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Twenty Years as a Hound Hotel

Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat keeps pace with our changing culture of pets

Audrey and Kurt Reichardt

       Disneyland claims to be the happiest place on earth, but Dogwood Acres Pet Resort in Davidsonville may be the happiest place in Anne Arundel County. At least that’s what owners Audrey and Kurt Reichardt believe. And it’s hard to argue with a hundred wagging tails.

         Now in its 20th year, the pet resort began when the Reichardts, as young traveling professionals, had a difficult time finding quality boarding for their beloved black Labrador Casey. Not satisfied with the offerings, they opened their own pet lodge.

         A lot has changed since 1997 in the booming pet business. “We were told we couldn’t make money doing this,” says Audrey. “Boy, were they wrong.”

         Guiding me through the resort, Audrey kisses and greets nearly every animal, almost 300 during the peak summer months. “We have space for about 180 for lodging and around 100 for daycare,” she explains.

         Distracted by the furry faces, the wagging tails, the big eyes and eagerness for attention, it’s easy to forget all that goes into caring for a pet. That list keeps growing as we understand more about animal behavior and embrace new ideas.

         In a building bursting with Weimaraners, spaniels, hounds, Scotties, Westies, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Labradors, corgis and more, meeting the varied needs of these animals keeps the Dogwood Acres staff hopping all day long.

         Having cared for senior dogs to puppies, working dogs to pampered pooches nearly every day for the last 20 years, Audrey Reichardt tells Bay Weekly how the times have changed.

Food

         Feeding our pets has changed significantly over the past 20 years In the beginning it was just dry kibble. Fancy food just meant we mixed the kibble in with canned dog food. Now it’s raw diets, a lot more vegetables, much more people food. The kibble is still good for their teeth, but the protein quality in the food has really ramped up.

         We carry 10 different types of food, and if we don’t carry it, owners can bring in their own food. We roast chicken, we make rice, we make macaroni and cheese, it doesn’t matter, whatever they do at home, we do it here.

Shelter

         A kennel is not an animal shelter: tiny cages, concrete floors. Our original building was built in the 1970s. We built the new wings in 2003 with an indoor and outdoor area for each pet. The whole place has air-conditioning in summer, heated floors in winter. We are building a second location in Stevensville in almost the same way.

         Some dogs stay in luxury suites with their own couch and TV in the room.

Comfort

         A lot of what we do is just as much for the owners as the pets. Owners send in luggage, special bedding and toys for their pets staying with us. We understand the pet is part of the family and if it makes the family feel better for the dog to have this fluffy towel with it during its stay, we tag it and make sure it stays with the dog.

Daycare

         Over the years our services have catered to all types of pet owners, but we especially appeal to those who commute far to work and don’t want to leave their pet home alone all day. They want their dog to have interaction and attention when they can’t be home.

         That’s why we have so much staff: We are keeping the animals busy. It started as just my husband and me. Quickly we had to hire an employee. Now we have over 50 employees during our peak season.

Enrichment & Exercise

         We take the dogs on nature walks on an enclosed path for an on-leash, quiet, one-on-one time. They get to play on one of three outdoor playgrounds; one has a pool.

         We know they have adrenaline running through them constantly when they are here, as opposed to being at home. That can be happy adrenaline or unhappy adrenaline. They see other dogs running around, and they want to play. They are curious and excited, which can cause even more anxiety. That can certainly impact their health. So it’s important that they get out to let it out.

         Less social dogs still need some type of interaction, things that are good for the brain. So we have enrichment activities for them. It could be an agility course, a ball pit or a puzzle treat.

Medical needs

         We pay so much more attention to diet and exercise now. We weigh the dogs weekly so we can track how they are doing and if they are eating enough — or, often times, too much. We also inspect them for any bumps, scratches, wounds, hot spots. We want to be aware and make the owners aware of their animal’s wellbeing. We catch tons of ear infections before their owners have any idea it’s happening. We also host pet loss workshops, because we go through that too with the owners. After 20 years, we have known some pets their entire lives.

What kinds of pets?

         We care for some cats — and guinea pigs. Upstairs in the indoor playground (where Bob, the resident fat cat reigns) are two piggies, whose canine siblings were being cared for downstairs. They get their own special area and cuddle time with a staff member. We take care of that family’s dogs, and their kids were sad that no one was taking care of the guinea pigs while they were all on vacation.

         We can handle bunnies, guinea pigs, ferrets — no birds, amphibians or reptiles. But everyone on staff wants us to get a resident pig. I’m sure someone is going to ask us to take care of a pig soon.