Park City Magazine:
Park City: For the Dogs!

Man’s best friend has quickly become a cash cow (well, canine) for Park City entrepreneurs. Within the past decade, more than 15 dog-related businesses have sprouted up in town.  According to Summit County Animal Control supervisor, Bob Bates, pooches don’t quite outnumber their two-legged friends, but they come pretty darn close. There are 2,500 licensed dogs in Summit County and probably an equal number that are not licensed, according to Bates. More than sheer numbers, many of these canines are decidedly pampered.

The trend is nationwide (USA Today reports that the pet industry reels in $34 billion per year), but business blossoms where a hearty love of dogs is matched by an equally healthy cash flow. Park City dogs are not simply treated to regular grooming, walks, annual vet visits and supermarket chow. The groomers come to them. Walks are adventures. Food is organic. ACL surgery is a foregone conclusion. Massages go with the resort-town ambience. Their poop is scooped by a company with catchy slogans. They are trained, socialized, sent to daycare, dressed in the latest canine accessories and even treated to their very own “bark park.”

“For my clients, their dogs are their kids. Their kids are either up and gone or they’ve decided these are their kids,” explained Michael Schwab of Schwaby’s Pet Care. Schwab’s primary niche is dog hikes, but he began as a pet sitter caring for all types of animals in their own homes. Since he started his business as one of the first local pet specialists 10 years ago, the industry has simply boomed. Schwab now has four employees and the freedom to focus on his favorite aspect of the job, taking dog adventures with his partner, a cattle dog named Rose.

Several doggy adventure companies have joined Schwab’s ranks, including (but certainly not limited to) Tail Blazers of Park City and Hank and Bullitt’s K9 Adventures. “It’s not necessarily that there are lazy people around here,” explained Heather Hampsten of Tail Blazers of Park City, “They recognize the importance of group exercise and group socialization for their dogs.” Hampsten, a certified trainer, focuses on the behavioral side of the business, incorporating hikes and overnights into the dog obedience lessons. Her six-year-old lab, Jake, leads the pack on hikes while Hampsten sweeps up stragglers. In addition to hikes, overnights and private training, she teaches dog obedience classes through Park City Municipal Corporation as well as a local store, Bark City Pet Emporium.  “A day at the office for me is out on the trail getting slobbery kisses. It’s not a bad way to spend a day,” she said.

Trisha Hipskind of Hank and Bullitt’s K-9 Adventures went into the dog care business to spend more time with her own pups while savoring the great outdoors. Though she focuses on overnights – spending time with dogs in their own homes while their owners are away – she also takes dogs on “adventures.” Starting her business two years ago, Hipskind now has seven employees and even a converted school bus for transporting her clients. “It’s the canine adventure bus,” she says, explaining that the pups are secured with gates as they travel to and from trailheads. Hipskind says she has a secret stash of trails where she goes with her pack of hounds – as far away from humanity as possible. “I like to go to open spaces where I can count noses,” she said.   Her “mutts through and through,” Bullitt and Janey, join her on hikes. “I don’t really care if I’m on the most beautiful hike in the world. It’s about the dogs being safe and happy,” she added.

What does it cost to send your pup on an adventure? These three dog businesses start at $25 a pup with breaks for multiple dogs from one household. Private training runs around $55 per session and overnights range from $52 to $65 per night. Usually, the overnights include a hike with dog friends and numerous home visits or a human babysitter. Hampsten, Schwab and Hipskind all tout the benefits of socializing and exercising dogs. Dogs learn to get along with others, lose weight and improve their general health and happiness. “An exercised dog is a good dog,” said Schwab. 

Another dog lover and entrepreneur, Lori Hoffer, takes pet care to a unique therapeutic level. An experienced masseuse (for humans), Hoffer recently decided to expand her Cloud 10 massage therapy business to dogs, adding “Doggy Rubs by Cloud 10” to her repertoire. “Massage is a great way to maintain general health,” she explained, “It’s one of the secrets of the dog show world.” For $45, Hoffer spends about an hour with canine and owner in their home, explaining the process and spending 45 minutes on a doggy rub. Hoffer explains that massage is a beneficial addition to any pooch’s maintenance program, improving physical and emotional health as well as limberness and even appearance

Overall, people are taking their pets’ health a lot more seriously, according to Dr. Randy Barbe of Silver Creek Animal Clinic. “When I started my practice in 1978, the most people spent was $150. People are taking much better care of their pets – especially in this community.” These days, canine ACL surgery, which weighs in at a hefty $1,300 and can often involve more than one wounded limb, is not uncommon. Barbe explained that specialists are emerging as well as pet medical insurance policies.

