Go Go-ing big for pets

Nicole Goudey-Rigger remembers the moment she had her epiphany about dogs and her professional life. In the 1980s, she was a trader on Wall Street who had moved to New York City from New Jersey, and was living in a tiny apartment with her Yorkshire Terrier, Hennessey, “the love of my life,” whom she got from a local pet shop. The dog, however, was not healthy and, after an experience at a kennel, developed an opportunistic lung infection that required daily antibiotics.

“At that point, I thought, ‘There must be a better way,’” she says. In 2005, Goudey-Rigger opened Doggie Wishes and Pussycat Dreams, a dog-walking and pet-sitting business. It would be rebranded three years later as Pets a Go Go, which offers pooches and their parents a full range of services, from doggy day care and boarding to grooming and training. (Pets a Go Go provides at-home services for other species.) This, however, doesn’t really begin to describe the devotion of Goudey-Rigger — a woman who grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, saving field mice in the basement and nurturing ducks and a gerbil her mother named Frou Frou — and her “Paw Squad.”

“At Pets a Go Go,” the website proclaims, “we pride ourselves on the dedication and diligence of each member of The Paw Squad. Whether it is washing delicate, little puppy paws after a salty winter walk or microwaving vegetables for sensitive, little geriatric teeth, it’s simply what we do.”

And they do it at two locations. The 2,000-square-foot, 1 ½-acre Briarcliff Manor facility, which has operated since 2011, offers a supervised, green, cage-free experience for canines that are friendly with other dogs and neutered or spayed if they are older than six months. The 6,000-square-foot, 1/4-acre Stamford facility consists of suites and a dog park so it can have intact females together and intact males together. (Oddly enough, Goudey-Rigger says problems arise not when two intact males go mano a mano but when a neutered male challenges an intact one.) 

Need to use the facility in one county but live in the other? No problem as Pets a Go Go shuttles pooches back and forth. It also works closely with Adopt-A-Dog in Armonk, Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation (SNARR) in Brewster and with the SPCA in Briarcliff Manor, housing its overflow of rescues temporarily from time to time.

Nowadays, animal shelters are empty as people working from home or just housebound are seeking furry, four-legged friends — one of the few good things to come out of the coronavirus. This would seem to explain why boarding at Pets a Go Go is slow — “10 percent off where we normally are,” Goudey-Rigger says — but daycare is “reasonably busy” and “grooming and training are up.”

With good news, though, comes challenges. “Being home is a different life with a dog than when you go back to work. You have to make sure your pet doesn’t have separation anxiety.”

Goudey-Rigger counsels leaving your home (while you’re still working from it) for a time — even if it’s a short walk around the block — to get your pet used to time away from you. Start small and build on your time away from your “furbaby,” a word Pets a Go Go likes to use on its website.

Of course, some people are taking on a second or third furbaby. As with human babies coming home for the first time, this can create anxiety and jealousy among those already there.

“Older dogs don’t necessarily appreciate the bounciness of a pup,” Goudey-Rigger says. The solution:  Introduce the new siblings in a neutral zone and overcompensate with the older dog. And don’t forget to establish a routine for potty training with the newbie.

Like all members of “The Paw Squad,” Goudey-Rigger is also a pet parent. She has a menagerie of six — Samson, an Akita; Delilah and Winter, two mixed-breed rescues; the special needs cats Timber (balance issues) and Echo (blind); and a bunny, Crème Brûlée. She and husband Dan Rigger are also the parents of two sets of boy-girl twins, ages 15 and 12. How does she do it?

“I don’t sleep much,” Goudey-Rigger says. “Other than that, it’s all good.”

For more, visit petsagogo.com.

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