Pet sitter provides summer-camp experience for dogs

Pet sitter provides summer-camp experience for dogs

This month, when Indianapolis resident Kim Donahue heads to Europe for nearly two weeks, her dachshund Fiona will head to Miss Vivian’s Bed N’ Biscuit.

Whenever Donahue leaves her Butler-Tarkington home, she entrusts her dog to Lisa Madrid and Margaret Wheeler, co-owners of the pet sitting business named after the late Miss Vivian, a Chihuahua/terrier mix who willingly shared her home with guests.

“What makes them so unique is it’s crateless, the dogs just wander around the home,” Donahue says of the Bed N’ Biscuit, located at Madrid’s home on a two-acre plot in rural Sheridan, Ind. At the facility, dogs roam free, chasing balls or each other in the fenced yard, jumping on furniture and even sleeping in the beds. “It’s not like boarding them in a kennel: They’re at home.”

2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner: Miss Vivian’s Bed N’ Biscuit

Owners Lisa Madrid and Margaret Wheeler of Sheridan earned the Super Service Award in 2011 and 2012.

Donahue began using the dog care service about 17 years ago, when Wheeler and Madrid started out as part-time dog sitters in Broad Ripple to supplement their income as social workers. After being downsized, they transitioned to pet sitting full time. When a client who was headed overseas for three months asked them to board his dog in their home as an alternative to a kennel, they saw an opportunity.

“We thought we were onto something good, because we really saw the dogs and the parents were so much happier,” Madrid says. “We were just lucky: We had the right combination of skills and the love of dogs.”

In 2001, Madrid moved out of the city and into the country, where there are no neighbors to bother with barking dogs and the dogs could have an experience like summer camp while their parents were away. “It’s wonderful for dogs: They have a big space and don’t have to worry about making too much noise,” she says. Because of the distance, Miss Vivian’s offers transportation for the dogs to the facility in northern Hamilton County for a $35 fee, on top of 
the $38-per-day boarding fee.

For Meridian Kessler member Leah Turner, Miss Vivian’s offered the home-away-from-home feel she wanted for her golden retriever’s overnight stay. “I love the doggie doors and the wide open spaces for the dogs to play,” she says.

Clients also feel comfortable leaving their pups because Madrid lives in the home with the rotating cast of dogs and three rescued cats. Wheeler and a part-time staffer are on hand throughout the day and weekend to interact with up to a dozen visiting or foster dogs at once. They also foster animals from the Humane Society for Hamilton County when the pooches or felines need a break from the kennel or require rehabilitation.

“I don’t think I could ever go back to working in a corporate world,” Madrid says. “This is what I want to do.”

The Super Service Award recognizes contractors and health care providers that have main- tained a stellar service rating on Angie’s List throughout the past year. Be sure to always check the List before hiring, however, as ratings can and do change.

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