Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dog boarding complaints

I am feeling a little ranty about everything that's going on with our plans to board Montana while we are at my parents' house for Thanksgiving next week.

First of all, we always board Montana when we leave town. We don't have any friends here who we are close enough with to ask them to take her in, and plus I'd be nervous about that, what with her tendency to run away if she sees an open door. We don't want to leave her alone in the house all day, especially when she's used to us being there most of the time, so hiring a caretaker is out. And we are definitely not flying across the country with her checked with the rest of the cargo.

So, that leaves boarding. The first two times that we've left town without her, we boarded her at a place that got good reviews about 15 minutes from our house. It's nice enough, both a daycare and a boarding facility, with a webcam so you can check in on the dogs (though it's not very good quality so if you had a black dog, I have no idea how you'd tell which of the 27 little black dots roaming around is yours).

We liked the place OK. They're open on weekends. They have good security and the dogs are well-monitored. The people seemed nice and the application was thorough. Montana went there for a "trial run" before we boarded her there, and came home tired and happy. When we brought her back to board, she approached happily and without anxiety. Same with the second time.

However, I don't LOVE the place. The website makes it sound like the dogs are crated from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., but the reality (as proven by the webcams) is that they're crated from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. That seems like a bit much, and I don't appreciate the duplicity (though they technically aren't LYING, it just isn't clear from the way the info on their site is written). The location and facilities are decent, but not great. There are a lot of dogs there. And while Montana doesn't seem unhappy there, from watching on the webcam we can see that she doesn't do a whole lot of playing while she's there, which is quite unlike her tendencies at the dog park, and from their eating records we can also see that she skips about half her meals.

I don't know how much of this is related to the specific place where we were boarding her (I suspect probably not that much) and how much is related to separation anxiety and not being thrilled about being away from us and away from her home. But still, we aren't in love with this kennel, so we were happy to try something new.

The prison program where we adopted Montana offers a two-week boarding stint for $200. This program is quite popular and needs to be booked months in advance. I booked her in for Thanksgiving back in June, and when I called, I got the second-to-last available spot.

This arrangement is not ideal, because we don't actually NEED her to board for two weeks. If we did, the $200 would be a steal (the other kennel costs $27/night, and that's cheaper than many others we looked at). Since we don't, and that's the minimum, we can (supposedly) arrange to pick her up early, but we still have to pay the full price. Since we're spending a full week in NC, the price difference works out to be minimal. Still, it's annoying.

Also, because it's a prison, their rules are a lot stricter. They don't take credit cards. You can't bring in anything from home to make your dog feel more comfortable, like her crate mat or her favorite toy or a towel that smells like you. You can only bring in food in an unopened bag, and they will not return any leftovers to you. The dropoff and pickup times are very limited. There is certainly no webcam for you to check in on how she's doing while you're gone.

However, the program is great, we're happy to support them, and we know she was happy there. We figure a refresher training course can't hurt. And we won't miss the other kennel. So, we were happy that we were able to reserve a spot for her.

But now I'm frustrated. There are several reasons for this:

1. They KEEP calling to confirm. Like, I've freaking confirmed already! She's boarding there! Stop calling!

2. The most recent time when they called to confirm, it occurred to me to ask what forms of payment they accept. They said only money orders and cashier's checks. This seems strange to me since we paid her original adoption fee with a personal check. However, they were firm about this, and had no answer when I asked why we were able to pay with a personal check last time. USELESS.

3. Since they don't take personal checks, shouldn't it be on them to tell me this? If I hadn't thought to ask, we'd have shown up for her drop-off without the proper form of payment. What then?

4. It's really hard to get a straight answer out of them. Part of the program for inmates seems to involve office duty, so often it's inmates answering the phone, and they don't seem to have very good information and also not very good communication skills. The director of the program doesn't seem to be accessible by phone, and so far has not answered any emails.

5. We were told when we adopted Montana that the two-week boarding fee was $200. I confirmed this when I called to book her slot back in June. Today, when I confirmed this again, I was told that it was $250. The woman I spoke with (who I don't think was an inmate) was quite firm about this. She didn't care that we had twice been quoted a lower price. She says it's $250 and she's sticking to it. I have not been able to get in touch with anyone else to discuss this. So what do we do? Order a cashier's check for $200, or $250? I don't know.

