Professional care, portraits, and room to play indoors and out! I have a great place for huge dogs - most dogs - here in beautiful Oak Cliff, south of downtown Dallas, Two dogs, two cats. Please, read on: it's a long description, but will answer many important questions about hours and what I do and whether your dog will be happy here.
I'm a professional; this is full time for me. I have 30+ years' worth of the skills to make sure your dog is happy and safe, from professional work with animals to having my own pets in my smoke-free home. I also fostered and trained rescues for over 30 years, although I cannot foster much now. I will board a foster.
The wooded OAK CLIFF lot is almost 2 acres and securely fenced with a 6-foot MIX of chain-link, iron, and wood. It is not landscaped, so digging is okay! The slope of the hill means dogs burn energy here, even just walking. The big back yard is wooded, well-drained, with sandy areas for digging and wrestling. The deck is a never-ending work in progress, but has 2 flights of stairs, one specially designed to be less steep and shorter, with broader steps for dogs (and people) who have stair issues. Dogs who cannot do any steps at all may be leash-walked in the front, which is flat.
Built in the 1950's, this house is a FLW knock-off that has been made very pet-friendly. Wood floors and tile throughout (no carpet), The tile is rough and no-slip. Most windows go down to floor so dogs can look out easily, and there are ceiling fans and cool floors for napping in summer. Huge dog beds are all over the place...I don't have a couch... but dogs can be cozy in cool weather and we have a safe fireplace.
Scout is my helper dog, medium-sized and of dubious origin. His job is to play with other dogs. He is very good at this. He's energetic, but learns to play with dogs who are smaller than himself (and my cats) carefully, and knows to leave older dogs who do not want to play alone. He can be more enthusiastic on a Meet than he is day to day. If your dog is large or extra-large, it won't be a problem. We love a Mastiff, Saint, Pyr, or Dane...and especially sight-hounds...but are happy to see guests of all sizes.
Leo is my new "anchor" dog, a very large, adopted Akbash mix, under one year old and still learning. He is very easy going and loves everyone. He will be mild-mannered all his life, and tends to defer to others now, as a pup. He will finish growing at 3-4 years old. He's like that uncle that lets kids crawl all over him.
Ravenhill has two resident cats. One is Hogan, who is under the impression that he is a dog. If your dog has a history of severe cat aggression, (like killing them), this may not be a good fit. However, most dogs, even dogs who bark at cats, can learn relatively quickly that the indoor-only cat is not a toy, and many make friends with Hogan. Hogan passed an informal "racing greyhound" test, and tries to get dogs to lick him on his head. He is also very high-ranking, status-wise.
Ginger Pie is the other cat. She likes meeting new dogs, but does not boss them around or steal their beds. She solicits attention from ones she trusts. Especially boxers.
I'm not a professional photographer, but I will try to give you some quality portraits of your pet - it's fun for me to see if I can capture their personalities, as you can see from the pictures I have posted here (click through to see them all). I may send many at once, like 20 at once, because I have to sit down quietly to edit and send, and sometimes this means waiting until all the dogs are taking a nap!
I have a page on Facebook (Ravenhill) where I post pictures, as well as some short video, and you are invited to go visit the page to get a much better idea of the day-to-day life your dog can lead in my home. Each guest has his or her own photo album on the Ravenhill page, too! This means you can get to know a dog who may be scheduled to be a "roomie" with your dog. You can also easily share your pet's pictures with family and friends. It's a fun page to follow if you are sick of serious things.
I try to avoid overbooking...your friend won't be overwhelmed with a pack of 20 dogs! Usually 5 or less, except on major holidays. No dog runs; everyone is family. Dogs make friends with other guests, so if there is a small group, they will be dogs who have met before --- in most cases, many times, and they all get along well. I have regular guests who come so often that they may as well be my dogs. When I have more than 3 dogs booked, it usually means regulars are involved.
Safety and Sleeping, Eating Arrangements:
Dogs are divided up at mealtimes..... and bedtime. This is for safety, and also because I learned quickly that some dogs think it is hilarious to start a wild game of chase at 3am. This means dogs may be at liberty in the den, kitchen, or library, or in their "houses" if they bring one and are used to that. I encourage dogs who use crates at home to bring them so they feel safe and have something that is "normal" to them. During the day, kennels are left open and dogs come and go freely as they like.
In the event of an emergency, if I have to leave the house, dogs will be divided for safety. If I will be gone for a longer time, I have an adult family member or a trusted friend with dog experience come in. I disclose things at the time of reservation if it is known (like a doctor's appointment).
I have fostered many pets over many years, as well as working professionally in animal care in the past. Although not certified, I have successfully administered CPR on a dog. Vacay covers your pet on a visit with excellent insurance (more about that on their webpage). I'm very careful with pets who have food allergies, part of why separate feeding is a must.
