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Photos by Erica Techo.
Jackie and James Hale sit with two of their 15 dogs in front of Canine Country Club, the kennel they have just opened.
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Opening a dog kennel has been on James Hale’s mind for about 10 years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he took steps toward opening a boarding facility.
The owner of James Hale Stables on Chelsea Road, James Hale and his wife, Jackie, chose to convert some of their horse stables and half of their barn into Canine Country Club.
“We’ve always been dog lovers, and we used to have 44 stalls for horses, and I really didn’t want that many stalls anymore,” said James Hale. “So I thought, let’s do the dog thing.”
The couple have 15 dogs of their own and said their love for dogs as well as their location made opening a kennel a good fit. It’s also a good investment for the future, Jackie Hale said.
“The kennels are also sort of a retirement plan. When we’re 65, we probably can’t still cowboy these [horses] up, but we can take care of a peekapoo,” she said.
The boarding area is a 3,200-square-foot climate controlled space with 21 runs. Of those, 11 are standard “clubhouse” runs that are just indoors, and the other 10 are “patio” runs with doggy doors that connect to a covered outdoor portion of the kennel.
“Dogs that are accustomed to being outside sometimes prefer to hang out out here, than to be inside,” Jackie Hale said. “And as we expand, we’ll just see what people want.”
The runs are along the outside of the kennel, with a faux-grass area in the center. This K9Grass is created for kennels and allows a space for dogs to roll around or relieve themselves in case of bad weather. They also wanted to keep the area open, rather than cramming in as many kennels as possible.
“We’ve had up to 40 horses in training, and so we know there’s a point of diminishing return,” Jackie Hale said. “And that there is a point at which you can no longer do a fantastic job. We want to keep this manageable and where we can give a lot of individual attention.”
While there is space for more kennels, Jackie Hale said they plan to wait to see what the demand is before expanding. Depending on what people want, they might add more patio runs, or even VIP rooms that are more enclosed than the wire kennels. They also plan to fence in a large area in their yard as an off-leash running space in the near future.
Each run has a “room card” that includes the dog’s name, feeding instructions, medication information (if necessary), special instructions and other information. The cards help pass information from person to person, so everyone know what the dog needs.
Jackie Hale said there are a few things that set Canine Country Club apart, including the fact they don’t charge for administering medications. As owners of 15 dogs, several of which are rescues, she said it is a goal to cater to special needs dogs, such as older dogs or rescues, and giving them medicine without charging per pill or per dose is one way to do that.
Living on the property a few steps away from the kennel is also helpful, James Hale said, because they can administer care after normal business hours, if that is what a dog needs.
James Hale’s daughter, Ashton, is a veterinary technician at Riverview Animal Clinic and lives across the street, which Jackie Hale said is an added help. The number of individuals interacting with the dogs will be limited, James Hale said, so that dogs will recognize who they are staying with.
“You want to know your dog is happy. The dogs that we kept over the holidays, we’ve kept some of them again, and they ran in here. It wasn’t like they had to be pulled in here,” he said. “The dogs kind of get to know us while we’re here.”
Although they are a few miles off U.S. 280, Jackie Hale said they have had dogs from the Greystone and Eagle Point areas, as well as Chelsea and Columbiana board with them. Their location, on the way to Lake Martin, Auburn and, for some, the beach, is something that she said makes them a convenient place for dogs to stay.
“For the 280 corridor, we’re a little over the mountain, a little farther out, but [we’re here] if you wanted your dog to come to the country — if you’re going on vacation and want your dog to go on vacation,” she said.
For more information, go to caninecountryclub.pet. There will also be an open house and ribbon cutting for the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce Feb. 16 from 4 to 6 p.m.