UPON KNOCKING on the front door of Dog's Day Out on busy 15th Northwest, a chorus of barks breaks out. Danette Wells stands among 13 dogs and raises her voice to invite me into the house—and I am immediately jumped on, barked at, licked, and nosed in the crotch.
This is a house for dogs. Where Danette's living room should be, there is now mostly empty space; horse-stall mats made of thick, heavy rubber line the floor, and there are dog toys strewn about. To the right is a smaller room housing a couple of kennels with beds inside and some covered love seats—this is the quiet room where the dogs settle down for their naps after a day's romp. When I am led out to the backyard, I am surprised to see that it is nice and spacious, covered in wood chips, and, for the most part, free of dog poop. "I try to clean it up right away," Danette says. This big house is now a duplex; the lower half of the house is for the dogs, the upstairs for the owner.
The dogs are chasing one another and wrestling as we stand and talk in the yard. Jenn Wynne
Seattle Weekly: Why did you decide to open a dog day care?
Danette Wells: When working at the PAWS animal shelter, I noticed that the majority of dogs in the shelter were adolescent dogs that people got as puppies and never bothered to train. These dogs' "cute" puppy behaviors were no longer so cute on a 9-month-old, 50- to 60-pound dog. Most of the dogs given up to the shelter were not exercised adequately or trained even basic manners; they became a nuisance to their owners and certainly no fun to be around. I saw day care as an opportunity to give dogs an appropriate outlet for their energies, as well as some structure and guidance, thereby making them a pleasure to be around and, hopefully, keeping more dogs in their homes and out of shelters.
How many dogs do you have here each day?
I have 11-12 dogs per day. Most of the dogs come 2-3 days per week. I do not recommend a dog coming to day care every day. As fun as it is here, this is a high stimulation/high stress environment, and five days a week seems to be too much stimulation for most dogs. Even active dogs need a little downtime.
How did you find the house?
Drove by and saw a sign. I was looking for a freestanding space that was zoned for "mixed use," meaning I could live and run a business there. Unfortunately, many of these older, commercially zoned houses or bungalows are being torn down now, so they're not too easy to find.
How long have you lived here, and do you like the neighborhood?
I love Ballard! I've been in this building since January 1999. I lived in Fremont previously and was priced out of that neighborhood. Ballard is the new Fremont, you know.
How much time do you spend at your house?
Way too much! But I do have a helper who comes in 2-3 days a week for a couple of hours so I can get out of the building! My own dog [a shepherd mix named Georgia] is a registered therapy dog, so every other Thursday afternoon, we take a break to go to the Norse Home on Phinney Ridge and visit the residents there.
How does this house reflect your personality?
Well, I guess you could say I have 12 reflections of my personality here now! And I don't mind eating, drinking, and breathing fur 24-7.
Do you have your own living room?
My upstairs is a separate very, very small one-bedroom apartment-a little bedroom, a half a bath, and a tiny kitchen. Luckily, the downstairs kitchen is huge—and I love to cook!
Are there always dogs around or only during the day?
My dog is always around, and two cats, which are upstairs only. Sometimes I have an extra dog staying overnight, though I am not a boarding facility—only my regular day-care dogs and friends' dogs get to stay with me every so often.
Are any areas off-limits to dogs?
How do you keep it clean?
The best damn vacuum I could find. I'm still searching for the perfect hair picker-upper, though. Actually, I have three vacuum cleaners—four including the steam cleaner I own. Disinfectants, soap, bleach . . . lots of towels and laundry detergent!
Where do you spend your time?
Mostly downstairs. The day-care day itself is 12 hours, not including obedience classes evenings and weekends. I sleep upstairs and have to give my two cats some attention, too.
How do the dogs compare to other housemates you might have had in your life?
Not much difference, really; they steal my food if given the chance, leave hair in the tub drain, and hog the couch. Of course, they are much, much cuter!