Twilla Boyce

Q: When did you purchase Akenside Kennels?
A: May of 2011. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Q: Is this your first experience working with animals?
A: Oh, no. I have been rescuing and rehoming animals since I was a child. Within the last decade, I formalized my dog training business, Pack Rules Inc. I've been actively working as a dog trainer for the past 6 years and love every minute of it. I never thought I would realize my dream of owning a property like this. The fact that it is a licensed boarding facility is just too good to be true.

Q: Dog training?  You do that too?  
A: Formally, I took a sabatical, so to speak, from the training but did work on selected cases that came along. I wanted to focus, solely, on the opperations, staffing and business model restructure I developed for Akenside. I learned a long time ago that you cannot spread yourself too thin. Well, you can, but no one benefits from it. There were a lot of changes I wanted to make and that took the lion's share of my time. It was time well spent.

Q: What kind of changes have you made?
A: Hours of operation to start with. It took a couple of revisions but we've been able, with the help of our clients, to come up with a schedule that works best for the pets. They must come first and, to be frank, it is a waste of time for a person to sit behind a desk from 7:am to 7:00 pm for customers to trickle in.   We are diligent about sanitation, play time and service to the pets entrusted to our care. This all takes time and more than one person to do properly and our time is better spent attending to the dogs.

Q: So you hire staff?
A: Absolutely! Could you imagine not having staff? If I do all the work myself, what happens to the dogs if I became incapacitated with a flu or something? Also, with the size of this facility and the work that needs to be done, I would work myself into an early grave if I tried to do it all. I plan to be around a long time, so I went through dozens of applications, hired and trained the right people.

Q: That many people want to work at a boarding kennel?
A: That many people want to play with animals. So many applicants comment, " I just love animals. I would love to work with them." But they often have absolutely no experience with animals or they have an unrealistic idea of what kind of work is involved when careing for animals. My girls are experienced, have the same ehtics and morals regarding animal care and treatment as I, are eager to learn more and have no aversion to hard work. It took a while to find them but the effort was worth it. We work well as a team. We have a good time and are focused on making the animals in our care happy and fulfilled.

Q: Fulfilled? Don't you just feed them and maybe take them for a walk?
A: I'm certain many people think this is the extent of the services we offer, but no. We break our work into three components: Housekeeping, Service, Wellbeing. Housekeeping is the daily cleaning, sanitizing, laundering, power washing, etc. This has a direct affect on the health of the dogs so we take it very seriously. Spot checks for cleaning and sanitizing needs are done throughout the day and carried out appropriately and as required. Service includes feeding, administration of medicine, ear wash, eye drops, bathing, fecal inspection, body scores, nail trimming...the list goes on. Wellbeing is the fun stuff! That pertains to the time we spend with the animals: playing with them, taking them out for a social romp with other dogs, quiet cuddles and such.Graci is a guest who loves car rides so we make sure she is taken for rides out on the country roads while she is with us. Izzy is a tiny dachsund who is ga-ga for fetch. So, we had her racing after her toys. Brandi is a border collie who is so affectionate, she just wants to sit and be pet. She still gets playtime, but we make sure she gets the thing she values most. The goal is to offer activities the dog enjoys and introduce other activities to see if it might spark an interest. Every dog is different and we take our cue from them.

Q: Do they actually want to go home?
A: You laugh, but sometimes they don't. Most usually, they are happy to see their people and are eager to be with them. We are hopeful that their experience with us is positive enough they will be in happy spirits when they arrive the next time they visit. We are told that most our guests become quite excited when they realize they are coming to Akenside. We do have hesitant guests that arrive with reserve but once they have acclimated to their environment and our presence, they generally warm up to us in a relativley short period of time.

Q: Do the owners worry about their pets while they are away?
A: I think it quite natural for owners to miss their pets but some do worry. Either way, I like to send text messages to the owners to update them on the pet. Everyone seems to love this little perk. It allows them to rest easy, knowing their pets are enjoying themselves.

Q: What if the pet is not happy?
A: It happens. It's rare, but it does happen. Owners of these pets are generally well aware of the issues and, even though the pet may not be terribly pleased he has been uprooted from home and hearth, at least they know he is safe, fed and attended as much as the pet allows. This, Im told, provides peace of mind and allows them to focus on their business or holiday. 

Q: What would you say was your most rewarding and most trying moment as owner of Akenside Kennels to date?  
A: I have to say they are one in the same. I was still in my first month as owner of Akenside when one of our gests, an elderly shitzu male, developed Old Dog Vistibular disease while he was with us. I thought he was having a stroke. Everything stopped and I was on my way to the vet`s office within minutes. Once released, I brought him back to Akenside, made him as comfortable as possible and sat with him till he fell asleep (a time that made me thankful I had wonderful staff who could get everything else done while I focused on our little patient). I checked on Rascal every two hours, carried him out to the washroom (he was unable to walk) and hand fed and watered him throughout the night. When his owners, eager to see their precious family member, came to collect him two days later, I didn`t want to let him go. I knew in my heart, I would never see him again. I finally relinquished him to his owner and gave him one last goodbye kiss. I had to excuse myself and go to the house where I cried my eyes out. I'm getting teary just thinking of him now. That little dog took a piece of my heart with him and I'm happy to have given it.  So to answer your question, we get attached to our furry charges and we sometimes cannot manage to see them go without shedding a few tears. When that happens, we know we are doing things right. Its a painful joy that I had not anticipated.

Q: Now that you have settled in, will you be training again?
A: Actually, yes. We are running like a well-oiled machine at this point so I started a couple of proofing classes in November. I will continue to offer a couple of classes each week on a continuing basis. I also look forward to holding a few training seminars with guest trainers this summer. I don't have time to take on individual cases but I do have qualified and experienced trainers that I am confident in and refer these cases to them.

Q: That sounds like fun.
A: Absolutely! There is tremendous satisfaction when watching the bond between owner and pet develop. 

Q: What do you see in store for Akenside Kennels in 2013?
A: Renovations!!! We have had a bumpy start with our plans due to county bylaw restrictions, etc. But we believe we have those all ironed out and plan to get quite a bit accomplished throughout 2013. We also plan to install some agility aparati in the excercise yards this summer. It will add some challenge and fun for our guests. The sky is the limit! 



Did You Know...

At Akenside Kennels, your pet will receive quality care, exercise and social time with other dogs if the owner permits at a competitive rate. Akenside Kennels boasts 15 acres of land: plenty of space for long walks and energetic romps. At Akenside Kennels, we are happy to send updates and reports regarding your pet’s well-being via text or emails. If your individual situation does not permit you to drop off or pick up your pet during regular hours, we at Akenside Kennels will discuss alternate options at reasonable fees.