It’s difficult to tell who enjoys Playful Pastures Pet Services more, the visiting dogs, or owner Terri Lemmon.
With 160 acres of northwest Nebraska countryside to roam, the boarding and doggie-day-care housed on Lemmon’s property southwest of Chadron has just about everything a dog could want; and Lemmon, who is passionate about dogs, takes great joy in providing pooches with a home-away-from-home.
What began as a horse barn was converted to house several large indoor kennels that are climate controlled and have access to an outdoor kennel and play area. Beyond the play area, which Lemmon said quickly became too small as her business gained popularity, are many acres of land for the dogs to enjoy, including a groomed path Lemmon regularly uses to walk the dogs and a pond that provides a summer-time cool down.
“It’s like a dog heaven, really,” Lemmon said.
Lemmon, who has a background in both accounting and agriculture, was aware that the pet care industry was one of the fastest growing in the nation and she identified a need within the area for a boarding and day-care service.
She took it upon herself to create Playful Pastures in March of 2018 to satisfy that need and in December of 2018, quit her job at the Nebraska Extension office to pursue the business full-time.
One appeal of Playful Pastures is its extensive area available to the dogs. When the weather allows it, dogs that don’t need to be on leashes can run and play which Lemmon says she allows at least four times a day. Lemmon also makes sure to accommodate dogs that do need to be on a leash for walks and has a large fenced-in play area the dogs enjoy.
Lemmon says she has tried to make Playful Pastures warm and inviting and treats the visiting dogs the same as she treats her own. The quality of her service is reflected in the relationships she maintains both with the dogs and with her clients. Dogs are just as happy to arrive at the kennel as they are to go home to their owners, she says.
The dogs, many of them regulars, whether they’re boarded for a weekend or everyday guests of the day-care, seem genuinely happy to see each other, Lemmon says, often forming close friendships.
Lemmon works hard to properly socialize new dogs, first introducing them to her own dogs who help her to gauge the new dog’s attitude and character before including them with the rest of the group.
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Lemmon tells the story of a particularly timid dog named Gus who wasn’t initially thrilled with his visit to Playful Pastures. Gus was introduced first to Pepper, a particularly easygoing poodle who Lemmon says likes everyone. Pepper helped Gus relax and within about an hour and a half she says he was ready to go play with the others.
As much as the dogs seem to love Lemmon, her clients may love her more. Lemmon says the owners of her day care dogs have bought her gifts including blankets, an embroidered jacket, and custom made clock.
Lemmon does well to maintain communication with owners, posting updates and photos of the dogs to social media that often feature holiday themes, or dogs in birthday hats when celebrating the occasion. This Christmas, Lemmon even orchestrated a nativity scene photo shoot.
Helping Lemmon at Playful Pastures is Alexys Fernandez, who has been a fill-in employee since September for those times when Lemmon might be off supporting her son Jake who is active in Chadron High School athletics.
Fernandez, a pet lover who Lemmon says is very responsible, was a good fit at Playful Pastures as a fellow dog owner. The job allows her to bring her own dogs and she’s also given space to keep her horses.
Though Playful Pastures has already exceeded Lemmon’s expectations, she maintains a five-year growth plan, paying for improvements as she goes. In the future she’d like to expand her state-certified kennel area into a store and space for a grooming business. She’d also like to maintain it as a venue for speakers or classes to offer nutrition and behavior training. She’s even thought of expanding to allow cats, or adding other buildings and outdoor kennels.
Lemmon has already received reservations for boarding for Christmas 2019 and has had little need to advertise given how quickly Playful Pasture’s popularity has grown. Even with her plan for growth, Lemmon, who says she’s not motivated by money, wants to be sure not to over extend her ability to give the animals the attention and consideration they deserve.
The business has come a long way in the year since Lemmon opened its doors, and although it meant a big change in her day-to-day life, she enjoys it greatly.
“I truly am grateful, and thankful, and blessed,” Lemmon says. “It’s long hours and long days, but you know what? The dogs are just so happy.”