SERVING ATLANTA FOR 12 YEARS

CLASSES

Article: BARK AT THE PARK CANINES MAKE FRIENDS, FROLIC AT DOGGY DAY CARE BY FRAN PUTNEY

Doggy day care: The Canine Academy and Playschool located at Monroe Drive and Piedmont Park is proof that this is an idea whose time has arrived. On any given weekday, as many as 25 dogs spend the day playing, walking in the park, napping and learning good doggy manners.

Jenny Baum, a woman of tremendous energy (she admits to being "hyper"), opened The Canine Academy August, 1995, a week before she was really ready, because demand was already so great from people who saw the business was coming to the neighborhood. Jenny also offers grooming services and a full range of training including obedience, agility and show-handling classes.

The academy opens at 7 a.m. The dogs play from the time of their arrival (about by 8:30 a.m.) until 10 a.m. in the 2,500-square-foot padded playroom in the back of the academy. The dogs run, jump, catch balls and play on the agility equipment. The dogs are then all walked on leashes, about three at a time, in Piedmont Park. When they come back, all the dogs are ready for a good long nap in their individual crates. The ratio is one instructor for every eight to 10 dogs.

When nap time ends at about 3 p.m., the instructors spend some snuggle time with each dog. Jenny says the purpose of this is to make sure the dogs understand the instructors are boss and not part of the pack. All dogs are walked in the park again in the afternoon. A second play period ensues after walks until the dogs are picked up by their owners by 6 p.m.

Jane Ratliff, 30306 resident and owner of Lonny and Molly, two mixed-breed labs that weigh about 50 pounds each, said that her dogs absolutely love day care. She sends them to the playschool because she and her husband work during the day. Time at The Canine Academy "burns their energy and they interact with other dogs. They're tired at the end of the day," she said. Last week, when she told Lonny they were going to The Canine Academy "he barked and squealed the whole way. It's a real happy and fun experience for them."

What's the hardest part of running a doggy day care? "The maintenance," answered Jenny emphatically. "Walking and cleaning up dog poop after 25 dogs in Piedmont Park when it's 102 degrees outside is not fun." But Jenny is committed to abiding by the city laws, which require dogs to be leashed and cleaned up after in public places. She leads a group called "Central Bark" that is searching for a space in town where it would be legal and safe for dogs to run and play without a leash.

Jenny is a dog-lover through and through. "When I was 14 years old, I basically left home and moved in at the kennels," she said. Although she didn't physically move out of her family's Pound Ridge, N.Y. home, she spent nearly all non-school hours working with dogs in some way. With college degrees in zoology and psychology, she has managed a veterinary hospital and worked with the head veterinarian of the Bronx Zoo, with whom she used to tag along watching surgeries and learning about animals.

She chose not to go to vet school because she said she couldn't deal with people who didn't really appreciate and love their pets. "I knew when I hit on the day care concept that people who were going to bring their dogs here were going to be just as fanatical as I am - really loving their pets' [sic] being a part their homes and part of their family.

Jenny began researching the idea of starting a dog day care in 1994. At that time, according to Jenny, there were about six such centers around the country. Unsatisfied with her corporate job, she wanted to do something she truly loved. After studying the concept she began looking for a location. Jenny's father bought the dilapidated old building on Monroe and the entire Baum family hand-built the space. Jenny leases space from her father.

As The Canine Academy celebrates its third anniversary, Jenny is proud of its success. She has already beat her business plan by 100 percent, and the playschool has been at capacity since first year. She is looking forward to expanding, particularly in the area of grooming. Jenny grooms about four or five dogs each day herself because she said that finding high-quality dog groomers is extremely, difficult. In a few years, Jenny also hopes to expand the facility so she can hold larger training classes.

(Photo:) DARBY, AN AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD OWNED BY BRENT BONET, JUMPS THROUGH A HOOP DURING AN AGILITY TRAIN1NG CLASS AT THE CANINE ACADEMY & PLAYSCHOOL.

Note: Snuggle time is from noon to 3 pm, afternoon walks from 3 pm - 4 pm, second play period starts at 4 pm and owners must pick-up their pooch by 6:30 pm!