I should charge for it.”
A year-and-a-half later, Sullivan hikes on Wednesdays and Sundays with as many as three dogs at once. Besides the hike itself, Sullivan’s service includes “picking up the dog, transport to and from the hike, treats and lunch, and hugs,” she explains. And though Sullivan is perfectly willing to mix large and small dogs on a hike, she insists that all the animals “be able to ride in the car, be current on vaccinations, and be able to be off the leash.” Sullivan says she tries to maintain variety in terms of where she hikes, though she’s limited to areas that allow dogs to run off the leash. “We want to make sure everybody’s happy,” she notes.
Sullivan charges $25 per dog per trip; each outing lasts “three to six hours, depending on weather and travel distances,” she says. And whatever the itinerary, “you get 10 times the exercise you’d get from a dog-walking service,” says Sullivan. Some of her clients have physical limitations that prevent them from hiking with their own dogs; others are just busy folks who’d like to hike but don’t have time. Sullivan describes her (human) clients as “anybody who loves their dog enough to send them hiking.”
Other Asheville residents love their dogs by sending them to the spa. Kendell Youngs‘ business, Dog Gone Gorgeous, goes beyond the standard dog-grooming experience. For $7, her canine clients can enjoy the deluxe package: shampoo, aromatherapy massage, and gourmet dog biscuits. “I also do the basic groom, which includes fleece pads [for the dogs to lie on], hand drying, high-end shampoos, nail clipping and designer colognes,” Youngs explains.
But it’s the deluxe services that Youngs really likes to talk about. “The dogs love the massages,” she says. “I put them on a special pad, I play music, and I can even specialize an area of concentration — the hips or the back, for example.” And if you don’t want to go whole hog, you can get your dog a massage for $4.
Youngs was a corporate interior designer for 15 years; when she changed careers 11 years ago, she says she asked herself, “If I’m going to go into grooming, what can I do to pamper the dogs a little bit?” The answer, she reports, was adding spa services.
After grooming dogs in Greensboro for 10 years, Youngs moved her business to Asheville about a year ago. She says the people who bring their dogs to her “are the ones like me — their dogs are their children. They want to pamper their babies.” Ironically, Youngs’ own dogs, a pair of miniature shorthaired dachshunds, don’t require grooming.
Sandi Rector and Valerie DuPuy baked specialty dog biscuits for years as gifts before they decided to try selling them. “We found some more recipes online, and we started doing it as a sideline,” Rector explains. “We have about 14 regular clients now.”
Their business, BONE a Fide Bakery, sells all-natural snacks for dogs, cats, birds and even horses and llamas. They offer a range of dog goodies including Cheddar Biscuits, Veggie Biscuits, Peanut Butter Treats, Doggie Doughnuts and special Soft Treats for older dogs. For special occasions, humans can order party cakes and Carob or Yogurt Glazed Cookies for their canine friends.
“We do seasonal things [for] Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Easter,” says Rector. “We’ve also done cakes for the graduations of companion dogs.” The cost of the specialty items varies, “but we try to keep prices reasonable,” she says, noting that most of the treats run from $1-$5. Oatmeal Dog Biscuits, for example, will set you back $5 for 13 biscuits, while 39 Doggie Doughnuts cost $4. Plus they “have different sizes of cookies — small, medium and large,” reports Rector.
Besides delivering to clients in and around the Asheville area, Rector and DuPuy also peddle their wares at craft shows and through their cafe, located at Trail Hound. Rector, who also owns the Renee Allen House Bed & Boutique, is in the process of turning her B&B into a gift shop and offering the animal treats there as well. “The doggie cafe has done really well,” she says. “I’m going to expand on that here by including pet-related artwork.”
Rector says she already has several artists’ work lined up for display. “There’s a woman who does cat paintings and prints that are very fun and colorful; some people who hand-paint dog and cat pins; a lady from Georgia who does dog and cat paintings on tin for the lawn; and a woman who does stained glass featuring cats and dogs,” she says.
BONE a Fide Bakery also does mail order for clients outside their delivery area.
Bart Fitzpatrick‘s business, Scoops, provides at least as much benefit to humans as it does to their dogs. Fitzpatrick shovels dog waste from people’s yards, bags it up, and disposes of it. “I give free estimates for an initial cleaning,” says Fitzpatrick. “If a person has one dog in a normal-sized lot, it’s about $10 per cleaning. For two dogs, I charge $15,” he says. “The bigger the yard, the more I’ll charge for both the size and the time involved.” Fitzpatrick disposes of the bagged-up waste by placing it with clients’ trash or putting it with his own trash to be picked up.
Fitzpatrick, who describes himself as a dog-lover, says he heard about a similar service being offered in a Western state and thought the idea might fly here as well. “A majority of the population [here] is retired folks who enjoy their pets but can’t get out and care for them as they should,” he notes. Plus “it’s good for professional folks working 10-12 hour days, who don’t have time to clean up after their animals.”
Fitzpatrick has been offering this service on a part-time basis for about a year now. “Eventually I’d like to make it a full-time thing,” he reveals.
Whether your dog needs a hiking partner, gear, a massage, healthy snacks, or just a cleaner pen, Asheville’s creative entrepreneurs have you covered.
Here’s how to contact these businesses:
Trail Hound 274-3335, www.trailhound.com
Happy Dog Hiking 254-0988, http://www.rockpirate.com/dogs.htm
Dog Gone Gorgeous 277-5513
BONE a Fide Bakery 669-1124