The first time dogs come to Wiggles Pet Resort in Mahopac, Laura Laaman says, they’re shy. After all, this may be a veterinarian’s office or a shelter. But no, this is a new luxury pet resort. The second time they arrive, their tails are wagging.
“That’s why we named it Wiggles,” adds Laaman, who owns the resort with son Craig. The pair bought Stone Meadow Kennel in April and spent three months — and $3 million — on the 2-acre site, including “well over” $1 million in renovations. The approximately 8,000-square-foot interior space includes a kitchen and 100 glass-fronted suites with privacy panels, raised beds, fuzzy blankets and soothing music designed for dogs.
“We actually did a lot of research on music that would be relaxing,” Laaman says. (Classical is a favorite.) DogTV, with images of dogs romping, plays at night.
“Seeing other dogs playing really relaxes them,” Laaman says. “It’s calming and entertaining.”
Speaking of romping, she adds that there’s also an indoor/outdoor pavilion with a heated, evaporative cooling system that dogs can run around in regardless of the weather. Both indoor and outdoor play areas feature approximately 20,000 square feet of K9 Grass turf at a cost of more than $200,000. It’s an antimicrobial forever lawn known for its superior drainage — which is a good thing as there’s lots of splashing about in the dog bone-shaped wading pools.
Forget about the dogs: When can we move in? Alas, Wiggles is designed for pooches and pet parents looking to take advantage of any of four services the Laamans and their staff of 20 offer — training, grooming, daycare and boarding.
“We’re seeing more boarding and daycare is booming,” Laaman says. “People are going back to work, and dogs need an outlet to run around in and engage with other dogs.”
Growing up outside Buffalo, Laaman “was always interested in animals. I wanted to be a vet.” Instead, life dealt her a challenging hand, one that would lead her to help businesses, pets and pet businesses.
Laaman’s father lost a leg and most of his platoon — he was with the 509th Infantry Battalion — during World War II. With a small GI severance, he started a furniture and appliance business but died at age 57, leaving Laaman on her own at 15. Because her father was a World War II veteran, Laaman was able to enroll in college, supporting herself with waitressing and sales jobs. It was her work in sales and observing salespeople that led her to become a consultant, speaker and author. Laaman’s Outstanding Pet Care provides veterinarians and pet-lodging businesses with strategies for improvement. She also operates Laura Laaman & Associates, a management consulting firm in Southbury, Connecticut.
Because of her background, Laaman has a special place in her heart for the military.
“We love working with vets,” she says. And she advocates for the United States War Dogs Association, a nonprofit providing lifetime practical support to military working dogs, their handlers and their adopted families.
“I’m very proud to have adopted, raised and trained Belgian Malinois myself,” Laaman says of a breed that plays a key role in the U.S. military. (You may remember that Cairo, a Mal, was part of the Seal Team 6 takedown of Osama bin Laden.) “Although Malinois don’t always thrive in a family pet setting, I find their loyalty, intelligence and capability difficult to ignore.”
Now she’s blending her love of animals and business in Wiggles, along with her experience as a pet parent. She and husband Phillip, have two sons, Craig and Derek, and three dogs — Guinness, a black Labrador Retriever; Piccadilly, a chocolate Labradoodle; and Eiffel, another Labradoodle.
Craig — with whom Laaman has helped more than 200 pet-care facilities in North America — and his wife, Natalie, have a son and two Goldendoodles — father and son Archer and Jet.
“We love all dogs, all breeds,” Laaman says. “Every breed is a great dog if raised well.”
At Wiggles, Laaman not only wants to help pet parents raise their pooches but to see every dog use all of his senses and revel in the surroundings.
“We want this to be a second home for every dog to enjoy.”
For more, visit wigglespetresort.com.