A dog's life
The market for doggy daycare has grown throughout the country and with 11,500 dogs registered in Gisborne, two businesses are now well established here meeting a need for special canine care. Gisborne Herald reporter and dog-lover Kim Parkinson learns more about what is on offer for our furry friends . . .
For Nips, Clyde, Twinkle, Panda, Bertie, Poppy, Shelby and the rest of the precious pooches, it's a home-away-from-home, but for owner Charlie Biddlecombe, Doggi Day Care in Ormond is a full-time job.
It's a job that keeps her busy between 8am and 6pm weekdays catering to the needs of up to 15 dogs at a time. Add her own seven dogs and the two 18-day-old puppies she is hand-rearing at the moment, and one can't help but admire her commitment and stamina.
“They are all so different and you get to know their personalities and quirks,” Charlie says.
Like the way Nips is obsessed with fetching a tennis ball and is constantly returning it to anyone who might take an interest. Three-legged Mika, on the other hand, is keen to sabotage his game of fetch, ending in some feisty exchanges.
Each day is different, with some dogs loving balls and water, while others prefer a good old game of tag.
“We understand that socialisation is an integral part of a dog's wellbeing — they are pack animals and Doggi Day Care provides them with the choice of many playmates.”
Charlie has always been a dog-lover and was looking for part-time work six years ago, but she found it difficult leaving her own dogs at home on their own. With thousands of owners with registered dogs in Gisborne, she thought there could be a place here for a daycare facility for dogs.
From humble beginnings of caring for three or four dogs which she transported in a little Toyota Echo, she now has up to 15 dogs a day and a decent-sized Toyota Hiace van to get the dogs out to her two hectare rural property.
Some dogs come three times a week and some only once a week. Charlie has had a lot of them since they were young.
“You form a good relationship with the owners. I enjoy crocheting blankets for the new human babies that are going to be welcomed into the dogs' lives.”
There is a large shed so they can get out of the weather and they also feel very safe in the van and will go there if they hear thunder.
“We are always putting money back into the business, improving the property for the dogs.”
For many, driving with a van full of dogs would be a stressful proposition, but Charlie takes in all in her stride.
She offers a door-to-door pick-up and drop-off service so the owners really can leave it all up to her.
During the Covid-19 lockdown she said her own dogs missed the paying guests and played up a bit.
“They missed the company and stimulation. A few essential workers who were doing shift work used the service again when we went to level 3, but I'm still not back up to peak capacity yet.”
As well as a large shed filled with old sofas, there's a bath and a sand pit and lots of space for them to run free. Everything is gated and secure including a double-gated entrance where people can park their cars without worrying about the dogs escaping when they come and go.
People can't help but smile when they come across the Dogs Day Out Gizzy bus, illustrated with its distinctive cartoon pooches, and the dogs feel the same way.
“They get so excited when they hear the bus coming to pick them up — you see them stop in their tracks and their tails start wagging madly,” says owner Bernice David-Goodwin.
It seems dogs are creatures of habit, much like people.
“The regulars get in and go to their seats, then we clip them in.
“One of our regulars, Harley, jumps like a springbok and his tail goes hard-out when we turn up at his house to take him out.”
What makes the Dogs Day Out unique is that it takes the dogs on daily excursions, with Bernice and her team handling up to 20 dogs at a time. They visit their favourite spots like Gisborne's finest beaches and they love their river runs where the dogs run free and swim, knowing that pack leader Bernice is boss.
“People ask how we can keep them all under control — it's hard to explain, but they all behave.
“I love seeing dogs just being dogs — we just love it when we're out and about.
“We're coming into seal season soon so we need to be mindful of that, and we have to keep track of bird nesting seasons as well.”
Bernice spent eight years as an animal control welfare inspector with the Gisborne SPCA, so she is well-qualified to run a successful animal-care business.
Dog owners place great trust and confidence in her and her team to look after their beloved pets.
“For a very reasonable charge, the Dogs Day Out will pick up your dog in the morning and return him or her in the late afternoon, after a decent work-out.”
It's a busy schedule picking up all the dogs and it runs like clockwork.
“One of us will go in and get the dog, one drives and the other keeps the rest of the passengers under control. We do our country pick-ups first, then our town pick-ups, and usually by 10am we head out for our massive run. There are three of us with the dogs at any one time. We then go back to the farm for a bit of a rest and refreshments.”
Back at the farm, the Dogs Day Out has a fully-lined shed and a big area for them to run around in. There are comfy old couches for them to rest on, and there is a separate doggy kitchen area.
“It's five-star all the way. We want to provide the dogs with all the comforts of home.”
Bernice said she witnessed some sad cases of neglect during her time with the SPCA and likes knowing that all the dogs in her care are well-looked after.
“They have to be fully vaccinated, de-sexed and registered to come to us. I will usually do a meet-and-greet with a new client and their dog before we sign them up.”
In order to meet new clients' needs, Bernice says she is definitely looking at expanding the business and welcoming new fur friends on board.
“I just love all the dogs' personalities — they are like little people. My team, Tammy and Carlos would agree — we love it.
“In the past, people were happy to leave their dogs home alone while they were at work, but now the tide has turned, and it is acknowledged that this can actually affect their wellbeing.
“There has been a major shift in people's mindsets, which is why the Dogs Day Out has become so popular.”