I t’s a truly cavernous warehouse space, but it’s not just wares that are housed here. Indeed, 75 Hamilton Street is full of life: wags, barks, nips, growls and tugs. This is the home of A Dog’s Life, an impressive canine wonderland for pooches in need of a little TLC in the form of doggie daycare.
A Dog’s Life celebrated its first anniversary this spring. Conceived and born in the middle of a slow economic recovery, owner (and sincere dog enthusiast) Amy Campagna realized the risk but pursued her dream in spite of the odds. “I know a lot of people consider it a luxury,” she acknowledges while keeping a watchful eye on all that goes on—every paw-step and chewtoy-squeak and puppy tumble, it seems. “But those who come, whose dogs spend days and afternoons and mornings here, know it’s a necessity.”
Before Campagna came along, New Haven was a poochcare desert. Starting out as a dog walker and working at the New Haven animal shelter for a few years, Campagna became well-versed in dog training and behavior. Then, she adopted her own little one, a black mutt named Pepper, who came with a variety of issues: fear of humans, abandonment and separation anxiety. So Campagna researched, read, leaned on other trainers and eventually got through to Pepper—who’s now a lovely and well-behaved delight. Once she succeeded with Pepper, she decided she could do it with other dogs.
As it turns out, quite a few people need a little help with their pets. It can be worrisome to leave a pup cooped up in an apartment all day while at work—and not just for the humans. Canines, Campagna notes, can experience any number of issues: separation anxiety, nervous tics, trouble with leashes. “We have dogs that are shy, who have anxiety, who might act out on those fears by destroying the house when their owner’s gone. They come here and burn that energy instead, and once their owners come to pick them up, they’re relaxed and happy. That peace of mind is worth a lot.”
The warehouse doggie dream palace is the real draw here: it’s thousands of square feet, an enormous, romp-about play area (with a separate, fenced off space for the smaller pooches). That play area is chock full of brightly colored, well-chewed (but seemingly indestructible) toys, tunnels and other obstacle course-like things. The day I visited, the big dogs seemed happy with the slow group lope in circles and general spirit of conviviality. The small dog area was a bit like the weiner dog races at the state fair—little ones zooming back and forth, tiny paws flying to and fro, tongues hanging out and energy clearly being spent. Humans were welcome to mill about in those areas, or watch from the viewing area.
As for what’s on offer, there are a number of services to choose from including day and half day passes to the funhouse (it truly is), as well as overnight and longer-term stay options for the traveling owner. To start, Campagna or one of her team members will sit down with you for a half-hour consultation to talk through their mission, their options, and figure out if it’s the right spot for you and your pet. An unlimited monthly pass runs $425—rates vary from there. A full day includes a 90-minute nap with cookies and treats. Each pooch has a crate to call his/her own where they can feel safe and secure,clean bedding supplied each day. Campagna and her crew see anywhere from 15-20 dogs per day for different lengths of time, with a total of about 70 clients so far. That brings the business to about one-half capacity. “We’re growing slowly, which is how we like it. We want and love to get to know the dogs, and their people, personally.”
A Dog’s Life also features a full-on pet supply shop at the front of the house, where Campagna stocks what she considers the greatest in biodegradable, sustainable, largely indestructible, and doggie-approved. She’s got chewtoys made from recycled cowmilkers (they’re cleaned, but retain that delicious cow smell dogs go nuts for), tough enough to fend off even very sharp teeth. She’s also got brands like Tough Toys, Orbee and Everlasting Treats on offer, along with popular biodegradable poop bags. Most of her products aren’t available in the chains, but if she decides something carried at a PetSmart or Pet Supplies Plus is good enough for A Dog’s Life, she says she’ll sell it at the same price or lower. The shop’s specialty is the long-lasting stuff that her four-legged clients have tried and loved. “We’ve tested a ton of toys,” she says, and she’s always on the lookout for more, regularly traveling to pet trade shows to source the best products for her appreciative clients.
The wagging tails give them away.
A Dog’s Life
75 Hamilton Street New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat 8-5pm, Sun closed
(203) 624-0477 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Written and photographed by Uma Ramiah.