Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Kennel has been christened.

Actually, given the fact we invited people to bring their dogs to the Grand Opening, it was chritened quite a few times yesterday. Guess we really need those plastic fire hydrants that Sarah just ordered for us...

The Grand Opening went very well. We didn't exactly get a lot of sleep leading up to it, and not everything that we wanted done got done. Oh well. Like we never got our retail items displayed. We haven't gotten stands or pegboard on the office walls or anything. We were thinking about just laying things on tables and manually ringing them up since the database hadn't been written yet to handle retail sales... Ah, but we never got to it, and frankly we didn't really have time to be doing sales anyways. Oh, and we quickly ruled the house as off limits to any visitors since, well, it was a disaster area.

Afterall, it wasn't like we didn't have other important things to be doing... like printing out our brochures that somehow we had forgotten to create until the night before. Oh, and in the morning when I went to call Ginger to ask where something was -- we all call each other regularly both on the ranch and off -- but I got a lovely "this call has been redirected because of non-payment on the account." BUGGER. I had paid them, only it seems I paid them the January bill, not February. What disasterously concidental timing that was! So I had to get on the phone with Cingular to get that straightened out. Yeah, important things like making sure we can receive phone calls on the day of our grand opening.

The Chamber had advertised a ribbon cutting at 11:00 so we had quite a crowd between 11 through to about 12:30 or so. Both potential customers as well as other Chamber members.

Not as many dogs showed up as we thought, so several people got to take their dog out to the play yard and play with them off leash. Everyone was impressed with the play yard. (yea us!)

1:30 was pretty much our first lull. Just us and a few friends who were sticking around to chat, when David exclaimed... "Look whos coming up the drive!" It was my parents! They'd gotten up early and driven 8 hours from Albuquerque to come to the grand opening - as a surprise. I couldn't believe it. I was stressed out about getting ready for the event, nervous about socializing with a bunch of folks I don't know and whom I really wanted to impress, and tired... I promptly burst into tears.

Mom said someone asked if she really shouldn't have let us know they were coming, and she said "No - If we told her she'd only stress about having guests." Ha! She's my mom, and she knows me well. As it was at least the guest room did have linens on the bed, and they had no choice but to look past all the clutter that was the house (like the microwave oven that we have to walk around to get in and out the front door. Someday soon we'll carry that out to the Kennel.) So, it was the best of all worlds - It meant a great deal to me that they took the time to come up, and I didn't have to worry about their visit in the least! Thanks Mom and Dad - I love you!

Most the rest of the afternoon was a slow constant trickle of people - new customers and friends mostly. People who didn't have a clue as to what Doggie Daycare is. Even had the owner of a local daycare -- who has been in business for an astonishing 11 years! She really was on the cutting edge of this industry. She was coming to see our place. She doesn't do overnight boarding, and also has a waiting list of people looking for daycare, so she wanted to see if we would be a place she could refer people to. I'm not sure what the answer to that is, but she was very nice. Turns out she's high up with the Longmont Humane Society (director?) as well, so she had a lot of great suggestions for us about marketing, etc. David volunteered with LHS several years ago, and though hadn't worked with her directly they had many of the same contacts.

By the time 4:00 rolled around we were exhausted and thrilled. We packed our last set of friends off, cleaned up the food, and informed Mom and Dad that we would be sleeping for an hour before doing anything else. We didn't get to spend a lot of time with them, but we went out for a leisurely dinner and brunch - both of which seemed like a luxury to us. We then sent them on their way back to NM.

So.... now what?

Seriously, this has been nearly 3 years in coming: "Just get the kennel open" has been a mantra. But somehow I'm confident the 'now what' part will work itself out in the next few weeks.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Pooped Pups!

In preparing materials for our customers, we created a "What to expect on your first day of Daycare" sheet, compiled from a lot of examples and suggestions on the internet. Number one is always that the new dog, not used to playing hard all day, will likely be tired and sore.

Well, I'll say! Its one thing to read and understand that, it's another to observe it in action. One evening this week I went into the kennel to talk to Dave. We were in there nearly 20 minutes before I remembered that Ruby and DJango were boarding with us that week. They both were out like a light. Dave had forgotten that they needed to go out again before bed time, so we went over to let them out.

