Diane Lindstrom says she “only” has two dogs – she chuckles after the word “only” – but on any given day, she may have dozens.
The owner of the Paw Zone, located at 1501 Mellwood Ave. in Butchertown, celebrates her business’ 10th year in 2019 and estimates during any given week, the business will get 425 to 450 visits from local dogs. But the Paw Zone is more than just doggy daycare; Lindstrom says some of her greatest joys are when shy dogs blossom.
“I see dogs that are shy or unsure of themselves,” she says, but sometimes after a visit or two, she can see them gaining more confidence. It helps them acclimate to being around other dogs, which ultimately is beneficial when they are at public parks or in other public places.
Many of her customers bring their dogs every weekday – “Some would be here on Saturday and Sunday if we were open,” she says – while others come in occasionally or on a rotation. The business has slowly but steadily grown.
Last year, Lindstrom says, 191 new dogs were introduced into the Paw Zone. Over the course of the year, dogs amassed more than 16,700 total visits.
The Paw Zone is designed for dogs that are friendly toward other animals, and a screening process is involved. All dogs must be fully vaccinated, and each dog must pass a temperament test to assure they will get along with fellow canines. Tests must be scheduled in advance and take place during early mornings before the dog runs have filled up.
Lindstrom leases the 7,000-square-foot structure, with about 6,000 of it dedicated to dog play space. There are three different areas, all fenced, inside the covered, garage-like building, and dogs generally are divided by size – small, medium and large. The dogs are always supervised.
Stop in, and you’ll usually get a few dozen eager faces staring at you through a sliding window separating the office and the play space.
Lindstrom’s professional life has been devoted to pets. She previously worked in veterinary management and retail pet supplies, and before opening the Paw Zone, she ran a pet-sitting business called Purrfect Paws, which led to the idea for her current business.
Another dog-focused endeavor Lindstrom engages in when she’s not overseeing her business involves her own dogs, Surge and Syn. Both are Doberman Pinschers; Syn is a nationally certified human remains specialist search dog, while Surge is a personal protection dog. Both dogs train daily, and Lindstrom is their K9 handler. Syn and Lindstrom sometimes assist area law enforcement as a search team.
“It depends on what law enforcement needs,” she says. “We don’t go unless we are called out.”
The Paw Zone, however, is simply about giving her clients’ dogs what they crave.
“I saw a need,” she says, “with dogs being left at home, destroying things. Owners complained that their dogs have too much energy.”
The concept of the Paw Zone is to specifically address that – dogs are pack animals, so they naturally enjoy being with other dogs. Lindstrom considers all of the Paw Zone dogs to be part of an inherent pack; dogs come in, play, socialize and go home feeling fulfilled.
One of the key features of the business is its availability. Once a dog is accepted, the owner need not make a reservation – just drop the dog off anytime during open hours, sign them in and then pick them up when ready.
Rates are divided into segments of up to four hours ($12), up to six hours ($16) and over six hours ($20), and five- and 10-day passes are available at discounted rates.
At any given point in the day, owners may be dropping off or picking up their dogs, and Lindstrom is often waiting for them – when she isn’t cleaning up messes or otherwise tending to duties to help keep the place running. She also has seven employees who help out.
Lindstrom gets to know the dogs she sees often, usually even remembering names – it’s a lot of names – and even checking in sometimes with owners sometimes to let them know their dog is having a good time.
A decade in the making, the business gets plenty of endorsements from regulars. Lindstrom says she hears positive feedback regularly, and online reviews bear that out.
“I hear from clients about how much of a difference this has made in their lives,” she says, then laughs. “The biggest thing is everybody says their dogs are tired and happy when they get home.”
The Paw Zone is open 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays.