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In our last Newsletter we alerted everyone that a couple of dogs had come down with a cough. It didn't seem to affect the vast majority of the dogs. It was one dog one week, tow the next, then one dog the following until it fizzled. But an event can happen anytime. We ask everyone to please let us know if there is something unusual going on with their dog. These reports will help us keep track and we can start to see trends if more reports come in.

We cannot prevent dogs from getting kennel cough. But we can reduce the risk of an outbreak happening on the ranch. Dogs are more likely to spread this condition when they are in close contact and share surfaces like a water bowl. Because they are more likely to get this when they are in close contact, we ask everyone to wait two weeks before bringing your dog to the ranch, when you have been to another day care, boarding kennel, dog park, groomer or training class. If your dog picked up kennel cough there, you will know within two weeks. If your dog was in close proximity to a dog that showed symptoms, assume that he has been infected.

What makes this hard to contain, is the fact that dogs can be infected and start shedding the virus before they show symptoms. Other dogs will get infected before we know that anyone is carrying this disease. Usually the summer months are peak season for kennel cough, although it can occur anytime during the year.

We cannot check and see if dogs that come to the ranch have been to another day care or kennel. We will notice if a dog has been groomed. If you love your groomer, that's absolutely fine. Just wait two weeks after your dog's haircut before you bring him back to us. Remember that disease can be spread via shared surfaces, so dogs are at risk at grooming shops as well.

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We run into a bit of a bottleneck every morning when dogs are dropped off and in the afternoon when dogs are picked up. Thank you for your patience as we try to check in and out dogs as quickly as possible. When you walk up to the lobby and you notice dogs in the lobby waiting to be checked in, please wait behind the door for your turn.

Dogs can act different on leash than off leash. Dogs can be protective of their owners.Dogs can feel that they don't have the choice of backing away. Space is very important to dogs, they need enough space around them to feel safe and the lobby can get crowded.

Dogs absolutely have to be on a leash when they come to the ranch. It's not safe to have them off leash in the parking lot, as there are cars pulling in and out. It's not safe around the other dogs. Some of them might be guarding their owner as they are on a leash. It is not safe for the little dogs, who can get pounced on by the big dogs.

Dogs have to be on a regular collar with a quick release snap, or a harness or head halter with a quick release snap. Please have the dogs on a regular flat leash. We ask that you remove any bag holders. They often get tangled, they can get damaged or lost. Please don't use retractable leashes as the dogs will be hard to control. There are martingale collars available that have a quick release snap. For safety reasons, we remove all the collars of the dogs when they stay with us. A martingale collar can be really hard to pull over a dog's head, so we need one with a quick release snap.

Collars need to be properly fitted in order to be safe and comfortable. You should be able to fit two fingers under the collard, not more and not less. This way, an excited dog won't slip out of his collar, especially when moving in and out of the van. A collar that is too tight can cause anxiety for the dog and possibly injure the dog when removing the collar. Dogs are excited to go to day care and can start running into traffic or get otherwise hurt. For the safety of your dog, please make sure the collar is fitted correctly.

Talking about leash walking, we will start offering a leash walking class once a month starting in May. We can give you the tools to teach your dog to walk next to you without pulling you around. Then join us on our weekly dog walks to put what you and your dog learned to practice!

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The Doggie Bus

More and more people discover the convenience of our doggie transport. We offer transport from and to the ranch. To be able to keep providing this service, we need to strike a balance between covering our cost and keeping it affordable. In order to keep price increases to a minimum, we have the following guidelines and requirements:

Fees for one way transport will be adjusted from $9 one way to $12 one way. Remember that this fee is for occasional transport. For people who use transport regularly, we have monthly packages and subscriptions. The monthly transport package fee will increase from $28 to $34. For further savings you can sign up for our monthly transport subscription at $30. Both transport packages and subscriptions ('passports'), will now begin on the first of each month. Just like bus passes, they will always be valid for a calendar month.

In order to keep price increases to a minimum, we have the following guidelines and requirements. All passport holders will now have a window of pick up time (6:30-9:30) and drop off time (4:30-8:30) with a 15 minute leeway to account for unforeseen complications.

To qualify for transport, dogs must live in the following zip codes: 43528, 43537, 43551, 43560, 43566, 43571, 43604, 43605, 43606, 43607, 43609, 43610, 43613, 43614, 43615, 43617, 43620, 43623.

All driving reservations need to be made by 06:00 pm the night before. Reservations made after 06:00 pm the night before or outside the new pick up/drop off times will be subject to the one---time transport pricing and are dependent on driver availability.

For dogs that we pick up for boarding or day care, credit card information has to be entered into Gingr, packages have to be purchased or deposits have to be made in advance. Payment is due at time of service, so we will not start driving until that has been taken care of.

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Day Care and Boarding

Thanks to our wonderful customers, our business has grown beyond expectations. It's always been our goal to provide a safe, healthy and enriching environment for every dog in our care. To that end our staff has been hitting the books! For the last three months we have been training in dog behavior and communication. Our Shift Leads are certified in canine CPR. They have also received mentoring in leadership and interpersonal communication from a dear friend of Dirk's who teaches business ethics at BGSU. We would like to thank her for her time and commitment.

In order to continue to provide the type of day care experience that we want our dogs to have, we need to implement a few new guidelines and pricing changes. Beginning May 1st, the price of a full day of day care will be $29, half day day care will be $19. The cost of the 10 day packages for both will not increase. Five day packages will be priced at $27 and $17 per day for full and half days. Remember that these packages do not expire.

