SEABECK — Camp Union Pet Lodge is basically puppy camp, according to owner Stephanie McPherson.
“The owners are out on vacation and they bring their dogs to us because they know it’s just a lot of fun,” McPherson said. “It’s kind of like grandma’s house. They get tons of cookies and play time.”
But the lodge isn’t just a sleep-away camp for puppies. It’s also a daycare, groomer and school for dogs, young and old. And cats, hamsters and birds, ferrets and horses — really any pet — is welcome at Camp Union Pet Lodge for daycare, grooming or boarding.
“We’re pretty much open to whatever pets people have,” McPherson said.
McPherson bought the lodge two years ago, but said it’s been in the community most likely since the 1970s. Before the lodge, McPherson was a union electrician.
“I’ve always had dogs and trained my dogs, and my friends’ dogs,” she said. “I was always the person when they went on vacation, their dogs came into my house. Once I bought the business, everyone said it’s a natural fit for me.”
She said she started looking for something she could do at home since she has young children. Then McPherson came across the lodge.
“It’s been perfect,” she said. “I love the dogs. It’s very natural, I guess.”
Most of their clients are of the canine variety, and as such, McPherson said she really emphasizes training in taking care of dogs. She went to the Northwest School of Canine Studies to advance her ability to train dogs.
“One of my goals is to be a resource to our community,” she said. “That is one of the main reasons I attended the Northwest School of Canine Studies. Its focus is on the whole dog and their behaviors.
“I don’t just want to teach your dog to ‘sit,’ I want you to better understand why your dog does what he does. Why can’t I get him to stop digging? Why does he destroy every fluffy toy I give him? How do I keep him out of the garbage? Why does he go crazy on a leash when he sees another dog? Our goal is to help you find solutions so you can keep your family pet.”
Training is offered to both puppies and adult dogs in six-week courses.
The lodge also features 50 spaces for dogs of various sizes. Depending on the size of the space and the size — and friendliness — of the dog, several can be in each space at a time. McPherson said they expect 65 dogs for Christmas.
“Holidays pick up really well for us,” McPherson said. “But summer vacations are really big, even spring break time, even the hunting season. We get booked on the weekends.”
But it’s not always predictable. She said there are random times throughout the year that the lodge will unexpectedly be booked solid.
“When I feel like we’re booking up, I wonder if I’m missing a party somewhere,” McPherson joked.
With at least one staff member on site 24/7, there’s always someone there to watch over pets. Plus, the care is always based on each individual dog. If a dog is hyper, he’ll get extra walks to help him stay calm. If a dog needs medicine, McPherson said they’re “very particular” about ensuring the pills are taken on time with the right dosage.
“It’s really catered,” McPherson said. “More personalized than having the neighbor kid come over once a day.”
Of course, there are challenges. Every pet has their own personality, and sometimes an animal’s quirks aren’t always known ahead of time. McPherson said it’s not surprising: owners get so used to their pet’s quirks that they don’t always remember to mention it.
“It’s always an interesting scenario to suddenly have a German shepherd climbing a fence,” McPherson said.
However, to help deal with fence climbers and other escape artists, the property is double-fenced.
The cats, the second-most popular pet at Camp Union Pet Lodge, get special treatment too, though it’s a little different than the dogs.
Cats either get their own suite or they get to stay in the “free-range kitty” area, with benches and rungs and a cat tree, depending on what the owners choose. Plus, cats by nature tend to be less demanding when it comes to human attention. McPherson said that sometimes “once you’re in their space, they just want to be left alone.”
But the cat boarding service is still developing. McPherson said she soon wants to develop a secure outdoor space for the indoor and outdoor cats they board.
And, of course, the on-site groomer, Rene’e Shenefield, is wildly popular.
“Our groomer’s fantastic,” McPherson said. “She’s been doing it for almost 20 years. She has people who come all the way from Gig Harbor. I think that speaks a lot for her quality and temperament. She handles dogs that can’t be handled by anyone else.”
Rene’e Shenefield doesn’t just groom dogs and cats, either.
“She’ll pretty much try anything,” McPherson said. “A client comes in with a few big dogs and some ferrets.”
Camp Union Pet Lodge also offers a 10-percent discount for seniors, military and union members, as well as long-term boarding, with specials for military members needing to board pets while on deployment. The lodge is eco-friendly and bleach-free, and only uses special cleaners designed to kill pet diseases like parvo, bordetella and rabies.
The lodge also takes in strays found in the community. They use a chip scanner to try to locate the owner and post information about the found animal on social media sites. If they can’t locate the owner after a few days, the pet is taken to the Kitsap Humane Society.
Camp Union Pet Lodge is at 14637 NW Holly Road, Seabeck. For more information about Camp Union Pet Lodge, call 360-830-4427 or visit www.campunionpetlodge.com or www.facebook.com/CampUnionPetLodge.