"You want me to do WHAT?" they quite plainly said. These two have been in day care 5 days a week for DJango his whole life and Ruby several years. But they's been getting lazy at our place with no other dogs to play with. Now that we'd had some customers and our dogs out there, things are livening up a bit. Little DJango totally had sleepy-eyes and didn't want to get up for anything. But he did, stretching, stumbling and yawning all the way to the door. Eventually he woke up enough to pee, but it took awhile while Dave, Ruby and I all waited to go back inside!

Cisco too started going out for play times this week. We know Cisco is very easily over stimulated. While he's never gotten into trouble at a dog park, he does regularly display the more aggressive behaviors particularly when there is a large group of dogs. So we're being cautious about putting him into the customer mix. Anyways, he's absolutely loving his play dates, but even so, Dave's limited him to only an hour at a time. And now HE can barely get off of his pillow at the end of the day when I come home.

Looks like its working!


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The day it began

Friday, February 17th, 2006.

Ok, technically we opened for "daycare-lite" on the 16th, and truely technically we've had 2 dogs with us every day for about the past month. But, Friday the 17th was the first time we had paying customer's dogs co-mingling. And that is the day the good story happened, so we'll call that the day it all began.

Friday our three dogs showed up as expected. Ruby and DJango are old pros by now and run right into the kennel. Every day that their owner drops them off she gets a little tour of everything that has changed since the day before. And there still are significant changes every day!

Shadow is our new guest. She came for the first time on Thursday. Boarder collie mix, she is a nervous wreck. She wimpers and cries in her cage if she gets a hint of dogs or people moving around. Runs like a maniac and cries when she is out in the play area and Ruby and DJango in their cages. Most concerning is that Shadow and Ruby really get into it when either approaches the other across a gate. So Thursday we didn't attempt to introduce them.

Friday, though, Ginger had spoken to Shadow's owner and got more background on her. Like she'd been 'excused' from obedience class for inappropriate behavior around the other dogs. Yeah - that is what we need! We were about to reject her, but resolved to try again a second day. All morning was more of the same, she was driving us crazy. Finally we decided to introduce her to Ruby alone - Ruby on leash but not Shadow since her owner says she gets more aggressive on leash. It went well all things considered. Shadow is entirely over exhuberant, so Ruby had to give her a serious correction (read: some fluff was flying) but after that first bit they agreed to steer clear of each other.

So we tossed Ruby outside and brought DJango, the 3 month old pup, in. DJango and Shadow took to each other right away. Puppy exhuberance meet boarder collie exhuberance. They wrestled, chased, mounted each other (we started correcting for that pretty quickly). They were continuing to get more and more wound up, though, so we put Shadow out and let Ruby back in. This was all in the midst of our super freeze of a week - it never got above 15 or so for several days - so we couldn't leave the dogs out for too long at a time.

Finally we put DJango in his kennel and brought Shadow back in and all seemed well. Ginger, meanwhile, took off to see the doctor about a new pain in her heel that pretty much has grounded her to sitting this week.

David and I resumed cleaning of the section of floor that still had to be sealed, and the dogs continued to ignore each other. But - Shadow finally calmed down. Things were down right boring!

Dave wasn't sure how to check out Shadow's owner, so about 4:30 he and I put the dogs away and went to go type in the day's "Report Card" comments to the database, and then generate the invoices so that they would be ready while I went down to feed the horses.

Then the phone rang. "Hi" a teenaged voice said to me. "I'm from the Berthoud Flower Pot and I have some deliveries for you." Wow! How exciting! "But I'm stuck in your driveway." UG, how utterly not exciting.

We hadn't received all that much snow that week - 6 inches maybe. But the driveway varied between totally swept clean to covered with drifts 14 inches deep. The girl had hit one of those and slid off the side. I went down to receive our deliveries, but upon getting there it was clear she wasn't going to be able to get herself back down the driveway either. So we started thinking about towing her out with the truck. Which is when she locked her keys in the car with it running.

(The flowers, by the way, are very nice and were sent by a couple of Chamber members congratulating us on opening. We're really getting into this Chamber of Commerce - great group of people!)