Dog grooming and organic foods are also a booming business. Most local veterinarians and pet stores carry expensive brands such as Science Diet and, for those looking for extra special treats, there’s the local pet bakery. Love Your Pet Bakery on Main Street carries homemade treats (baked by the owner), natural food, holistic goods and boutique-like merchandise such as hand-painted cookie jars featuring labs, paw prints and clever canine images. Bark City Pet Emporium carries a range of organic foods, boasting more healthy ingredients than most humans consume. The shop also offers a range of organic treats and pet accessories (ranging from leashes and collapsible hiking dishes to crates and quality pet bedding). Bark City’s most unique feature is its do-it-yourself pet bathing station, featuring ramps, bath tubs, movable shower heads, shampoo, conditioners, towels and even a blow dryer – all of which come in handy after a muddy hike.

Of course, if bathing one’s own dog or venturing to a groomer (of which there are many in Park City) is a bit too inconvenient, Karen Snyder of Mobile Pet Grooming has the answer. She’s “At Your Bark and Call.” “I often love my dogs probably more than my family,” she said. Borrowing the idea from a friend in California, Snyder drives her business, a fully tricked-out grooming trailer, to her clients homes, plugs in and gets to work. Snyder washes, conditions, dries, gives the appropriate hair and nail cut, checks ears and glands and puts the pup back where she found him. Grooming ranges from $35 to $90 (depending on the breed) with a $10 service fee.    

Perhaps the most down-and-dirty service offered is that of the pooper scooper. Jill Little of Doo Crew sums it up in several catchy slogans such a “Their business is our business,” and “We pick up where your dog leaves off.” One of a handful of pooper scooper businesses in town, Doo Crew began because Little couldn’t find someone to perform the service for her when she first moved to Park City. Pooper scoopers are most busy when the snow melts, charging $50 for an initial clean-up and $36 to $67 monthly (for weekly maintenance). “I get people calling me ‘Doo Crew to the rescue!’” she said.

Pet boarding has also transformed in recent years. “[Pet owners] are not looking to put their pet in a box for a week,” explained Sharon Duso of Doggy Play Day. Duso’s business is currently transitioning from a location in Park City to Kamas. She has boarded pooches and entertained groups of dogs, much like a human daycare center for years. “Ninety-eight percent [of the dogs] have been coming for a long time and they can’t wait for their friends,” she said. Jim Roberts of Summit Pet Care has been taking care of canines since 1997. “We just love having a place where dogs can come and have fun,” he says. Roberts converted an old preschool and acre-sized property into a dog playground featuring nine yards. He’s able to split up his visiting guests into compatible playgroups and offers grooming services as well as boarding and doggie day care. Lest a pup find it a bit too much outside, there are roomy interior spaces for canine lounging, eating and sleeping as well. Boarding costs $31 per night and doggy day care is $22 per day. “The people I see are more in love with their pets than their children,” Roberts said.

How in love are people with their pets? If purchasing outfits for small dogs is any indication, folks in Park City are quite smitten. A visit to Lucy Has Everything in Prospector reveals a plethora of high-end doggie accessories. According to the “Chic Bow WowTique” owner, LaVelle Klobes who doubles as an interior designer, the craze is here to stay. Lucy Has Everything carries everything from La Pooch Shampoo and conditioning Eau de Parfum ($42 a bottle) to the latest in doggy fashions (apparently pink and chocolate are this year’s canine colors). If tourists time it right, Flo, a visiting toy poodle, might just model the latest in doggy booties, which run $50 (for four colored shoes, equipped with zips, velcro fasteners and rubber soles). The booties even come in Ug-style for the fashionable mountain dog. The queen of the shop, Lucy (a Maltese) or her sidekick, Ethyl (a long-haired Chihuahua), might perch atop the portrait bed (suited for royalty at $1,200). Klobes, who attended Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, creates her own dog jackets and dresses – all made from top quality materials and featuring such frills as vintage buttons, mink and velvet (priced at over $100 per outfit).

Not all Park City dogs are pampered in the lap of luxury. According to Bates, Summit County’s animal shelter ended up with more than 800 dogs in the center in 2004. Troy Stevens, president of Friends of Animals, explained that approximately 60 pets are rescued from the shelter and placed in loving homes each month. “The community is responding well,” he said. “We can always use more homes, good homes.” Those looking for a pet to pamper can visit Furburbia (the Friends of Animals adoption center) at the Tanger Outlets or call 649-5441.

Many dog business owners are involved in Friends of Animals as well as efforts to educate the community on everything from proper pet care to cleaning up after dogs on trails. Taking better care of pets, it seems, is a community effort. It is also a reciprocal agreement between pup and owner. According to Schwab, “It’s amazing what dogs do for you. That unconditional love – it’s awesome.”

Go to top