If you're a regular reader, you know by now that my go-to dog professional is Matt Beisner at THE ZEN DOG. I'm a raving fan of not only the training he provides but also the daycare and boarding services.
Unfortunately for me (and you) but fortunately for him, the rest of the city is apparently taking notice, and boarding at THE ZEN YARD fills up quickly around the holidays. So I went in search of an alternate place that I would feel comfortable leaving Chance if I had to go out of town without him.
The facility is in Van Nuys, and pay attention to Waze on your way because it can be easy to miss the long narrow driveway. But once you find it, it's easy to see where you're going.
Danielle met me outside and basically gave me the tour she gives to everyone who comes by for a Meet-and-Greet, an introduction to the facility for new clients that allows them to become acclimated. This time also gives Danielle a chance to do a temperament test assessing a potential clients' compatibility with the other dogs. Only once so far has a Meet-and-Greet gone south--a new client went after one of Danielle's pack that he'd just been introduced to, and she had to turn him away. I think Danielle told me this story because she felt bad that she'd had to let someone down, but it made me feel REALLY good to know that she's more comfortable sending someone away than having a bad apple in the group.
It feels remarkably homey inside--as it should, because Danielle and Deborah actually live here! That's right...they are on-site 24/7. Danielle said that the home-like "bed-and-breakfast" vibe was super important to them, as they originally launched the business from their home and it was such a success. The bigger facility allows the dogs more room to stretch their legs, but it's not so big that the personal touch is lost.
There are three separate "bedrooms" for the dogs to enjoy--they're separated out by temperament for naps and bedtime, and are always watched over the closed-circuit TV by Danielle and Deborah (whose room is right across the hall from the main bedroom). If there are any disturbances, they would be as aware as if they were still hosting dogs in a house.
Speaking of naps, this was one of my favorite parts of the West Pack BnB routine. Danielle said that every day they take a two-hour nap; they bring all the dogs in from the playroom, separate them into the bedrooms, and sack out. My dog Chance absolutely needs an enforced nap--if he's around other dogs, he will play like a maniac all day long and completely overdo it. It's much better for his state of mind if he gets a little bit of a structured break during the day (I bet this goes for dogs who AREN'T maniacs, too). In a larger boarding facility, I don't think Chance would get this kind of attention.
The attention isn't just for the benefit of the dogs, either. Danielle made it clear that they are VERY open to communication with owners, and while they don't have live-feeds of the facility running, they are happy to send photo/video updates as often as an owner wants.
They're also able to accommodate dogs who need slightly different arrangements than the regular routine. During my visit, there was one dog who needed some alone-time after a particularly stressful morning, so he was just chilling by himself in one of the bedrooms while the rest of the clients played in the playroom. With large windows giving him visual access to the hallways, and a baby-gated open door, he was still connected to the goings-on in the facility while he got a little breather. He seemed super relaxed--he was getting exactly the care he needed at that moment. And that's what Danielle seems to excel at, as she was a nanny for 10 years. She joked that running a doggie daycare is just like being a nanny, which just speaks to how seriously she takes her role--watching her furry clients is as important to her as watching human children.
Other accommodations can also be made. While West Pack BnB is cage-free, they have some small crates if a dog needs to be crated (or you're welcome to bring your larger one from home). They are capable of giving both oral and injection medications, and every client gets his own neatly-organized locker so there's no confusion. You can also provide any specialized diet needs, as the dogs all get fed separately (which can take anywhere from a half hour to two hours--they don't rush it). They also take the dogs for walks--like actual walks outside on the Chandler bike path! Danielle emphasized that it's important to her that even though the dogs get a lot of exercise playing during the day, they really need some fresh air, too.
And boy do they play. It wasn't a particularly busy day at West Pack BnB, so the dogs were in the smaller playroom instead of the large one (which Danielle will be outfitting with a mural and other improvements in short order). And they were having SO MUCH FUN. Big dogs and little dogs were all playing together and getting along just fine--Danielle said that if a dog needs to be separated out from bigger or smaller dogs they can accommodate that (because of course they can), but that she's found so far that they all tend to do just fine together.
As if it couldn't get any better, West Pack BnB essentially offers 24-hour pick-up and drop-offs. YEAH. Right?? Danielle said that she totally understands that when you get back from a trip, you want to see your dog right away, and nothing's worse than getting back into town juuuuust after pick-up hours are over. They're also very flexible with last-minute bookings and even daycare reservations.
So if you're looking for a place to board your dog--or maybe even just a new daycare place in the valley--I definitely recommend West Pack BnB. Between the home-like atmosphere and Danielle's watchful eye, I would feel very safe dropping Chance off here. But yeah I would probably come straight from LAX at 9pm to pick him up...just because I could.