I will contact you with questions if I have a concern about your pet. You may tell me it is nothing, but I am going to make sure.
In 2010, I lost almost everything in a house fire at this house; everything is now new. It is also in disarray, because I have not completely finished restoring the house. It takes a long time...so a few boxes are still here and there, but the dogs don't seem to mind.
I love being a Vacay host. It's not a job...it is more a lifestyle, and allows me to give 100% to the pets.
I'm doing some of the work on the house myself (tile, stone, woodwork etc), and hosting dogs allows me to be here 24/7.
We (myself and the dogs) go out in the yard several times a day, and I weed or work in my greenhouse or weedwhack the yard while they romp, dig holes, chase birds, or eat grass. The deck is always in progress, it seems. I will often sit and read on the deck so dogs can just hang out in the fresh air and smell smells.
When we are indoors, we have "CAT TV" to entertain...which means birds and squirrels on the deck..and sometimes a raccoon or opossum at night! No one is left outside unattended unless they really want to stay out there; I'm usually there with the camera, taking pictures for you. Dogs are allowed to wrestle around indoors. We have safe items for them to chew, and they do a lot of this, plus interesting social behavior among themselves.
Since I am not a vet keeping dogs in cages, the size of a pet makes no difference in the cost of a visit: $30 per night, per dog. They will all be treated equally.
I'm unable to offer discounts for multiple dogs; I often have to turn clients away when the house is full, and I have tried to keep my rate below that at a decent vet or boarding kennel.
My property taxes keep going up, and for good reason, but I do not want to price good owners out of my services. I sometimes accommodate more than 5 guest dogs at once, but it depends on pack dynamics. Often, your dog may get to know other frequent guests and will make friends. If you have four, just ask!
I require a Meet and Greet. I'm flexible on times for meeting and greeting, so feel free to come check us out. To request one, use the link under "Make a Reservation" (If you cannot locate the Meet and Greet request link, call the concierge to help you out. Apparently, and somewhat inconveniently, it moves around based on the platform you are using. ) This is NOT "Make a Reservation"....that comes after we meet and we decide if this is a good fit.
A Meet and Greet is like a play date for your dog, and takes 30-45 minutes. Longer if you really like to talk about dogs and pets. It also builds confidence in your dog if they come back for a stay, because they have come before.
I think it is crucial for us to meet and greet the dogs first, for safety's sake. I do not mind doing meet and greets with dogs even if you have no trip planned at all. It means if there is something that comes up, we know your dog will fit in. It is good to have a plan in case of some emergency, also. I may decline a meet and greet time if there are many guests here, or guests with special issues who might make your dog feel stressed on a first visit, and ask for another time. I want your dog's first impression to be a positive one.
I'm unwilling to accept adult intact dogs here, male or female.
The dogs know the difference, and I have seen the behavior of my own dogs become markedly negative around them at dog parks. I have to put everyone's safety first.
Dogs can be safely altered at 4 pounds of weight or 4 months of age, whichever comes first, (later for giant breed dogs who develop more slowly.) It's a health issue for the dog, a legal issue in Dallas, and usually tied to multiple behavior issues because of the hormones.
If you have been putting it off, I'm glad to advise on good options/vets/clinics for getting it done or discuss more reasons or the details of the procedures if you are interested.
I also ask that all dogs be on a flea and tick prevention from your vet. The over-the-counter stuff is not effective, especially here in the woods, during warm months. Ticks live around here. Being vaccinated against leptospirosis is not a bad idea, but I don't require it. Full disclosure: a neighbor lost a dog to it last year, probably when the dog drank water from a puddle.
Since we are in Texas, heartworm prevention is just a given part of pet care. Bordetella is like the flu, it mutates, so this is why it's recommended 2X a year for dogs. The vaccines are changed to reflect the current virus.
Optional: Another virus in my area is leptospirosis. This is transmitted by bacteria in the urine of wild animals. Dogs get exposed eating dirt or drinking from puddles. A neighbor lost a dog to this last year, so I mention it in case you want to be covered and get the vaccine. I do not have many puddles on the hill, but feel obliged to mention it.
Requirements: Age and Size Details:
DogVacay defines "puppies" as under 2 years old. True for labs...but I have to draw the line at 6 months. All should be spayed or neutered, unless they are a giant breed pup. If you pet is that gray area: scheduled for a surgery but has not had it yet, I will be willing to meet the pet and watch behavior to determine if things will be okay.
I cannot accept totally blind dogs right now while work on the deck is in progress.
I'm no longer accepting new clients under 20 pounds. If your dog's size is in a grey area, we can discuss. If your small dog acts like a big dog and hangs around with them a lot, let me know. Small dogs need to be actually house trained - potty pads or peeing in your shower is not house trained. Contrary to urban legend, being small does not mean they cannot control their bladders; ask your children or shorter friends about this issue.
