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Canine resort

Photo by: Christine Walsh

Tim and Lacy Belangee had three dogs who sometimes struggled with behavior issues. Then the Belangees discovered doggie daycare.

The Belangees took their pooches to George’s Canine Comfort in Savoy. “He’s been great with our dogs,” Lacy said. “We didn’t realize dogs require socialization to be healthy. It stimulates them mentally and physically.”

Lacy said their dogs looked forward to going to daycare to see their friends. “You love that for your dogs,” she said.

The Belangees noticed that their dogs were coming home at night more restful and calm and easier to train. “We thought, ‘Wow, this is handy,’” Lacy said.

The experience got the couple thinking “There’s a need in the area,” Lacy said.

So Tim, a paramedic/firefighter, and Lacy, a former registered nurse, opened their own business, Ruff Dayz, in Mahomet, on Dec. 17. “We’ve had a lot of interest so far,” Lacy said.

Lacy believes that the caregiving occupations with long hours that she and Tim come from have prepared them well for their new roles. “We had hard jobs,” Lacy said.

The facility, which has an Illinois dog kennel license, can host up to about 40 dogs. This spring, fencing will be extended around the property.

“We did a lot of training with our dogs,” Lacy said. “We’ve done a lot of research in educating ourselves on it.”

The Ruff Dayz staff makes sure the dogs are not left alone. “We want to interact with them to the point where they’re stimulated physically and mentally, anything the dog needs,” Lacy said.

For example, if a dog needs to go to sleep, the lights may be turned down, and the dog may be petted to calm it. “We cater to the dogs’ needs,” Lacy said.

There are about 10 staff members, who are referred to as “personal play pals.” Most have extensive backgrounds with dogs, and one even trains horses.

Each dog gets regular time both inside and outside. “We try to keep the same behaviors going,” Lacy said.

The building, a former veterinary clinic, has been painted and decorated. “It has a really nice home-away-from-home feel,” Lacy said. “Most people have said, ‘Wow, it doesn’t smell like dog.’” That’s partly due to pet odor candles that her daughter makes and partly due to the fact that they clean up messes immediately.

At night, staffers have a “sleepover” with the dogs. “Nowadays, people don’t want to kennel their dogs,” Lacy said. “There’s never a caged feeling. But if they need a kennel, they can have a kennel.”

The kennels are used at feeding time to prevent dogs from eating each other’s kibble. “We want to cater to people’s needs,” Lacy said. “Some people kennel at home because the dog feels safe that way.”

Some owners want their dogs socialized, while others want their dogs to burn off excess energy. Others want their dogs boarded while they are gone on work trips.

Ruff Dayz also offers grooming, bathing and nail trimming services.

Ruff Dayz has separate areas for small, medium and large dogs. Still, with dogs’ different personalities, conflicts can sometimes arise. “You have to be on top of it,” Lacy said, noting that the dogs are watched to make sure their behavior isn’t anxious. Dogs can be taken to separate rooms if problems arise. “We really haven’t needed it,” Lacy said. “We’re all body awareness trained.”

Because dogs are pack animals, Lacy has to make sure her employees are confident around them. “I can’t have people back there who are timid with dogs,” she said. “It’s a very playful atmosphere, but we do make that a priority.”

Three of the Ruff Dayz employees are qualified to conduct a temperament test. When new dogs are brought in, they are mingled with the Belangees’ dogs first and then one Ruff Dayz dog at a time.

Dogs can be boarded for two hours at a time or all day, and dogs can be dropped off at any time. Lacy explained that it’s harder to mingle new dogs into a group in the afternoon because the other dogs have already established a social structure. But it can be done by taking all of the dogs outside, she added.

Having the sleepovers was Tim’s idea to ensure the dogs’ safety at night. “That was part of our passion and that’s what we do,” Lacy said. “We are dog freaks.”

To be at Ruff Dayz, dogs need to have their required immunizations, as well as flea and tick prevention and heartworm medication.

Medications can be administered to dogs if necessary, and Ruff Dayz can cater to any special diets needed.

Ruff Dayz has even hosted doggie birthday parties, complete with a specially made bacon-topped peanut butter cake from Mahomet’s Lucky Moon Pies.

Cats can be accommodated, and there has even been a parakeet guest.

Possible future plans include a pet taxi and pet CPR classes.

Ruff Dayz’s hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The business is open through the holidays. Pickup is available on Sundays.

Ruff Dayz can be reached at 217-552-3697, by email at ruffdayz@yahoo.com or through Facebook or their website, http://www.ruffdayzdoggiedaycare.com.

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