I took her back to the office and explained to Dave the situation. The girl called her mother to find her spare key somewhere in her desk and come get her. It was about here that we learned that her mom is the sister of our (friendly) neighbor who built our house! The girl said she'd been stuck in the driveway many a time.

So Dave suited up and seemed to think he knew a way to deal with the car. I stayed in the office, and sure enough customer #1 came in shortly. She said they were still in the drive and hadn't gotten the car out yet. At least she'd slid to the side so it was possible to drive by her. A little while later, customer #2 came. She seemed a little put out - she said she had had to wait until the drive way cleared up enough for her to get through. It wasn't until I talked to David later that I realized they had 5 cars backed up at once! The stuck one, the truck, the girl's mother with the spare key, our customer #1 who was trying to leave - and THIS was when customer #2 had arrived. LOL.

The girl's mother called me back later to say how much she appreciated Dave's help with getting the car out, but things were so crazy she hadn't stopped at the time to thank him! Guess that was a wise decision.

By this time it was 5:30, nearly dark and, of course, bitterly, bitterly cold. We went down and fed the horses together, then retreated into the house to relate the whole story to Ginger who'd just returned. Whew - we were glad the day was over.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Kennel Raising

In case you didn't catch it in the last post, I took last week off of job #1 to work job #2. Since, afterall, we were going to be open for business on Monday.

Oh well, turns out there was plenty for me to do even though we weren't fully open until.... TODAY! *does the party dance*

Here're the photos as promised:

The Contractor starts clearing out

So my camera ledge went away!

First co-mingle group. 2 daycare dogs, our 2 dogs, and the contractor's dog. Exciting stuff!

Our new sign. Almost - this is a banner, the real sign will be a bit bigger. And metal.

The welcome pen, and David supervising daycare. The first comingling of paying client's dogs.

Office desk. Got 2 desks from my company 2 years ago for free. We modified both to put the return on the smaller desk, and shortened the return as well. Fits pretty good now!

Cisco - 3. Toys - 0. In all of about 15 minutes. Thus, the toys were put away when Cisco wasn't being supervised.

For more pictures, see HTDR's site


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Did we open?

Um, No, and Yes. It's kind of hard to say. It's been a long 10 days since our last post. Here's much of the story. Pictures will have to come later.

My last post said we'd hoped to open February 13th provided the flooring could go in. Well, the flooring installers showed up on schedule Wednesday, found that the concrete joint sealer we'd put down Tuesday was still tacky, so they declared they couldn't put down the floor. So opening Monday went right out the window. We changed our opening date to the 16th.

Thursday the inspector from the state licensing group (Dept of Ag) came by. We'd tried to call her and warn her that many things weren't in place - flooring, bathroom, 2/3 of the kennels, etc. She didn't return our call, but aparently wasn't
phased by those items either. She said she'd be back next week to bring us our license... and volunteered that if we wanted to take a few dogs in before then, that would be fine! Cool, because David took a reservation to board 3 dogs for 5 days starting on the 15th. We changed our opening date to the 15th. (they later canceled)

The flooring people managed to squeeze us in on Friday. The plumber was here that day too so we got the bathroom in as well. Then we totally busted our butts to get the rest of the kennels in over the weekend. We'd built the two walls required for
the kennels to back up to: Essentially 12 pieces of 4x6 plywood glued together into two 12'2" x 6' walls. We glued FRP panels to the outsides, and edged it all. Suckers were incredibly heavy -- but they are very thin and, being solid wood, allowed us the freedom to figure out what kennel configuration we wanted after the fact. Looooong story short, the kennels were in Monday evening.

Monday morning the inspector was out for our final inspection, but we'd noticed late on Sunday that the boiler pilot was out. We put in a call and the plumber was due out first thing to take a look at it. Well, we still didn't have any heat or hot water by the time the inspector came, so there wasn't much for him to do. And he got a little pissy about it too. The guys wondered if the regulators on the propane tank wouldn't support both the house and the kennel at the same time - it's been unusually warm until this week. Finally they figured out that there just wasn't enough air flow for the boiler, another vent needed to be installed. Meanwhile we had to leave the garage door cracked 6 inches over night. That afternoon the general contractor guy was finishing up and started moving his gear out. So by the time we finished the kennels about 7 pm we decided to take a turn around the place to remove trash and stuff. What a difference that made! Good thing, too, because we'd gotten a call from the local paper who wanted to do a New Business Spotlight on us - and wanted to come out Monday to take pictures! I put them off until Tuesday, but even that was pushing things. (The story came out great! Will scan and post here soon.)

