Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 28, 2003

Top Dog plans to make home for 'unadoptable' dogs

By Julie Yurek

Older, unadoptable dogs will soon find a home at the Top Dog Foundation in New Germany.

Top Dog is located east of New Germany north of Highway 7 on Vega Ave.

The foundation is an extension of Top Dog Country Club ­ a "Club Med for dogs," said owner Jean Beuning.

The mission of the foundation is "to provide a loving and permanent home for dogs that are deemed 'unadoptable' because of age and health and would otherwise be unnecessarily euthanized," Beuning said.

"Everyone wants puppies or the two-year-olds. No one wants the 10-year-old dog with health issues," she said.

Beuning's vision for the foundation is "that no dog will be homeless, hungry, cold, or be unnecessarily euthanized simply for reasons of age and treatable health issues," she said.

The foundation will be a place where every dog will be loved and cared for until they die of natural causes or severe and untreatable health, she said.

"There will be lots of play and human contact every day," she said.

Beuning is in the planning stages of building a facility to house nearly 100 dogs. She hopes to have the facility up and running in three to five years, she said.

Staff will include an executive director, general manager, two supervisors, and 10 employees, she said.

The facility will be 10,000 square feet and have private suites for the dogs, an in-house veterinary clinic and convalescent care, a hydrotherapy facility for arthritic and post-surgical care, 20,000 square feet outdoor play yards and and indoor play area. Any veterinary functions will be in support of the permanent residents, she said.

The foundation will be mainly supported by private donations, and possibly some corporate sponsorship, Beuning said.

Ten percent of Top Dog Country Club profits go to the foundation, she said.

A vacation for dogs

Top Dog Country Club opened two and a half years ago, and has 3,000 clients, Beuning said.

Top Dog is where dogs receive human interaction for an average of five hours a day and supervised group play time with other dogs, she said.

The facility is the result of 10 years of planning, Beuning said.

"It's very rewarding," she said. "It's the best thing I've done."

She is a retired vice president of Marriott Hotels.

"I maintain the same professionalism, level of detail, and quality here that I did at Marriott," she said. "Top Dog is very unique."

"Many of our customers had given up traveling because of bad kennel experiences, until they found Top Dog," Beuning said.

The majority of owners are either on vacation or corporate travel, she said.

Beuning herself had a bad boarding kennel experience about 10 years ago, she said.

"I decided someday that I would build a place where dogs love to visit and their owners feel great about leaving them," she said.

The country club offers 36 acres of wooded property, the building is 5,000 square feet, there is 18,000 square feet of outdoor play yards covered in Astroturf, an indoor play room, a nature trail, and an almost completed in-ground pool, Beuning said.

There are no kennels at Top Dog. Instead, there are large suites and family suites with orthopedic beds, windows, plants, classical music piped in throughout the building 24 hours a day, in-floor heating, air conditioning, and air purification.

Top Dog has a staff of 14, and its workday begins at 5:45 a.m.

Beuning describes a typical day for guests at Top Dog:

Guests wake up at 6 a.m. for bathroom break and then breakfast at 7 a.m., followed by any medication a dog requires, cleaning, arrival and departures and setting up the play yards.

At 9 a.m. guests are in the play yards, which have umbrellas for shade, toys, and kiddie pools for swimming.

Around 3 p.m. guests are brought in for "yappy hour," which includes a homemade biscuit and a drink of water. After that, it's nap time.

"You could hear a pin drop, it can get so quiet at nap time sometimes because they're tired from playing," Beuning said.

Suppertime is at 6 p.m., and from 7 to 9 p.m. is baths, full body massages, brushing, laundry, bathroom breaks, and story time. Lights out is at 9:30, and the security system is engaged. The security system is linked to the Beunings' home.

Top Dog has been featured on the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet, Beuning said.

The average length of stay is eight to nine days, and the building is at 95 percent occupancy all the time, she said.

"Doggy day care" is also available, she said.

Beuning's other interest, photography, is intertwined with Top Dog. Photos of guests line the foyer, a variety of poses, from sleeping to playing to posing with toys to birthday parties.

Beuning also offers dog photography. Her backyard is one landscape that she uses, she said.

For more information about Top Dog Country Club, visit its web site at www.topdogcountryclub.com.

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