6. We were also told that while they only have certain official days for drop-off and pickup, it's possible to informally arrange an early pickup, which we would like to do so that we don't end up without her for several days after we return to town. However, everyone we have tried to talk to about this has totally stonewalled us and said it's not possible.

7. This all boils down to LACK OF COMMUNICATION OMG.

It's just driving me nuts! $250 for what amounts to a week of boarding is really excessive, but of course it's too late to book her in somewhere else because everyone is booked solid for the holidays, and I don't know where we would even book her anyway. The fact that nobody responds, nobody is in charge, nobody has any communication skills, nobody is receptive, and they are freaking IMPENETRABLE is driving me CRAZY.

It makes me never want to board her with them again, and that's really too bad, because if they could just make their logistics clear and straightforward, we'd never need to board her anywhere else unless it was a last-minute thing. SERIOUSLY. It should NOT be this difficult.

I mean, I know she has a place to board where she'll be happy and safe, and that's the most important thing. But STILL. If we wind up handing over $250 for these people to basically hold our dog hostage for two weeks because NOBODY WILL COMMUNICATE, I will be PISSED. That's all I'm saying.

Sorry. This post isn't very thankful, huh? Not so much in the spirit of the holiday that it's all about.

But still. PISSED.


  1. Um, yeah. That does not sound ideal at all.

  2. I don't know how you do it. I think I'd cry if we had to board SoMi.

    Guess you're learning there are pros and cons to just about every option out there. Maybe next year, everyone else should come to you in Denver!

  3. Wow, that's irritating as all hell...

    I worked at an animal hospital and kennel in high school, and didn't realize how much our boarding system sucked. We'd get dogs for an assortment of time periods (24hrs - 3 MONTHS once, I swear), and they were kept in like 4x8 pens for probably 23.5 hrs a day. They got walked twice a day, maybe for 15 minutes a time. The dogs that were there for a long time, especially the nice ones, got a lot more time out of the pens, but most didn't.

    I had never had a dog, and was only sort of aware of the borderline cruelty of the set up. Now it makes me cringe.

  4. I'm with Nilsa, I would cry if I had to board my dog. My brother, parents and I work out our schedules so that she never has to be boarded.

  5. Oh, MAN, I HATE stuff like this. The price changes! The not being available by phone or email! The rules! The rules combined with a lack of basic customer courtesy! UGH.

    It makes me want to offer to take in Montana mySELF. Which I will, if you're interested, although we don't really have an ideal situation. I sense Montana would get along with Costi, but my husband and I are gone for much of the day. Seriously, though, if you're interested, send me an email.

  6. I have been touring many kennels (close and not so close) to see if I could find one better suited to my 12 year old dog. I find family run facilities better than more "corporate/commercial" ones. I don't mind not having webcams and the like if I know the family lives right next door to the kennel. I am sticking to my original kennel, but it was good that I toured several others. I have asked them to ensure that she is the first dog allowed out in the AM and the last dog to go out at night and they don't seem to mind these "special requests". I also pay for additional walks (she's too old to enjoy paid for "playtime"). I also picked a facility that had grassy areas for walks and not dirt patches or gravel. Keep trying, you'll find one you're comfortable with!

    - Mon

  7. Um, this sounds awful. We haven't had to board Casco for more than a daycare day here and there, we have family and friends who are happy to take him, so I have no idea how hard it would be to leave him for a week.

    We should introduce the dogs so that the next time you are out of town, Montana can just come play with Casco for a week.

  8. Oh, forgot. There's a place called Earth Dog - our friends who live in Denver (it's downtownish) take their dog there happily. It has an inground pool for the dogs who like to swim, it's basically a puppy palace. We would take Casco there if we needed to board him for some reason.

  9. I don't blame you; they sound completely disorganized!

  10. That sounds ridiculous. I'm sorry it's been such a mess for you guys; I can only imagine the stress of letting others take care of your sweet doggy.

    Sounds like you're working to find the very best solution, though - you'll find the place that's right for you guys.

  11. If it were me, and my dog had separation anxiety, the last thing I'd do is take her back to the place she came from. Couple that with your gut feelings and it sounds to me like there's GOT to be another option.
    Fingers crossed for you and Montana!

  12. We board Sunny at an awesome place that we love -- seriously, LOVE. The people love her, and even if she hasn't been there in months and months, the second she -- a fairly nondescript pug -- walks in the door, they're all, "SUNNY! It's been FOREVAH!"

