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New pet boarding facility opens in rural Avoca

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Seven-week-old Onyx enjoys a bit of time in the Princess Room, one of the themed kennels at Saalo Farms Pampered Pet Boarding.

AVOCA -- One apartment is known as the Princess Room, complete with a white-framed bed and pink comforter. Another apartment has a hunting theme.

But these fancy apartments aren't for people. They are the studio apartments of Saalo Farms Pampered Pet Boarding, located a few miles south of Dovray in rural Avoca. Complete with music and TVs, the facility gives an alternative to traditional style boarding kennels.

Jeri Brown and her husband, Skip, opened the new business June 25 after getting approval on a conditional use permit to board up to 12 dogs.

"We didn't want to go too large," Jeri said. "We wanted to stay small so we could give everyone personal attention."

Jeri said her daughter gave her the idea to open a boarding kennel, and she and her friend elaborated. The contractor she hired, Doug Lee, was a little baffled by the idea of a doggie hotel at first, but soon starting making his own suggestions, adding ceiling fans and a few other perks to the facility until it resembled a home away from home. Each kennel has a flat screen TV mounted on the wall.

"Some dogs like to watch TV, others just like the background noise," Jeri said. "We keep it really quiet at night, and I come in here and find everybody just snoozing with the TVs on."

The rates to board a doggie studio apartment or the kitty condo (yes, she takes cats, too) include Hills Science dog or cat food, daily brushing and walking if the owner desires, medication administered if needed and help with potty training. The Browns do overnight and long-term boarding or doggie daycare. There are spacious outdoor play areas for the dogs, and animals from the same family can be kept together if the owner chooses.

The facility has heat and air conditioning so the dogs can be kept comfortable, and by each kennel door are notes about that particular animal's needs and habits. One dog prefers a bit of company, so the Browns' own dog is kept nearby. One dog tends to chew everything, so that little habit is noted and stuffed animals and pillows are kept out. Others have favorite toys or particular dietary needs.

"Our goal is to make sure your four-legged friend is happy and healthy while staying at our facility," the Saalo Farms Pampered Pet Boarding brochure states. "We love animals and will take exceptional care of your pet. We understand the anxiety a pet owner has leaving their friends at a kennel."

It's because owners aren't the only ones who get anxious that the TVs and music and favorite toys are part of the boarding service.

"In their own homes, dogs are used to the sound of TVs and music and things like that," Jeri explained. "Adding those same sounds in here is a comfort thing."

The dogs aren't the only ones made welcome. The kitty condo is furnished with a ladder up to a window, an elaborate play area, plenty of small stuffed toys and even appropriate signage that states, "No dogs allowed" and "Cats rule -- dogs drool."

"I haven't had more fun with anything in my whole life," Jeri stated. "I hope I can still do this until I'm 90."

When she decided to go ahead with the idea of a doggie hotel, Jeri contacted Murray County's Economic Development Authority Director Amy Hoglin.

"She spent hours and hours with me, talking about marketing techniques, cash flow, financial operation," Jeri said. "I don't know what I would have done without her. She has been extremely helpful."

Anyone interested in boarding a pet is welcome to check out the facility and take a look around, Jeri said. Reservations for animals are important because of the limit of animals that can be boarded at one time. For more information, call Jeri at (507 )274-5553.

All animals must have full vaccinations, including the kennel cough treatment, which must be given at least two weeks before boarding an animal.

"We won't take animals with fleas, ticks or worms, and we will not take vicious animals," Jeri stated. "Safety, both my own and that of the other animals, is the number one concern."