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Doggie daycare to open in Middlebury

BRETT POLLINGER, SEEN here with a group of happy pups, is preparing to open a second “Woof Pack” dog daycare & boarding service off Route 7 South in Middlebury.
Photo courtesy of Brett Pollinger

MIDDLEBURY — Brett Pollinger has been around dogs all his life.

His mom, Dr. Dru Ann Pollinger, retired last year after a 40-year career as a veterinarian in the Fair Haven area.

“I didn’t have a choice as a kid; we loved animals,” Brett chuckled during a recent interview. “We grew up with Scottish deerhounds. My parents would raise them and show them. We had the vet office. And we would take in tons of animals that people brought in because they saw them wounded and didn’t want them.”

Brett decided to follow in his mom’s footsteps, to a certain degree. While he doesn’t dispense medical care, he and his employees watch, play with, feed and ensure the wellbeing of scores of dogs at Pollinger’s current business, called Woof Pack. He established it in 2015 at 799 Route 22A North in Fair Haven.

Now Pollinger is preparing to launch a second Woof Pack doggy daycare and boarding center in Middlebury, in the former Vermont Field Sports building at 1458 Route 7 South. The town has OK’d the Woof Pack application, and Pollinger anticipates the business will open on June 1 to provide dog daytime supervision, overnight boarding, training, baths, toenail clips and pet advice.

The Middlebury location will serve up to 75 dogs per day, and as many as 20 at a time for overnight boarding.

Why target the Addison County’s shire town for Woof Pack expansion? Two reasons, according to Pollinger.

“I have always had a fondness for Middlebury,” he said, calling it a “quintessential Vermont town” with some “great restaurants” and “a lot of great, outdoorsy dog owners.”

And on the practical side, it made great business sense, he noted.

“There’s really nothing right now (in dog daycare) between Pittsford and Vergennes,” Pollinger said. “That’s surprising, because you have a big dog-service need in the Middlebury area.”

With an already thriving Woof Pack in Fair Haven, Pollinger could afford to sit back and wait for the right spot to open up in Middlebury. His Fair Haven location has been ideal: A 2,200-square-foot HQ that stands adjacent to the Fair Haven Animal Hospital. Behind it lies a 2-acre, fenced play yard for the animals to romp.

“Having an outdoor area for them to let loose and really run makes a big difference,” he said, noting many urban animal daycares don’t have such an amenity.

Pollinger last year found out about the former Vermont Field Sports building and thought it showed great promise. Connections to municipal water and sewer, a convenient drop-off location with plenty of parking and a building that can — with minor upgrades — provide comfortable digs for dogs. But the clincher was the option of a half-acre, fenced dog play area along the south side of the building. Pollinger noted well-exercised dogs are happier dogs, and content dogs are less likely to bark — which doesn’t figure to be a major complaint, given the dearth of residential housing in the area.

No changes are planned for the exterior of the new Woof Pack home. Outdoor lighting will be installed and used when daylight is at a premium during the winter.

Woof Pack in Fair Haven has 10 employees, and Pollinger wants an equal number in Middlebury. Staff need to be K-9 CPR-certified, as well as being helpful, caring and weather-tolerant.

And another important quality:

“You can’t be afraid of poop,” he said, noting staff are asked to keep a lookout for issues ranging from parasites to Legos that deserve follow-up by the dog’s humans.

Plans call for Pollinger to begin vetting prospective four-legged customers of his Middlebury Woof Pack in April and May. He’ll do that through a series of meet-and-greets involving the dog applicant, its owners, Pollinger and his interview team, made up of his six personal dogs.

“I have black labs and golden retrievers, and they are different ages and personalities, and they’ll root out any nuance that I don’t pick up on,” he joked. “But they are a microcosm of the groups we have (at the daycare). They’re really the interviewers.”

There are some cases — about one out of every 10 dogs — when an interviewee doesn’t pan out, according to Pollinger.

“There are no bad dogs,” he stressed, “but some of the rescues bring in a history of being in some tough spots and have been through some bad experiences and the social setting is over-stimulating to them.”

Woof Pack will charge $35 per day for daycare and $60 per night for boarding. More details about Woof Pack can be found at woofpackvt.com. Pollinger asks prospective Middlebury clients to set up a meet-and-greet by calling 802-265-8386.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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