Tuesday the inspector came back and we got our CO! Hooray. The bathroom toilet still leaks, after the plumber has come back twice for it. And some other tweaky stuff like some more external sheet metal that needs to go up. Dave is building the last two fence gates that we need - and it's just dragging out unbelievably. We proably could have had them done yesterday, but the staple gun kept getting clogged. Today we just went out and fixed one of our big chain link panels across the gate opening so at least we finally have a contiguous fence! Hooray

Tuesday we sent out emails to all our potential dog customers that we'd decided to open fully next Monday the 21st. But in order to entice some people to come out sooner and get their paperwork in and so we could start slowly, we decided to offer doggie daycare lite on Thursday and Friday. Meaning, the dogs wont be playing all day, and might not comingle much, but they can come out and see what the place is like. And we said we'd only charge 50% of our normal price. 15 minutes after that went out we had a reservation for both days. We already have our 2 day care doggies who have been coming to us most of the month and staying in our basement, so we knew we'd have at least a small crew.

Tuesday and Wed continued to be clean up days. Did we mention we still had that huge cement pile out side? Somehow we thought that when the contractor agreed to take it away, we didn't understand that meant he'd drive it away after we loaded it in the dump truck. CRUD, CRUD, and double CRUD. We took an hour or so Tuesday night and filled the truck once. With maybe half of the pile. I suspect we may have more than one load to go, and we're all battling sore backs as it is. And the weather - storm came in Tuesday so it's been 20 degrees and blowing snow since then. This morning we had a 2 foot drift right in front of the kennel door.

So, did we open? It's still hard to say. Just this morning we removed the last of the construction stuff from the doggie play area in the kennel (that pile of metal siding really COULD NOT STAY). Once we put up the chain link panels to separate the play area from the kitchen / office areas (this afternoon?) then we can officially say our play areas are up and functional. We have 3 paying daycare customers out in the kennel now - though they aren't immediately taking to each other so today will probably continue to be segregated play times. The Licensing inspector is due back tomorrow, and by then I think we'll actually be in pretty good shape. Maybe we'll even have some time on Sunday to do something other than kennel stuff.... before the real adventure starts Monday. Cross those fingers!


Monday, February 06, 2006

It's all about the timing

Construction projects require the coordination of many different tasks and contractors. That's what you hire a general contractor for. But when you discover that something you thought was covered in the contract wasn't? Then you've got to hop to it to make your own arrangements and get that scheduled in where it makes sense.

We realized / discovered that installing flooring was not part of what the contractor said he'd do. So we scrambled and found some options at Lows. But it was coming down to the end and we needed flooring in, like, yesterday, while Lows was saying it would be 2-3 weeks!

We had the installation people come out because they have to see the space before they can start talking about scheduling. They agreed to squeeze us in quick because we're only doing the office/bathroom and kitchen.

But, they would not install 2 of the 3 product options we thought we had... so we were down to one option. They, however, can't set a date until they confirm there is product available. Ginger went back and verified with Lows that they had the product in stock. We should have been set! Not so fast, butster.

Thursday we made a special trip to Lows to pay for the contract - because suddenly we had to have payment before we could discuss scheduling. So we did. The installers were to call us Friday to set the date.

We got the call - but it was from Lows saying that the product was NOT in stock and it would be a few weeks to order it in. Furthermore, they'd told the installers this so they still didn't have us scheduled. To Ginger's credit, she pitched a fit. She said they had visually verified it was in stock (turns out it was a few feet short) and that it could be done right away. She threatened to cancel the order. The person asked if she could call Ginger back. She did so - and she said they agreed to drive down and pick up the new stock on Monday. However, by this time Friday evening the installers had closed...

So it wasn't until Monday morning that we managed to get through to the installers. Fingers crossed -- they still should be able to install the floors on Wednesday. Which will allow for the kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures to go in. We fudged and went ahead and put the cabinets in before the flooring because they were ready to go last week.