Preparing your Dog:
If your dog has never left your side, and your trip will be a long one, it is okay to have more than one "meet and greet", so your dog has been here with you a couple of times and may adjust more easily.
Crate training a dog can give him or her a sense of security and routine in a strange place. If your dog is crate trained, I encourage you to bring his or her "house". Some dogs seek this out in thunderstorms as well as bedtime.
The transition is often made easier with a blanket, bedding, or an owner's shirt from home. Dogs who are used to sleeping with owners have a very hard time adjusting, and this can help.
If your dog has never been away, and always sleeps with you, you can help prepare your dog for his or her Vacay by disallowing sleeping in the bed from time to time. Once they learn that even when this happens, you still love and value them the next day, it will be easier for them to sleep and adjust when you are gone. (In dog society, where one sleeps is a much bigger deal than with humans, so this really can help the dog be more confident in general)
If your dog has special needs or problems, just let me know and we can discuss how best to accommodate them. Issues like poor bladder control, food aggression, or separation anxiety can all be handled... but it helps when I know up front and can be prepared. That is also safer for the dogs.
In some cases, such as a recent surgery where a bandage needs changing, a dog requires diapers, special walking, or other medical care, there may be a surcharge. Just giving medication does not fall into this category..that's easy.
Bringing up medical and extreme care conditions is only going to help the dog. It will also help me know about scheduling your dog. If your dog needs a lot of medical TLC, I may avoiding booking with other dogs needing extra attention, so my time is not stretched thin and I can give quality care to your pet.
If your dog's experience is going to be identical to the one he or she will have at a vet, such as full time cage rest with bandaging or medication, then using a vet may be best, since it is hard for dogs to watch OTHER dogs having a good time here at my place.
If your vet has told you your dog needs to lose or gain weight, or you just know this, I am good helping with this, and can help you get a dog on a program while she or he is visiting. I am glad to share tips and tricks for helping get a dog of any age to a fit weight. I end up loving dogs who stay here, and I want to keep seeing them for a long time! I'm very proud of several of my clients and their dogs who have gotten in great shape over time!
Another note: the Calendar feature here on Vacay does not show when I have only 1 guest, or if I have booked using a custom quote, so feel free to ask if I'm available, even if it appears I am not.
First, PLEASE, schedule the essential Meet and Greet, and let me know the dates you are considering, and I will check my home calendar to work with you. Regarding Meet and Greets, I'm very flexible with my schedule and will try to work with whatever time is best for you. The system suggests days, but also let me know time of day.
Also, I don't have a "staff", so please, let me know if you change your plans. I don't mind, but knowing allows me to schedule other things, like clients picking up or dropping off their dogs, a run to the pharmacy, or even a shower, etc without missing you.
Morning hours are AFTER 8:30 am out of consideration to neighbors, and so dogs here can eat breakfast. Drop off the day or night before if you need earlier. Since I am a long drive for many, this an be less stressful anyway.
Evening hours can be as late as 11:00 pm for pick ups, which have less barking.
I am not going to charge you for every hour over 24 hours, etc. But please, be considerate in your planning. (Some hosts charge like that, I don't want to be one of them, but this is how I make my living.)
Meet and greets are best after 10 am and during daylight hours.
I can do last minute bookings for repeat guests in many cases. New guests are going to need a meet and greet, and also I will be taking into consideration any dogs already booked for that time period.
If your adult dog is not actually house trained, I can tell you how to do it and start a dog while he or she is here. There will be a daily $5 surcharge for potty training, because it can be very labor-intensive. If you keep it up at home, strictly, it will work and an adult can learn very quickly. You may be asked to bring a few things. Never puppy pads, though. Just discuss with me.
A dog sometimes having an accident is not the same as a dog who is not housetrained.
At no charge, I do light training while a dog is in my care. Dogs learn all the time, so life with a dog is training the dog. I am glad to work with you on your dog's needs and what you can do. I am a bit more strict with dogs than many owners, but the dogs manage to have a good time and are safe. SOME kinds of training I cannot do here because I have guest dogs here and cannot do a lot of one-on-one work. When you pick up your pet, I may tell you a bit about what we worked on and how to reinforce at home.
Thanks for deciding to give your dog the gift of a Vacay! Dogs at home may spend time waiting for you to come back and being reminded of you by the home surroundings, but here, they don't know you are far away or not at home, and they tend to relax.
You may want to meet with more than one host to be sure you get the right fit for your dog. Of course, I hope every dogs works out, but I also want what is best for the dogs.
I know that boarding your dog is a very important decision, and I welcome questions and concerns. Thank you for taking the time to read this and research for your dog. I hope to meet your and your dog soon.
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