By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
Dogs used to go there when they were lost or homeless. Now they’ll go for a vacation or playdate.
A Bellingham couple has transformed the former Whatcom Humane Society building at 3710 Williamson Way into a kennel-free boarding and dog daycare facility.
Nick and Haley Apollo started The Puget Hound in 2014, as a completely mobile business.
They offer dog walking, trail hiking and pet sitting. The new location allows the company to expand its services to include dog daycare and overnight boarding.
Originally, the plan was to get a building a year after launching the business.
“We had a plan to essentially convert it into a physical location,” Nick Apollo said. “But it took a lot longer than we anticipated.”
At almost every turn, they encountered problems with either the city or the county.
“We know more about zoning and building restrictions than anybody should ever want to,” Haley Apollo said.
Inside city limits, overnight dog boarding isn’t allowed at all.
So they searched in the county, which has a different set of restrictions.
“After two and a half years of getting shut down with every property, we came across the old humane society building,” Nick Apollo said.
The location is ideal.
It’s just outside city limits, just a few minutes from downtown.
Importantly, it’s just around the corner from the airport, which means travelers will have an easy time dropping off and picking up their pets.
“We are so lucky to be where we are,” Haley Apollo said.
“This kind of offers the best of both worlds,” Nick Apollo said. “Because it’s technically county, so we can offer overnight boarding, but we can also offer daycare within five minutes of downtown.”
Then came the next challenge — fixing up the building.
“It’s been completely abandoned for about four, five years,” Nick Apollo said. “It was completely overgrown, there were blackberries, there’s a tree that fell through the roof.”
Now it’s done, and, they hope, a doggy paradise. It opened earlier this month.
Except for some private suites, there aren’t any kennels.
The dogs are able to play together, with 24-hour staff supervision, all day.
They also built a dog adventure park in the yard with an agility course and playground equipment.
The Puget Hound’s existing customers had been asking for this kind of active, kennel-free boarding.
“People want their dogs to have as much human interaction as possible while they’re away,” Haley Apollo said. “They want them to have a substitute human, as opposed to just a place to deposit their dog.”
She has spent her entire career working with animals, from veterinary nursing, wildlife rehab, to a number of different dog daycare and boarding facilities.
“It’s always been animals, from the start,” she said.
They were looking for job opportunities down in Seattle when they decided they wanted to go into business for themselves, and opened The Puget Hound.
Originally, their service was just picking up customers’ dogs while they were at work and taking them to the dog park.
Now they and their four employees offer trail hikes, walking and in-home pet sitting.
More and more, people aren’t happy just leaving their dogs at home during the work day, Haley Apollo said.
“It used to be kind of a novel idea,” she said. “People are starting to see the benefits of it.”
Not only is it good for the dogs to play and socialize during the day, it can be convenient for the owners — who don’t have to worry about taking the dog for a walk as soon as they get home from work.
Haley Apollo said she loves working at a business where she can work with both dogs and their owners.
“We’re also really happy working a service that keeps people happy, too,” she said.
Seeing the same dogs and customers every day, she’s able to build close relationship with them.
“They’re like friends,” she said. “And their pets become family.”