Where Wet Noses and Belly Rubs Abound
It’s a scene that’s all too familiar for many city-dwelling dog owners:
You come home from work, exhausted after a long day of meetings, your mind focused on that big presentation you have tomorrow. But Fido greets you at the door with seemingly boundless energy, tail wagging furiously, clearly expecting a game of catch or an extended romp in the park.
Or maybe Fido’s been busy while you were gone and you find your couch cushion ripped to shreds, or your favorite shoes chewed beyond recognition.
Oh...and he’s also left a “present” by the back door that will need your immediate attention.
As much as we love our furry friends, it can be a challenge to give them all the exercise, stimulation, and social time with other dogs that they so desperately crave. Enter Canine Crews
, an eco-friendly doggy daycare and boarding facility located at 1616 N. Washtenaw in West Bucktown.
“Dogs are pack animals by nature,” explains Catherine Crews
, owner and “top dog” at Canine Crews. “Unfortunately, in today’s world they don’t get much chance to hang out as a pack, so some dogs can become overly aggressive or fearful around other dogs. Socialization is a great solution – the pack will ‘correct’ newcomers and let then know what they like and don’t like about their behavior. You can literally watch a dog learning from the other dogs and striving to be better so he can join in the play. It’s a beautiful thing.”
With a whopping 12,000 square feet of space, Canine Crews is one of the larger doggy daycares in Chicago – and one of the few equipped to handle large-breed dogs like Mastiffs and Great Danes. The facility offers more than 6,000 square feet of dedicated indoor play space, as well as a large fenced-in outdoor play yard. The dogs (between 60 and 90 on any given day) are grouped together by size, temperament and age, so they get to run, romp, and relax with similar playmates.
“Our owners tell us all the time that when they pick up their pooches at the end of the day, they’re relaxed and happy and content to just go home and chill out with their family,” says Catherine. “This eliminates a lot of guilt for working owners, and takes the stress out of the evening. A well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog!”
Growing up, Catherine was that kid who brought home every animal imaginable to save. She had dogs, cats, fish, birds, snakes – even a white mouse that she tried unsuccessfully to hide from her mother. As an adult, she spent 12 years selling steel while working with animal rescue groups and fostering dogs on the side. But after a series of personal life-changing events – including the death of her beloved 15-year-old dog, Barney – she quietly launched a small pet sitting/dog walking service and started thinking about leaving the steel industry for good.
So when she stumbled on the 100+ year old warehouse at North and Washtenaw, things quickly fell into place. The space had been recently vacated by The Barking Lot, so the build-out for a doggy daycare and boarding facility was already completed. Catherine took a leap of faith, quit her day job, cashed in her 401(k), and opened Canine Crews’ doors in January 2010.
“I knew nothing about West Bucktown,” admits the 12-year resident of Chicago’s Noble Square neighborhood. “But I did my homework. I talked with neighbors and other area business owners, and I attended CPD Beat meetings to learn more about safety and gang activity in the area. I’ve seen huge improvements in the neighborhood in the three years we’ve been here. Some of my best customers are from West Bucktown – and many have become personal friends as well as clients.”
One of the things that sets Canine Crews apart from other doggy daycares in the city is Catherine’s laser-sharp focus on staff training. She tends to hire from the area, and is always on the lookout for the qualities of a great dog handler – namely patience, calmness, consistency, and a natural affinity for dogs.
“There is really very little regulation and oversight in the pet care industry,” Catherine admits. “But I require my employees to complete a comprehensive 16-module training program, we maintain a strict 15:1 dog-to-handler ratio, and we’re Pet First Aid/CPR certified through the American Red Cross. We’re all true dog lovers here, and it shows.”
The perks of being her own boss are numerous, but Catherine is quick to point out that the best part of owning Canine Crews is that it enables her to partner with two animal rescue organizations – One Tail at a Time
and Alive Rescue
. She offers free daycare and boarding to anyone who is currently fostering with either of these organizations, as well as a lifetime 10% off all Canine Crews services if you adopt from these rescues.