By Danielle Wiley
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho.
The Downtown Dog opened its doors in November to pups and owners alike in Pullman, offering an array of services like doggy day care, overnight boarding, pet photography and grooming.
The business is flourishing, hosting about 15 to 20 dogs a day, but due to zoning restrictions The Downtown Dog must relocate.
Jessica Thomas and Kaycee Richman, both in their early 20s, own and run the day care seven days a week. Recently Pullman city officials contacted them and explained they are not able to board dogs overnight while being in Pullman’s C2 central business district. Zoning statute 1770 states that “no animal shelters, veterinary clinics or commercial kennels” are allowed in the downtown district.
Richman said that in addition the zoning issues, the business has outgrown its space downtown.
“There’s no outside area, which at first we thought we could deal with, but when you have 20 dogs a day it gets kind of rough,” she said.
Richman and Thomas said their original deadline to find a new business space was in March, but Pete Dickinson, the city’s planning director, said the city decided to extend the deadline since both women have been actively looking for a new space.
“There are very few commercial places to choose from in town,” Richman said.
” ‘Actively’ is kind of an understatement,” Thomas said. “The last four buildings have either fallen through a couple days before, or a day we were supposed to go look at a place that would have had an outside area they signed the lease the same day. It’s been one thing after another.”
Thomas, who grew up in Pullman, owned another business like The Downtown Dog in Montana before moving back to Pullman. She said that in Montana and in other cities she’s been to, like Portland or Seattle, there’s never been an issue with having a dog kennel and day care in the downtown area.
Thomas decided to move to Montana after high school and she opened The Dog Spot with her now ex-boyfriend. After the relationship fell through she decided to sell her share of the business and move back home to Pullman. She started working at Alpine Animal Hospital in Pullman, where she met Richman.
“It’s nice to have someone who has opened up a business and knows how it runs and having someone who is highly educated. We just thought we’d make an awesome team and we have so far,” Thomas said.
Richman graduated from Washington State University at 22, and now at 23 is the owner of a small business, something she hadn’t pictured for her future.
“Not to sound really nerdy, but it is the coolest thing to be able to say ‘I own The Downtown Dog, it’s my business,’ ” she said. “I cannot imagine doing anything that doesn’t involve animals.”
The Downtown Dog offers a multitude of services for area dog owners, many of whom have fallen in love with the idea quickly. Dog owners can enroll their dogs into doggy day care, which is popular among dogs.
“One of our first regulars was Stanley, who is a golden retriever who just turned a year. (His owner) brought him the first week and she wasn’t going to take him on Wednesday because he went on Monday and Tuesday. Well, he started screaming because he realized she was going to leave him at home, like ‘Why are you leaving me here? I have to go to day care,’ ” she said.
Richman said that a lot of the dogs will jump up and push the front door open because they are so overexcited.
During a typical day Thomas and Richman have about 15 to 20 dogs by 7:45 a.m. The dogs enjoy play time in the gymnasium-size room in the back of the building. In the play room there is a ball pit, ropes, toys, a climbing area and room to run for all the dogs. Richman said they also have a “bacon scented bubble machine” that the dogs go crazy over. Then, at noon, the dogs are boarded up for a two-hour nap time. After nap time Richman and Thomas let the pups out to go to the bathroom and play with each other until their family comes to take them home.
There is also dog boarding for $22 a night, family pet photography is done by Thomas and they even press dogs’ paws into clay to make keepsakes for their clients to purchase. The Downtown Dog is all-breed inclusive, only dogs that are aggressive are not welcome.
Richman and Thomas know each dog by name and personality.
Loyal clients have been donating money toward the women’s cause, in some cases giving about $2,000 in funds to help with the move. Richman said she has applied for a business loan but the two will need at least $20,000 just for renovations if they are able to move to their preferred location.
Both Thomas and Richman are staying positive and believe things will work out in the next couple months.
As young entrepreneurs, Thomas and Richman have learned a lot in the short time they’ve been open.
“Don’t go with dark floors because all the hairs show. Don’t assume your payroll person is also doing your taxes cause they’re not. And you’ll learn from your mistakes not to do it to the next building,” Richman said.
The Downtown Dog was such an early success that Thomas and Richman said their clients would be disappointed to see them close. The day care has a Facebook page with videos and a link to their fund-raising website.