The Suburbanite
  • Doggie Daycare improves lives of those with developmental disabilities

  • Hattie Larlham seeks to enhance the lives of those with disabilities through programs like Hattie’s Doggie Daycare, a dog-sitting, boarding and grooming facility in Green.

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  • Hattie’s Doggie Daycare & Boarding employee Jody has a special knack for taking care of animals.
    Some people, she says, even call her a “dog whisperer.”
    Jody is part of a program run by Hattie Larlham, the nonprofit organization serving individuals with developmental disabilities in five counties. Hattie Larlham seeks to enhance the lives of those with disabilities through programs like Hattie’s Doggie Daycare, a dog-sitting, boarding and grooming facility in Green.
    For Jody, the benefits to working with dogs are bountiful. She gets tangible work experience, the dogs get extra attention and Jody gets to form meaningful relationships with furry friends.
    “I like how the dogs get along with me and I think that, for me, it’s like dogs seem to know when you’re in a bad mood and they try real hard,” Jody said. “They try to get you out of a mood by doing little, silly things that make you laugh.”
    When Jody had surgery on her foot, Holden, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever who has been taking daycations at the facility since he was a puppy, came and sat right next to her to comfort her.
    “I love my family, but I think I’m more relaxed and tuned-in to dogs,” Jody said.
    Regional director for Hattie’s Doggie Daycare, Laura Walker, said that the Greensburg Road location is one of three in Northeast Ohio, staffing about 36 people with disabilities.
    “Our goal is to get them a job that provides meaningful employment and a good wage so that they can then become more successful,” Walker said. “The goal for them is to get competitive employment, just like you and I.”
    The benefits of this program extend to the animals as well, according to Walker. Dog daycare and boarding provides advantages to dogs that typical, busy people may not always be able to offer a canine companion. Walker said pet socialization and exercise are essential, and the dogs that spend their days at Hattie’s almost always leave tuckered out. With 14 or 15 people on staff at all times, Walker said all dogs at the facility receive extra individualized attention.
    “Your pet coming to us gets more attention than a normal doggie daycare would provide,” Walker said. “The love that you’re seeing from the animals here is good for the people here, too. It really is a benefit of our program.”
    According to Walker, Hattie Larlham offers 18 vocational programs for people with disabilities, including doggie daycare, housekeeping, equipment assembly for Little Tikes and Hattie’s Café & Gifts, a chain of coffee and gift shops in Akron, Hudson and Cleveland.
    Matt Levar, webmaster and designer at Hattie Larlham, said the organization tries to find vocational programs that speak to each individual’s goals and interests.
    Page 2 of 2 - “At its core, a lot of the programs are very similar,” Levar said. “It’s all about providing a setting and an opportunity for a person with developmental disabilities to succeed. It’s really fantastic that there are so many options for people who might be seeking employment like this. They can find something that they’re keen on doing.”
    The program also encourages independence, according to Levar.
    “It’s the sort of thing where people with disabilities can earn a paycheck, and then they go out into the community and it’s a step towards independence,” he said.
    The doggie daycare program, according to Walker, provides competitive wages for people in the community to bring their pets. A whole-day visit costs $20 per day, while a half-day (less than four consecutive hours) costs $15 per dog. Boarding rates start at $32 per night per pet. Walker said that for families with multiple pets, it’s the daycare’s policy to keep sibling dogs together, to reduce anxiety and help them to feel at home.
    “The owners believe that they are their children, so we try to treat them like children – like they are family members,” Walker said. “We try to make them as comfortable as possible.”
    While dogs at Hattie’s have their own individual suites to retreat to, they are free to come and go and interact with other dogs. Two outdoor patios, complete with artificial grass, and other natural outdoor space, allow for plenty of indoor and outdoor recreation. According to Walker, all of the daycare’s employees are trained extensively on pet behavior and understand how to react if a dog becomes aggressive or stressed out.
    Hattie Larlham also operates doggie daycare facilities in Twinsburg and Cleveland, with each of them only a few miles from major airports. According to Levar, this takes some of the edge off people traveling without their pets, since the Green location is about two miles from Akron-Canton Regional Airport. Opening in 2007, that location was the first of the three. Originally, the Green facility was located on Arlington Road, but has since moved to a new facility nearer to the airport.
    Doggie daycare employee Carrie has been working with dogs at the facility for two years. If there’s one thing she and her co-workers agree on, it’s the love of the job.
    “It’s really fun to come in here and get to know the animals,” Carrie said. “It’s like we’re a big happy family in here. We look out for each other and take care of each other.”
    For more information about Hattie’s Doggie Daycare & Boarding, call 330-899-8565 or visit their website at www.hattielarlham.org.

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