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‘Doggie daycare’ takes over former Dakota school building

December 26, 2018

DAKOTA — With the energy and rambunctiousness of a puppy, 5-year-old Alice, a pitbull-hound mix, bounded after a tennis ball bouncing across a padded floor at Paws 24/7 doggie daycare.

With her tail wagging vigorously, she snatched up the ball and hightailed it through the padded room, out an open door, and down a long padded hallway.

Alice has seemingly endless space to run. And she’s certainly enjoying it.

The reason? The daycare found the right home, one that doggie daycare owners Mark Woida and Jim Gross — both in real estate — would likely say has a key attribute: “location, location, location.”

The two started their new doggie daycare in a vacant school in Dakota that has been empty for three years. They just opened less than two weeks ago.

The doggie daycare still looks like a school, with chalkboards on the walls and basketball hoops in the gym, but what it does have is ample space for dogs to run and be housed in relaxed settings.

Walking around with a small tan dachshund named Simon in the crook of his arm, Woida gave a tour of the daycare. He first headed past a tall gate that separated the hallways and headed into the former gym. Walking past a number of assorted balls on the ground, he opened a door to the outside which showed a large fenced in space.

“There’s half a football field we have out here,” he said enthusiastically, adding that it’s a perfect place for dogs to run off some energy.

Back through the gym and down the long hallway that was once filled with Dakota area kids rushing to and from class, Woida stepped into a former classroom to show some relaxing spaces for dogs.

Inside the room with a padded floor was a number of chairs, couches, and even a bed covered in sheets that beckoned for any pup to take a nap.

“We want to stay away from the kennels,” Woida explained.

But they do have them in case that’s preferred, he said.

He walked into another room and showed a line of various sized kennels lined against a wall, just below an old chalkboard.

“It’s nice because we can close the doors and let the dogs run through the hallway,” Woida said as he pointed out the abilities of the daycare to separate dogs in numerous different rooms and spaces.

Woida said he and Gross — both dog lovers — want to provide an option for people who want their furry family member to have a safe, comfortable place to be while their owners are busy. The daycare, Woida said, can provide daycare, overnight stay, or even extended stays — which they realize can be especially helpful during holidays.

Woida, an owner of four dachshunds, said for him the inspiration comes from knowing what it’s like to find people to stay at the house when he’s gone so his pups aren’t being kenneled for along time.

Woida added that there will always be someone in the building. The plan for the future is to create a small apartment so someone can sleep there during the nights and still be present with the pups.

Also in the future are plans to hire someone for grooming — they’ve already got the equipment — as well as hire someone to help with obedience classes.

Merlin Thompson, the mayor of Dakota, said it’s a good thing for the city.

During the last three years as the building stayed vacant, Merlin said there were lots of ideas that were thrown around on how to use the space including an idea to turn it into a horse arena for shows, or maybe a senior center.

But it all came down to investment.

“It’s quite an investment and you don’t know if it’s going to take off or not,” Thompson said. “We had a lot of different people pursuing it but it’s an awfully big building which restricted it.”

Thompson said he thinks the doggie daycare is an idea that has potential to expand and make use of a such a big building. And it helps that Dakota is between Winona and La Crosse, giving it a chance to pull business from both.

“It’s a good thing that they can use it,” he said. “Hopefully it will take off.”

Woida said there certainly excited to go for it and try to make it successful.

“For the animal lovers that want to know someone is there, we’re here,” Woida said.

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