Lakewood Ranch is the stomping ground for a new luxury hotel — for canines.
Kevin and Heather Harvey have a way with words. And dogs.
The couple have put their talents to work by opening Lakewood Ranch’s newest dog boarding and day care facility: the Woofdorf Astoria at Lakewood Ranch.
Their own dog, Maximus Dogamus Harvey, an 8-year-old boxer, is their mascot. They call him Max for short.
The Woofdorf Astoria opened its doors for a soft opening Aug. 26, or National Dog Day. Heather Harvey said it was a total coincidence.
The couple moved from Wisconsin about a year ago to venture into the dog hotel business, after running a plumbing and electrical services company up north. They still own the business, but wanted to start doing something they loved.
“We decided dogs are the best clients,” she said. “They’re always happy.”
The couple settled on Lakewood Ranch for two reasons: They wanted to escape the long and cold winters in Wisconsin, and they researched the area and knew it was growing.
The Woofdorf Astoria, located at 10615 Technology Terrace, is a 365-days-a-year day care and hotel open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. It offers boarding and grooming services. The space is tastefully decorated with canine-themed artwork, paw prints and the hotel's emblem. During the day, dogs have 9,000 square feet of air-conditioned open space to roam (big and little dogs are separated), and a half-acre of fenced yard to run. At night, litte dogs can stay in individual “petit suites” and big dogs in “king suites,” each with a soft, cozy bed and window looking out over the common play area. Petit suites are $35 per night; king suites are $50.
“There’s always someone here, and Christmas is like every other day. Someone can come and pick them up anytime,” Heather Harvey said.
That’s the unique offering of the Woofdorf: pet owners aren’t restricted to open hours to pick up and drop off pets.
The Harveys allow pet owners to come and get their pets when they want. A staff member is always on location, and the pet owner only needs to call ahead and let them know what time they plan on picking up their pup.
“There are lots of day cares in the area, but not quite like us,” Heather Harvey said.
The play area for the dogs is indeed luxurious — both the big and little dogs have plenty of space to roam in the large open areas. Parts of the floor are concrete, providing a cool area to flop down and relax after playtime, but the floors also have a rubber padding to keep the pets comfortable throughout the day. Both spaces have diverting activities, from picnic tables to climb on to boxes to hide in, blankets to snuggle on and toys to chew. Dog-eye-level windows let the big and little dogs see one another and interact. Staff cater to each dog's individual schedule and play with the dogs throughout the day with their favorite activities, whether throwing a ball or playing outside.
Pet parents provide the details on meal times and usual times to go out.
Although the hotel has been open a little more than a month, the Harvey’s haven’t started advertising or held a grand opening. They’re easing into the routine, and still adding on to their services. Grooming started Sept. 22. They recently added picnic tables in the big dog enclosure, and also plan on adding in some sandboxes and a climbing playground made out of tires to help stimulate the dogs and get
them active. Eventually, the hotel will have a live camera so people can check in and see what their pets are up to.
They don’t want the dogs just standing around all day, she said — they try to encourage play and activity with a variety of different options.
“People’s feedback has been that their dogs are super tired at the end of the day — and that’s what people want,” Heather Harvey said.
The Woofdorf has 100 regular clients and average about 30 dogs a day now, but they have plenty of room to take in more dogs, Kevin Harvey said. However, they’re selective about the dogs they take in and how many new dogs they add into the group. Right now, they will only introduce a few new dogs to "the pack" at a time. This way, the Harveys and the staff can keep a closer eye on the group of dogs and how they act together. Each new dog has to go through a screening process to make sure it's not aggressive to other dogs or people.
This dog-to-dog interaction is another benefit to pet owners, besides just having a staff owner playing with their dog and helping exhaust energetic dogs.
“If you stay in a room for 24 hours you’d go nuts,” Kevin Harvey said. “Socialization is a factor, too.”
Heather Harvey said there are already a few regular dogs in the pack, including Max, that they call “police dogs.” These dogs are low-key with an easy-going temperament. They don’t engage with other dogs very much — but they aren’t bystanders, either, if a few pups start getting too wound up. They’ll calmly diffuse a situation.
“They’ll break up the excitement,” Heather Harvey said. “They’ll separate (the other dogs) when necessary.”