Always share your squeaky hamburger toy. Try not to end up in the time-out crate. Don't ever bite the alpha dog. These are just a few tips to ensure a happy stay at dog-ma Inc., Washington, DC's first day-care center for dogs.
Please don't bark your disapproval. Time-starved professionals are struggling to juggle responsibilities. They have to deal with child care, with elder care — and with pet care. "Guilt is what drove me to open this business," says Rebecca Bisgyer, 37, founder and owner of dog-ma, who gave up her position with Ruesch International Inc., a financial-services company, after she concluded that the job of managing people was getting in the way of caring for her dogs. "I'd rush home after a 12-hour day, and my dogs would be nuts."
Bisgyer has created a customer-service model with real bite. Dog-ma opened its doors last September, and its clients now include the "best friends" of doctors, lawyers, congressional staffers, and World Bank officials. The 7,000-square-foot facility, located less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court, is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., offering what Bisgyer calls "cageless" service: "Picture a pajama party for dogs."
And not just for any dogs. Dog-ma screens all of its canine customers for temperament, suitability, health, and neutering. There's even a bathing service. No wonder Bisgyer's charges are panting with satisfaction. Many of them, Bisgyer says, go home exhausted after a hard day of play: "Sometimes their owners have to wake them up for dinner."
Melanie Goldman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. Visit dog-ma Inc. on the Web (www.dog-ma.com).
A version of this article appeared in the JulyAugust 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.