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In the Midcoast, there are quite a few “livin’ the dream” jobs, but for animal lovers, working and playing with dogs all day is right up there. Harbor Hounds is a dog day care center at 311 Park St. in Rockland and last month transitioned to new ownership. After three years of running Harbor Hounds, Clara and Vern Clark gave the keys to one of their clients, Judy Van Norman in October, and moved to Florida, where they’re building a house.
We spoke to manager Amanda Ireland to see what’s new and interesting. Van Norman has kept the business’s original name and they still offer pet care 365 days a year. Ireland, who is a certified kennel operator and has more than 20 years in the pet care industry, moved down from the Bangor area specifically to manage Harbor Hounds.
At the front desk, there’s a television monitor, which watches over every area of the dog pens and work spaces so they can keep a close eye on what the dogs are up to. In addition, two full time staff are working and playing with the dogs all day long. On their busiest days, they have up to 33 dogs, which spend their time in outdoor pens when it’s nice out, and in indoor pens, like the “Hound Lounge,” on inclement days. Other indoor areas include a grooming room, a kitchen and other spaces that allow them quiet time with their “hound siblings” or by themselves if they feel like snoozing.
Judy, as a dog owner yourself, what made you decide to take on this business and what's one of the most important things you want your clients to know about you?
I feel very fortunate to have found such a caring place as Harbor Hounds for my dogs' daycare and I wanted that to continue when I heard that Clara wanted to sell and retire. She had created a nice facility and had kind, caring and reliable staff — what a good base to begin with when buying an existing business. I want Harbor Hounds' clients to know that I want to hear their concerns and suggestions because I want Harbor Hounds to be around a long time and client involvement is key to making that happen.
Now that the business has changed hands, what’s new?
We wanted to keep everything the same that clients are used to. A couple of different changes internally are that we’re using a new computer system that has special kennel software. Now we can check every dog’s vaccines to make sure they are up to date; we can track any health issues and retrieve how many times a client has been here before. We do all of our scheduling, grooming and boarding on this system.
Who is your typical client?
We have a variety of clients; people who work at the hospital, school teachers, fishermen. People who work long shifts and don’t want their dogs to be alone too much. Basically anyone who wants their dog to be happy and tired at the end of the day. We also do boarding for people who want to go on vacation and grooming for dogs who need a little freshening up.
People don’t realize the level of care that goes into their dog’s day; it’s like being a camp counselor for dogs, right?
Yes it is. We start accepting dogs at 6:45 a.m. and as they come in, they’ll go right outside or to their respective groups. They play all day. If we see a dog getting a little tired, they’ll get a bone and a blankie and we let them take a nap in their pen. When they’re ready, they go right back out. In the summer, we have a salt water pool and we’ll play with the dogs in the pool or let them chase balls. It’s awesome. Additionally, if the dogs we care for board overnight, they may stay in our daycare program at no charge during the day (providing they are dog friendly.)
For more information visit Harbor Hounds at harborhoundsmaine.com.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org