This past weekend we were to be installing kennels, but work on getting the concrete floor cleaned and sealed last week lagged such that Dave and I still put most of a day in on Saturday finishing up the cleaning - scraping and mopping wallboard mud out of the concrete. Since we aren't going to put a surface on the concrete immediately, this was a task of some importance. We got the remainder of the floor scraped and scrubbed and then sealed all but the one section where all the stuff has been piled on Saturday.

Sunday we got to the kennels - but gosh, nothing goes as smoothly as it should. We had some major panic attacks because we probably did not request structural stringers in enough places in the walls to attach the kennels to. Since all of the walls have been covered with FRP (and wallboard), it isn't really an option to open them up and retrofit.

We pushed forward and I think we've concluded that the places we don't have stringers aren't so much of a structural connection, so we may be fine with wallboard mollys.

Then we realized that the stupid noise-dampening ducts that were installed inside the air vents interfere with the gates for the kennels against the walls. On a whim we'd ordered two gates that swing in and out instead of just out. So we can monkey with the kennel placement enough to put two in-swinging gates next to those ducts, but we don't know how at least one will be affected.

Lastly there are two drain vents embedded in the far wall. Each has a clean-out dealey about a foot off of the floor. And you got it, one is SMACK behind where a kennel panel attaches to the wall. The flange of the panel is 2.5" inches wide, the diameter of the cut-out hole is about 3.5", and the hole just peaks out from either side of the flange. This panel we could not move, so we decided to screw it and hope we'd never have to access that clean out. After all of these discoveries, we managed to get about 1/3 of the kennels installed.

The inspection for our kennel license is Thursday. We assume we don't actually have to have everything in, but it would be best if it were. So, this is bound to be a week of a lot of late nights - particularly since we have quite a few social / smoozing engagements this week to contend with as well!


Friday, February 03, 2006


You're hearing it here first... (Consider this a dress rehersal before it goes on the HTDR website)

Happy Tails Dog Ranch Grand Opening celebration is set for

Saturday Feb 25th. 10am to 4 pm!!!

Save the date, we'd love to see any and all who can come by to visit the ranch! See our new facilities and our huge dog yard. We'll have door prizes every hour, and refreshments. Complimentary comments on the fence will earn you bonus points - really nice comments may get you extra entries in the door prize hat.

Directions and Map to our place can be found at:
(Feel free to bring your dogs, but all dogs must remain on leash. Thanks)

We'll be opening for business as early as February 13th - just need to get final licensing details settled. So call now (970-532-4040) to make your reservations for daycare and / or boarding!


Thursday, February 02, 2006


So, have had the hybrid for just over a week now. How is it settling in? Slowly is my answer. We purchased the car so quickly we really didn't get a chance to learn about it. Which is fine - I'm liking it more and more every day, but the first week was ... anxious. (granted, this is typical for me anytime we make a decision that hasn't been agonizingly gone over beforehand.)

You want a hybrid? Rent one for a few days or week to figure out what it is about. Better yet, rent two or more models. We decided on the Civic over the Prius just based on the website pictures of the interior. Crazy? Probably. Fortunately David did also take time to go drive a Prius just before making the commitment on the Civic, and that sealed the deal for us. It is just plain weird. Too weird. Like, you don't have to have the key. Doors are keyless (no surprise), but the ignition is a push button... that works as long as the key is in proximity of the car. AND, when you push the button, the car may take 30 seconds or so before it decides to start. And then most of the console display is actually in the middle of the dash, between the driver and passenger. Yeah - too weird for us.

The immediately apparent weirdness about the Civic Hybrid is the auto-stop feature. Once warmed up, when you come to a stop light (or stop in traffic, or waiting to go through the drive-through) the engine shuts off. This can be disconcerting - I was expecting it so it didn't throw me but never the less. When you release the brake peddle, the engine starts automatically and quickly. Quickly enough unless you are eager to jump right through that green light. But then as people say on the forum, if you want to do jackrabbit starts, don't bother with a hybrid as those driving habits just defeat any mileage advantage of the hybrid anyways.

