By: Ryan Randall

Pet owners have special bonds with their animals that run deep. Whether it’s a cat, dog, rabbit, lizard or something else, the pets many times have more of an impact on the owners than the owners do on the pets.

For Sherry Ruohomaki, the bond she had with Sly, her black lab/shepherd, started when she adopted him at eight months old and only grew stronger. When Sherry had to work, she left Sly with her grandparents so he had company. During that time, Sherry thought about other owners and the issues they face having a place for their dogs to interact with others while they’re out. Sly lived for 11 years, passing away in 2001. The following year, Sherry started researching working with animals, intending to open a dog day care some day. In 2010, K9 Kampus opened; the vision of a person passionate about animals and a place dogs and other animals can go during the day.

K9 Kampus is a day care that understands the space pets need to run and move around. Initially an indoor-only facility, with a 21,000 square foot facility, K9 Kampus is now a 35,000 square foot outdoor area, complete with the area’s only in-ground pool designed specifically for dogs and a lure/chase course, a 210-foot wide, 100-foot long course.

“We have this mechanical device that moves like a squirrel in your backyard, and that’s just an additional enrichment program because it goes with the dogs’ natural instinct to chase prey. It allows them to have a very long stride in their running,” Ruohomaki said.

K9 Kampus is not just a place for canines, as they also provide boarding services for cats, birds and other breeds from the
same “parents.”

The facility continues to grow to accommodate more pets. Earlier this year, the facility added 33 additional dog suites, a new kitchen and a separate boarding entrance for clients, in order to streamline the drop-off/pick-up process. The company is also adding additional groomers, as well as trainers to offer various classes. Though the current facility is set up for open interactive play, K9 Kampus plans on adding a program allowing for dogs that aren’t as social to stay at the facility. Instead of interacting with other dogs, the pets would have a one-on-one interaction with the staff.

“Whether it’s their personality, or their age, whatever it is, sometimes they’re just not suitable for an open play format, so we can’t provide services to them,” Ruohomaki said. “So we do have plans in the future to be able to expand to another part of the property we have, to include day care and boarding services for those dogs that don’t pass the temperament evaluation to be in an open play environment, but would be a perfect candidate for a more structured environment.”

As many of us can attest, the bond between animals and their owners is a strong one. When asked what drew her specifically to dogs, Sherry mentioned the love the pets exhibit, the same love that served as the inspiration for her to start K9 Kampus.

I think it’s that unconditional love,” Ruohomaki said. “There are no pretenses there, that dog just wants to be loved and have fun and love back. And they’re like children; they’re just four legged
and furry.”

Throughout the years, K9 Kampus has also provided a flexible environment, suiting the animals’ needs and traits. Ruohomaki noted that some dogs at the day care are used to being around people more than other dogs, so they’ll hang out with Ruohomaki at her office or stay around the front desk. The owners of the dogs have approved this, happy that the dogs are not alone during the day. Ruohomaki also says they run the day care as if it were for humans, referring to the owners as “Mom” and “Dad,” keeping close contact with the “parents” on any updated information or behavior issues on their pets, working with them to improve upon any bad behaviors that may arise. 

The flexibility shown for the pets is also there for the human “parents” as well, as K9 Kampus looks at the parents of the pets as extended family, providing peace of mind that their pets will be taken care of during
difficult circumstances.

Ruohomaki tells us, “We just had a client whose mother had passed, and he had to fly out unexpectedly. He’s saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do; I need to drop off my dog,’ and he had to do it late at night. We made sure someone was there for him. We know there are going to be emergencies. So as long as the pet has gone through the clearing process, which is our temperament evaluation, if a parent needs us, we’re going be there for them.”

Ruohomaki said one of the most rewarding parts of the job is the feedback she hears from pet parents. For some owners, the work involved with a dog can be taxing due to the energy and anxiety they have, which may lead to coming home to a torn up house. Much like Ruohomaki’s parents were there for Sly, Ruohomaki and her staff are there for other dog owners when they need a place for their pet to get the attention and care they deserve.

“To hear them say, ‘I don’t know what we would do without you,’ that just melts my heart, because that’s the reason I created
K9 Kampus.”