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The last month has been unprecedented. It has been five weeks now since the governor issued a stay at home order. Now it looks like restrictions will be eased a little, so we want to update everyone on what we are planning at A Walk in the Park.

First of all, we had to adjust to the new situation quickly, so we decided to do most of our announcements through Facebook, since it is easier and quicker than writing a newsletter or updating the website.

We have served all the people that still needed to work and needed their dog taken care of. We follow strict protocols to keep everyone safe, while at the same time taking care of the dogs. During this stressful time, dogs still need exercise, stimulation, and socialization. This is a difficult time for all of us. But remember that your dog picks up on that stress and he is affected by it. Their routines are thrown off. People spend so much more time at home now. Once everyone goes back to work, your dog can have a hard time getting used to being alone again. Prepare your dog now, we can help.

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Safety First

We implemented a number of safety measures. First of all, we already have a strict daily sanitation protocol. The building gets cleaned and sanitized with veterinary grade disinfectants. We added extra measures to prevent the risk of staff catching or passing on pathogens. Staff has to work in separate areas and keep their distance.

We implemented curbside drop off and pick up. We will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We also suspended tours of the facility.

When dropping off or picking up your dog, please call us when you arrive or about to arrive. Please don't call in advance, we are busy and can't keep an eye on the clock or stay outside and wait. When you call us upon arrival, we will come out quickly to help you. We suggest driving to the back of the parking lot, turning around and pulling up to the front door while facing the exit. There is plenty of room for cars to line up next to the side of the building.

All leashes, collars and harnesses will be sanitized. We run all of them through a heat cycle in the clothes dryer. We ask that everyone have a name tag on their dog's collar, or some other measure that helps us recognize who the leash belongs to. If no tags are present, we have something here we can put on the collar. Please don't remove these or at least put them back on when you bring back your dog. We also ask that all collars, harnesses etc have a quicksnap release. The less we have to handle the collars, the better, and buckle collars and martingale collars can be a hassle to take off.
If you bring lunch or dinner for your dog, please put these in a simple ziploc bag. The fewer items we bring in to the building the better.

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Dog Training

When it became clear that we couldn't have public gatherings anymore, we moved our training online. Our levels based fundamental training classes offer the same material as before. To add some social interactions, we are adding two days of daycare to the 30 day package.

Some people might not be used to online training, but it is just as effective as group classes. We go over the material, demonstrate what we are doing and have people practice. Then during the next session we review and give feedback.

No need to get in the car and drive to class. And there is the advantage that we are practicing at home. When we train with our dog, we always start easy and increase the difficulty by adding distractions. The home environment is the most familiar to the dog, so the easiest place to start. Then we can increase the difficulty or work on the 'proofing' by adding distractions, like unfamiliar dogs or people, a different environment etc.

We will also offer private consultations, more information about that will appear on our website,

This will be the new normal, at least until it is absolutely safe to start group classes again. We will not risk the safety of our clients and our staff.
We started a series of training videos on our new YouTube channel, A Walk in the Park training services, which is also the name of our training Facebook page, check them out!

We will email a separate questionnaire asking our clients what they would like help with or what issues they are running into with their dog. Your response is greatly appreciated and will allow us to create material catered to the actual problems people need help with.

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The dogs all need a haircut. Just like the rest of us, the dogs weren't able to get a trim! When the governor issued the stay at home order and non-essential businesses were ordered to close, we cancelled all grooming, since it was considered non-essential.

Starting May 12, service based businesses can start up again, so we will resume grooming. One important consideration we need to have when we start bringing more staff back, is that everyone can work safely, with enough distance between them to prevent staff getting sick.

I will be doing the grooming myself. Tenae has left our company. I groomed quite a bit before I opened A Walk in the Park. But it has been a couple of years, so I will limit how many appointments I take, so I can get back into the rhythm. Plus I have the whole business to run!

For our existing clients, I will have a couple of appointments available next week, then I will allow people to schedule through Gingr the following week. I will be grooming Tuesday through Saturday.

For the safety of the dogs, we require that all dogs that come to our facility are up to date on their vaccines including bordetella and canine influenza. These conditions are very contagious, so it does not matter if a dog comes for daycare or grooming, the dogs need to be up to date. All of a sudden, everyone is familiar with the term 'asymptomatic carrier'. We have dealt with that all along, being that dogs can have canine cough but not show symptoms. They are able to spread it to other dogs without us being able to see it.

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Moving Forward

The current situation has caused a lot of us to think about where we are and where we would like to be. This is a time where we are forced to slow down and reflect. We can 'reset' what we are doing and move forward in a new direction.

We have had a lot of discussions about what was working well, what needed improvement and what would we like to add.

When we talked about this, the idea of the 'whole dog' approach came up. We realized that training and conditioning is at the core of everything we do.
We make decisions for our dog without his consent. We decide he needs to go to daycare or he needs to be groomed. But how does the dog experience this? How have we prepared him for this? In our last newsletter, we talked about the concept of giving the dogs a color based on their social skills.

This doesn't just apply to daycare and lodging, it applies to grooming as well. This can be stressful for dogs, as they are being touched and handled by someone else than their owner. The experience, we believe, is just as important as the end result, the haircut. We believe the dog needs to have a relationship with the groomer and get comfortable with the process. It is hard if dogs go to different groomers. One groomer can be harsh or impatient with the dog and the next time the dog is going to be very hesitant. We want everyone to understand that this aspect of dog care is very important to us and we want to work with clients who share that philosophy.

Down the road we want to extend this approach into dog nutrition as well, but we will keep everyone updated in future newsletters. In the meantime we want everyone to stay safe! Thank you for all your support and your trust in us. It is a privilege to be able to take care of your dog.

Dirk Broersma