As always we encourage you to make day care reservations in advance. This helps us to staff appropriately and ensure that we have the best mix for maximum dog fun and safety. During peak times, such as holidays, we will begin to limit the number of reservations for each day. this is essential for the safety and the comfort of your dogs. Holiday reservations can always be made in advance. See our website for a list of these peak times. We will also keep you notified by email. All overnight stays will now require a deposit, which can be refunded in full, if cancelled at least 24 hour in advance.

For boarding dogs (overnight stays), clients need valid credit card information on file in Gingr. Sometimes dogs run out of food and we gladly will purchase more; having a card on file helps us take care of your dog more thoroughly. We will also use this information in case we need to take a dog to the vet when he or she might need extra care. Remember that credit card information is not stored in our computers, it's scrambled and stored with the credit card processor. We do not have access to that information.

Boarding prices will be increased to $42 overnight. As a reminder, included in their care while with us are meals given up to three times a day and medicine given as prescribed. Please remember to enter into your Gingr account the name of the medicine and the dosage (as listed on the prescription). Also, the safest, most efficient way to give dogs medicine is to dose it directly into the dog's mouth so please, if possible, keep meds separate from meals. For dogs that are reluctant to eat when away from home we will take steps to ensure that they eat. Some need to be enticed to eat by hand feeding, others need to eat in open spaces, some need human company while they eat. Whatever they need we pride ourselves on finding it out and providing a comfortable and encouraging environment. All this provided at no additional charge.

Also remember that we will be with the dogs around the clock, seven days a week, year round, including all holidays. Dogs will never be left alone in a kennel whether it is Thanksgiving or Christmas! All dogs in our care get to play during the day, hang out together at night and sleep together in our doggie bedrooms. Because we are at the ranch around the clock, we are able to keep our lobby open from 6 am till 9 pm, seven days a week.

Upcoming changes for boarding will be made to help us be more efficient and give even better care, as well as offer you better rewards. We will be phasing out the 7th day free coupon in favor of a frequency based reward program. More information about this in upcoming newsletters.

Look for more newsletters and a brand new website with helpful articles and information on providing the best care and the most up to date information on the positive, whole-dog, lifestyle.

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Paws Paws Paws - The Lowdown On Paw Injuries

Dogs don't wear shoes, at least the majority don't. Instead they have pads. Pads are made up of specialized skin that protects the dog's feet as he walks across various surfaces. This skin is though, but not indestructible. Sometimes things can get stuck in between the toes or even lodged in the skin of the pad itself - things like splinters from branches, tiny stones etc. Things like these can even cut the paw pad. In the winter the salt spread on walks can cause pads to dry out and crack. When injuries happen the first step is to inspect and clean the paws, then remove any foreign objects, and lastly to apply appropriate medication - such as antibiotic cream in the case of wounds and salve in the case of sores or burns (from salt or friction).

If the pad becomes severely abraded you may see the entire top layer of the pad come off. Though this is often seen in situations where the dog encountered something not completely "pad-friendly" (such as rocky terrain or de-icing salt), sometimes pad injuries are the result of too much of a good thing: lots of playing after long periods of inactivity or exercise on soft surfaces only.

Think of it like this: you love to walk barefoot in the grass but you've spent all winter indoors, maybe even with nice thick socks on; then on the first warm day you throw off your shoes and run around in the green spring grass, for 8 hours. Your feet will probably be sore, even if you had an awesome time!

Here at a Walk in the Park all our surfaces are designed to be dog safe and dog friendly. Inside our floors are linoleum. They are cleaned and sanitized on a daily routine. All of the areas are restricted (no dogs allowed!) as they are being cleaned, and kept dog-free until dry and safe. So the likelihood of a dog coming in contact with a cleaning agent is not a factor in paw safety at our location.

Outdoors one of our four yard has screening (gravel), the rest are blacktop, and our dog pathway is poured concrete. While the blacktop can get hot in the very hottest times of summer we water the surfaces down to cool them as long as the weather is still comfortable for the dogs. This has the added benefit of being very fun for many of our furry friends (doodles and retrievers, just to name a few). But the water can make unconditioned paws softer. So we are always keeping our eyes out for subtle changes in gait when dogs are in our care.

Large breeds, young dogs are especially susceptible to 'playing their pads off'; in the worst cases the pads (the top layer) coming off completely. That's a lot of weight, pivoting on a layer of skin. This is very painful but does not cause lasting injury. For this reason we are particularly careful with our young giants, watching that they take time off from boisterous play and examining their paws throughout the day.

So how do I get my dog's paws in shape for spring time play? The good news is there are several ways! The easiest and least expensive (read: absolutely free!) is to begin walking your dog on different surfaces before spring gets here. On your daily walk step off the grass and onto the sidewalk for short intervals. Walk up and down rougher terrain for short intervals. To make this even more effective combine it with any one of specially made paw conditioners (we use a brand called Tuff Foot). These are products long used by hunters to prepare and protect their dogs' paws in all sorts of terrain - wet or dry, grass or rocky.

Since hard surfaces are easiest to sanitize, all of our surfaces are hard. We will monitor the dogs to see if discomfort is developing. Please let us know if your dog has been showing signs of paw tenderness, or is prone to paw sores. By taking action before the spring time "crazies" are in full swing together we can see that your dog has a safe, enjoyable time, throughout the year.

Dirk Broersma