Never the less, this feature was giving me no small source of frustration. Took me days to figure out why. Finally I realized that I typically don't keep my foot on the pedal. I brake enough to slow the car to near stop, then take my foot off the pedel entirely. If the car is still rolling too much, I just re-press the brake. This method totally defeats the auto-stop. You need to keep your foot on the pedal to keep the engine off. I'm still trying to learn how to brake without causing the engine to restart itself as well as getting the car to continue rolling forward to take up extra space between me and the car in front. I have to say - I managed one of those this morning. Yea!!

The second feature, of course, is the mileage. Never before have I been so aware of how much I rev the car, how much I coast. Cause there are cute little displays telling you when the electric motor is working - assisting the engine, or when it's charging - recapturing spent energy back into the batteries. Charging - i.e. coasting - is good. I know this because the charging lights are green where as the assisting lights are a very carefully neutral white.

I think I also fell into the trap of thinking that once you buy a hybrid I'd never have to buy gas again! Hardly ever at least. Well, that's just not true. You drive 4-500 miles a week, and yeah, that gas gauge does go down. We've filled up once, so at the end of this tank I should be able to manually check my mileage and compare it against that which the car reports. I've heard the car computation has bug in it that is just silly (averages only over 64 miles at a time then restarts?) I'll have to report on that after a few fill ups.

Another tip - checkout the online forums and find out what other people are experiencing. I did so last week and heard about the mileage computation bug. Then on Monday night on our way to the concert I noticed that the auto-stop feature (which was still giving me fits) decided to not kick in at all. I was going insane - was I somehow modulating my brake-use totally to the point of defeating it altogether? Seriously, I was concentrating very hard on just braking normally, even allowing the car to jerk to a stop (gently), and it just would not shut off. This continued through my trip to work Tuesday, so I logged into the forum to see if anyone knew anything about this.

Voila! Someone else with a 06 HCH had not only had this trouble, but had been to the dealer with it several times for diagnostic work, to not much avail. Finally somehow, I have no idea how, they figured out that the keyless entry feature was messing with the auto-stop. Seriously?! I replied? On the way home Tuesday I used my key to get into the car... and auto-stop started working again. THIS is crazy.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Really Riding in Style Now

We've been talking for years, literally, that we would like to get a Hybrid. Not just for the fuel economy but also to support development of alternative technologies. (Yes, we also pay extra every month to have our electricity generated by wind turbines)

But, it wasn't a priority. Changing cars is a real hassle. I still loved my Outback, even if it no longer made sense for our driving habits. Having exchanged mountain roads for huge amounts of highway miles (we looked it up - I put 18,000 miles on last year) it's inappropriateness was becoming more and more obvious. Something I got to ponder frequently at the pump as I filled up once or twice a week.

Also, the Outback had started to leak oil. It's always burned a lot, but never leaked until a few months ago. Finally, something weird was going on in that the temperature gague would peg and afterwards if you opened the hood you saw that coolant had boiled over. When Dave looked into it, and found signs of motor oil in the coolant, we decided it was time to ditch the car real quick like. That was Monday night.

By Thursday Dave had located several hybrids to drive - one new, two used. He drove the new on in the afternoon and I stopped in on my way home from work. Having a new - unclaimed Hybrid on a lot is an anomaly, generally they are ordered and takes 1-3 months to get them in. So, we jumped at the car and bought it Tuesday.

Besides the fact that the 2005 and 2004 models we considered had 11K and 25K miles on them respectively and were within $2000 of the price of the brand new car! And the Tax Credits only apply to new cars. What with $2100 federal tax credit and $2500 Colorado tax credit, that made the new one less than the used. That was a no brainer. Sure, we have to wait for a year to get that money back, but seeing as how we're just now filing 2004 taxes (don't ask) and will immediately file 2005, we're doing fine with tax returns about now.

Believe it or not, one of the selling points of the 2006 was that the radio comes MP3 ready and with Aux input standard. Interesting that the 2006 Civic non-hybrid does not. I guess us hybrid owners are into the gadgetry. Soooooo - Dave got to spend time to remove the stereo and speakers from the Outback that he installed for me for Xmas and put them into his car. So now we're both riding in style!