    But even with that -- even knowing how much they love her, and how happy she is there (she sleeps for days after we return from all the playtime), she still doesn't eat much while she's there, and they crate from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. which isn't ideal either (but Sunny has bladder of steel and is a late sleeper usually).

    I think some of what you experienced is just the breaks of having to board a dog. It sucks -- it does -- but they do survive and even thrive in those situations, I think better than we give them credit for.

    As for the prison program, OH HELL. That's annoying. Incredibly so.

  13. This is SO FRUSTRATING. I'd be pissed too.

  14. I would be pissed, too, because it sounds like they are acting super shady. And I know it's a prison, but the quoting two different prices and not being accessible by phone or email and the pickup times being flexible/not being flexible is starting to look really suspicious to me and I would start to look around for other options, despite how late it is.

  15. ugghhh, i'd be going nuts. and mentally making all sorts of impotent threats and promises that would never work / come to light, but would make me feel better :-)

  16. I HATE boarding my dog. It's so expensive and so inconvenient and I always worry that she hates it. I feel your pain.
    Can you get your money back from a money order? If yes, I guess I'd get one for $200 and one for $50 and try using only the $200 first. If you don't need it, return the $50 one.
    Still annoying though.

  17. Those are pretty typical nighttime crating hours, to my knowledge. There's one facility here that has some indoor-outdoor pens with a doggy door into a little fenced area, but I think they're really pricey.

    Fortunately, my parents are always willing to let my dog come for a sleepover on the rare occasions I go out of town. He's an incredibly nervous nelly, and boarding would just do him in.

    As it is, my mother has to fold out the hide-a-bed and sleep with him in the living room. "I couldn't let him sleep alone!" Hee. I love my parents.

  18. One thing caught my eye - Montana's eating habits. I can say that our dog, even when he travels with us, hardly eats. And if we leave him with a friend - forget about it - he eats maybe 1/2 cup a food a day (he's a 70 lb mutt). So that may not be too far out of the norm. We tried to board him a couple of times but he was at the Humane Society for nearly 6 months and has huge anxiety issues wen we go anywhere near a kennel. We've been lucky to have friends who have always watched him (even when they moved away and we had to drive 90 minutes to drop off/pick up).

  19. I would look for other options and write a letter carefully detailing why you chose not to board with the prison program, even though you love the dog you got from them.

    Also, I dog sit sometimes. I used to do it more often when I was younger, but typically I charge 30-35 a day to stay with the dog in its home. Granted, I never went out to make a lot of money on the deal, and I was only referred by friends. But maybe you know a few folks in the Denver area who use pet sitters they could recommend? They are quite common out here in the Pacific Northwest. It may not be an option for this trip, because if someone has access to your house you will want to spend sometime with them and screen them first. Oftentimes dogwalkers will do dog sitting too... What about this: http://www.sleepoverrover.com/

  20. I would happily offer if I could. Poor Montana. You'll figure it out.

  21. I'm frustrated on your behalf! Situations like that drive me crazy, too. Especially the price difference. I mean, $200 and $250 are NOT the same thing. Makes you wonder what the hell is going on over there and why no one can give you the same story twice. Ugh.

    I'd want the best for my dog, too, if I were boarding him for the holidays. It's a lot of money either way you look at it, but at least it will give you peace of mind to know that Montana will be somewhere safe.

  22. Hello from Chandler, Arizona!

    Wow, I read what you had to say, and it's true, I would hate to leave my little Yorkies. I read a comment here on your page that says one woman doesn't know what she would do and cry if she had to board her dog! Yikes, I think we have to have some trust in people. Why do I say that? I run a very small dog grooming and dog boarding studio out of my home. I was Blessed to have the gift and love for animals. If people saw how I treated their dogs while they were away on vacation, they would cry with excitement. I spoil them so much, that when their owners come pick them up, their confused who to go with when their owner calls. I sit on the couch talking to them about their dogs experience, and Fido is on my lap just loving on me. It gives me a good feeling knowing that their owners see this. We don't ever kennel or cage our dogs, we have a big back yard in which I spend a total of 4 hours during the day with them playing referee, lol. Great page by the way and I'm sorry for your hardships.

  23. That sucks. Fuzzy Britches used to LOVE B & B for Dog (http://www.bbfordog.com/). Plus it was pretty convenient on the way to the airport.